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)
  • briannar-1-ols
    8/24/2015 - 05:57 p.m.

    McCulloch says that teenage girls can adopt new words. She says they are language disruptors. They invent new words that eventually become words.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    8/24/2015 - 09:27 p.m.

    I think that it is interesting that the young women are inventing new words and "leading the way with language." I think that having a good vocabulary is good but I don't know about making up your own words. I think that some things are changing with the new generation in words and languages.

  • kirab-1-war
    8/25/2015 - 11:42 a.m.

    I don't see anything wrong with slang the language girl teenagers use today. I think it is pretty good for the girls to make up some words. Some of the words they have made we use today when we text or talk.

  • cassieb-1-war
    8/25/2015 - 01:16 p.m.

    the author is trying to explain how criticizing teenage girls for the way they speak.

  • veran-1-glo
    9/03/2015 - 12:20 p.m.

    In this articles metaphors are used by almost saying that women are the creator of new words. Also that they created most of the new words like they are better than William Shakespeare. I love the Mean Girls reference by the way. =)

  • amberc-1-glo
    9/03/2015 - 12:24 p.m.

    I think it's really cool how women have changed how we speak over centuries. I've always thought that speech had changed because of people evolving over time and becoming more modern. When in reality it was actually women who started shortening words or creating new words based off of other words. What really surprised me was the fact that from 1417 to 1681 women had changed over 6,000 letters and that women are responsible for about 90% of linguistic changes today and that men are about an entire generation behind when it comes to comparing men and women and who changed linguistics faster.

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

    Metaphors in this article are used to show how women have made a big social impact when it comes to language. I feel that this article explains how we as women have made a broader variety to our dictionary.

  • arianah-cam
    9/22/2015 - 01:15 p.m.

    I think that this story really gives a lot of information. I never knew that men were behind in language and that women were ahead. I found this very interesting.

  • kimberlya-fil
    9/29/2016 - 09:58 p.m.

    This article describes, teenagers girls are "language disruptors" meaning that, "they invent their words that make their way into the vernacular" (2).
    McCulloch believes, that, "women are responsible about 90% of the linguistic changes".(5) According to this article women are ahead of the men on inventing, and making new English words.

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