Youth slang or rad words

By: Inna Kocherygina & Anna Matyushkina

Slang is chaotic, it is hard to associate its formation with any single cause. But what is certain about it – that it affects the future of the Russian language. There are youth programs on TV, informational agendas of which dazzle with emotional catchphrases or slang. So-called “slangisms” (*Translator: particular words of slang) have entered the public life. Such words do not compete with the language of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, as they belong to another informational niche, but youth word-expressions are also empathic, albeit in a different way.

Now the most popular word in the youth slang is “bro”. It appeared as a result of reduction of the English word “brother”. The origin of this slang word is unknown, though what is known is that the first who called each other in this way were representatives of Aframerican youth. Then the word “bro” migrated to the Internet due to the ease of writing. Today we can say that this word has become universal. “Hey, bro!” – one can address either a guy or a girl in this way. Or even an unfamiliar person, it’s only important that you like him/her.

The differential feature of youth slang is its narrow focus. Some word-expressions can only be understood by a particular group of people of a particular age. Thus, the expression “to go on foot” is presented by “to take a bus №11” in youth slang. Why? The youth found the analogy with the feet. Two ones look like two legs. As an example, here is a dialogue from which it is clear that the expression “to take a bus №11” is tantamount to the phrase “to go on foot”:

  • How are going to get to the University?
  • I’ll take a bus №11, of course!
  • Well, I see, you are a student after all!

An expression “lol” is used again and again in the colloquial speech of young people lately. There is an opinion that it had migrated from the popular “League of legends” online game. Or “LOL” could be an acronym for an English phrase “lots of laughs (or laughing out loud)”. At first the younger generation had been using this neologism only in chat rooms to make emotions explicit in writing form. But now “lol” has become (in Russian) a word-parasite, which appears everywhere and on any occasion:

  • “This story is just lol!”
  • “Are you lol?”
  • “How are things, lol?”

“Youth language” is constantly evolving and it borrows new forms of words from various sources. E.g., musical culture is a supply of material for youth slang. Modern music is full of slang and jargon of various origins. Thus, the song “Valera” [*Translator: a male name] (performer – “Aphrodite”) and the song “Vsyo puchkom” [*Translator: equivalent – “everything is in bundle”; closest meaningful variant – “everything is cool”] (performer – “Potap and Nastya Kamenskih”) added new word-samples to the youth slang culture. Young people were ironic about the “Valera” song, having considered both the lyrics and the video clip somewhat silly. “A Valera you are” – in this way a person, who did something wrong from the point of view of a particular social group or society in general, is addressed. Instead of usual “excellent” or “okay” an “everything is in bundle” can be heard.

Generally, slang is perceived as trash littering Russian language. Something like, sometimes an indecent meaning is hidden behind those youth words, and we already have those toilet talks in plenty. Sometimes slang-words are loanwords, and linguists have always been sceptical of such kind of things: our language, created by Lomonosov and Pushkin, is majestic by itself and it doesn’t need Western helpers. Often slang is considered as an inappropriate form of language, and therefore it’s not used by high-ranking people and those of the upperclass. It happens that the youth slang is put in one line with jargon and cant, and it is why it appears to be only appropriate in a particular situation in a particular social group. There is, of course, a grain of truth in this. But it is not necessary to abandon the slang. It is not as hopeless as it might seem at the first glance.

Youth language is quite eloquent and emotional. Compare these two statements: “I’m sure I’ll be at the cafe at five p.m.” and “I’m iron sure I’ll be at the cafe at five p.m.” The second phrase raises more confidence than the first one. Emotions were invested in the word “iron”. Let it be that slang sounds not that authoritatively and does not correspond to the literary canons, but it can transmit the entire range of emotions in the very correct way when it seems that a lexicalized word is not enough and it won’t handle its expressive role. One should have fun speaking, not emit bureaucratese or high and poetic words when the situation does not require it.

It happens that the slang finds an empty lagoon, fills the vacuum in the language, where the necessary expressive means is absent. For example, the phrase “nasty people bother and insult me, while exposing their claims” can be substituted by a short “nayezd” (a put-down).

Youth slang is a form of cheerful and mischievous play on words. Sometimes such merrymakings can lead to formation of neologisms, which become fixed in the language. Later no one will remember that previously a particular slang-word was narrowly-specialized or inappropriate, that’s why slang deserves due attention.

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