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Can You Really 'Ban' Slang?

12/11/2013 11:39 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 23:56 GMT

This was a tricky title to write; I kept writing 'bang slang' -- and obviously you can't bang slang. You can't sexify slang; although sometimes I love words enough to get physical. Similarly, you cannot ban slang. Although MP David Lammy would have you think otherwise. Recently, Lammy endorsed London school Harris Academy's linguistic ban on 'urban slang', including: 'bare', 'extra', 'like', 'cuz' and 'innit'.

Let's just take stock here. Just a few short months ago, the The Oxford English Dictionary added 'twerk', 'phablet' (a phone and a tablet -- seriously?) and 'selfie' to the dictionary, amongst others. The OED has long provided tittilation courtesy of it's trendy new entries. I love the thought of my erudite father stumbling across 'selfie' whilst looking for some obscure term of reference and reading, confusedly, about " a photograph that is taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone webcam".

If The OED is au fait with this linguistic state of affairs, dare we say that Lammy and Harris Academy are fighting a losing battle? To give Lammy his due, there are the inescapable and worrying stats. Literacy is at an all time low in the UK. The lowest in Europe, infact. And some columnists that think Lammy's endorsement is wholly along the right lines -- essential, even, to raise standards of education. Obviously the dearth of correct spelling and grammar and a 'dumbed down' rhetoric are matters of concern. But isn't the attitude of Lammy and Harris Academy, an antiquated and outdatedly prescriptive one?

The route seems arguably redundant, because language is now largely interpreted to be evolutionary, rather than prescriptive. Slang is nothing new; even the Victorians loved some low-brow verbals. Language is so wholly reflective of our culture, which, in current times, is increasingly Americanised. (The US is surely the hub of pop culture.) For a start, how many fully-grown adults do you know (guilty as charged) who inadvertently and regularly employ 'like'? It's not just the teenagers who are at it; it's more than just a generational thing. It's ruddy hard to stop saying 'like' -- I've tried, but it bubbles up again like word vomit. The school - and Lammy - are also on a a slippery slope here. They've targeted urban slang with those five banned words, but what of Valley Girl slang ('totally'), Hipster slang ('dope') and Rude Boy/Girl ('sick') -- are those allowed? Blurred lines, indeed.

Where I slightly agree with Lammy, is written slang. My pet hate is people writing 'u' instead of 'you' in formal correspondence. Saying all sorts of twerpy things is slightly my forte, but not at the expense of written lucidity. If using 'cuz' actually means that British children are growing up never learning to spell 'because', then that indeed is a problem. But, really, my main reason for championing slang - and I've written about this before is that I really enjoy rolling slang around my mouth like happy little word-pigs in swill. It is so. damn. fun. The challenge now, is to ensure that children realise the fundamental different between slang and The Queen's English -- and that together, they can be linguistic bedfellows. Twerk you later.