Thursday, April 10, 2008

Youth Language

Is Juno the Best Word on Today's Youth?

In today's Star, Trish Crawford writes about the Mo' Urban Dictionary that will be packaged with the Juno DVD at HMV stores. Here's the lede:

Aaron Peckham was chillin' at the computer nine years ago, when he dreamed up Urban Dictionary – a ridonkulous slang online dictionary co-created by fellow technogeeks.

That one sentence is reason enough to burn today's Star in absolute disgust; writing about youth language and employing the gimmick of using so-called youth words is the type of creative masturbation exercise that I would expect from a second-year j-skooler. Crawford isn't that, and judging by how tragically un-hip this article is, and by her photo on the Star's site, she's probably in her mid- to late 50s. Just another reason why she has no reason to write about anything youth-related. (Yes, some older writers can pull the trick off, Crawford evidently cannot.)

But instead of stopping after Crawford's pathetic lede, I continued to read and found the premise of her article:

What Juno did was give audiences over age 35 a window into the secret language of young people.

Really? I know what you'll say: "Michael, what do you know about youth culture and language? You're an old man now. You have gray hair. You have wrinkles. You have an enlarged prostate." And I will reply, "Good morning. I'm doing fine. How are you?" because my hearing is going too.

But while I may not be of the age that makes me an authority on youth culture, I do know that the language in Juno, written by Diablo Cody (whose blog suggests she's far removed from the youth scene), is clichéd and inaccurate. My sister (oh, he pulls out the My Sister Argument) is 16, and the only time she or her friends use words like 'chillin'' or 'fo shizzel' is to be ironic and self-mocking.

The problem with Crawford's article and Juno for that matter is that it lives the cliché. Youth lives in the present, in the future. The only way to get there is make it up as you go along.


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