Posted by: nickgerlich | February 13, 2008

Word Up

I am a fan of words. I read them with the appetite of a locust in summer, I study them, I sometimes drool over their etymology, and occasionally I craft my own new ones. Words are to communication what tools are to mechanics.

So it should come as no surprise that I am a frequent user of Dictionary.com, as well as the companion Thesaurus.com. I also love to peruse the listings at WordSpy.com, the buzzword repository.

Urban DictionaryBut lately I’ve been having more fun just hanging out at UrbanDictionary.com, the official source for defs of all the cool, hip slang words and phrases we be using these days.

Alright, sorry. I digressed for a moment.

As unbecoming as it may sound for an educated man to speak street slang, I actually find it quite amusing. UD’s second book, Mo’ Urban Dictionary, released last fall, is a riot. Truth be known, it does a scholar good to read some fun stuff, instead of that stack of journal articles I need to plow through.

But the academic side of me also sees value in UD. Whereas Dictionary and Thesaurus are upright, uptight sites in their keeping and safeguarding of the language we speak, and while WordSpy only posts words and phrases that have appeared elsewhere in print, UD is completely user-generated. There is no language police determining which words enter the official lexicon.

So is UD yet another example of Web 2.0? I’d come closer to putting it at 1.5; it was hatched in 1999, and the fact it is user-supported for content is a nice stretch from static Web 1.0 apps. But aside from a crowded chat room, UD does not offer the social networking that is the hallmark of Web 2.0.

Sure, I may be splitting hairs, but that does not lessen the value of UD. It may actually bring comedic relief to the masses to hear otherwise erudite scholars speaking jive. And for everyone else whose language skills were not honed (or is that stoned?) on the streets, UD is just a good place to stay au courant, to know the difference between hip, hip hop and hop-along, and to finally realize that your wife’s navigational and map-reading deficiencies render her a geotard. (It’s alright…we both laughed about it. Maybe me more than her, but at least she chuckled. OK, maybe not that much.)

If you can overlook the occasional rough language, you can spend countless internet anytime minutes at work polishing your communication skills.

And in the case of my E-Commerce students, we can now relax and know that our subject is really all about shopping naked.

Dr “Time For Lunch–Good Thing I Wore My Thanksgiving Pants” Gerlich

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