Sunday, February 26, 2017


In fostering we frequently encounter language barriers with our foster children, well, not barriers really, maybe just speed bumps.

Not because they don't speak English - although come to think of it I once accepted three Afghan brothers who'd hitch-hiked across Europe and made it to Dover in the back of a lorry, they didn't have a word of English.

But no, the problem comes with the new English spoken by da kids.

I first ran into this when the word 'Wicked' arrived. It was used by kids to mean something being good in a devilish way, in other words the exact opposite of its dictionary definition. Around the same time the kids started using 'Gay' differently from how I had learned to use it - as an acceptable term for homosexual. They would say something or somebody was "Well gay", and I had to respond with slight confusion, which was part of the game. Hearing them describe a flashy sports car as "Well gay" left me bemused. I still don't know for sure what their use of the term means, not with any precision.

The game being played is to stake out ownership of a portion of the English language which not only belongs to them but is denied their elders. When I ask for an explanation of their different usage of words they roll their eyes as if I'm a dinosaur who not only doesn't speak the modern way, but probably NEVER ENCOUNTERED THE CONCEPT THEY ARE USING THE WORD FOR.

Apparently in California there was a species of teenage girl whose language was totally impenetrable. They didn't merely hi-jack existing words, they made words up and changed sentence construction. Something wasn't 'Bad' it was "Grodie'. If it was very bad it was "Grodie to the max."

The discussion about the mysterious uses of the 'N' word is very important, because it has so many unpleasant connotations. So much unpleasantness that the word is under new ownership where it is a sign of mutual respect and brother/sisterhood for the very section of humanity it once was used to abuse.

The language barrier between us foster parents and our foster children isn't a big deal, but it's there.

I'm sort of fighting back actually.

I've started using words differently from their technical meaning. Preferably biggish words, words that get used formally. Extended vocabulary.

The one that's catching on around the house is "Intangible".

I had been reading the report which preceded our new placement, Glen. His ambitions, to be a rock star and a film star were described by a social worker as "Intangible". And seeing his hopes and dreams, which I want to respect, even maybe encourage, get a slight dissing ('Diss" is another bit of teenspeak), made me mutter the word under my breathe a few times and not long afterwards my Blue Sky social worker asked me how Glen was shaping and I just replied;


And she smiled, not knowing scientifically what I meant but getting my meaning; brilliant.

So now anything that is brilliant, mesmerising, delicious or otherwise welcome gets called "Intangible". By me. And it's catching on.

Try it yourself. Give it a bit of extra emphasis on the "IN".

Glen's depressed.

Depression, I have read, can benefit from the person focusing on the future and the positive things they intend to do, so that even if those things don't happen some solid good comes from them being thought about at the time of thinking.

So 'Intangible' is the right word, because Glen's positive daydreams are tangible while they're in his head, and therefore the opposite of the dictionary definition.



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