Your language bites

Language is a fundamental part of being human. Whether it is spoken, written or sign language,  its purpose is to convey or communicate a message as well as express culture.

There is a large amount of slang, street language and text language creeping into everyday communication, including sign language.

Within communities there is also a large amount of culture or group specific language used too.

I am torn as to whether I think this is a good thing or not.

On one hand the use of slang, ‘street language’ and text language is pushing the boundaries of appropriate and acceptable.

On the other hand the use of this type of language can be classed as cultural, eg: street culture. And for the purpose of fast, easy communication, it works. I am also aware of individuals with learning difficulties who find it easier to use text language when writing.

Also, if by intentionally using another person’s language or similar language you are wanting to convey that you are on the same level, then this can be a respectful way to communicate.

The use of different terms between different cultures and countries is sometimes blatantly obviously. For example, in New Zealand we use ‘people with disabilities’ and in America I understand they use the term ‘handicapped’.

That specific word that Americans use, ‘handicapped’, actually makes me physically shudder and so I am very aware of the differences.  Which is why I see this as a great example of what is culturally accepted, or not.

Even within New Zealand there is a language debate amongst different areas of society and culture. This was highlighted in Allyson’s blog about the Transgender Transsexual debate.  Within mental health there are also plenty of differences and a mix of preferred language, which sometimes divides the community. For example, mental health versus mental illness.  Barbara also recently blogged in The language of suffering and Recovery in mental health, some debates around use of the words “suffering” and “recovery”.

Generational language differences are also obvious, perhaps when a grandson is talking to his grandmother and states “I landed a sick ollie at the ramps today.”  I wonder how much of this statement would be understood.

My personal perspective is that language is what it is. People will choose, misuse, and evolve it to suit need and situation.

As I accept people for who and how they are, I in turn accept their chosen language.

Have you experienced language differences? Was it positive, or challenging?

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One thought on “Your language bites

  1. Nice article.

    I find it intriguing looking at the implications of language, new or old. Language is very much a high level summary of thinking, and usually when we come up with words to convey our experience they are either a moderately close match, or highly metaphoric. I completely agree therefore with going along with the language nuances that people use, at least at first, to get on their wavelength and convey understanding. For example a slight paraphrase can be enough to completely disconnect from someone as a word or two difference can, to them, mean something entirely different to what they’ve portrayed.

    Interesting observation about the America use of “handicapped”. The thing that instantly jumps out at me is the “capped” part of it which implies restriction and containment. Also “handicapped” is at the level of identity, implying that the disability IS you, while on the other hand “people with disabilities” implies that the disability is just one ASPECT you have. Subtle differences, but I can understand why the former makes you shudder.

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