I catch an appropriate amount of flack for the high-minded, occasionally cryptic language employed in this column. But, brah, I am a dude of myriad voices. My writing style here is not the same as in my legal briefs, is not how I write texts to my friends, is just one slice of how I present words to the world. Indeed, my style fluctuates from column to column, anchored by through lines, but influenced by what surrounds me, what trips me out, what makes my brain light up.
In our lives, we roll with a heap of different cliques. We interact linguistically with them in ways that are appropriate for the circumstances. Each subset, each subculture has its own vernacular that is created and driven and changed by the events, micro and macro, affecting them. The evolution of this variegated slang is a source of considerable fascination. Just as I am bowled over by the sheer number of words that can be employed in any given situation, I am stunned by the creativities and serendipities that give rise to their employment.
People have many different sides, many different emotions, many different interests. It makes sense that they would not speak in one rigid manner. I would be in serious professional trouble if I spoke in court as I did in the lift line. I would be subject to understandable ridicule if I used the same vocabulary in the skin track as in Violet’s classroom, although the delta between those two environments is not large as it once was.
Because I switch between many different milieus in the course of any given day, there are times when the coded language of one venue bleeds into another. This is a nice way of saying that I curse in front of my daughter far too often. I have also called my mother dude more than a few times. It’s beyond ridiculous.
The cross-pollination of lingua francas is particularly apparent in our Valley, a place where it is not strange to find a ski bum lawyer or a doctor fiending for her mountain bike or a teacher playing rock guitar at night. The collision of professionalism, recreation, and socialization makes for a hilarious hybrid dialect. Certainly, I notice a significant difference in the lingo when I am speaking with an in-town attorney versus one down in the Front Range, or even more so versus one from a place farther afield. People in Iowa apparently don’t use the term “shred” too frequently.
There is a nefarious side to the chameleonic qualities of language. When one chooses to utilize different modes of speaking of their own volition, that is considerably different than feeling obligated to talk in a certain manner in order to meet the expectations of those that believe that people of a certain race, sex, gender, orientation, or other descriptor should talk and behave in a certain fashion.
It’s so rad that we have hella ways to convey our thoughts. Speaking is literally the means of our expression. The freedom thereof is totally the reason those old bros created these United States in the first place. We should not be constrained by outmoded ideas of how we should talk or look. Yeah, it would be mega weird if one up and decided to walk around town speaking only the Queen’s English or full on Cockney or like a pirate, but, like, maybe it would be cool?