Teen parlance sucks, no offence

14th July 2000 at 01:00
EVERY night before I go to bed I pray that I will not end up like my father.

True, I'd prefer to retain more of my hair than he did after 40 years of teaching and I very much hope that when I retire it'll be with more than a tweed jacket full of blackboard chalk but mainly I hope that when I'm 70 I won't be switching on Radio 4 every morning in order to fume about misuse of the English language.

I can understand that after a lifetime of marking it must be galling to hear people mistakenly using "due to" instead of "as a result of". Or ending sentences with a preposition, as I just did then. Or indeed reading people who start sentences with "but".

But language is a like a river. Always moving and invariably taking the easiest route. We teach children our language and they refashion it for us without even noticing they've done so. Recently my own daughters have taught me to use "as if" which, at the end of a sentence, casts doubt on the entire foregoing proposition.

I've also learned that ending a statement with "not" actually negates what you'vejust said. Plus there's the wholly new use of the phrase "so much" as in "that is so much not a good idea".

But two new ones have got me spluttering just like my Dad. "S'pose" is the new way of ending an argument when the other person has won. You don't say "Father it is true if I don't put away this stuff someone else will have to" you mutter "s'pose" which means "OK you may have won the argument, Dad, but don't think that I agree with you."

The other is "No offence" as in "I don't want you meeting me Dad, you look too weird. No offence." What bothers me about this latest teen-parlance is not the way it is modifying our use of English - I have no objection to new words like "skank" or new phrases like "it wrecks" which seems to have replaced "it hurts". What gets me is the way "S'pose" and "No offence" are being used to cloak unpleasant behaviour, allowing one to be offensive while hiding from the consequences. My father believed a spade should be called a spade and I agree with him. That which is skank should truly be acknowledged as skank.


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