Language is an amazing concept that we often take for granted, perhaps because it’s so ubiquitous and ordinary in its application. We learn it, adapt it, evolve it, and use it for just about every purpose in our personal and public lives alike. It may even be the case that we are born with language on some level, and that certain elemental sounds transect all spoken languages. As such, it might be said that despite the many different languages on the planet, the basic principles are universal and thus reflect a sense of our common humanity:
While languages differ from each other in many ways, certain aspects appear to be shared across languages. These aspects might stem from linguistic principles that are active in all human brains. A natural question then arises: are infants born with knowledge of how the human words might sound like? Are infants biased to consider certain sound sequences as more word-like than others? “The results of this new study suggest that, the sound patterns of human languages are the product of an inborn biological instinct, very much like birdsong,’ said Prof. Iris Berent of Northeastern University in Boston, who co-authored the study….
Yet if language starts from a place of shared origin, it doesn’t stay that way. Beyond the differences between languages, there is also a great degree of variability within languages, from dialects to slang. Words change their definitions over time, even taking on opposite meanings in some cases — think about “bad” signifying good and “sick” or “wicked” to indicate something awesome. Still other words slowly transmogrify, such as with the word “lit” that is the focus of this little missive. This “wicked” word generally means illuminated (as with a light) or ignited (as with a fire), obviously. For over a century, it has also been used as a slang term for being intoxicated. More recently, it has added the notion of being exciting or excellent to its repertoire:
In the last ten or so years, lit has transitioned from being applied to the act of intoxicating (‘gonna get lit’) to the environment of those who are lit (‘party’s lit’). The wildness of such parties has led to lit gaining the meaning ‘exciting,’ as well as a broader meaning along the lines of ‘excellent’ (‘Leslie Jones’s commentary on the Olympics was lit’). We have evidence of the ‘exciting’ and ‘excellent’ meanings way back to 2004, and earlier use is likely—slang is often spoken long before it’s written down. This extended meaning of lit is a favorite on social media like Twitter….
This is the creative genius aspect of pop culture (let’s just stay there for now, and not obsess about the other parts of it!). There’s a band named LIT (who’ve been around for a long time). There are a number of songs titled “LIT” (like Wiz Khalifa’s, um, uplifting version, for example). One can be a LIT (literature) major in college, engage in LIT-crit (literary criticism), or focus on a genre such as Chick LIT (with apologies: it’s actually a thing). Since they started using the word early on, here’s a little something from back in the day by the band LIT, who are indeed!
Hey, if it can be good to be bad, and awesome to be sick, it can certainly be LIT to be literate, or even to be literary! It’s literally an open book on how we make meaning and use words in an evolutionary manner. (Well, it’s not literally literal, but that paradox may be the subject of a future post here.) Friends, let us just say here and now, whatever else is going on for, with, and around you, take a moment to appreciate just how LIT you really are in all ways. From the common humanism of language skills to our intoxicating uniqueness, here’s a chance to remind the world how totally awesome things can be…