Time for a slang ban, innit

Candy Bellinger

From 'apples and pears' to 'innit', slang has always been part of British culture. But these days, try conversing with teenagers and you're liable to be left struggling to interpret much of what is said. And now critics are concerned that the overuse of slang, particularly amongst the youth of today, is "sabotaging" literacy.

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According to Paul Kerswill, a professor of sociolinguistics, an entirely new dialect is emerging and "multicultural English", as he calls it, is being used indiscriminately by young people who are unable to distinguish when its use is appropriate. No longer is slang used solely to impress peers, youngsters are now so encumbered with colloquialisms that they are ill-equipped when it comes to communication with the outside world.

So what to do? Well, one school in Manchester became so concerned by the 'innits' and the 'd'you know what I means' that they banned slang. And according to principal Maria Nightingale, exam results have soared, prompting the question should we try it on a more widespread basis?

Others argue that slang is part of the very fabric of our society. As Jamaican poet Benjamin Zephaniah says: "The very nature of English language – and what it means to be British – is its flexibility."

Slang expert (we have those?) Tony Thorne agrees. He told the BBC: "Slang has not become more prevalent, simply more public," and insists that it is also a "natural human tendency."

Besides, a slang ban would certainly seem like an impossible feat. But the question remains, is the English language suffering or should we simply embrace slang as part of the multicultural nature of our diverse society?