Sociolinguistics Project Essay

This essay has a total of 2409 words and 11 pages.

Sociolinguistics Project

I recently went home to Alaska for a weekend and decided that it was time I learn how to
snowboard, so off I headed to the closest resort to try my luck freeriding the powder
(snowboarding on freshly fallen snow just for fun). In a small ski town in Girdwood,
Alaska, two hundred young adults were gathered in a confined day lodge at the Alyeska Ski
Resort. The air had the foul odor of wet, moldy shoes and my arms and legs still ached
from my first attempt to make a run (to go down the course). As I tried to weave my way
through the disarrayed chairs, tables, and groups of mingling teenagers, I realized that I
could not understand anything they were saying to each other. I quickly found my friend,
Adam, and asked him why everyone was talking in a way that I did not understand. The
words they used sounded like street-slang sometimes, and at other times, were of such
technicality that I could not even guess the meanings. Not only did I want to find out
what they were talking about, I also wanted to discover where this jargon came from, what
purpose it serves, and if snowboarders are labeled negatively because of it.

Adam is nineteen-years-old and has been riding for four-years and fills every spare second
of his life sleeping, breathing, and sweating snowboarding. He grew up in Alaska and we
have known one another for many years, although we have never been really close friends
because throughout high school, we belonged to two different groups. Adam participates in
many different, local big-air snowboarding competitions, where he gets judged on how well
he can do certain tricks off of jumps. If he does well, then he pulled (executed, did) a
flick, sometimes he'll even tweak the tricks a little to add more style to them. Adam
says that living in Alaska gives him a great opportunity to participate in these events,
but for now, snowboarding is just a hobby that fills the cold, short, winter days. He
does not try to be a part of the snowboarding sub-culture, he has just naturally become
one of its members.

Despite the growing number of teenagers that are adding to this past time, Adam and his
friends still remain part of a minority in their schools because many people fail to see
snowboarding as a true sport. This is one aspect that Adam doesn't like about riding and
because of this, they cannot have any real future in it. As Adam put it, "We can't get a
free ride to ride." There are no scholarships to college, no high school pep rallies, and
unless they become good enough to become sponsored by a professional snowboarding company,
there are no job opportunities. The only explanation Adam can think of for this is that
snowboarders are often labeled as drug-users just as their brother sub-culture,
skateboarding, was previously seen in the same way because they often act in similarly.

Many of the words that snowboarders use are either named after tricks also seen in
skateboarding, such as rail slide and nose bonk, or they are named after people who invent
the tricks, such as the Lien Air, named after skateboarder Neil Blender, or the Palmer
Air, named after snowboarder Shaun Palmer. Other words or phrases that snowboarders use
for things besides just tricks usually incorporate popular slang terms being used by many
different groups and the rider's own creativity. Many snowboarders watch the same
snowboarding videos, and subscribe to the same snowboarding magazines, therefore certain
words such as hella, mad, ride, and bust are heard no matter where one goes. Sometimes, a
certain phrase in an area will catch on solely because a group of riders will faithfully
spread their word around. Adam claims that he was the first in his group to say, for
schweez, meaning "for sure."

I found that upon interviewing him, much of what I learned about the language that he used
did not only come from the questions I asked him, but also came from just being around him
and his friends and our day of hittin' the slopes. After I asked him to explain the
snowboarding language to me, he just laughed and convinced me to take the tram up to the
top of mountain with him, even though I was far too inexperienced to be riding the top.
"Don't worry about it girly, just chill and scope our mad steez." Trusting my better
judgment, I decided I had better find out what he meant by that before agreeing. He
quickly explained to me that if I was to go "scope his mad steez," that would mean that
I'd be watching his friends and him doing a lot technical tricks and jumps, like sticking
a sick rodeo seven (720 Air Rotation) or if they do that same trick riding backwards, than
they would be riding switch and busting a hakkon flip. If they decide to rotate frontward
while they are in the air, then they would be doing the trick frontside, and if they
really want to drop a hammer, they'll do they trick inverted, so that they are upside
down, or maybe goofy footed, so their riding the snowboard with their right foot forward.
As I glanced over my notepad and saw the different words for tricks, I realized just how
difficult it would be for my inexperienced eyes to tell the difference between all of
them. From what I knew so far, just one trick alone could be called a "switch, frontside,
goofy, inverted hakkon flip." Adam informed me otherwise by telling me that even though
they have all of those different words for different tricks, when they're put together,
they usually come up with one name that includes everything that is incorporated into the
whole trick. So instead of saying "switch, frontside, goofy, inverted hakkon flip," he
could just name that entire trick a "Jennifer" if he wanted.

Adam claims that snowboarding lingo serves an extremely important purpose. To him, the
jargon used in snowboarding isn't just useless slang, but it is absolutely necessary in
order to convey all of the different technical terms for tricks and their level of
difficulty. Snowboarding jargon does both of these things in a short amount of time, one
word such as rodeo flip, can mean that a trick is inverted and a 540 degree rotation, all
at the same time. This is especially useful when the riding is wack and the weather is so
skank that one would rather uncover their mouths from their ski masks only long enough to
say two words instead of four.

Fortunately, the weather near the top of the mountain wasn't skank at all when Adam made
me watch him do his tricks. Instead, the weather was so clear and it was so warm, that I
decided to try a session of my own. After a little practice carving in order to make
sharp turns, Adam determined that unlike the majority of riders who ride regular footed or
with their left foot forward, I rode goofy. This discovery made staying upright much
easier, so I made my way to the freshies to try my skills on the steeps. I was stoked at
first, but soon found myself being the ridicule of all of the boys because of my sketching
along the hillside, going as slow as possible without being at a complete stop and, every
once in a while, I was accused of rolling down the windows. This is when I frantically
rotated my arms in the air in order to prevent myself from falling.

I was most surprised by how many names for falling and wrecking they used. At one point,
a friend of Adam's was railing down the freshly groomed snow, or corduroy, and when he
fell, Adam shouted out, "He ate it hard!" Yet at the same time, some one else yelled, "He
bit the rail!" One of the most interesting terms I heard was when one guy crashed and an
unknown rider told us that it was an especially hard wreck, therefore, "He went to Dude's
House." When I asked for a more in depth explanation of "going to Dude's House," the
rider just told me that the person who wiped out was attempting a, "Hella wizard Nose Grab
Air and instead of boning it out, he cratered into the side of the half-pipe."

It really grabbed my attention that upon asking for a more in depth explanation, a.k.a.
something I could understand, I instead received an explanation containing even more words
that I did not understand. Just as it was talked about in Anthropology class, I realized
that people in sub-cultures often do not even realize that they have their own vocabulary.
Continues for 6 more pages >>