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Appreciating Slang's Creative Contributions to Language

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This article is more than 8 years old.

English professor Anne Curzan makes an unusual request of her students at the University of Michigan — she asks students to teach her two new slang words. While some might cringe at the use of YOLO or hangry in an academic setting, Curzan, who is also a language historian, appreciates the creativity in the words that make their way into the vernacular, and ultimately, the dictionary. In this TED video, she explains the role of dictionary editors and how they view language, including slang:

"Dictionaries are a wonderful guide and resource, but there is no objective dictionary authority out there that is the final arbiter about what words mean. If a community of speakers is using a word and knows what it means, it's real. That word might be slangy, that word might be informal, that word might be a word that you think is illogical or unnecessary, but that word that we're using, that word is real."