You may have heard snippets of speech recently—in a TV show, on the internet, or at the mall—that you didn’t really understand. Words, phrases or acronyms like fetch, phub, fleek, chuh, bae, FOMO, or YOLO. You may have noticed that the speakers of such gibberish were young adults—or possibly older folks trying to appeal to youngsters.
Eric Curtis has heard a lot of those things too. He’s a dentist in Safford, Ariz., and a longtime dental journal editor who also teaches college English. He has listened to enough 20-somethings, including his students, employees, and two of his own children, to want to try to make sense of the distinctive ways in which Millennials think and talk.
Curtis will share his findings in a presentation titled “Understanding the world of Millennialspeak” on Thursday (June 14) at 3:30 p.m. in the Great Room of the ASA Building.
He recalls how former Vice-President Spiro Agnew decried the “generation gap,” the difference in opinions and values between young people and their parents. Agnew worried that the gap was deepened by each generation’s contrasting language use, particularly by youthful slang.
Curtis sites demographers who describe multiple generation gaps. He says that in his dental office alone, four different generations—the so-called Silent Generation, Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials—work together.
He notes that every generation produces slang, the private language that identifies its members to each other. Transient and perpetually regenerating, slang promotes social bonding and conviviality, and it permeates American speech to an astonishing degree. He thinks Millennials love slang’s clever, ironic wordplay.
Curtis has spoken twice at Academy Village about his experiences providing dental care in Tibetan refugee camps in India. He is immediate past president of the Arizona Dental Association and teaches professional writing to Arizona State University nursing students.
Written by Kay and Gayla Curtis, Academy Village Volunteers