"Tomorrow Never Knows": Language Change in Progress in 1960s America

Carly Psenicka
2014 International Journal of Language and Literature  
The 1960s are often cited as the most tumultuous and transformative years of the American 20 th century, and a significant portion of this revolution is attributed to the counterculture of the era. In addition to the manifold political and social changes the counterculture invoked, it also brought about linguistic variation in terms of vocabulary. Whether they manipulated existing expressions to launch discussion or created new terms to describe changes as they occurred, dissenting
more » ... enting counterculture groups altered the mainstream American English vocabulary to serve their revolutionary purposes. Initially, these lexicon changes further separated the counterculture from the primary culture, but as the 1960s came to a close, conventional culture had adopted many of the counterculture terms and manipulations. In this presentation, I examine the vocabulary used by various 1960s counterculture groups, their reasons and necessities for new terminology, and how and why the mainstream culture of the time adopted the innovative expressions. I propose that the phenomenon of mainstream adoption represents linguistic change in progress. The general age dichotomy between young counterculture rebels and the adult mainstream demonstrates a chasm between the two cultures created not only by ideology but generation. I suggest that media targeted specifically at American youth and a Generation X adolescent peak in the use of Baby Boomer counterculture terms bridged the gap between the counter and mainstream cultures and assimilated the counterculture lexicon into mainstream language. I also briefly examine how the counterculture vocabulary adaptation still occurs within the 21 st century with the continued help of popular media, youth, and fascination with 1960s culture.
doi:10.15640/ijll.v2n3a2 fatcat:27osie7gs5hareg5swf3ox4mzq