I am enrolled in an honors composition class at the local Junior College. My reasons are twofold: first, getting to knowing gen X students and 2) improve my writing skills. It has been both interesting and challenging thus far. Recently, we were asked to write a paper on writing a perfect sentence.
One of the assigned paper was entitled ‘Why Grown-ups Keep Talking Like Little Kids.” The author, John McWhorter, notes, “More and more, adults are sprinkling their speech with the language of children.” What is surprising is his contention that with “the rise of kidspeak, we are actually witnessing English’s enrichment.” I see it more as a surrender, due to adults not living with integrity, thus cheapening the use of words. Paul exhorts us in Eph. 4: 15 to speak the truth in love.
“The horrors of the real world,” McWhorten observes, “are enough to make a person seek the safety of childhood by any means including linguistic ones.” I wrote in my reflections the following; “Really, do we actually need new words to hid behind in order to protect ourselves from the scary world.”
McWhorten cited a study by April Smith, a psychology professor at Miami University, in Ohio, indicating that young people have become newly fearful of reaching adulthood. Students seemed to be agreeing with statements such as “I wish that I could return to the security of childhood” and disagreeing with such statements as “I feel happy that I am not a child anymore.” “A generation understandably spooked by ‘adulting,'” McWhorton concludes, “may well embrace the linguistic comfort food of childlike language.” My question – “How long can one survive on linguistic comfort food in a conflicted society.
In a class of 18, including myself, made up of students all in their late teens and 20’s, I shared my reflection on the paper. I suppose I am viewed as a curious grandfather to the 17 others. As I spoke up, I admitted feeling awkward and insecure. I told the class that I had issues with what I called “the dumbing down” of the language. I agreed that we live in a difficult time. The blame for this is not their, but that of my generation. As for myself, I wanted them to know that I desire to speak clear, loving words, as I have always done with my children and grandchildren.
I came away from that class with these three impression for myself. First, a new perspective on their dilemma. My classmates looked at me and listened intently. There is a 50 year gap between us. These students are bombarded with hateful speech every day through social media. I want to be a male voice speaking to truth in love, not a voice of accommodation.
Secondly, I am more committed then ever to simply being a humble, loving follower of Jesus among my classmates. I want to listen intently and discerningly. I hope to win the right to speak. But I will speak as an adult man, who speaks the truth in love. No kidspeak for me.
Thirdly, I want to act with integrity among my classmates. I am sure there are hurts, disappointments and sorrows with grown up men in their lives. Through my words and attitude I want to point them to a God who loves them and is waiting for them to come home. I can do this by speaking as a grandpa who has learned a lot on the journey. I don’t need to revert to kidspeak.