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A vocab you won't find on the SAT

Wordification isn’t a word, but it should be. If we truly live in a democracy based on freedom, people should have the power to add widely used words to the dictionary. Joel Kwartler

Actually, that’s what happened with “OMG” and the Oxford English Dictionary. LOL, right? (LOL also made the dictionary. OMG, what is up with the people compiling that dictionary?) It’s the First Amendment at it’s very best, or should I say, being a beast.

The question is: Why? What drives the radical, hipster, unshaven, socialist youth of society to constantly invent new words or meanings? Is it because we have such a bad memory we simply forget that similar words already exist?

Perhaps it’s that adults are not cool. Aside from TV show characters, Mark Zuckerberg and John Boehner, adults aren’t partying, reckless teenage role models. As such, teens want to make sure adults have no idea what’s being said.

Thus, constantly changing the language is the easiest way to do this. Sure, you might know what “hip” means, but if your kid tells you that one of his friends is pretty sick, do you actually believe the friend has the flu? If so, teens, it’s working. Keep it up. After all, few adults have any idea what I mean if I were to say that my swag is slightly less sick than that of a tomato. Sure, part of that comes from the fact that even if you get the slang, that sentence doesn’t really make sense. But you didn’t get the slang, did you?

You might think that I’d be betraying my fellow teens if I revealed our favorite slang. That is probably true. Since I’ve got a column to write, though, what’s a little betrayal amongst peers? It hasn’t hurt politicians — their popularity ratings are persistently high. Or, at least, higher than my English grade.

Speaking of English, our English teachers ought to be proud of us, because if we’ve learned anything, it’s that word choice is important. You can say “cool” once or twice, but if you keep repeating it, you begin to sound as repetitive as the Beatles’ “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road.” (It has 18 lines, 15 of which consist solely of the title. This is made even funnier, of course, if you have an adolescent male’s mind. At least, that’s what I was told; as a male teenager, I don’t have any mind at all).

And, since teenagers are such mentally advanced humans, about (this is an estimate) 160 percent of what teen boys say expresses that something is or isn’t cool. This means that we’ve come up with many intelligent synonyms for cool. As an added bonus, we discovered that adults — because of their underdeveloped brains — couldn’t understand our new lexicon.

Thus, as if overnight, words such as chill, sick, sweet, smooth, beast, wet, ill, tight, fresh, kickin’, boss and swag all became synonymous with cool. And, as if overnight, half of those words were instantly rejected for sounding too ridiculous.

Thankfully, the surviving slang is still unusual enough to baffle adults. If you say, “Dude, that was so fresh it’s tighter than sick,” within earshot of any adults their ears will melt. Tell any adult that you “gots swag” and they’ll assume you’re carrying around some free branded T-shirts of your corporation of choice.

The easiest part of wordification — the part most adults have forgotten — is that there is no logic behind it. The only discernable pattern is that each new word must stand in for something that is taboo, almost taboo, or just at the edge of being almost taboo. Really, isn’t that what the most basic example, “cool,” is? What with global warming, it’s pretty taboo to be cold.

I suggest we take advantage of this fact, and start creating slang at a much faster pace. You drive a nice car? Avocado, man. You just aced that test? Dude, that’s mahogany. See? You barely have to think about it, which is pretty rhododendron, if you get my drift.

Upon reflection, it’s unlikely we create words to confuse adults; adults are confused enough by things like dubstep. Rather, wordification probably arises from teens’ love of pushing boundaries, whether they are linguistic, fashion or driving test traffic cones.

Theoretically, in pushing boundaries, we create unique identities. In reality, however, we sometimes try so hard to be ill that we are no longer sick and simply become another tool. (If you can’t speak teen, that last sentence meant: Don’t stand out just to stand out because in doing so you don’t stand out. Understand?)

Joel Kwartler is a senior at Lake Oswego High School. He writes a monthly column for the Lake Oswego Review. To contact him, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




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