We woz only talking slang, Sir, innit

A South London school recently pledged to ban the use of slang terms in order to improve linguistic standards amongst students. The Harris Academy in Upper Norwood, London is to ban students from using popular slang terms and phrases such as ‘ain’t’, ‘bare’ and ‘innit’, along with preventing the use of ‘basically’ to start a sentence.

These measures have been met with mixed reactions from those in the education sector. Some have welcomed the new rules, while others have criticised the excessively harsh, prescriptive approach to language.

This raises some interesting points about the way we view slang in general. While language purists may consider slang to be an erosion of a ‘pure’ language, there are many who believe that it represents an evolution in language and something that should be embraced and encouraged.

These particular slang terms come primarily from Multicultural London English (MLE), a dialect which emerged fairly recently in London which has been inspired by the cultural melting pot that is London. MLE fuses elements of Caribbean English, South Asian English and African American English, and is relatively common in inner city London and areas in the south of the city.

However, it isn’t as easy as following a rule to eradicate the use of these terms. One of the banned words is ‘like’, used almost as punctuation by many (typically younger) speakers in the UK and US. But this is such a deeply ingrained element of speech for many that it is used mindlessly, and as it serves no grammatical function, it is difficult to justify why its use should be banned. On the other hand, ‘we woz’, another banned term, is indeed grammatically incorrect by normal grammatical standards… but does this mean that it is necessarily absolutely wrong to use it?

What do you think? Should slang be embraced, even in schools, or is there a time and a place?

Read more about the slang ban at the Harris Academy>>

Read more about slang and grammar around the world>>

Post written by Kayleigh Tanner