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Published on December 20th, 2011 | by Staff 12-13

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Slang and schools: the relationships between teachers, students and slang

Mia Lopez-Zubiri
Staff Writer

As slang continually spreads around Samo, teachers often find themselves being instructed in the unique dialect of Samo slang.

Statisticts teacher Ken Petronis, like many teachers at Samo, admits he injects slang into his speech from time to time in order to regain the attention of his students. These days, the slang words he hears most include “good looks,” “sketch,” “brief” and “swoll.”

“I think every generation wants to stand out by having their own way of saying things,” Petronis said. “They want to put their own stamp on their individual time and place.”

Petronis admits he’s done his own slang research on Urban Dictionary—an online dictionary filled with slang definitions—in order to insert new terms into his vocabulary and find out the meaning of unfamiliar ones he hears from his students.

However, the teenage Petronis’ lexicon was scattered with slang far different than that of his current students. He believes that this is due to the fact that slang naturally changes over time, because each generation is different and molds words to fit their needs.

“We used to say things like ‘farm-out,’ which was a take on ‘far-out.’ Instead of ‘right on’ we’d say ‘left out’ and we’d say ‘rad’ instead of ‘cool.’ This was all because I grew up in the 70s,” Petronis said.

Many teachers have a very different view towards slang. Latin teacher Luke Henderson believes that there is a time and place for every register of language, but that school is not the place for slang.

He does believe that slang may be used in certain situations with close friends, and that slang use is widespread, not just employed by the younger generation. Henderson finds that slang is only new for a while, eventually becoming either extinct or a permanent fixture in the English language.

“Everyone uses slang, not just students.  Languages change with time and adopt new words.  In 100 years, if usage continues, ‘swag’ will no longer be slang, just common usage.  I believe the term ‘slang,’ de facto, just means ‘new.’  If a word makes it long enough and widespread enough, it is no longer slang, it is just a word,” Henderson said.

Spanish teacher Carmen Paul has a similar outlook on slang. Paul says that she hardly ever uses slang, other than as an occasional joke with a student.  She finds that slang can be appropriate at times, but that students need to be able to judge when they should use more sophisticated language.

“Depending on where you are and with whom you are speaking, I think that slang has its place,” Paul said. “It’s a way in which people communicate and, if that’s how you understand certain things, then slang is okay. It’s inappropriate on a job interview, when you’re speaking to someone who speaks eloquently or someone that you know is educated. You aren’t going to say ‘Hey bro’ at a sophisticated party.”

English teacher Jennifer Pust believes that slang is not only prevalent in students’ speech, but in their writing as well. She has students that incorporate conventions from electronic media into their writing when they don’t think that their writing is a formal piece. Through this process, Pust has has picked up many slang terms and also encountered many that she’s not familiar with, which, like Petronis, she looks up on Urban Dictionary.

“The positive effect of slang is what it’s always been–it bonds people of a similar group together. People who use the same slang presumably also share the same interests. It’s all about connections,” Pust said.

Just like Petronis, Pust uses slang to connect to her students.

“Sometimes students might not get something as well as if I used their language to explain it to them.” Pust said.

English teacher Nathan Fulcher’s outlook on slang is similiar to that of Pust’s. He believes that, in addition to being a useful teaching tool, slang is a key part of modern language. He feels that slang is simply a modern way of communicating and that as long as the terms used aren’t inappropriate or derogatory, it is an easy way to connect to others.

“I don’t think slang is negative. I just think that sometimes students forget that there’s power in language and they don’t always recognize that the words that they use are loaded,” Fulcher said. “I think that with this generation and all the new technology, language is becoming much more informal and much easier to spread.”

mlopezzubiri@thesamohi.com


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