The Bond of Language

There may be no more comforting experience than hearing your own language when far from home. For instance, searching for the rumored bus station in a small town in Indonesia and having a well educated local take you under their wing. Even hearing your local accent, your home town twang, in a strange city in your own country can be a great relief, a comfort because language is the tie that binds.

The bond is instant. It bypasses race, creed, sex, and social status. Suddenly you and someone you may never have passed time with before share jokes, secrets, and tastes. A chance to reminisce and compare from an insider’s point of view. It may only last a few minutes or it might spawn a friendship that lasts for years.

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Language is perhaps the deepest bond that humans share outside of blood. Once it allowed us to recognize our own tribe in the wild world. Now the world may not be so wild or dangerous and we no longer fear each other as strangers on sight but nor do we generally welcome the unknown. The deep bond of language instantly bridges that gap and brings us together.

As world citizens, as well as netizens (a user of the Internet), the nature of that linguistic bond has changed. We don’t have to be neighbors, or even from the same country to be bonded by language anymore. Our interests whether they be a particular sports team, esoteric hobby, or some tiny facet of  subculture can be what define our tribe whose members live scattered over the globe.

I recently watched the documentary Sneakerheadz which explores the world of compulsive sneaker collectors, designers curators, buyers-sellers and traders around the world. The documentary introduced a glossary of specific terms that I, a sneaker neophyte, have never heard.

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Sneakerhead Vocabulary

Colorway – The colors and patterns that make a limited edition sneaker.

Deadstock – Shoes that sat on shelves, or have never been worn.

FSR – Full Size Run, used by sellers to say they have every size for a specific shoe.

Grails – Yes, as in Holy – the most sought after shoe either on the market or for your own collection.

Js – Jordans; what else.

Quick Strike – An unannounced, limited release.

This is a spattering of an A-Z list but you get the point; it’s a language unto itself.

Watching people come from around the world to sneaker shows, buying, trading, selling, comparing the latest kicks, obscure and vintage footwear in a dozen languages, but by and large understanding each other because of their specific slang made me think of how the bond of language has overrun our national and even continental borders. That language, always a mercurial thing, bonds us whether it’s our native tongue or the jargon of whatever outsider group we might belong to.

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This bond must exist for all kinds of enthusiasts and obsessives who deal internationally either on the net or face-to-face. I know it does for myself as a near obsessive in several fields. That for instance as a wake skater, a small niche water sport, that I can go to a wake park anywhere in the world and without a common language have a kind of conversation using words like pop shove, kicker, slider, blind side, etc. with someone that I have no other connection with. That I am part of that wider tribe and we come together over this sport and hoot these terms with understanding and affection.

As subcultures become unified internationally I suspect like-minded peoples the world over will find tribes to gravitate to through social media and become initiated and even originate parts of the language that will bond them.

So do you speak Vulcan? Or are you a fanatic philatelist (stamp collector)? Own a Harley? Maybe you have a room full of Hello Kitty? If so, you have a like-minded tribe out there that you can connect with instantly with your own specific grunts and howls.

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