General Question

blastfamy's avatar

Do you feel that your vocabulary is smaller than your elders?

Asked by blastfamy (2159points) August 31st, 2008

I have heard about studies indicating that young people will know thousands less words than older generations. This may be linked to a drop in reading as a form of entertainment (generally speaking). Is there something that should be done to combat this? What effects do you think this will have on the overall intelligence level of mankind?

Your thoughts?

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29 Answers

torisecret's avatar

Ii believe that study. A lot of young teenagers dont even know basic math or reading. I thinkthats sad but it has alot to do with new age sources of entertainment like cell phones and texting, video games and television

shadling21's avatar

I don’t feel that MY vocabulary is any less than those of older generations. I think I have the right vocabulary for my age.

The internet is full of texty goodness that will keep my vocab in check. Language is constantly changing, and the internet allows anyone to create new words with the click of a mouse.

While young generations may appear to be losing their intelligence, I believe that they (we?) may be just developing a different kind of intelligence. Or I’m hoping we are. Then again, not all teachers recognize this.

And of course, this doesn’t speak for all young people. The vast majority don’t value education, which is a damn shame.

I don’t know what my argument is here. I’m just “thinking out loud”.

MrMontpetit's avatar

Speaking as a young teenager myself (14), I notice a lot of my friends have a VERY small vocabulary. People have always told me that I have a big vocabulary for my age. I don’t think it’s that I have a big vocabulary for my age, but that most people my age have a small vocabulary. I think the reason is that not as many people are reading anymore. I don’t see why. I love reading!

joeysefika's avatar

exactly all those people who don’t read books generally have smaller vocabularies. I must read at least 2 books a fortnight (maybe one now that I’m prepping for exams) and I’ve always had a higher than average reading and vocab

MrBlogger's avatar

Yes your right Mr and spearking of book some people my find this strange but I dont like to read fiction. For some reason I like to read business, technology, photoshop techniques, physics, biographys, and Apple books. When read fiction is never enjoy it because i dont like the fact that its not true. I dont know. People are different.

rowenaz's avatar

I think that as the world gets “smaller” more and more English users are finding a “common vocabulary” which means they we are using more and more of the same words, and fewer regionalisms. In that way, our vocabulary is getting less rich, but I don’t know if our vocabulary is not as great as our elders. The great public school experiment is still young…

MrBlogger's avatar

Have people noticed this txt talk is spreading? Holy shit its so frigging stupid and I hate how people dont type the whole word. People are now saying IMS out loud! Now people are actually typing it like its proper english. For example in school writing a test. TYPE THE WHOLE WORD!

arnbev959's avatar


tinyfaery's avatar

Depends on the elder. I try to keep my everyday vocabulary simple, conversational. However, I can use a thesaurus and a dictionary just as well as anyone.

stratman37's avatar


shadling21's avatar

@rowenaz – Well put. Elegance is defined (in science) as “scientific precision, neatness, and simplicity”. Modern youth may use less complex words to express an idea, but as long as they are able to clearly relate that idea to each other, then they are no less literate than people of the past.

wildflower's avatar

If we’re talking about English vocabulary, I’d have to say no – because my parents only speak very basic English.
If we’re talking about my native, Faroese, then yes, probably and largely due to me not using it daily for the last 13 years.

janbb's avatar

No – my elders are smaller than my vocabulary! :-)

janbb's avatar

P.S. And my grammar is smaller than my grandad.

shrubbery's avatar

Personally, I think my vocabulary is much larger than my elders. I love reading and learning new words, sometimes I read books just to broaden my vocabulary (think Jane Eyre etc). My grandparents and parents vocabulary is limited to their time and location and they weren’t academics at school. I think that a lot of young people are specifically trying to broaden their vocabulary while conversely a lot of them are also limiting their vocabulary because they don’t read and they don’t take an interest in the language. I suppose this could be put down to the rise in video games and the like, but really it’s impossible to make generalisations like that.

SeekerSeekiing's avatar

It seems mine is bigger…I write and read quite a bit. I am often asked to explain a word…. Asked, uh…what’s ‘obsequious’ mean?

greylady's avatar

The use of cursing, swearing words in conversation is a sign of extremely limited vocabulary, and usually a sign of low imagination as well.

gailcalled's avatar

“Obsequious”: obedient or attendant to an excessive or servile degree. Uriah Heep was obsequious. (Today known as “smarmy.”)

Learning and using elegant English (it’s more than having a large vocabulary) is not hard. Work on it regularly over the years both when you speak and write and vollĂ . Read actively. This is a problem that an individual can solve, unlike global warming, rebuilding New Orleans, or lowering my real estate taxes.

As a start, learn the difference between less, fewer, and smaller. They are not interchangeable. And that elders is a noun; elders’ is a possessive noun meaning “that of my elders.”

Edit: Don’t repeat, Be terse. Be clear. Be original. Be patient.

shadling21's avatar

Nice one, janbb.
And Gail, of course.

marinelife's avatar

There is a beauty and joy in the precise use of words.

Kindle a passion for nomenclature. Ignite a fervency for verbs. Expound with adjectives that are breathtaking, vivid, dramatic, eidetic, poignant, spirited and trenchant.

Increasing one’s vocabulary is a pleasure, not a chore.

shockvalue's avatar


Yesican's avatar

umm, err , ahh. What was the question again?
Doh! oh yah…Yes?
Tea anyone?

rowenaz's avatar

Yo DUDES, I think our slang is ginormous because of all the exposure we have to peeps of other mothers – classes, races, and ethnicities. Our parents’ generation was hardly exposed to the same sort of onslaught we are with ipods, macs, the digital age, rap, etc. etc. Who’s not to say that ours is actually bigger, but not necessarily of the academic variety??

marinelife's avatar

@rowenaz Were that the case, in this case bigger would not be better.

generalspecific's avatar

in general, the study is probably right. but i know that i know and use tons of words that my parents don’t even know, just because i love to read and i’m really interested in that kind of stuff

gailcalled's avatar

@General: Good for you. That attitude will enrich your life, no matter what you choose to do.

@Marina; would that mean also that lesser is morer?

shadling21's avatar

@general – Good point. My father didn’t go to school past grade nine, and he doesn’t read for pleasure. He’s not educated in the classical sense, but he’s very intelligent. Doesn’t the fact that higher education is pretty much a requirement now make a difference?

Seesul's avatar

Actually, shadling, if one looks at the requirements for exiting high school 100 years ago, or even 8th grade for that matter (in the U.S.), the level of knowledge needed was in many cases higher than that of the average college student of today.

My grandfather only had about 4 years of formal schooling, yet would be able to surpass many of the college students of today in his literary skills.

science_girl89's avatar

In some respects yes, in others no.

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