Language Faux Pas or Language Evolution?

Much like the ever-evolving trends of fashion or technology, language has its own set of rules. However, unlike language, a faux pas or a “social blunder,” in those areas are almost instantaneously recognizable, for instance, wearing stripes with polka dots. This print combination once a fashion no-no, over time has become less of a faux pas and more of a fashion statement known as “power clashing”. Language has a similar tendency. Words, similarly evolve, grow and mature from being seen as unacceptable, to more formally accepted. For instance, previously unknown words like tweet, selfie and bling-bling are not only formally accepted in regular discussion and online, but have also found their place into the English dictionary.

Anne Curzan, University of Michigan English professor and language specialist, discusses this topic in detail in her TED talk by asking the question, “What Makes a Word Real?” For instance, words that may have once been used as nouns can now be used as verbs, i.e. “defriending” or “unfriending” (in reference to Facebook). The question then, is how do you know what constitutes a faux pas and what is socially acceptable? Who ultimately decides whether certain words live or die? The answer is, us, the people! Society ultimately chooses the lifespan of any word based on its usage. Language, much like culture, is rich, vibrant and forever progressing.  Although certain words and phrases may seem strange, or irregular, this linguistic evolution is simply a part of our ever-growing society.

At Paragon, we specialize in eliminating language barriers to help connect communities around the world. With the growing prevalence of technology and social media, it’s critical that we acknowledge these new and exciting communication trends. We believe these changes make our daily human interactions even more robust and fascinating!


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