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From "Hello" to "Yo"

By , ilford, United Kingdom
“Goodbye mother, have a wonderful day!” were the last words I heard from my eleven year old son Jake as he rushed out the front door for his first day at high school. Little did I know that when he returned, “Yo mum what’s up?” would be the first words I would hear on his arrival. Jake and I do not engage in any intelligent conversation anymore, I simply ask the questions and receive either an uninterested grunt, or occasionally if I am very lucky a “whatever man.”

It’s become apparent that Jake no longer has any friends or acquaintances, but favours spending time “chilling with the homies.” At first I was puzzled, but after some exploration I learnt that “homie” is a contraction of the American slang word “homeboy.” This is prevalent among some of the youth in African American communities, particularly in the hip hop subculture. “Homie” was originally a term used to describe a friend from the same street, estate or gang. Evidently the word has now widened in meaning as Jake has never visited an estate, is most definitely not in a gang and lives over an hour away from his “homies.”

Jake has discovered various adjectives at high school, all of which are new to me. I am no longer “extremely annoying” but “bare annoying.” “Bare” meaning “very” or “a lot of”, an exclamation used in disbelief. Perhaps it’s just me being of age but I did not realise “bare” has any other meaning than “without covering or clothing.” It is clear that not only are there various new words being used by youths, but in some cases the semantics of words have changed completely over time.

It has taken me some effort to become familiar with Jake’s new vocabulary. The most challenging concept for me to appreciate has
to be that if something is “bad” it is in fact “good.” At first I thought Jake was just being impolite when he said “This chicken is bad” whilst we sat down to dine. Although, when Jake and I were out shopping and he commented that a designer shirt was “bad”, I understood that I must be missing something.

It is not only Jake’s vocabulary which has undertaken a transformation; he appears to of lost the skill to form a sentence which is grammatically correct. He often makes comments such as “I’m just gone shop mum” and ends his sentences with “you get me?” and “init?” I’m uncertain whether they have taught Jake how to make correct use of rhetoric devices in high school. It seems as if every sentence he utters ends with a question he does not wish to be answered. I know this as when I reply with “Yes I get you” or “It is”, Jake finds it highly amusing.

I have very little understanding of slang, the knowledge I do possess has been learnt through a variety of media sources. Whilst carrying out this research I have discovered that the majority of the media believe that it is Rap music alone which is promoting the slang used by youths today. This seems like a realistic suggestion, the slang terms and grammatical errors that youths make use of is equivalent to that used by rappers.

Jake’s English skills have even changed phonologically. He no longer pronounces words correctly and from time to time sounds a little Jamaican, “Do your ting” he said to me the other day. I assume he meant for me to “Go ahead.”

As much as I dislike the informality of Jake’s speech I believe that he has not lost his ability to use Standard English. Although what does concern me are the vulgarisms and derogatory terms that he has begun to use. Jake and his friends make various references to women which I personally find very offensive. I believe Jakes new-found immoral attitude has been influenced by Rap music. I purchased a variety of Rap CD’s in order to explore this and was shocked by what I heard.

The rappers would make statements such as “homie gone take your b**** init” and constantly describe women as objects.
There are also references to sex, although the rappers do not look at the deeper meaning of sex but often describe encounters with various women in a degrading manor. “Both sisters simultaneously” for example.

It is clear that my constant complaining and criticising has had no effect on Jake’s language. I have found that the only way to engage in any form of conversation with Jake is to speak like a Rapper. As much as it hurts me to lower my grammatical standards it is working effectively so far.

“Later mum, have a nice day init!” were the last words I heard from my sixteen year old son Jake as he rushed out the front door for his first day at work. “Soon Jake I see you later.” I replied. Little did I know that when he returned, “hello mother, how are you?” would be the first words I would hear on his arrival. Jake and I do not engage in any intelligent conversation anymore, he simply asks the questions and receives either an uninterested grunt, or occasionally if he Is very lucky a “whatever man.”

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