The Power of YEET

Internet slang is a powerful force in the English language.

Melyna Auten, Guest Columnist

    Since  2011, Northwestern University has offered courses in meme studies. Pause for a moment. Consider what you just read. Reread, if necessary. An actual university (one of the best in the Midwest no less) is offering courses to help young adults up their meme game, teaching kids how to be dank since 2011. At first glance, this type of news would make some want to YEET their computer straight into the sun. But the addition of memes, and the subsequent language they possess, should cause us all to take a good, hard look at the current state of the English language.
    Just like any language, vernacular English is constantly changing. Countless linguists have stated that English is the hardest language to learn because of fluid and fluctuating rules. This fluidity, coupled with the fact that the Internet is the birthplace of new words and phrases,  would cause many to hypothesize that English would become practically unrecognizable in the modern day (when I say “many,” I mean the generation before our parents, the ones who still use “the cat’s pajamas” to describe something they find particularly cool or interesting). Meme language, in all reality, should make the English language harder to learn and comprehend. In actuality though, the act of modern vernacular English being born online has made for a more concise way of learning commonly-used words and their applications.
     Let’s imagine that the word “lit,” as we know and use it today, was used in the same manner in the 1970s. Anyone attempting to learn English would struggle to grasp the fact that “lit” can mean either a place or thing that has some sort of light or a person, place or thing that you find cool. With the addition of the Internet, though, English learners can see how words like “lit,” “fam” and “slay” are used in modern vernacular English. Memes (essentially a picture and caption) are arguably a great learning device when it comes to words that are commonly spoken but never formally taught.
    In an insane twist of fate, sufficient knowledge of English may one day depend on knowing Internet lingo. This may become a problem for the 11 percent of Americans who either spurn usage of the Internet or don’t have the economic means to use it regularly. Though this is a far off assumption, vernacular English has conformed and continues to reshape itself around meme language. The rapid-paced world we live in has allowed these new words — as well as the addition of new definitions to some words already in existence — to spread in a relatively short amount of time. One could even call it cancerous (sorry not sorry, had to do it).
    However you choose to view Internet slang, you can’t undermine its power.