My colleague, Cara, shared an article the other day about how ‘millenial speak’ is actually rather creative and abides by the rules of English. But it made one particular point that got me thinking.
How many of us have had arguments over text, email, social media, simply because someone misunderstood us?
As human beings we were born to communicate with each other. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that as the years have gone on we’ve figured out more and more ways we can communicate and keep up with our expanding worlds. For example, many of us now know someone that lives in a different country. Previously communication would be done either via telephone (an expensive solution) or via letter (not exactly famous for its speed and it’s a gamble whether it will even arrive).
But to send a text abroad costs barely anything, or nothing depending on your provider, and a quick message on social media is totally free. And here’s the other great thing, not only are they both instant but, unlike the across seas phone call, you don’t need to wait up all night just to talk (with family members living in Australia I’m well aware of this fun).
But these are still very new inventions that we haven’t fully adapted to yet. Written communication has never been done on the same scale as we do nowadays. Texting, social media, email, all these things have become a huge part of our day-to-day lives. But because we’re not used to them and yet use them all the time, instances for misunderstanding are plentiful.
But hold on, what’s the point then if we’re constantly having to explain ourselves? It’s totes not the one! (bit of millennial speak for you there). Ah, but as I said, communicating is innate to humans, one of the first things we learn is how to communicate.
Older generations are known for obnoxiously declaring, ‘they’re born with a phone in their hands these days’. But that’s why they know how to use them. Millenials are the first generation to grow up with these new communication technologies as standard in their lives. They were almost born knowing the pros and cons and because of this they’re learning how to fix those cons.
‘Oh-em-gee’ is a less blasphemous ‘oh my god’ and almost parodies the dramatic element creating a more comedic tone. ‘Ah-may-zing’ can really exaggerate what you’re saying. In these days of meaningless hyperbole millennials have learnt how to regain importance. I’m guilty of phrases such as ‘that’s like totes cray!’ as a way to have fun, lighten a situation or just have a moan without sounding too serious. Combine these things with emojis and meaning can be inferred perfectly.
For instance, a friend forgets to text back for days “oh-em-gee Alice that’s like totes ridic, it’s been forevs!” add in the OTT crying face (you know the one, with the tears streaming down its cheeks?) and I’m fairly certain she would understand whilst I’m in shock about her blatant disregard for my super important messages, I don’t really care. Because a simple ‘it’s fine, don’t worry’ can always leave a niggling worry. In fact, many millennials have become so proficient in using new communication channels many can speak using emojis alone and still have meaning and tone of voice understood. Blatant skillz!
So, before we all go out and start the millennial speak bashing, let’s think about how they’ve developed language to ensure tone of voice, all while abiding by the rules of the English language. And maybe next time you pop that smiley face at the end of an email to seem less formal you’ll remind yourself how far we’ve come.