Baracking - Too Cool For School

The Albany Times Union recently showed the breadth of their journalistic abilities by doing a head scratching piece on ‘Baracking' - a supposed new culture-changing form of slang.  Ah, so that's what the kids are calling it...

Scott Waldman of the Union apparently suffered from what those in the business would call ‘a slow news day' this past weekend.  As such, he ran with a piece on two local high school seniors who have seemingly foregone a desire to excel at English, and instead have developed new phrases that play upon the President's name. 

Waldman interviews the pair, and then makes a mind-boggling extrapolation, interpreting the action of these two students as a demonstration that,

Barack Obama's rise to the White House already has changed the way young people talk to one another,' and that this is simply ‘a natural progression of Obama's prominent spot in pop culture.

Exactly what phrases are sweeping the nation these days?  How about these allegedly ‘creative' gems...

What up, my Obama?

Barack's in the White House now - which means cool it.

And the appalling response to someone sneezing - Barack you.

The latter being just another media demonstration of the new President as messiah, by replacing ‘God bless you' with ‘Barack you.'

Waldman then backs up the argument by citing the thoughts of Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University.  As Tannen states,

Along with simple phonetics, it's symbolic of young people's admiration...  It sounds like they are transferring their positive feelings about the person to new contexts.

Why would anyone doubt the impartiality of a Professor of Linguistics?  How about, because she recently donated $5000 to the 2008 Obama Victory Fund?  But hey, maybe Ms. Tannen was simply transferring her money, er, ‘positive feelings' to President Obama.

The article not only makes the claim that Obama is transforming the speech patterns of today's youth, but that he is also changing the way they dress.  One of the students claims that:

A group of his friends started dressing differently on Election Day, he said, because of the president.  They switched from baggy clothes to button-down shirts and dress shoes.

Will they also be influenced by the President to take up smoking?

Perhaps the Times Union would be better served to explore why the slang developed by these two students, much like the concept that Obama can be considered viable presidential material, is nothing more than a passing fad.

Photo Credit:  Dunand/AP

Education Culture/Society New York Scott Waldman Deborah Tannen

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