Webster Ain’t Perfect This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Funner. Gots. Ain’t. Fo’ shizzle. Are these words or not? I have often been told that they are not and that they shouldn’t be used. But why? Why are these not words in American-English but words like coup, corps, banzai, flak and ad hoc are? Why are these words that are so clearly foreign acceptable when homegrown words aren’t? Americans finally have words unique to them and then some denounce them as not being words. Shouldn’t we thank these people for creative words instead of marking them off as uneducated fools? Isn’t this our chance to be different?

What makes a word a word anyway? Webster says, “It is a speech sound or combination of sounds which has come to signify and communicate a particular idea or thought, and which functions as the smallest meaningful unit of a language when used in isolation.” To me that paraphrases as a spoken sound that communicates an idea or thought. If that is true, then funner, gots, ain’t, and fo’ shizzle are words, and so are any other sounds you make that communicate a meaning without you having to explain it. Sure, they may not be standard

written English. Sure, they may not be the correct thing to say to a debutante, but they are viable words.

The real problem isn’t when to use the words but the iron-fisted suppression of culture. No one can argue that fo’ shizzle or y’all aren’t culture-oriented words evolving from natural sound changes within a language that have been repeated a million times before and given us thousands of languages. It isn’t something to be suppressed. Many will argue that these words are slang that will soon be abandoned. Many will probably say that just because shizzle is stupid, it should never be used.

I disagree. Shakespeare himself invented over 1,700 words including critical, excitement and obscene, which are now viable words. Instead of denouncing new words, let’s accept them. Let’s add to our vocabulary and enrich our language. Let’s come up with new words and terms and thoughts and ideas until no one can say that “ain’t” ain’t a word. So that people can say “funner” without getting a look. So that we can expand ourselves into a more diverse, accepting culture.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Alyssa J. said...
May 17, 2009 at 8:20 pm
Wow. Interesting side of the story. I've never thought about it that way. Very well written!!
 
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