The term “dope” is used to describe something exceptional or exceptional, as well as something admirable or praiseworthy. It’s also likely that drug addicts use the term in comments like “as good as being high on dope” and “is it dope” to hide their actions after buying drugs from a corner man. As a result of the implication, the word will have the connotation of something genuine as opposed to something false. Because of the diversity of today’s society, the term “dope” has continued to be used in a variety of contexts and meanings (Leigh 46). The analysis of the language in the current culture shows that the primary reason for its use by millennials has been to gain some form of uniqueness. Whereas the use of words such as ‘dope’ are considered to be the lowest form of communication. However, a lot of millennials see it as an insightful and intelligent way of varying the boring alternatives to the word. Terms such as excellent, Flavio, sick, all of them have the same meaning but the users of ‘dope,’ who are mostly young people, have stuck to its use more than the others. A simple explanation for this is the need to stay fashionable, and up-to-date (Leigh 46).
Such words also serve as a vital tool when millennials are identifying each other as the members of a particular group since they know the same terms. Belonging to the group means they can speak freely around each other. This group’s mentality is what keeps such words growing since it aids solidarity and it also serves as a way of excluding people who the millennials deem to be not the part of the group (Derchane 104). This is supported by the accommodation theory; people while talking to each other will subconsciously tend to vary their style of speech towards a style favored by the listeners. Young people, with all their mistrust, try to accommodate others by modifying their communication behavior to the required roles without caring about grammatical errors. Hence, the ideas are expressed easily.
The language used by the millennial subculture regarding how it relates to the central culture also displays a form of revolution involving secrecy. Counter-establishment of groups and counterculture has seen the formation of words such as dope which can be attributed to the continued use of hip-hop culture. Groups such as millennials are trying to come up with new vocabulary unknown to any external members as a convenient way of keeping information from others while also seeking to go against traditional language standards. This subculture is often a group of people who think they have less power politically, for example, adolescents or college students. Individuals who have the reasons to hide from authority something they know, for instance, drug addicts who use the word to mean the good feeling of smoking marijuana(Derchane 104).
The dominant culture in an attempt to maintain sanity tries to control a lot of what teens do, and the social pressure on the youth makes the response to this only natural. Schools are trying to enhance their language codes to try to inhibit the growth of such words but all it does is encourage more resistance. But sometimes subcultures will weaken and words that have been isolated to particular people will become familiar. This is how terms such as ‘dope’ develop into the mainstream, as they come into contact with dominant culture.
The primary culture must be aware of how teenagers and anyone using deviant language. They may think it is their way of dealing with rules they accept as valid, and as a result, they create their distinct values structured in divergent hierarchies (Halliday 56).
The values of millennials’ subculture have caused a class struggle which is expressed by using style. The millennials and people saying words such as ‘dope’ are always trying to go against the dominant culture and anyone who conforms to language and society ideals. They always strive to disrupt generational and ideological ‘oppression’ to fashion spaces for themselves. This millennial-generated subculture has seen the creation of visual communication forms such as graffiti, skateboarding, street dancing and more, to enhance communication through gestures and movements. This use of style though has enabled the dominant culture to recognize the youth and give them the power to express themselves in their cool way (Halliday 59).
According to Halliday (p.77), the young people and more so millennials have been able to create their ways of communicating as seen above, and this enables the society to view their role in more positive light. Culture and language change arising from the fact that youth are becoming more acceptable, for example, words such as ‘dope’ are becoming more applicable to mean something positive in the society, moving on from past inferences to drugs. The dominant culture has given the millennials a chance to exercise their power of change, through language and cultural expressions, which shows more trust in young people’s values.
Whatever the scenario, words like ‘dope’ are here to stay, and while they are seen by many as eradicating proper language use, it must be noted that language is ever-changing. As long as a society has a ‘correct’ way to speak, subconsciously individual will strive to create their language they can relate to and understand. As we have seen words created by a particular culture do not have to be vulgar, there are positive terms such as dope, which are only coined as a way of entertainment and educating people.
Halliday, Michael Alexander Kirkwood. Language as Social Semiotic: the Social Interpretation of Language and Meaning. 3rd ed., London, E. Arnold, 2014.
Décharné, Max. Vulgar tongues: an Alternative History of English Slang. New York, Pegasus Books, 2017.
Leigh, Mark. How to Talk Teen: from Asshat to Up? The Awesome Totes Dictionary of Teenage Slang. 1st ed., London, Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2016.