What’s up, dude? In the world of the college student, slang pervades everyday use of language. We converse with each other using terms that we have invented or words that have taken on new meanings. The word “phat” is likely an acronym for “pretty hot and tempting” that has come to be used like the word cool. Some slang terms, though, are words already in existence whose meanings have changed.

A very common one is the word “gay.” This word is so overused as a negative term to describe an unfavorable person or situation that it has virtually lost its meaning. How often do you hear people say, “That is so gay!” Most of the time, the person means stupid or unfair, not homosexual. In saying, “That professor is such a fag,” the speaker probably means that his course is difficult or that he assigns too much work, not that he is actually gay. But in today’s society, homosexuality is viewed negatively by some.

This word can be offensive to straight and gay people alike. In today’s politically correct society, we must be mindful of what we say and to whom we say it.

Many straight people see homosexuality as a normal lifestyle. Further, many straight people have friends or relatives who are gay and take offense to others’ negative use of the word “gay.”

There are also racial terms that have taken on new meanings. Jewish is now not only a word describing someone’s religious beliefs, but it can also mean cheap or stingy. A “Mexican shower” is to use deodorant and cologne, but not actually bathe.

Italians and Asians have been given their own stereotypes and racial slurs throughout history. American Indians have been virtually mocked by having sports teams named after them. Muslim people have faced similar stereotypes, especially since September 11.

I imagine that none of the aforementioned groups of people appreciate the stereotypes or slurs that have been bestowed upon their ethnicity, religion or sexuality. What right does anyone have to berate someone who is different?

In my view, it should not be a choice to be selective or judgmental before meeting someone just because their skin looks different from yours or they wear ceremonial clothing. Your life will be more interesting if you leave yourself open to knowing all kinds of people.

Language is a tool that everyone uses to express themselves. It is what we use to communicate and to interact. Using this essential tool negatively reflects on the speaker. Language should be used carefully and thoughtfully.

Think twice about your choice of words. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Yunis can be reached at tyunis@campustimes.org.

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