Friday, October 24, 2008


In college you are urged to learn a larger language than Teenspeak. There you are introduced to the idiom of the intellect and the discourse of scholarship. While your language in college remains English, the collegiate dialect is a richer, subtler, and more complex contrivance of diction, syntax and rhetoric. Collegiate discourse speaks more from the head than the heart, and hardly at all from the gut; whereas Teenspeak is the reverse: gut, heart, and then, like, I mean, you know, head.

To a teen, the collegiate idiom may at first seem baffling, stodgy, and off-putting; yet it needs to be acquired to succeed, as much as learning French would be needed to earn a degree from the Sorbonne. Since to write Collegiate is easier than to speak it, writing should come first as the more deliberate, cautious and correctible way to proceed. Then, after you’ve grown more accustomed to the grander vocabulary and more complex linguistic configurations, you’ll find those locutions slipping into your speech, at least in the classroom, if not in the cafeteria or down by the pool.