'A Rare Bird Sighting': 'Slash' As A New Conjunction

Apr 25, 2013
Originally published on April 25, 2013 1:18 pm

If there is one piece we recommend you read today, it would be the latest from Anne Curzan at The Chronicle of Higher Education's Lingua Franca blog.

Curzan explains that in a history of English course she teaches at the University of Michigan, she requires students to teach her slang terms. This semester, students stunned her with a brand new conjunction.

The highlight is that young people today are using "slash" — as in the punctuation — as a word. No, they're not just saying it, they're writing it to mean something that is not quite "and," not quite "and/or" or even "as well as."

An example: "Has anyone seen my moccasins anywhere? Slash, were they given to someone to wear home ever?"

Needless to say, Curzan is excited. She writes:

"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."

We'll let you read her post, slash it's totally worth it if you're in any way a language nerd.

Update on April 25 at 9:10 a.m. ET. Talking Conjunctions:

Reader Matthew Stuckwisch points us to a post from August 2010 where Geoffrey Pullum, co-author of the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, dissects "slash."

Pullum concludes slash has indeed morphed from punctuation to a conjunction slash coordinator. Now, it seems to us, that Curzan has taken this a step further, arguing that not only is slash a conjunction but also that its meaning has morphed into something very different.

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