Young people nowadays? They end their sentences with a rising intonation? So that every sentence sounds sort of like a question?
So, I was listening to a woman on a podcast, and she was describing her mixed feelings about a movie:
“I liked it — question mark?”
She felt the need to verbalize the punctuation mark, because her typical speech pattern couldn’t convey her doubt about whether she actually liked the movie — because every sentence she spoke seemed to convey a bit of doubt anyway.
Another punctuation mark that gets verbalized is the slash used as a conjunction, as in “I walked/ran all the way home.” But I hadn’t realized how far this had gone until my son sent me this post from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Slash has become a word used in everyday writing as well as speech — a new conjunction or conjunctive adverb. The following usage is straightforward: the word is just substituting for the punctuation mark:
Does anyone care if my cousin comes and visits slash stays with us Friday night?
But the following usage, as the author points out, is more interesting:
I really love that hot dog place on Liberty Street. Slash can we go there tomorrow?
JUST SAW ALEX! Slash I just chubbed on oatmeal raisin cookies at north quad and i miss you
Here slash has wandered far from the standard use of the equivalent punctuation mark. It is introducing an afterthought or topic shift, without much in the way of a relationship to the previous sentence. That’s super-cool and awesome! (The word chubbed is also super-cool and awesome, by the way.)
The writer concludes:
The emergence of a new conjunction/conjunctive adverb (let alone one stemming from a punctuation mark) is like a rare-bird sighting in the world of linguistics: an innovation in the slang of young people embedding itself as a function word in the language. This use of slash is so commonplace for students in my class that they almost forgot to mention it as a new slang word this term. That young people have integrated innovative slash into their language while barely noticing its presence is all the more reason that conjunctive slash might have staying power.
All of this reminded me of Victor Borge’s famous phonetic pronunciation routine, which YouTube kindly provides:
Life would be much more interesting if we all talked like that.