Steven Pinker, like, I'm so sure!

bitchin-camaro.jpgCheck this out from a story this morning about children and swearing that aired on NPR’s Morning Edition:

“When it comes to choosing words, our society has a bent toward novelty. Pinker explains we’re forever coming up with new ways to express that things are ‘good’ or ‘bad.’  He says there’s always a little “semantic inflation” going on.  For instance, if members of Generation X hear a song they like, they may say, ‘It’s awesome.’ A teen of today may say, ‘It’s bitchin’.’ If the song is lousy, they may say, ‘It sucks.'”

A teen of today may say, “it’s bitchin’?”  Maybe if he wanted to get beat up for sounding like his fortysomething parents and teachers.  (And, guess what?  The 80s sucked too.  Fer sure.)  I’m a colonial historian who spent the 1990s and most of the 2000s in the library, so no one has accused me of being too up to date on youth culture, but I think the kids of today have come up with language tics that are even more annoying.  What’s it called?  Oh, yeah–“texting.”  ZOMG!  Kewl.  L8tr!

Does no one remember that bitchin’ was a Valley Girl compliment, ca. 1982?  (“Encino is like so bitchin’!”)  And what about this classic band from the 1980s whose big hit was Bitchin’ Camaro?  How can American culture survive if we are so heedless about our own recent past?  Man, I so totally want to do some donuts on Steven Pinker’s lawn.  In this:


0 thoughts on “Steven Pinker, like, I'm so sure!

  1. “What Jefferson was saying was, Hey! You know, we left this England place ’cause it was bogus; so if we don’t get some cool rules ourselves – pronto – we’ll just be bogus too! Get it?” – Jeff Spicoli –

    It’s just you and me Punk Rock Girl.


  2. Yes, well the whole story was pretty silly. But Historiann, are those your wheels? OMG, so cool (for a little mixed temporal language).


  3. In the 70s we used bad. But in time, I came to favor “radical” (I think that was 80s too or maybe it was just my own little world)- Rad


  4. Of course–“radical” was big in the 80s (and you still are, Rad!) “Wicked” was too–a New England variant of the more Californian “bitchin.”

    Nicole, thanks for the link–sad to say, “gay” is not new as a schoolyard taunt or insult. We used it in the 1970s and 1980s too.


  5. Not to be pedantic, but I think I might have to dispute your dating on the term “bitchin'” By the time Moon Unit rattled it off, she was being retro. In American Graffiti, he blonde who looked like Connie Stevens used the term. That was a 1970s film depicting the early 1960s. In any case, “bitchin'” has not entered the youthful parlance of today. It would be, like, a total bitch to text, ya know? [insert winky happy face here].


  6. Moon Unit WHO? Frank Zappa’s kid, who was Psychedelic Sixties? Has anybody ever explained that collegian at Ohio State, I think it was, who at a Reagan campaign stop in 1984 was reported to have yelled out, unironically and approvingly, “Ron is Rad!”?! That was the day things bottomed out, I always thought.


  7. Pingback: Surprise! : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

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