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. Some adults 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."  They 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 new 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. The females spearheaded 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 (19)
  • p1-callen-pen
    8/24/2015 - 09:06 a.m.

    They are used to compare how men lack in this without using like or as for example, men lacked in linguing for at least one generation. The archetype is all of the girls. They are all leading language innovation so they are the archetype of this article.

  • mckaylas-1-ols
    8/24/2015 - 12:56 p.m.

    I think that some of the words that "girls" come up with are stupid. Most of the slang words that are used make no sense. A lot of the words that we use now are ridiculous and make no sense.

  • karlees-1-ols
    8/24/2015 - 12:59 p.m.

    The metaphors in this story are used to tell how the women in our society have made our language more diverse, and how they are ahead of the men in the sense of how we speak.

  • laneys-1-ols
    8/24/2015 - 12:59 p.m.

    The metaphors are used in the article to tell the people about how women are the one who changed the language and made it better. Men trail behind the women because the women were always in the house and with the kids and learn from other women.

  • jasminpd-1-ols
    8/24/2015 - 01:03 p.m.

    They are "language disruptors" meaning they don't really disrupt language they just add words to it. People have done it over time so why can't we. Girls aren't the only ones who make slangs. There are gangsters out there that do make words like dawg and homy.

  • tycenb-ols
    8/24/2015 - 01:05 p.m.

    The author is trying to explain how girls are a generation ahead of men in language. It also tells us why that is and why men are slacking.

  • amelianaa-ols
    8/24/2015 - 01:11 p.m.

    In this article, women are being compared to William Shakespeare because of our ability to adopt new words. We are also being called the "Uber" of language.

  • keatonm-1-ols
    8/24/2015 - 01:12 p.m.

    I think that it is great that girls are expanding their vocabulary but they still shouldn't talk that much. And besides they were making new words that are useful and not stupid like some of todays words.

  • jacksonh-ols
    8/24/2015 - 01:15 p.m.

    This article was interesting because it explained how girls introduce new words. It is important to introduce new words so we don't talk like old people.

  • daizypd-ols
    8/24/2015 - 01:21 p.m.

    If the world didn't have girls to make up words then the males would be use thou and talking like the old people so with females we bring the language up to date.

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