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LOL, Like, and Literally: Is the English Language Deteriorating?

By The Aspen Institute

Young people tend to say “LOL” and “like” a lot. Business jargon — such as “What’s the ask?”— is surfacing in boardrooms. Is the English language deteriorating before our ears? Linguist and author John McWhorter pushes back, saying these modern terms are examples of language evolving. Words’ meanings have always changed and those shifts will continue. “Language is like clouds,” says McWhorter. “If the clouds are in the same position they were in when we came in, something’s wrong.” In this conversation with Georgetown linguistics professor Deborah Tannen, he talks about his book Words on the Move and explains why we shouldn’t be frustrated when language changes. Show Notes Watch John McWhorter's talk, Adjusting to Modernity in American English, from the Aspen Ideas Festival. McWhorter is also featured in the Ideas Festival panel discussion, Just Words. Follow Aspen Ideas to Go on Twitter and Facebook. Email your comments to aspenideastogo@gmail.com. The views and opinions of the speakers in the podcast do not necessarily reflect those of the Aspen Institute.

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