The Gen Z lexicon explained by the Bran expert: “When it is no longer cool it will be set aside. Institutions value English more, little attention is paid to Italian “

In the last two years, the pandemic has not only changed our social and working habits, but has often forced us to assimilate a scientific lexicon through the use of words that have predominantly occupied traditional media, TV, newspapers, the internet. , and more recent ones such as social networks. Words like contact tracing, conference call, social distancing, distance learning, coronavirus, first entered Italians’ smartphones, and then into common language. At the same time, however, there was the affirmation of words used only by the younger generations, the zoomers or generation Z, born between 1997 and 2010, who prefer more fashionable channels such as social tik tok and twitch. These are expressions, often, deriving from the Anglophone linguistic register such as meme, cringe, flex, trigger, ship, crush (which stands for crush and not for crushing), and their relative verbalizations.

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You enter a world unknown to the so-called “baby boomer”- the current sixty-year-olds – and also little frequented by millennials, if not those more accustomed to the use of jargon by web creators. If the pre-pandemic “ok boomer” was, and is, used as a separation between those who are updated on the latest technological or social news (e) and those who are not, some of these new terms have changed their meaning during their stay on the web, highlighting a chameleon-like nature. An example is the word flex, from the English to flex, to show the muscles, whose origin, according to theOxford English Dictionary, would derive from the Latin flectere, and which today also has the meaning of flaunting, in terms of fame, money or type of life. The expression trigger – activate, trigger -, on the other hand, appeared with the advent of the first numerical computing machines. According to the description given by theAccademia della Crusca on his website, in the section dedicated to new words, the first attestation is dated 1976 within the proceedings of a conference on automatic calculation. Its use, consolidated in the 90s in the technical-scientific and medical fields, has been taken up in recent years by the web world as a new meaning “since 2016 on the wave of the diffusion of a meme (a skit, imitation of a real fact usually sarcastic ed.) identifiable, in fact, with the name of Triggered. In social or forum contexts the expression “Trigger someone” takes on a meaning close to getting angry or freaked out “.

“It’s not about words cleared through customs or reported for inclusion in dictionaries, but these are words on which there is a certain attention, because they enter the common language starting from the mass media, the network and social networks “, he explains to the linguist Marco Biffi, associate professor of the University of Florence, responsible for the Crusca website. “In a global reality with a strong Anglophone prevalence, the factors that determine the strong presence of words of English origin in youthful jargon seem to me above all two. The first is linked to the speed of propagation of words in the network and to their “density”: in fact, not only words created by anyone can spread instantly and without being metabolized by the language, but they can also do so with a very high frequency. ‘use. The second element – continues Biffi – is that among young people the use of English is now considered more appropriate to their expression. In a certain sense it is a language of “prestige” even if in this case it is rather a generational marker: a boy who says “it is embarrassing” feels more formal than if he says “it is cringe”; or rather he feels old. Saying snitch is considered more appropriate (we should say “cooler” or even cooler) than saying snitch (at least so says my 14-year-old daughter). Which is precisely linked to what in linguistics is called jargon, that is, words that identify belonging to a certain group “.

Is there a rule that allows these words to officially enter the Italian language? “As De Mauro said, the 55 million Italians who speak it do Italian (today they are a bit more). Generally words that arise as slang words are seasonal – says the linguist – Today making predictions is even more difficult, because as it is easy, and fast, the entry, it is just as easy and fast to get out. I personally believe that many of these words will not remain in the Italian language, because I am soften linked to customs phenomena, or even to technologies, destined to get lost; and with them you will lose the words that describe – and explain – them. Let’s think about cringe: there are many words to express embarrassment in Italian; when cringe is no longer cool it will likely be shelved. Even the same words linked to a particular technology: tagging has a great importance in today’s social communication, but in two years we could be called to do completely different things, with a different method and who knows what name we will use “.

The latest data from Invalsi 2021 have certified that 44% of students in the fifth grade do not have an acceptable level of Italian, in 2019 they were 35%. In a hypertextual world, the ability to know how to interpret a text is fundamental. “In themselves these are not phenomena that create problems. In the current Italian panorama, however, they could create them, because a profound linguistic education is not widespread at a widespread level – Biffi points out -. First of all, we would need a school that explains well a fundamental question such as that of the correct use of the register to be used, and that consolidates the awareness that not only is there a difference when we speak and when we write (and when we write on social networks) , but there is also a difference linked to the context and the recipient “. The responsibility, according to the professor of the University of Florence, is identifiable: “In recent years there has been little attention and little care for Italian by the institutions (central and local), which have instead focused on the enhancement of English. Language is not just a tool we communicate with, but first of all it is the tool with which we think. And knowing how to think independently – concludes Biffi – is the prerequisite for being truly free, without being subjected to the mediation of anyone “.

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