Speech Communities//”Slash”//Rachel Pham

Is “A” or “C” the best answer?  Do I feel like having Rocky Road or Butter Pecan?  To be or not to be?  Harry or Peeta?  Whether small or completely life-changing, choices fill up our existence (so choose your ice cream wisely).


Due to their constant presence, much of the value of choices has decreased, in terms of the recognition of being able to make choices in a very mental sense, which in turn is reflected by a physical change of language.  The change to be addressed here is not a very prominent one, but has significant implications nonetheless: the usage of the word “slash.”

The slash I am referring to stems from the “/” symbol, commonly used when typing to replace the word “or” between two choices as an abbreviation. An extremely common printed application of it in context is as “and/or.” The unconventional usage of “slash” of interest in this case is the pronunciation of the word out loud in a normal conversation.  For instance, while planning a weekend of bacchanalian festivities with a friend, I might suggest, “We can pickle eggs slash shave pencils on Friday night.”  Though “/” is used as an abbreviation in print, as exemplified here, saying “slash” in a sentence does not phonetically shorten anything, even if it does psychologically.  As a result, it could be said that using “slash” implies that choices are being treated in a very careless manner (and in the extremely serious context of my thriving social life, no less).  Thus, the seemingly innocent, arbitrary throwing of “slash” in our dialogue every now and then may reflect our taking the privilege of being able to even have choices too lightly.


This value is further emphasized by the fact that we sometimes use “slash” not so much as series of two choices, but as one choice and a continuation of that same choice, but in further detail.  For example, while trying to convince people to give a few hours of service, I once said, “You should come volunteer with us on Saturday slash sell us your soul forever.”  In this case, after a closer examination, one can see that there really aren’t two choices being offered, just one event and a highly escalated version of that same event. Thus, the range of and gratitude for choice has been limited.  As a result, it could be said this conscious reduction of choice indicates a subconscious reduction of the value of choices as a whole.

However, it must be noted that it is not the word itself that causes the reduction of choice, but the feelings behind the community.  It is possible that with a conscious and deliberate use of “slash,” the values that come behind the word when it is used could be changed.  Thus, on this note, I bid you happy choice-making.  Whatever you decide, always be grateful for the choice that you will or won’t make.  Slash it’s alright to choose the wrong flavor, as long as you get ice cream.


1 thought on “Speech Communities//”Slash”//Rachel Pham”

  1. Rachel, your post is so insightful and sheds such a great light on the beauty and privilege of making choices. Your humor also makes it so fun to read! Thank you!


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