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Interactive video lesson plan for: 4 Ways TV Changes How We Talk | What the Stuff?!

Activity overview:

It's no secret that TV has had a great influence on popular culture. Here are 4 ways it has influenced the way people talk.

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"The Great Break-Off" by The Insider



[0:28] Life Alert - "I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up"

[0:34] Family Matters / Steve Urkel ("Did I Do That?")

[0:41] Slacker (Richard Linklater, 1991) / "TV is, we are."

[1:03] Matthew McConaughey Winning Best Oscar

[1:07] Ellen & Hugh Laurie / "The British Slang vs the American"

[1:25] Punk'd: Chloë Grace Moretz

[1:43] The 15 Best Breaking Bad Quotes

[1:57] Breaking Bad: "I am the one who knocks."

[2:00] Animaniacs / "All the Words in the English Language"

[2:11] Robin Williams on Sesame Street

[2:37] The Wire / Snoop's Grand Entrance

[3:20] EastEnders / Funny scene with FatBoy


Did you know that the average American watches approximately 153 hours of TV every month? With that much time dedicated to programming, many argue that the words, phrases and grammar of television can fundamentally alter the way we talk. Here’s how:

We all know catch phrases… that’s kind of the whole point. They’re expressions that are recognized because they’re repeated in culture. And since television is so ubiquitous in our society, it’s no surprise that many popular catch phrases originate there. Researchers have found that we use these phrases to form solidarity with others, subsequently making us feel good about ourselves. Richard Harris at Kansas State University discovered this behavior in a study on local young adults. His participants overwhelmingly cited catch phrases from comedies first.

Slang is informal terminology, synonymous with other words or phrases. You know the term “punk’d?” Even if you’ve never seen the MTV show, you probably know its title also operates as a term for being fooled, or tricked. Or here’s another example of television affecting slang: how many of you knew what “breaking bad” meant before Walter White cooked his first batch of meth? Even show creator Vince Gilligan thought it simply meant to “raise hell,” but it’s more nuanced than that, implying anger and violence.

Most of us who grew up with “Sesame Street” would agree that television also has the capability to improve our vocabulary. In fact, in 2010 Dictionary.com chose “True Blood,” “Fringe” and more as shows likely to expand your personal lexicon. Others argue however that when tested, television neither expands nor reduces our vocabulary.

Whether dialects are affected by television seems to still be up for debate. Linguist Jack Chambers says it does _not_ have an effect on speech patterns. For example, he cites the fact that inner-city African-Americans watch an average 8 hours of TV a day. But they have still preserved their own unique dialects, despite that variety of language being underrepresented on TV.

Despite this, other researchers and even governments believe dialect _is_ affected. For instance, researchers in Glasgow claim the television show “EastEnders” is spreading the Cockney dialect, originally endemic to parts of London, all the way to Scotland. Even the Chinese government has removed dialects from television in efforts to promote the official language, Mandarin.

So what do _you_ think? Can television change our dialect and accents? Check out the expanded article version of how television changes the way we talk on HowStuffWorks.com. Then come back and let us know what _you_ think in the comments below! And don’t forget to subscribe to the HSW channel for more lists o’ learning here on What The Stuff?!

Tagged under: stuff,howstuffworks,television,tv,pop culture,popular culture,slang,vocabulary,dialects,catch phrases,History,Talking

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