Wednesday, July 8, 2009

That's So Hip!


We've all heard it. Slang. Everyone uses it. Basically, if you intend to communicate with a human, it can't be avoided. In fact, there are whole websites designed for the defining and perpetuation of slang.

As a writer, the question would be, how much slang can one slip into a text without risking it becoming dated at a moment's notice? If a book is full of slang, some day those words won't be used any more. And if that day is soon, it risks making the book seem out-dated like the words. For example, Song of Solomon is starts in 1931 and continues of several decades. There are countless references made and terms used with which people today are likely to be unfamiliar. (True, those words weren't dated slang from the publication in 1977, but they're still throwbacks to a previous time a lot of reader's didn't live though.) If the reader doesn't get the reference or the word, then they might miss something important.

There is, of course, another way to go. Do-it-yourself slang. In the Uglies Trilogy, Scott Westerfeld's characters use some slang that the writer created, such as 'kick' to describe something awesome or 'to kick' to mean to link over to something else, or resurrected from previous disuse, such as the millihelen as a means of method of measuring attractiveness. It's easy for the reader to get a hold on, fits well in a futuristic period, and isn't likely to become dated any time soon. (Unless we all start using it. Heck, I'm already using it sometimes, since I tend to absorb the diction of whatever I'm reading.)

Personally, I try to avoid being overly trendy with my word choice, because I'd prefer to retain a certain timeless quality to my work. Besides, who am I to say what kind of slang makes it into other worlds?

How much slang do you use? Does it ever irk you to see some slang in books?

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