Today's program puts special attention on language and identity — how they coincide and why those intersections matter. Michael Adams is an associate Professor of English at Indiana University who studies one important intersection of language and identity: slang. He says slang keeps us sharp — and that there is creative value in the creation of new language among different social groups.
"It's not just slang, but any language that's significantly different from what we expect exercises the brain and engages us," Adams says. "We've got lots of room in language to be creative, to twist a word around a little bit, or the form of a sentence around a little bit to be clever."
"We are engaged when we're using slang. It's not a laziness," Adams says. On the contrary, slang can be inventive, and even poetic. But it can also be political. One of the controversial things about slang is that certain language is often acceptable within a community, but not outside of it — or vice versa.
"Slang has its place, and other forms of discourse have their places too," Adams says. "We're a little chameleon-like, we change our language as we move from place to place in our lives, and there's nothing wrong with that at all. It just shows how versatile a human being can be."