What's the good word?

Language matters
Last Updated 27 May 2012, 13:10 IST

From “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” to “aal izz well”, conversational language has indeed come a long way!

No matter what the language, people seem to be more influenced by the film and television culture than they are by literature. This may primarily be due to the fact that around 20 years ago, the television wasn’t as common as it is now. Books and stories were - up until the early 90s - the main source of entertainment for the youth, who now continue to carry the torch of the book culture while the new generation has grown up on television.

The television series ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S.’, which caught the attention of almost all the youngsters at the time, was a huge factor in introducing the city to colloquial ‘lingo’. Words and phrases such as ‘like’, ‘whatever’ and ‘Oh my God’ were popularised by the six characters from the sitcom and from then on, it seems to have stuck on as part of trendy talk.  Moreover, people, especially teenagers, began to emulate the lifestyle of these fictitious characters.

So in doing the things they saw on television, they inevitably began to also relate to the characters. Thereby conversations were not only dominated by discussing programmes but also discussed in the tone and language they were now accustomed to.

Meghna D, a scientist who is a voracious reader says that the reduction in the number of people reading has caused this change. “It’s not really that people are more influenced by film or tv but at a basic level it’s that they don’t know any better.

Literature has taken a back seat. So if you were to speak like Dickens or Chaucer, chances are that only one other person is a group of 10 has understood what you’re talking about,” she says.

So in imitating dialogues, we seem to be losing track of the traditional form of the English language, which according to some youngsters may not be a bad thing.

 “In Shakespeare’s time they spoketh formally. Then when the British were here it was Queen’s English. Now it’s tv lingo, the popular culture of our time. It’s quite regressive of people to look down on the new sort of language,” says Vedika R, a student of communication and media.

In addition to just moving away from the book culture, Sahana Das, Head of Communication Studies, Mount Carmel College believes the internet that has had a massive impact on the way youngsters behave and speak.

“I wouldn’t say that it is only television and film that is causing kids or all of us really, to speak differently. I think with the advent of internet, people are exposed to various cultures, languages and media that they pick up from their. And it is not only the language but behaviour too…which is not really a bad thing,” she comments. 

Another possible cause for increased colloquialism may well be that film and television characters have mass appeal when compared to the more intangible book characters. Arjun Varma, an independent film maker and script writer says that because there is so little time on hand these days, people take the short cut to literature by watching movies.

“Harry Potter is the best example. Everyone knows about it but has everyone read it? Of course not! I certainly haven’t but I know the dialogues and spells like I know the alphabet,” he chuckles. He also believes that literature characters are looked at as more aspirational.

“People like to be ‘Romeo and Juliet’ but essentially they are ‘Homer and Marge’! So they begin to talk like the characters that are far more true to life…especially like dysfunctional Homer Simpson.” Sahana too feels that language in film and television is more accurate in reflecting the society at the time.

 “It’s that film and tv have always mirrored the language of the people while written was considered more intellectual…like the Victorian time. Now however, the lines are blurring and the gap between written and spoken language is fast reducing,” she sums up.

(Published 27 May 2012, 13:10 IST)

Follow us on