If a friend, family member or co-worker came up to you and said that they were talking to someone, what would you think? It sounds innocent enough, doesn't it? What's the big deal? But, what if they said that they were "talking" to someone?
Would you have any idea what they were "talking" about?
I had no idea what it meant. My friends would tell me that they were "talking" to someone and I would just look at them with confusion. "Why are you putting so much emphasis on that word?"
The look that I received in response to that question said it all. Clearly, I was out of the loop.
Isn't there another term for that? Or am I just stuck in the past in this rapidly changing generation?
I felt like I was the only one who didn't know what it meant.
So, I began to do a little research on this new concept and the slang that went along with it. I took a poll in a classroom of mine on how many teenagers could explain "talking" to me. Kids were practically leaping out of their seats ready to tell me. Even the twenty-something teacher could tell me what it meant. What I gathered from the mass of eager responders was something like this:
That awkward time in a relationship before you are established as "boyfriend and girlfriend" but more than friends. Even my teacher (who, to be fair, is at an age where the generations were shifting, leaving her applicable to both) could tell me what it meant.
I continued this poll and found the more people that I asked, the more people knew what it meant, but, couldn't really define it. Most of the teenagers had the basic idea, with a few discrepancies. The older adults ranged from "I have no idea" to "I know!" followed by a definition that even I knew was wrong
Ummm. . .thanks, but I'm almost positive that we have a different word for that. I'm not completely out of the loop.
I asked the adults what they called "talking" when they were teenagers. Most replied with "going out", "dating", or "seeing each other." These terms had shifted over time to mean something different too. 20 years ago, they were used in an informal sense, similar to the situation of "talking". Now, when two high schoolers are "dating", they are well past the realm of "talking", onto a much more serious, committed relationship.
So, why the change of terms?
Slang has an element that allows it to be shifted and shaped into different situations and different generations. Take, for example, the range of responses to my original question about "talking." People have used this slang term so much that its real meaning has been muffled in all of the confusion. Even "seeing each other" has changed drastically across generations, meaning something completely different from its original usage. The truth is, I don't have a real answer to this question. Different factors affect different generations in various ways, causing a shift in culture and slang.You have to stay alert to the words that are out there, and accept slang's tendencies to change over time.
I think that the evolution of language is fascinating. I loved digging deeper to find out what "talking" really meant and learning something new about the cultural qualities of my generation and how they had been affected by the changing elements of society.
Hmmm. On that note. . .
I began to think, While these teenagers are "talking" to each other, how much of it is actually having a real conversation? Most of my friends that are "talking" to someone are really texting, or Facebook messaging them.
If you're going to use the word "talking" to describe being interested in someone, doesn't that mean that you actually have to talk to them?
The changing technology in our society has made it so easy for everyone to communicate with someone without actually having to talk to them. Why risk the possible awkwardness of a real conversation when you can simply send a text message, safely proof-reading your responses? To our generation, this impersonal communication takes the place of actually talking to someone, creating a new definition of the term "talking."
"Talking" to someone through text messages also satisfies the multi-tasking urge that teenagers feel. Technology makes it so easy to mindlessly complete several tasks at once. We can flirt, listen to music, complete a math problem and watch TV, all at the same time. Real conversations just don't have that kind of efficiency.
This attitude makes me apprehensive. Life is so fast-paced that we even try to build relationships with people by texting them, rather than old fashioned conversations. Is this new definition of "talking" really just an example of how this generation is distancing themselves from genuine communication and social interaction? Sure, technology is great and can make every aspect of life very efficient and easy, but at the end of the day, what are we left with?
A lot of extra time to be lonely. Locked in rooms with our electronics, supposedly granting us all of the social and mental stimulation that we need.
Ray Bradbury says it best in his novel Fahrenheit 451. The protagonist Montag asks his wife if she'll shut off "the parlour", which is the large television that she is constantly engrossed in. She responds, "That's my family." Will our lives turn into a science fiction novel, where electronics take the place of people, and texting permanently takes place of real conversation?
Let’s get a few things straightened out. I don’t condemn the use of the word "talking" in it’s present context. "Talking": The gateway drug to the collapse of social civilization.
Not really what I was going for.
As I’ve said before, the linguistic change that takes place over generations interests me. This example of the ironic use of "talking" is just a small example of this change. Teenagers will always be confusing, no matter what time period they’re in. The more we "talk", the more we impact the world and change the face of culture. Now that I’m in the loop, I’m preparing for the next complicated generational term. "We’ve moved on from "talking." Now we’re just "speaking" online every night."
Oh boy. Hold on tight.