How Teenage Girls Talk; Why its Important

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Have you ever noticed that there seems to be a generational shift in how girls talk?  For example, there is “uptalk.”   The statement that sounds like a question because the speaker inflects up at the end of the sentence.  Or how about the use of “like” in sentences as in:  “You know, like, the use of “like” in a sentence makes me crazy. Like, you know what I mean?  Once "Valley Girl" modes of speaking, they now permeate all generations. 

Well, that type of speech may or may not irritate you but the fact that teen girls and young women create these shifts is apparently more important than we thought.  Here is how the New York Times writer, Douglas Quenqua, puts it in his article “They’re, Like, Way Ahead of the Linguistic Currrrve:”


[Linguists now think that] Girls and women in their teens and 20s deserve credit for pioneering vocal trends and popular slang…Young women use these embellishments in much more sophisticated ways than people tend to realize…The idea that young women serve as incubators of vocal trends for the culture at large has longstanding roots in linguistics. As Paris is to fashion, the thinking goes, so are young women to linguistic innovation… “It’s generally pretty well known that if you identify a sound change in progress, then young people will be leading old people,” said Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, “and women tend to be maybe half a generation ahead of males on average.”

So, what does this mean for the toy industry?  Well, maybe we should be paying attention to how teenage girls talk so that our verbiage on packaging and advertising is in synch  with how younger girls hear their older sisters and idols talk.  The right words could, like, make the difference in sales?

 

 

 

One thought

  1. I’m not sure I agree… While this article makes a really strong case for girl “word power”, my 21 year old son has brought home all kinds of new phrases – many of them inspired by hip hop. Teenage girl talk may be more visible in our society, but I am fascinated – yes delighted – by the verbal dexterity kids display. They are on the cutting edge of language and keep it fresh.

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