This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Nuts and Bolts: Teenage Forensic Linguistics

How does a teenager write?

Yes, on a phone keyboard, obviously, but I was thinking more about style and content.

This question may seem to be of relevance only to novelists, but there's one another group of people who need to be able to write word-perfect teenager, and that's police agents investigating adults who are trying, or might be trying, to groom young people.

It's not as easy to pose as a teenager as it might be thought. That's partly because teenage literary fashion is fleeting, but there are other reasons. For instance, teenagers are much better at spelling than tends to be assumed, and they are currently much less addicted to emoticons and text abbreviations than formerly (haven't you noticed? We nearly all (and absolutely all teenagers) have alphabetic keyboards on our phones. No one needs to LOL any more. Anyway, that was always a habit of really elderly people aged well over, like, eighteen). 


Something else which might give away a police agent's identity when posing as a teenager might be introducing a new topic, or asking a lot of questions. 

The good news is that, after training in this teenage branch of forensic linguistics, the rate at which agents' covers are blown has been reduced from seventy five per cent to twenty five per cent.

So there we are: an academic interest in language can be really rather important.

Word To Use Today: forensic. This word means to do with law. It comes from the Latin word forēnsis, which means public, from forum, a public meeting place, from foris, which means outside.

The academics behind this scheme are Professor Tim Grant, of Aston University, and Dr Nicci MacLeod, of Northumbria University.

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