Saturday, July 12, 2003


THE words of a society reflect its events, trends and customs. Todayís words reflect the ever-altering trend of human society. They are all words to do with particular generations in time. Most of these lexical items are a creation of popular culture. For the present, a majority of these words are more a part of American English but looking at global trends, it wonít be long before all these words become a part of the corpus of English.

The trend of naming generations as per a signature feature can be traced to a book written by Charles Hambert and Jane Deversen, entitled Generation X, published in 1964. This novel is a science fiction work set in the final decades of the twentieth century. Henceforth, Generation X came to be applied to a generation of young people perceived to lack a sense of direction in life and with no part to play in society. In the late 1980s and early 90s, the young adults coming of age around those years were perceived as a lost generation, people who had lurched from two world wars into a period of sustained growth and finally, into a period of recession. At a time of high unemployment rates, easily accessible entertainment and readily available escape routes like drugs and alcohol, the Generation Xers, like their peers, the slackers, are regarded as lacking motivation and shirking responsibility.

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Slacker came from Richard Linklaterís film Slackers, released in 1991. In the film, a former student who is unable to move beyond student lifestyle and has no burning career aspirations is the slacker. Perceived as a part of Generation X, the slacker gained rapidly in currency with the advance of the nineties and the increase in political and cultural apathy due to the lulling effect of the products of capitalism and the continuous entertainment of television. The word gave birth to slacker beat, meaning music with a dissonant and aimless sound, slacker culture, slackerdom and slackerspeak.

These words set in motion a complete, new trend that led to quite a few neologisms. Generation XL came to be used for children or young adults who are overweight. The generation that has grown up with and is completely at home with digital devices and digital culture is known as Generation Y. Gen-N refers to the generation born since the advent of the personal computer. This has led to the generation lap, the tendency for young people to be increasingly more technically savvy than their parents or elders. The Nexus Generation is another name for Generation Xers who represent, to some, a link or nexus between the Industrial Age and the Information Age. The sandwich generation is the people who must care for both their children and their parents, people who have finished raising their children and now must take care of their aging parents.


Santaan, the Hindi word that means offspring or children, comes from Sanskrit. It is derived from the root tana, which means to grow and spread out. The Sanskrit tanay and tanaya, son and daughter respectively, also come from the same root. The Mahabharata uses santaan in the sense of the propagation of a family and this figurative use led to the literal santaan.

This feature was published on July 5, 2003