Social Media and Language

Thinkstock by Getty Images

Thinkstock by Getty Images

Rihan Ali, Staff Writer

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Twerking, the raunchy dance move performed by Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards, was among the new words added to the Oxford Dictionary of English in 2013. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “twerk” as a verb meaning to “dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.” Omnishambles and selfie were also added into the dictionary, words recognizable most prominently through their use on social media. Omnishambles – meaning a situation which is shambolic from every possible angle – was named word of the year by the Oxford Dictionary in 2012. Selfie has also been awarded such a title the following year.

The word ‘selfie’ was recently named word of the year for 2013, by Oxford Dictionaries. The definition of the aforementioned is described as a “photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” And, it appears there is no shame in sharing a self-picture; heck, if Pope Francis can pose for group selfies with youth at Saint Peter’s Basilica and then share them on social media, why can’t you? The addition of the word into Oxford’s dictionary just proves that the social media language we have formulated continues to have an immense impact on the orthodox English language.

Oxford Dictionaries asserts that the words “like” and “wall” – both spawned by Facebook – are among the 1000 most frequently used words. Facebook has also made other significant changes to the English language. The word “friend,” which has long been known as a noun can now be used as an action word, or a verb. For example, one might say, “I’ll friend you on Facebook.” Furthermore, “Facebook me” is a socially acceptable phrase one can use – again turning a thing into an action. It’s not just Facebook that is altering our common language though. Twitter has also done its fair share as well. By using the phrase “hey, tweep,” social media mavens – and twitter users specifically – would know that one is referring to him or her as a Twitter friend. Open up Microsoft Word and type the words “unfollow” and “unfriend.” They’re underlined in red by its spell-checker, but the two are salient words in our social media speak. For those of you unfamiliar with the words, they translate to “take a hike, you’re annoying.”

Whether or not people view this is as good thing, acronyms have become commonplace. Many people now have a pet peeve against “LOL,” chiefly because it’s highly unlikely someone actually laughs out loud when they use it. It’s just become a “natural” instinct to utilize such phrase. Furthermore, some social media users say “LOL – literally” as if to say “most of the time I’m just faking it, but that was really funny.” The blame for the usage of acronyms can largely be put on Twitter – 140 characters or less. It really doesn’t allow for room to be interesting or thorough. Finally, grammatical rules have diminished, which many would agree is just fine. Avid social media users constantly target so-called “grammar Nazis,” saying that “they should just unfollow”.

Many would argue that hashtags (another word that Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize) and emoticons will eventually ruin the spoken word, but I think that’s preposterous. The English language has continued to evolve, and with the latest additions to the dictionary, it’s showing no sign of slowing down.

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