Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Trolling Hard

I was reading reviews of a book I recently finished, and one of the reviews mentioned having problems with the writer's word choice.  The reviewer (a Goodreads user, not a professional reviewer) mentioned specifically the author's use of the word "troll."  As in, "We trolled the sales racks for a good deal on a new shirt."  The reviewer didn't understand the word in the context and mentioned that even if "to troll" had some obscure usage, kids today wouldn't know it.  Rather, they would associate "troll" with something people do on the internet, specifically in the comments sections of websites.

At first, I was like, "What?!?"  Because when I think of words that are obscure, I think of Shakespeare.  Or Chaucer.  I don't think of words that I grew up using as obscure.  I'm 35, not ancient.  However, as I thought about it, I realized that while trolled as used by the author is correct, and common, it's important to think about who you're writing for.  A fourteen-year-old might much more strongly associate "trolling" with the kind of "trolling" you do on the internet.

Words evolve and change.  When I was a kid, calling someone "queer" just meant they were a little weird.  The kid who ate paste was a little queer.  Now, it has a much different meaning.  Depending on who's using it, it can be an badge of honor or an insult.  I'm sure we can come up with a ton more.

The point is, for those of us who are writing for today's teens, it's important to listen to how our language is changing.  I guarantee that in five more years, literally literally won't mean the same thing it does today.


Keep it clean, keep it classy, and jokes are always appreciated.