22 July 2005


When I started my career in teaching, Bart Simpson and Beavis and Butthead were also newly introduced to the world. I remember the moral outrage about all of them. They were, apparently, going to be to blame for the end of western civilization as we knew it. Much like Elvis after his appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. Or those naughty flappers and that pesky voting rights for women movement even longer ago. What stuck with me most about Bart and his contemporaries was the influence it had on the slang students used.

Since then, I've seen other terms enter our social vocabulary: da bomb, sweet, my bad, and jacked up. Sometimes I have asked kids what they mean when I hear a term for the first time. Other times, it's easy to figure out within the context it's given---kind of like seeing a new word in print.

The most recent additions to the "kidspeak" pantheon are coming from the on-line world. Some are terms used by hackers. Most of the words come from slang found in chat rooms. By the end of last year, terms like "n00b" and "pwned" were becoming standard among my students. I've even had kids say "j k happy face." (translation: "Just kidding, okay?") In print, these terms take on a variety of spellings---often including numbers or other symbols in place of letters. But I haven't seen my kids using them in their written work. Yet.

I found this link on another site yesterday. It was written to illustrate what World War II would have been like if it had been played out in an on-line gamers' forum. Warning: implied four-letter words and other inappropriate/offensive terms are liberally sprinkled throughout. Read at your own risk. If you do choose to follow the link and need help translating any of the lingo, go here. I have to say that I find the concept of this illustration rather clever: taking a historical event and giving it a modern twist. I'm wondering if I might be able to offer something like this as an option for kids next year, although without the more offensive elements. Not for every assignment, mind you---but I do like to give students some choices in terms of products when I can. Demonstrating that one can "meet the standard" need not require a three-paragraph essay.

Even if I don't end up using this in class, I know that the "kidspeak" will continue to evolve. New pop culture references will creep in and I will have to learn a whole new set of slang words. I hope I can keep up.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

That was teh awesome.

Palmetto Cunningham said...

1337!! This might help:

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

I also remember when Beavis and Butthead entered my classroom. It was a brand new, radical show on MTV, and of course none of my 7th graders imagined that their ancient (I was 26) teacher would watch MTV (of course, people my age were in high school when MTV came on-- we OWNED it).

Anyway, before class, one of my sweetest students suddenly forgot himself and said to me, "Hey Beavis, may I have a pencil?"

Silence immediately overtook the room as the kids nearby realized I had just been called Beavis (heh, heh, heh).

I merely leaned in close and said sotto voce, "If I'm Beavis, who does that make you, hmmmm?"

I don't think I've laughed so hard with a class in a while.