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Teenage girls so, like, rule English
The Australian ^ | January 09, 2006 | John Harlow and Dan Box

Posted on 01/08/2006 10:30:02 PM PST by Dundee

Teenage girls so, like, rule English

THE teenage girl is the most powerful influence on the evolution of the English language around the world.

According to new research, the typical 16-year-old girl -- armed with a mobile phone and a wide circle of friends -- has ensured the success of new phrases such as "muffin top" (a bulge of flesh over low-cut jeans) and "whale tail" (the appearance of a g-string above the waistband of a skirt or trousers).

Sali Tagliamonte, associate professor of linguistics at the University of Toronto, believes the strongest recent shift has been the spread of Californian "Valley Girl" style, promoted around the globe by television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The OC.

This style of speech is characterised by inserting drawled words such as "like" and "so" to add emphasis to a sentence, which rises in pitch at the end.

"Valley Girl has gone beyond a fad and is now rooted in different forms of English around the world," Ms Tagliamonte said. "Girls are the single most powerful force in the English language today." The research was among work discussed at the annual meeting of the American Dialect Society in New Mexico over the weekend.

Wayne Glowka, chairman of the ADS New Words Committee, said girls used new or fashionable words as status symbols, forcing the constant evolution of the language as fashions changed.

"Females are very quick to pick up on any aspect of fashion, whether it is clothing or speech, that shows off status. Men are less quick to do so," he said.

Ellen Grote, a researcher at Edith Cowan University in Perth, has studied how Aboriginal teenage girls borrowed words from other cultures in their email gossip to construct a communal identity.

"They would recruit words that appear in American hip hop music. That was one way they would build their own identity," she said.

Barry Spurr, senior lecturer in English at the University of Sydney, said social pressures meant Australian men in particular were more reluctant to display their language abilities.

"They are afraid to be seen expressing thought because they are sexually insecure," Dr Spurr said. "They want to be seen to be real men and the standard for real men wouldn't be seen to express a thought.

"The big problem in Australia is getting young men to talk at all. Girls are much more orally adventurous."

Linguists believe young women and men use language differently: women ask questions out of politeness, while men want data. Women allow each other to finish a sentence before starting their own, while men interrupt more.

In addition, women seeking prestige pick up fashionable new words faster than men. Experts believe this has been going on for centuries. A Finnish study of 15th-century English court correspondence shows that aristocratic wives moved from archaic "ye" to "you" significantly earlier than their husbands.


TOPICS: Australia/New Zealand; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; Political Humor/Cartoons; US: California
KEYWORDS: andimlike; andsheslike; bubbleheads; culturalentropy; girls; language; stuckonstupid; teens
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To: Morass of Negativity
Oh, I thought "muffin" referred to the uh..., well, the ummm..., you know, the.... oh, never mind."
51 posted on 01/09/2006 1:10:13 PM PST by Hatteras
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To: Morass of Negativity

Mon Jeans. Look out, she's gonna blow.


52 posted on 01/09/2006 1:11:50 PM PST by gathersnomoss
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To: Morass of Negativity

Mom Jeans. Look out, she's gonna blow.


53 posted on 01/09/2006 1:12:19 PM PST by gathersnomoss
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To: ASOC

My 20 year old son calls those tattoos "tramp stamps".


54 posted on 01/09/2006 1:23:52 PM PST by Auntbee
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To: ArrogantBustard

I saw a young woman in a skirt the other day. I nearly fell off the train platform--wow a woman looking feminine, in California no less.


55 posted on 01/09/2006 1:26:46 PM PST by Betis70 (Brass Bonanza Forever)
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To: wildbill

"Ya gotta admit that 'Muffin Top' is a brilliant descriptive phrase."

LOL, it is. I really didn't get it, until I spyed on today, then I was like: AHA! That really does describe it well.


56 posted on 01/09/2006 4:54:20 PM PST by jocon307 (Still mourning the loss of CBS FM)
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