47 What About the Use of Slang?
Think about the prevalent use of slang in countries around the world. Slang might be described as a specialized language whose primary purpose is to keep talk private; only insiders know enough of the language to successfully encode or decode the message. According to Tom Dalzell, a slang expert and author of several books on the subject, “When slang is used, there is a subtext to the primary message. That subtext speaks to the speaker’s and listeners’ membership in the same ‘tribe.’ Because ‘tribe’ identity is so important, slang as a powerful and graphic manifestation of that identity’s benefits. ” In a 2004 interview with Vivian Goodman linguist Tony Thorne agreed, “Slang is very much a badge of identity. A whole part of adolescence is the playing with identity, creating your own identity. The way they stand, the kind of gestures they have, the kind of hairstyles . . . These are all signs and symbols, and in a sense slang is just one of those. ”
You may feel comfortable speaking to your friends or coworkers using the latest terms; however, it is important for the public speaker to limit her/his use of slang. While you may have an informal style and/or topic, remember that not all members of an audience are privy to the meaning behind the words. Certainly, some slang terms have become so commonplace that these terms have now become a part of the mainstream culture. But slang comes and goes quickly. While just about everyone probably knows what a “BFF ” is, how many people are still using that term on a regular basis? It has already been pushed aside for something new that’s the nature of creative expression. There is always something new around the corner.