There’s an old saying that “all politics is local,” meaning that all political elections, even for president, depend on the conditions in the city or area where you are living. If the economy is bad in your city, it doesn’t matter that it is good in other cities – you only care about your city, your local conditions, and you will vote accordingly (following that logic or reasoning).
We could also say that “all language is local.” Most Americans speak English, but the kind or variety of English depends on where you live. We all know this, I think, but sometimes it is good to remind ourselves that what we say in our city may not be the same as in other cities, even when we speak the same language.
Slang – informal language used by a particular (specific; certain) group or in a particular context (situation) – is also local, and changes depending on where you live. Researchers have recently studied the kind of language people use in text messages and tweets, or messages on the Internet service Twitter. They analyzed tweets in the U.S. that were geotagged, meaning the person who sent the tweet also indicated their location on their iPhone or Blackberry. They then looked to see how people used language in one area versus (compared to) another.
Using some powerful statistical techniques, the scientists were able to predict the general area where a person lived just by looking at the kind of slang they used. They also gave examples of slang associated with certain cities:
- In Northern California (San Francisco, the Silicon Valley), the word “hella” is very popular in tweets. Hella is an expression of enthusiasm. According to the Urban Dictionary, it can mean “very,” “a lot of,” or “something really good or great.” For example: “People in San Francisco think they are hella (much; a lot) smarter than people in SoCal (Southern California, which includes Los Angeles).” Hella is apparently (it seems) very popular in San Francisco, but not in Los Angeles. (I’ve never used it before writing this blog post, for example.)
- In Southern California, people use an abbreviated (shortened) form of the word “cool” (meaning good, popular, hip), “coo.” In Northern California, they tweet “koo” for “cool,” perhaps using a “k” instead of a “c” due to (because of) their lower level of education (that’s a joke!).
- Southern Californians tweet “fasho” to mean “for sure,” when they are expressing agreement with something.
- New Yorkers use the letters “nm” to mean “not much” in tweets and texts, while people in Boston write “suttin” to mean “something.”
There’s nothing really new in this research, but it does confirm (verify; show again that it is true) that what we say depends on where we live. Every language in every country has similar differences, even if you are not aware of them.
P.S. The scientific article is available here in PDF format.
P.P.S. ESL Podcast has been on Twitter nearly (almost) since the very beginning of the service, back in 2006. You can follow us @eslpod.
Image Credit: Twitter logo (low resolution), Wikipedia PD