Dude where’s my slang?

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By Tyler Davidson

By Tyler Davidson

Slang has been around for years. In every society, every country, there are easier ways to say things than to actually come out and say them. Some slang we even use unconsciously. It’s one of those things that just…is. I’m not sure an in-depth analysis of slang and why we use it is really necessary, but nonetheless, we all know that something does not need to be necessary for it to happen.

This is what Leslie Savan, writer for “The Village Voice,” has done in her book “Slam Dunks and No-Brainers: Pop Language in Your Life, the Media, and, Like…Whatever.” Part of it reads like a pop dictionary, giving quick definitions, part like an encyclopedia, delving into the origins of a particular phrase, and part like a psychology textbook.

For the most part, the book is an entertaining read. It calls on various movies, television shows, and advertisements to prove Savan’s point that slang and catchphrase usage is reaching astronomical heights.

However, much of the book seems a bit too dressed up for its own good. Making references to author’s like George Orwell and Aldous Huxley makes it seem as if Savan is trying much too hard to make her work into an in-depth and thought-provoking psycho-analysis, when, in all honesty, the piece is a nice coffee table book (hey, there’s a catchphrase right there!).

“Slam Dunks and No-Brainers” treads a very dangerous line between an easy and fun read, and something that gets too deep, especially given the author. That isn’t to mean any offense toward Savan, but in the book she admits that she “went into (writing the book) with no special knowledge or academic background into language and linguistics,” something that one would think apropos for writing a book on the use of slang in contemporary society.

The book also seems to take a bit of time to get the ball rolling, to use a phrase. The prologue as well as the first chapter of the book are devoted simply to talking about what the book is about and what its goal is; something that should be kept to the back cover. Its as if those pages are reserved for Savan to intentionally overuse slang and pop phrases, and shout out “Hey! Look at me, I know what I’m talking about!”

Pages even smack of unwarranted arrogance at times, with Savan going so far as to say she feels ridiculous saying the word “cool,” implying that only us “Gen-Xers” say that, and that sophisticated folk would never let such an utterance betray their intelligence.

In another area of the book, Savan makes another unnecessary implication when she states “‘Gimme five!’ dozens of (white) grandfathers say to young children, though they probably wouldn’t say it to a peer.” While not quite controversial or offensive, per sé, it is a bit ignorant to imply that mainly white grandfathers would use such a phrase.

Nonetheless, it should be noted that this book isn’t designed to uproot society as a whole and try to stop the usage of slang in society. It is simply an entertaining observation, an analysis of a sometimes enigmatic phenomenon that should be taken for what it is. To put it appropriately: It’s pretty cool.

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