Generations and their relationship to language

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When identifying with a certain generation, I think the thing that most people tend to turn to first is the type of language they use.  Stereotypically, using words such as “nifty” or “golly” would probably make you sound rather old, while a heavy use of texting lingo would group you with people under the age of 30.  The language that we use heavily influences the decisions people make about us and help define who we are.  In this article and accompanying video, comedian Adam Conover discusses how the idea of generations of people is really just a myth and another way for people to try and categorize each other.  Because people tend to identify with a certain generation, it causing a sort of “othering” effect with the older or younger generations which starts finger pointing and stereotyping.  He uses the example of how older people tend to say that younger people are constantly on their phone, while the truth is that everyone is always on their phones, not necessarily just the younger people.  Due to that, when younger people try to explain that the meaning usually gets lots in translation and turns into older people calling us defensive.  Conover goes on to make an excellent point, saying that, “young people don’t need you to talk to them in their language. They just want to be treated like intelligent people who are worthy of respect”.  The different types of words and saying that we use has caused a divide in the population which can be easily solved by some mutual understanding.  This just goes to show you how important words are to the relationships among different age groups and people in general.

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One thought on “Generations and their relationship to language”

  1. I though that was a very interesting talk! I have never heard anyone else say that generations really don’t exist in any true concrete way, but I have always thought this in the back of my mind and have often found myself asking my dad how anyone knows where one generation ends and another begins. It is interesting that Conover started his talk by debunking the idea of generations even existing, but then went on to use the ideas that generations have their own defining characteristics, such as language, in order to highlight the ways in which older people talk to younger people in sometimes condescending ways. This is a little contradictory in that these characteristics might be used to define generations. It would be interesting to see how society might be different if the notion of generations didn’t exist today, or if that would even be possible. Maybe society would tend to this generalization no matter how it was set up?

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