Tag Archives: memes

Where do You Look for Language Change?

I sometimes think that if all English speakers were like me, this poor language would be radically changed within a few years’ time. The only person who can keep up with my whimsical neologisms & syntactic back-flips is probably my significant other. He has his favorites, I think: patlop instead of laptop, for example, though that one’s not too creative. People who staunchly insist on sticking to the rules are norlames in my vernacular where normal is lame. Everyone, of course, has these, but I cherish mine.

One of my favorite places to look for like-minded people with similarly free linguistic spirits is actually 4chan. I think I first checked out this underbelly of the Internet a few years ago & was almost immediately turned off by its raw vulgarity which I don’t find particularly funny. But over the past few months I have been coming back just to surf; it helps that I figured out which boards are relatively PG-13. And I’m now wondering why more linguists aren’t fascinated with the creative output of the Anonymous culture! It’s a factory for the stuff, no joke.

Most people probably just think of 4chan as the ultimate source of Internet memes, but really I don’t think many memes escape 4chan until they crop up on other sites like Reddit. Threads in 4chan are lost forever as they become less frequented, so they’re more like real-life conversations that aren’t normally preserved except in our memory. But I can’t believe the linguistic creativity that I see on these boards! It’s a real community (or communities) defined hugely by their quirky use of language.

One of the more interesting 4chan-isms is the non-pejorative use of fag to mean fan of something. I’m pretty sure this one has been around for ages, but it’s still not something I’ve ever heard outside of 4chan. So I would call myself a lingfag. Or a beerfag quite happily.

I just wanted to say that 4chan doesn’t have to be all that scary & is actually a great place to make observations about creative use of language. I have a few drafts of blog posts that I’ve wanted to publish, but I’ve been sort of embarrassed about visiting such a deplorable site. But, you know what? It’s a goldmine & I’m sticking with that.

To close, here’s a great picture I found on the international board on 4chan:

It’s a great example of folk linguistics in my opinion, & this map wasn’t even solicited by a sociolinguist which is even better, right?

Megan L. Risdal

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