Folk Speech – American

At the University of Findlay in the city of Findlay, Ohio there is a constant usage of the term “deader.” My informant tells me that the term can be used as a noun to refer to an individual. An example of such usage would be, “Wow, man you’re a deader.” This can be said after someone does something that offends or displeases someone else. Referring to someone as a “deader” can be either positive or negative. In referring to an attractive female, for example, my informant tells me one would say something like, “She is a deader.” To “dead” is the verb form of the term and can be used to describe the action of “deading” someone. An example my informant gave me was that if someone tried to hit on a girl and was rejected one could say to the individual, “You just got deaded.” In this case the term “dead” is synonymous with getting rejected. The positive verb form can be seen in the example given to me by my informant in which a person sees an attractive woman and then says something like, “I would dead her;” The reference in that example being sexual.

My informant tells me that it is a kind of universal word that can literally be applied to any sentence or situation. It is a way for Findlay students to express themselves and partake in cultural exchanges. Outsiders overhearing conversations of students are often completely baffled by what they hear. The universal word has changed before. My informant tells me that before “dead” the universal word was “blood.” It was much more difficult to utilize that universal word and its existence was short-lived.

On the matter of context, not only was the word used in every context, it was purposely injected into phrases that would normally contain other words. It was their way of playing with the language and in a way making it their own. I think that it is fairly common for college students to try to invent new trends. Some of the trends grow legs and turn into national fads. Others stay local, as is the case in the University of Findlay’s usage of “dead.”

I found it interesting that the term could be used for anything positive when dead usually refers to death which is often a time of mourning and generally a sad time, except in some cultures like the Irish who celebrate death and play games and other things to make it much more positive than it is in Western societies. My informant tells me that that is the point exactly. The term has nothing to do with positive things and that is why he and his friends find it so amusing to use the term. It is an inversion of social norms. I think it functions to not only help build social bonds but also challenges the established order of things and refuses conformity.

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