It’s all in how you say it…

There’s times when I truly despair for the youth of today.  Yes, I know every generation has their own favoured expressions and way of saying things.  Just in the time I’ve been around, and just talking about expressing something as good, I’ve heard the terms

  • groovy
  • A-okay
  • awesome
  • bad
  • bad-ass
  • the shit (or da shit)
  • beast
  • the bee’s knees
  • the cat’s ass
  • boss
  • buttery
  • choice
  • classic
  • cool (or coolio, kewl)
  • cool beans
  • crack-a-lackin’
  • crazy
  • the bomb (or da bomb)
  • dope
  • mah-vah-lus (marvelous)
  • far out
  • fly (or superfly)
  • fresh
  • gnarly
  • freaky
  • gravy
  • hardcore
  • hip
  • hot (or hawt)
  • ill
  • jolly good
  • kick ass
  • killer
  • massive
  • mint
  • neat-o
  • nifty
  • off the hook (or off da hook)
  • outta sight
  • prime (or primo)
  • radical (or rad)
  • righteous
  • right on
  • peachy keen (or peachy)
  • pimp
  • rockin’
  • savage
  • raw
  • schway
  • sick
  • skippy
  • ducky
  • slammin’
  • smooth
  • smashing
  • snootchie bootches
  • solid
  • stellar
  • sweet
  • swell
  • to die for
  • unreal
  • wicked (or wicked cool, way cool)

That’s just one term…I haven’t even gone near sexy, or smart, or stupid, or good looking, or ugly, etc.

What this all leads up to, however, is knowing which words to choose when approaching someone you don’t know for the first time.  In person, that’s a little easier, because you can see how they dress, how they interact with others, things like that.  You get some clues.

Over the internet, it’s a bit different.  Yes, if you can see their Facebook page, or read their blog, or their tweets, you can still get a sense of the person.  There’s a few people I’ve recently begun interacting with online whom I’ve never met in person, but I think I already have a pretty good sense of their values, their sense of humour and their general outlook on life.

What I’m saying is, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.  Take some time if you can.

So, with all that in mind and, again at the risk of making myself sound old and curmudgeonly, I present the following exchange I had with a moron who messaged me on Facebook. All spelling and grammar is as it was originally presented to me.

Moron:

Yo husler what`s good dawg? add me

Me:

Who are you and why should I add you? Dawg.

Moron:

I want to learn more bout your books! your producing man.

Me:

Huh.

At the risk of sounding like an old fart, I’m going to give you some advice. Why? Because aside from writing, this is also what I do. I’ve spent many years dealing with young adults such as yourself trying to network, or find out more about something that interests them.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. You’re not doing it the right way.

First off, learn to spell and use grammar. You’ve graduated from school, so show it…especially to someone you know writes. “Hustler” has a t. Sentences start with a capital on the first letter. “About” has an a. “You’re” is what you meant to say. Finally, “add me” is a command, not a request.

Second, you’re not Eminem. As cool as you may think it sounds to throw out the “dawg’s” and the “husler’s” and all the other colloquialisms that make you sound like a “playa”…it really doesn’t. You sound like you’re fifteen. I know you’re not. When you’re addressing someone you don’t know, assume they speak and write proper English.

Finally, say what you mean, mean what you say. “Yo husler what`s good dawg?” tells me absolutely nothing. If you’re interested in my book, let me know up front, because you know I don’t know you. That saves you time and impresses me because you communicated properly up front. And don’t command someone to add you. Ask. Nicely.

Do I sound like a boring old asshole now? Maybe. But trust me when I tell you I’ve given you good advice. And I’m not pissed with you, nor do I hold anything against you. I just think you need a little more experience in dealing with those outside your social circle, so I thought I’d offer up some pointers to help you along.

So, I’ll let you decide. Do you still want me to add you? If not, you can still get information from my Vanishing Hope page, and from my blog (tobinelliott.wordpress.com).

Ball’s in your court.

Moron:

you chirpin? i am fifteen. yu callin me old, daweg? playa is spelt “player” Grammer is badd, are you guwd or ar you freshh? you deciide

Me:

Yeah, okay. We’re done here.

And that was the end of it.  By the way, though he states he is fifteen, I don’t believe him, as his Facebook page states “Class of 2011” for his high school, which means he’s more like seventeen, or he’s a liar, or he’s so stupid he just changes it for each year as he makes it through.

I don’t envy his teachers.

And trust me, I get it that, at the end he was just trying to wind me up and provoke a response.  So I obliged him by blocking him.

Now, contrast that with two requests I’ve received recently from a couple of students from the local college.

The first one was about a month ago and stated;

I’m reaching out to you because I am a journalism student at Durham College and I have an assignment where I need to conduct an interview with a person who is “newsworthy.” And I thought you would be a great interview.

I would love to interview a published writer, and I figured why not a published writer who also teachers Creative Writing? It is my dream to be a published author, and I thought I could learn a lot from an interview with you.

I was also unsure if you would reply to a message on your novella’s FaceBook page, so I thought I would find your actual account.

If you are willing to be interviewed, or even if you’re not, if you could message me back it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your time.

The second one came this weekend and stated:

My name is <removed>. I am a second-year journalism student at Durham College. I was wondering if you were available in the next week for an in-person or over the phone interview regarding creative writing. I am specifically looking at the therapy behind art forms such as writing. I am a poet myself hoping to pursue publication upon completion of my studies.

