After listening to Hidden Brain’s Slanguage

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The following questions are adapted from Hidden Brain’s study guide

Dr. McWhorter argues that “it’s the nature of human language to change. Each generation hears things and interprets things slightly differently from the previous one.” Give an example of something you interpret differently than someone in another generation. Is one way of interpreting that word or phrase more “right” than the other? Why?

Dr. McWhorter discusses teaching language rules and similar to teaching rules about fashion and self-presentation. What is his argument? What example does he give? What do you think of this argument? In what situations do you moderate or change your language in order to present yourself in a certain way? McWhorter contends that people use language as a way to look down on other people – he specifically mentions educated people looking down on uneducated people. What do you think of this argument? Do you agree? Disagree? Do you see yourself ever using language and language rules as a way to criticize other people? Do other people criticize how you use language?

After airing this podcast, the Hidden Brain team received some feedback that the examples of slang that were given in the podcast had all originated in black vernacular and were now being appropriated by a majority white culture. What do you think of this? How does language move? Does new language often originate in marginalized groups? Why does that matter? Is there a way to reconcile this with the idea that no one owns language?

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