What will the Urban Dictionary tell us in 150 years?

A friend of mine has become slightly obsessed with (and an author within) the Urban Dictionary. I think her love of the English language brought the concept of this evolving dictionary to her consciousness, but the ability to create words and phrases based on modern life is quite powerful and in most cases a good laugh.

What I find most intriguing is not the creation of the words today, but how historians will look back at them to analyse and understand the people of this era. For example, today’s word of the day is Jingle Mail. Definition:

Jingle mail is the package containing the keys to your house that you send back to the bank when the interest rate on your adjustable-rate or IO/neg-am mortgage resets, or the property tax bill gets reassessed at double what it was two years ago, or you find out that heating and AC and repairs cost a ton of freaking money, or you lose your job because of the recession that’s coming with the housing crash, and you can’t make the payments any more.

“My neighbor put up the Escalade and the Beemer that he bought with his third HELOC for sale, and has been having garage sales every week for the last month to raise cash … I give it about 90 days till he sends in the jingle mail.”

Can you see what the Urban Dictionary will tell us? In 150, historians will look back to March 18th, 2008 and see that the word of the day was Jingle Mail. Why is this word relevant and humorus today? Hmm… let’s see the world is skating on thin ice awaiting the true impact of the subprime mortgage crisis, yesterday, one of America’s largest investment banks was sold for a 17th of its value, oil is at a record high per barrell and people are scared of a recession and a depression.

What’s the impact of all of this on culture? Let’s check out the urban dictionary and see what are people saying? How is their language evolving to cope with what’s going on?

I can almost see the thesis abstract on the sub-prime mortgages crisis, there will be a foot note reference to the urban dictionary showing how the economic waves rippled down into culture by the formation of new words.

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  1. History is interesting thing and documenting it is hard. Winners write history. If you don’t document internet somehow in the state that it is now, you might lose the knowledge it has today because tommorrow it’s filled with all new kinds of shit.

  2. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

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