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The Evolution of Language

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The Evolution of Language

The Evolution of Language
English is the most widely used language in the world. The British Council (2014) estimates that 750 million people speak English as a second language. English terms such as dude and rock and roll have morphed multiple times in their history. Language is a living entity that evolves to adapt to the various cultural components of the times. It is not linguistically optimal, but the international spread of the English language is feasible due to politics, culture, and the economics of English-speaking countries. The word dude has adopted many meanings and uses in the last two centuries and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers a large range of definitions. In the 1800s, dude was used to ridicule a stylishly dressed man who behaved as if he thought highly of himself. It was later used to describe a man from the civilized eastern region of America who believed he could fit in within the rough western territory. Dude ranches were devised as tourist attractions to lure city slickers to the often romanticized West. The word was often used in mocking to describe people who were out of place in their environment. In the 20th century the meaning shifted from one of parody to a more causal meaning used to imply casual relationships between heterosexual males. It implied camaraderie and brotherhood without any intimacy. This form of meaning began with African Americans and later permeated other communities. In the 1960s it was very popular in surfing communities, then a decade later it was used merely to refer to a male. In the 1980s and 90s, dude permeated the entertainment business in such films as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Wayne’s World,” and the highly popular children’s show “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” At this time dude became an exclamation to be used with awesome and whoa, along with other culturally popular forms of slang. Currently it is used by both genders as an exclamation or deflation to insinuate that something is not cool. Having spread to other countries by media and movies, dude is used internationally in the same way it is used in the United States. The origin of the phrase rock and roll can be traced back to the medieval times when roll was slang for intercourse. Rock, in relation to music, came from gospel songs dating back to the 1800s. Another possible etymology of the term is related to the rocking motion of a ship as it rolls across the waves. Together rock and roll symbolizes the soulful and erotic feelings and the physical swaying that occurs when one is moved by the music it is named for. Rock and roll music does not have a definitive “birth date;” it occurred overtime starting with the rhythm and blues music from the African American communities in the 1930s. In the 1950s, a Cleveland disk jockey named Alan Freed coined the phrase rock and roll to describe upbeat rhythm and blues music. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum (2014) accredits Freed for putting together the Moondog Coronation Ball in 1952 which is acknowledged as the first rock and roll concert. The sound of rock and roll music morphed in the 1950s and 60s with the appearance of such legendary musicians as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash. These singers merged country music with rhythm and blues to create an entirely new sound. These artists also influenced foreign musicians, especially with British artists “The Shadows” and Cliff Richard. The sound of rock music has shifted since then but it has always stood for anti-establishment and usually acknowledged as a medium for rebellious youths. It created such dismay among more conservative elders that Congress considered banning obscene lyrics in 1957 (Hiskey, 2010). Rock and roll music spread through the world and the term still evokes images of a hip-thrusting Elvis, guitar-wielding Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix’s legendary rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock in 1969.
There are three major reasons why English is spread throughout the world. First, English was the language used as the British Empire conquered lands. Stuart Laycock, a British historian, recently wrote a book, “All the Countries We’ve Invaded: And the Few We Never Got Round To,” claiming that Britain conquered 90% of the world through various points in time. With English as its primary language, this is what was forced on the natives of those lands. The second reason for the spread of English occurred after World War II. The popularity of the United States increased. Through the use of technological advances, the American culture permeated foreign countries who in turn adopted many phrases and nuances. Other countries are able to enjoy musicians’ world tours, as well as other forms of entertainment. Granted, many recorded mediums are able to be translated or dubbed, but individuals choose to enjoy it in its purest form, in English, by learning the language it was made in.
Finally, because of the advanced political, technological, and socio-economic status of most English speaking nations, other countries must learn the language simply to keep up. Ironically, English is one a difficult language to learn because of all the other languages it has adopted from. However, because it is the language of notable conquerors and current imperialist countries, it is the most widely spread and taught language in the world.

British Council (2014). The English Language. Retrieved from Gould, J. (October 23, 2013). A Brief History of Dude. The Atlantic. Retrieved from Hiskey, D. (October 5, 2010). Where the Term “Rock and Roll” Came From. Today I Found
Out. Retrieved from rock-and-roll-came-from/ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. (2014). Alan Freed Biography.

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