When you’re old enough to be dignified, act it. Speak like you’re old. Dress like you’re old. If you’re possessed of inner style and some joi de vivre which command you to rage, rage against the dying of the light… fine. But absent that, don’t ape youthful mannerisms and fashion in hopes of passing yourself off as youthful. You’ll only appear an ape.
Post-preamble, point: previously respectable journalists are jumping head-first into youthful jargon and, like most people who jump off cliffs head-first, they emerge sounding a little brain-damaged. To wit: NPR commentators recently – and seriously – used the word “dis” in describing a meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a visiting potentate: “Hesitant to dis President X, Secretary of State Clinton [did whatever it was she did]” …or something like that. [Editor’s note: “dis” is a shortened form of the word “disrespect,” used as a verb.]
The fact that NPR commentators – about the yuppiest Prius-drivers out there – would think to borrow an imaginary verb from urban street slang is an affront to both the solemnity of their profession and the dignity of their reported-on subjects… as well as to urban street slang. Plus, it’s annoying to listeners who tune in expecting an English-language radio program.
And, lest we be pigeonholed as curmudgeonly malcontents, remember: one of the most successful empressarios of invented urban street slang concurs. As Sean “Puff Daddy” / “Puffy” / “P. Diddy” / “Diddy” Combs explains to Vince Vaughan in the off-beat caper film Made:
“Dis? Dis! You’re in no position to “dis” or “give props” or whatever your MTV-Real World sense of… decorum tells you to do.”