A few days ago, I managed to catch a call on the Dr. Laura radio show from a twelve-year-old girl.
Now understand… I have a twelve-year-old girl as well, so my ears perk up whenever I hear a call from anyone my kid’s age.
This preteen poured out her woes to Dr. Laura in typical Kidspeak. This meant, like, that almost literally, like, every other word was “like.”
“And he, like, told me that, like, I had to clean my room. Then, like, I told him no…”
That kind of thing. Sadly, it’s almost always girls afflicted with this speech impediment. I call it a speech impediment because, once in a long while, I’ll hear Dr. Laura ask a similar-sounding adult caller to just speak clearly without all the “likes” and the caller CANNOT.
Of course this is nothing new. This kind of dialect has been around for decades, arguably generations. Since I’m out of the loop of whatever Kidspeak (or perhaps more accurately, Teenspeak) is currently popular in public schools, I’m miles behind on the specifics of today's lingo… but one strong underlying thread remains true through whatever Teenspeak variation is in vogue at the moment. Ready for a massive profundity?
It makes you sound like a shallow materialistic twit. I don't care if you're a straight-A student in every college prep course the school has to offer, you sound like a shallow materialistic twit.
Have you, like, ever heard a, like, female politician or news anchorwoman or a physician or any other career woman whose intelligence is presumed to be above room temperature, speak like this? Of course not. Assumedly they train themselves out of that dialect as they pursue the education leading to their career. Or, perhaps, it’s only the girls who avoid falling prey to Teenspeak who pursue such careers. The others, like, don’t.
It should be fairly obvious that the ability to communicate verbally is an important component in modern society. Obviously not everyone has a radio broadcast career in their future. But communication opportunities arise all the time, in one’s ordinary daily existence. How effective, like, would your attempts be to, like, spread the Gospel if, like, you talked like this?
My girls, since they haven’t grown up melded with a television set or rubbing shoulders with kids for whom Proper English is a second language, are actually able to communicate without sprinkling “like” after every word. They can even speak in complete sentences, a fact which alone distinguishes them among their age group.
“I try to avoid using ‘went’ and use ‘said’ instead,” noted Older Daughter as we discussed this issue recently. “I’ll try to say, ‘He said thus-and-such’ instead of ‘He went thus-and-such.’”
I don’t know a whole lot of fourteen-year-olds who are consciously trying to make their speech as clear and accurate as possible in an additional attempt to distinguish themselves from their peers. I believe this bodes well for her future.
Let’s face it, if you’re addressing two teens with excellent grade point averages and similar clothing styles, which will you perceive to be more intelligent after listening to them speak? Hint: it’s NOT going to be the Valley Girl. It’s going to be the girl whose diction is clear, precise, and shorn of unnecessary and trendy additives.
And how will this translate into employment opportunities when they're older? I don't believe there is an employer on the planet who is purposefully seeking to hire shallow materialistic twits.
So, like, yesterday evening I’m driving Youngest Daughter and her friend Miss Calamity home after a long day of play. The girls somehow got onto the subject of Teenspeak and were attempting to, like, imitate it. It was kind of funny, rather like hearing me attempt to imitate an Irish accent. (I stink at accents.)
“Mom,” said Younger Daughter, “tell Miss Calamity about that Valley Girl song.”
So I told about Frank Zappa and the unusual names he gave his daughter (“Moon Unit”) and son ("Dweezil"), and how when she was fourteen, Moon Unit came up with a song called “Valley Girl” which encapsulated the teenage “like, totally” lingo of the San Fernando Valley.
I believe one of the reasons the song was such a hit is because it merely underscored the truth… namely, that there are whole generations of girls (and to a lesser extent, boys) growing up sounding like shallow materialistic twits.
Gag me with a spoon.