Last week, a thirteen-year old wrote about shrinking vocabulary for her mother's blog on Palo Alto Online. Titled "Then and now: words," "Tween T's" piece contemplates the idea that words kindergarteners learn today might not have existed when she was a kindergartener herself. Might these new words explain our shrinking lexicon? Or, to put a fine point on it, are words like selfie crowding more worthy vocabulary from our brains?
Over the years, common vocabulary has been shrinking. Or maybe it's just that we use different words. An example is that we use "happy", instead of "ecstatic". We tend to say "so…" instead of "therefore" or "thus".
I think this may be to make room for newer words in our cycle. Words that, in the day of my great grandparents, would have been considered gibberish. Take "selfie", for instance. Is it possible that we have to forget a few synonyms of "favorite" ( dearest, preferred, etc.) to make room for "selfie"? And in fact "selfie" is replacing the use of: "self portrait, photograph of myself taken with my camera phone." I don't mean that these new words are bad to use, but simply that we should remember to use good, flavorful words as well.
Kudos to "Tween T" for taking this issue on. Anyone worried about shrinking vocabulary would be heartened to hear that a young person is blogging about it so beautifully. "Tween T" in turn might be heartened to learn that she can feel okay, or even ecstatic, about selfie. Words don't crowd each other out in the way she fears. In fact, research suggests that the richer your vocabulary, the easier it is to learn new words.
But that of course assumes she's talking about the word selfie. The real concern may lie in the taking of selfies instead of curling up with a good book for summer reading. :)