Vital Signs

Totally Awesome

A few nights ago, some friends and I were on our way to a small get-together.  As we ambled up the sidewalk, Rachel, whom I had met at the university I used to attend, commented that the neighborhood was rather “sketchy.”  I almost hugged her.  “Sketchy!” I nearly shouted.  “That’s a word I haven’t heard in a while.”  She immediately understood and laughed at my enthusiasm, while the others looked on, perplexed.  Sketchy was a very popular word at my old school, and, although it is undoubtedly used with the same meaning in other places, it immediately brought back memories of friends.

Later, I gave this incident some thought.  A word that originally referred to drawing is now used, at least in some quarters, to describe unsavory characters or places.  A place you would not want to be after dark is “sketchy.”  A party at which there is illicit activity can be described as having “a lot of sketch.”  The word will eventually be useless, applied to everything with a slightly negative connotation.  It is a typical example of college slang but also of my generation’s inability to communicate.

Slang does have its uses.  It can be part of the cement that bonds students or colleagues together, and it can become a link to people or places once held dear.  Slang can also be useful...

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