 If you require any additional information please feel free to let me know.

 Thank you for your time and and consideration.

In both cases, I’ve done everything I can to assist them and they’ve both been nothing but pleasant and courteous the whole way through.

They’ve been a pleasure.  Now, you could argue that the last two have more experience than the first one, and I’d have to agree, but I’m guessing there’s, at most, two years separating the first guy from the other two.  You could argue the second two are in Journalism and are training for this, but the first guy also expressed an interest in “my books” so I’m guessing has a passing interest in writing as well.  You could also argue that I was a little more confrontational with the first one, but the “husler”, “dawg”, and “add me” managed to push several of my buttons, which is my point.  When you’re reaching out to someone for the first time, you want to avoid pushing certain buttons.  And I did give him a chance.  I really did.

I started out this blog by saying I despair for the youth of today, however, as I’ve worked my way through to this point, at least I can say two out of three recent interactions have been incredibly positive.

They’re the ones that restore my hope.

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14 thoughts on “It’s all in how you say it…

  1. The use of the popular lexicon is often used in a playful manner with the young. It’s sad, I know, but in therapy there’s a model that “matches, paces and leads”.. it’s way of connecting without alienating, so that you can then “teach” or lead, having gained their trust. I think it’s positive that any young person wants to read… I would so love it if my 15 year-old son read more, even if he called me Dawg. And his Facebook also says he’s older, because when he joined he was too young, so he put his birthday a few years ahead so that he could have a profile – maybe that’s what this rascal did. (How about that archaic expression?)
    And the more they read, the more acquainted they become with language, good language, and they will swoon at the beauty and the grace of it, and soon wax eloquent in their requests for friendship. Or maybe not.
    Anything’s possible.
    Interesting post, Tobin… lots of food for thought.

    • Don’t get me wrong, Deepam, I’m all for a young person reading, and the “match, pace and lead” model sounds very much like the “style-flexing” I do when I coach people at work.

      This, to me, wasn’t someone being a rascal. This was someone being a smartass. And yes, I should have more patience for that, but there’s times when I don’t. This was one of those times. Maybe it’s as much my problem as his. Either way, still didn’t appreciate it.

  2. Oh Tobin…at the risk of payback – I need to out you. I knew you in college, and although you may not have said the word “dawg”, I know you weren’t exactly the polished and eloquent Tobin that stands before us today. I don’t know exactly which expressions you may have used that made you sound like a dope – but I do know you never struck me a dork – so you had to be doing the stupid stuff just like the rest of us. (Though you always did have good manners).

    Do you sound like an old fart? Sadly, yes – or at least to fifteen year olds. But even sadder than that is the fact that somehow we indeed have become old farts. Whether that reader was fifteen or seventeen – do you know he wasn’t even a spec on this earth when we were in the halls of Durham? Eeks…time flies.

    Thanks for the laugh – great post.

    • No, I definitely wasn’t the polished and eloquent Tobin that stands before us today. Hell, I’m still not. And at that time? In college? I was sporting the mullet, so I definitely was a dork.

      But, when it came to those I didn’t know, I was respectful. That’s one thing, dopey and dorky as I was–and I really was–that I can claim.

  3. Your post just made my day! Sometimes I feel awash in an ocean of spelling and grammatical atrocities, both at work and on the Internet. I hate that it makes me feel old, but I think that spelling, grammar, and literacy still have a place and a purpose in our world. Without a doubt, there is a time and a place for banter and colloquialisms, but I wish I saw more discretion used so that the line between formal and infomal writing is not completely obliterated with wassup dawg discourse. I understand that language evolves, but this feels more like devolution.

    • I’m sure every generation views the next one as devolving the language. Because, I’m sure my mother didn’t appreciate the far outs, the right ons and the groovy, mans that she was subjected to by my older brother and I.

      But yeah, the whole rapper talk drives me crazy.

  4. I hate slang and always have. I despair about a lot of things our children and their peers think of as normal and wonder if anyone will use correct English in a few generations.

    Ah well, it’s been a slice!

  5. ‘Dawg boy’ should realize that you’ve done him a favour by attempting to school him. This Is Canada. Eubonics or eurythmics or whatever bad grammar was called didn’t catch on here for a reason – low rider pants freeze the crack in your butt in winter. That gangsta sh** is beyond old school. U be on the down-low chillin’ bro?

  6. The first kid has a lot of growing up to do. I know he was egging you on, but you were right to call him on it. He at least needs to know that you aren’t working with it. AND, if that makes me an old fart…so be it! I’ll take the title proudly. At least you had two positive responses and that is what you can focus on. Great post, Tobin.

  7. Great post Tobin!

    And to think, a couple of years ago, someone wanted to make an official slanguage. We are on the verge of another slanguage, text-talk. Why don’t we just hand out hammers and tell people to repeatedly beat themselves about the head with it. It’s a much more effective route to true stupidity.

    I blame the computer. It is too easy for people to put on a personna that they would get laughed at if they did it in public and then electronically defend it by swearing and de-evolving. You handled it well. far more dignified than I would have.

    “Dawg” is twelve.

    Is it ok if I still use groovy, or does it make me look old 😉

  8. Hi Tobin, great post! Found you through Gardengates and will be back. Sigh. How 2 ngage GenY?? Through some of the cyber-bullying stuff I’ve heard, we know now everyone has two personae: one real and one online. Here’s hoping Moron’s real persona is more positive!

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