Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WNW: New World, New Language

I'm willing to bet that English has changed more in the last 50 years—at least in terms of vocabulary—than during any other time, and that's thanks to technology.

We have brand new words and acronyms that never existed before (Internet, RAM, Meg, LCD, blog, vlog, PC, DVD, e-mail, snail mail, high-definition, and many, many more).

I'd bet my great-grandparents wouldn't understand half of my conversations because of the new words I'm using. ("I'm going to a bloggy lunch tomorrow . . ." Huh?)

On top of that, we have oodles of old words that have taken on completely different meanings than they used to have (monitor, text, mouse, scroll, web, tablet, code, display, spam, cell, and backup, to name just a few).

All these new words and meanings have had an interesting impact on our language. We even use technological terms when we aren't in technological settings.

One example:

When I was a kid playing with friends and needed to get a drink or use the bathroom, I'd tell them to "stop the game for a minute" or maybe to "hang on" or simply that, "I'll be right back."

My kids? They say, "Pause the game."


That used to mean a brief break in conversation, a breath, perhaps. ("She paused before going on . . .") Today, pausing is something you do to a DVD or video game.

But the current generation has taken the definition further: they can pause real-life events, stop them momentarily.

That's not something a person born in any previous generation would have come up with, but my kids (and their friends) use it all the time. I crack up whenever I hear it.

(They don't see what's so funny; it makes perfect sense to them.)

Thanks to DVRs, my kids know what "live" TV is, but they don't like it, because they can't "buzz" through the commercials with the "remote."

Texting lingo has even made its way into casual conversation like, "She's my BFF."

Any other examples come to mind? Pop 'em into the comments!


Kristina P. said...

I haven't heard a kid use pause that way.

* said...

"Nuke it" -- was used by previous generations when talking about war, atomic bombs, etc.

Now it means more "microwave it."

Like I've said before, you are *the* Word Girl, girlie!

Kristina P. said...

Wow, that was the lamest comment ever.

* said...

PS: My older kids (twins ages 6 and my 8 yr old) use "pause" all the time.

In fact, I just noticed it the other day. They were watching TV and said, "Pause it." They also use it when the play (however infrequently) video games.

* said...


Kristina P.: Hello, whenever are you lame?

**Pause** your brain and think.

Never. We (heart) you!

PPPS: Sorry for clogging up your comment section, Annette!

Stephanie Black said...

My five-year-old says "pause the game" all the time. Too funny.

Sarah M Eden said...

My six year old (yes, 6!!) and I were having a miscommunication problem the other day. She was trying to explain something and I wasn't getting it. She said to me, "Mom, I don't think you're uploading what I'm downloading."


Anonymous said...

I have to tell my kids to pause the game--does that count? =P

I have never had the pleasure of using a DVR. I've dreamed of it once or twice but has never come true.

Annette Lyon said...

Nuke it--that's a great one!

Sarah, Uploading and downloading--that's just priceless.

Rebecca Irvine said...

Your grandparents also would likely not understand if you told them you were carpooling to that bloggy luncheon.

My kids use "pause" the same way, although we do not have DVR either.

Helena said...

LOL! My daughter (5) uses pause like that.

Shelley said...

This is a little off topic, but I was telling my daughter the tender and touching story of my first boyfriend/crush from church camp and how we wrote letters back and forth and you know what her response was?

She laughed and said, "ha, you wrote letters."

Lara Neves said...

Rewind and Fast-forward are the ones I thought of.

I tell my kids to rewind all the time when they do something they shouldn't. And I'll use "fast-forward" a lot when I'm telling a story with a time gap in it: "Fast-forward about 6 months and...."

I was just watching the movie 13 going on 30 the other week and I was thinking of this myself. The girl was exactly my same age, because she found herself being 30 in 2004 and it was hilarious how confused she was with modern technology and phraseology.

Fun post!

Rachel Sue said...

My kids use pause that way all. the. time. I cracked up the first time I heard them say it.

Amanda said...

Fun post! Our language has evolved so much and I, for one, feel very overwhelmed with the explosion of acronyms. Texting code just baffles me (I'm a non-texter).

There are words that the younger generations are losing due to technology. Ask any elementary (and probably middle-school) aged child) what a typewriter is. As technology progresses, we're adding new gadgets and retiring many more.

The comment on uploading and downloading was hysterical!

Cranberryfries said...

It's interesting to me how fast it changes now a days. I graduated from HS 10 years ago and I already feel out of the music, the vocab, the hip cool things. My friend was telling me the other day her 8th grade son told her to say thanks they now say spanx. Uh ok. Kids. Haha.

Anonymous said...

I know that you are the Word Nerd, and I was wondering could you define the difference between cannot and can not.

Annette Lyon said...

Anon, I'll add that to my list of future WNW topics! In short, though, I think the only real difference is tone and formality, not in meaning.

Mel said...

Not a "wordy" comment so much as a "things have changed" one:

Remember "Home Alone," the movie? After watching it a few months ago, my 10-year old was thinking back on the plot and needed me to explain HOW the family overslept and had to dash to the airport. I reminded him the power outage killed the alarm clocks. He says:

"WAIT. So nobody's cell was charged before the power died?"

For most of his lifetime, the alarm we've used is in the cell phone!

Cranberryfries said...

How about 'text(s)'. Instead of meaning a body of words in a document it's a mini email message on a cell phone.


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