News & Features » Miscellany

Parlez-vous teen?

Rosie Right

Rosie has more than once discussed the tendency of language to change — to adopt new words and to break the old "rules" we were taught in grammar school. Mostly, she has lamented these developments, largely because they make her uncomfortable. (Whoever promised us a rose garden, even in language?)

But, of course, the fear of change is unwise and indeed hopeless.

A reminder of what is happening to how we write and speak is included in the January 2002 issue of the University of Virginia's Arts & Sciences magazine. S.J. Valentine (M.A. English, '00) wrote a piece about "Teen Speak: the doom or salvation of English?"

Valentine is a high-school English teacher, and therefore is constantly exposed to how our young talk. The gist of the essay is that with the triumph of computers and the prevalence of e-mail contractions, teen speak may be more in tune with the communication of the future than the language learned by those of us who follow rules promulgated by the elite of 200 years ago.

I don't plan to take a stand on this but will include in this column a number of the new words Valentine lists:

Green — adjective: bad

Iced out — adjective: wearing a lot of jewelry

I'mma — verb phrase: I am going to

Old G - noun: mother

Wicked — adjective: something that is really cool.

Welcome, readers, to a foreign country.

A new word that may be more intelligible to those of us over 18 is Euro-creep. Michael Quinion of World Wide Words tells us that it is:

"Not a reference to an obnoxious European, but a term in finance for one consequence of the move to the euro. This becomes the currency of 12 European nations on 1 January 2002, replacing the franc, the mark and the lire, among others. The UK remains outside this group, but a survey recently showed that about half of Britain's larger retailers will be accepting the euro as payment for goods. This is true even of chains whose proprietors are strongly opposed to Britain adopting the single currency — profits, it seems, are triumphing over principles. …The informal appearance of the euro is known in government circles as 'euro-creep.' Its encouragement will become a central plank of the Prime Minister's campaign to prepare the country for a referendum on the issue." [Observer, November 2001.]

For more:

Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825, ext. 322), letter (1707 Summit Ave., Suite 201, Richmond, Va. 23230), or e-mail (

Add a comment