Teenage girls have led language innovation for centuries (Thinkstock)
Teenage girls have led language innovation for centuries
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Criticizing teenage girls for the way they speak is nothing short of a time-honored tradition for adults who take issue with everything from slang to vocal fry. But Quartz's Gretchen McCulloch has a bone to pick with those critics. She argues that female teen linguists should be lauded for their longtime innovation - they've been shaking things up for centuries.
 
McCulloch argues that female teenagers are actually "language disruptors" - innovators who invent words that make their way into the vernacular.
 
"To use a modern metaphor, young women are the Uber of language," she writes.

William Shakespeare has long been seen as the poster boy for introducing words into the English language, though some have questioned his celebrated language disruptor status. But young women may have been the true linguistic revolutionaries of Shakespeare's day. McCulloch notes that in the 2003 book Historical Sociolinguistics, University of Helsinki linguists Terttu Nevalainen and Helena Raumolin-Brunberg surveyed 6,000 letters from 1417 to 1681. They found that female letter-writers changed the way they wrote faster than male letter-writers, spearheading the adoption of new words and discarding words like "doth" and "maketh."
 
Women are consistently responsible for about 90 percent of linguistic changes today, writes McCulloch. Why do women lead the way with language? Linguists aren't really sure. Women may have greater social awareness, bigger social networks or even a neurobiological leg up. There are some clues to why men lag behind: A 2009 study estimated that when it comes to changing language patterns, men trail by about a generation.
 
That's largely due to adult male blowback against female stereotypes in speech (think vocal fry or uptalk) and the fact that, in the past, females have traditionally taken care of children, as Chi Luu wrote for JSTOR Daily in February. Thus, men learn from their mothers and women tend to learn new lingo from other women.
 
Though Gretchen Wieners was never able to make "fetch" happen, it's clear that women have been revolutionizing language for a long time. Not bad for a group of kids that get lots of flak for adopting new lingo.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How are metaphors used in this article?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (67)
  • valentynas-1-glo
    9/03/2015 - 08:46 a.m.

    Metaphors are used in this article to create an image, and to create a mood/tone. In the first paragraph the metaphor "a bone to pick" was used to create an image, also a hook. Then a metaphor was also used as a quote that was said by Gretchen McCulloch.

  • lillyw-1-glo
    9/03/2015 - 08:47 a.m.

    Critical thinking question: Metaphors like "young women are the Uber of language" are used in this article to show that women then (centuries ago) and now are using more modern words than traditional words. Uber, the modern and growing taxi-like service is compared to young women using new words because this is a modern, new issue.

  • mikaylam-1-glo
    9/03/2015 - 08:49 a.m.

    Metaphors are used in this article to compare language patterns between women and men. Metaphors give the readers a better idea of where women and men stand in the concept of language. It shows the bigger picture with small metaphors.

  • jilmarir-1-glo
    9/03/2015 - 08:50 a.m.

    Metaphors are used in this article to compare how women have changed language so much to men. "Women are the Uber of language." 'Uber' is a word that women made up. They're the ones that know the new update on what words to say.I also think that we deserve more credit and should be 'praised' because we we're technically the ones who got you to say everything men are saying right now. We're a whole generation ahead! Get with the program guys.

  • mayceen-2-glo
    9/03/2015 - 12:21 p.m.

    I think that the entire article itself is a metaphor. How women and girls have changed the English language more than men ever have is, in a way, a metaphor for feminism. What I mean by that is that women have essentially overpowered men in the language department, and for women to do something like that, even dating back centuries ago, is amazing. The large change in language that we have accomplished as women and girls is still growing, and adds some brownie points to feminism.

  • cameronw-2-glo
    9/03/2015 - 12:22 p.m.

    Metaphors are used in this article mostly to describe how women are in the lead of linguistics innovation, which is really the point of this article. In the first paragraph, it says "has a bone to pick" which means that Gretchen has an argument to make with the people who criticize the changes women make to the English language. In the third paragraph, it says "young women are the Uber of language" which I don't quite understand. An Uber will transport you to different places but I can't really correlate that to language. In the fourth paragraph, it says "spearheading the adoption" which means getting to the point of something firmly.

  • bergenj-2-glo
    9/03/2015 - 12:23 p.m.

    Metaphors are used as a positive way of connotating what teenage girls have been doing to language in this article, and they use modern terms as a way of emphasizing the effect girls have on language.

  • maddiel-1-glo
    9/03/2015 - 12:25 p.m.

    Metaphors are used in this article to make it more interesting and make it more understandable for the younger generations, for example; "Young women are the Uber of language"; well Uber is an American international transportation network company, and it is being compared to young women, meaning, that women transport new words and language very quickly.

  • lizbethm-2-glo
    9/03/2015 - 12:26 p.m.

    The metaphors used in this article are showing how girls are the main reason for the linguistic changes in our society. The author is trying to explain why we should praise these girls instead of judging them. The author does this by using the metaphor "young women are the Uber of language".

  • averyj-2-glo
    9/03/2015 - 12:27 p.m.

    Metaphors are used in this article to further elaborate that women are more responsible for introducing new words to the dictionary. I personally believe the reason that females are more likely to pick up on new slang is because if a girl wants to be popular at school than she will most likely pick up on how the other "popular" children behave. A woman's mind is engineered to be more social than a man's brain, the brain of a female is, in general, better at multi-tasking while the brain of a man is generally better at focusing on a single activity. Since a woman's brain is better at multi-tasking they are more likely to pick up on new words and to put them into their known vocabulary.

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