Neologism Watch

Anne Curzan spots a growing trend among her undergrads:

[S]ome students are also using slash to introduce an afterthought that is also a topic shift, captured in this sample text from a student:

12. JUST SAW ALEX! Slash I just chubbed on oatmeal raisin cookies at north quad and i miss you

This innovative conjunction (or conjunctive adverb, depending on how you want to interpret it) occurs, students tell me, even more commonly in speech than in writing. And in writing, it is often getting written out as slash, even in electronically mediated communication, where one might expect the quicker punctuation mark (/) rather than the five-letter word slash.

Slash is clearly a word to watch. Slash I do mean word, not punctuation mark. 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.

John McWhorter also discussed the rise of “slash” while unpacking the linguistics of texting.