By Kenny Moyer ‘16
I read somewhere that there are about 6,500 languages spoken in the world today. I’m assuming that’s true as I can only read English, and there’s a chance a group of non-English scholars out there have more accurate figures. In any case, 6,500 is a large number, and the total is growing. For instance, in the state of Kentucky, the Senate has proposed a bill to allow computer programming to be recognized as an official world language, mainly as it relates to academic credit. While I welcome the educational purpose of such a proposal, the whole issue made me wonder exactly what constitutes a “language”. And, ultimately, how can I add a new one to the list of official world tongues?
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, language has the following definition:
Language (noun lan·guage): the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community
Put simply, language is a means of communication. Whether it’s shared by a few people or a billion, like Mandarin, language brings people together. It’s fascinating to walk through the halls at Booth and overhear some of the many world languages spoken by my fellow classmates, who represent different countries and cultures. I’ve heard Spanish during class breaks. French whispered in the computer lab. And, I think German in the bathroom (or whatever it was, it had sharp grunt-like enunciations).
However, no language stands out more than Boothanese, the unofficial language spoken by members of the Booth community.
Originating back to around 1898 at the University of Chicago, Boothanese today is spoken and understood by some 48,000 people around the world, including 5,400 CEOs. You have heard it shoot from the lips of Nobel Laureates, distinguished faculty, political leaders, entrepreneurs. And now, you and me.
Not surprisingly, Boothanese contains a vernacular that stems from other University of Chicago dialects that have helped shape modern economics and finance. Such phrases as “efficient markets”, “options pricing”, “imagination capital”, and “transaction costs” can be traced back to the University as well as the Graduate School of Business (now known as Booth). In modern times, we Boothanese not only continue the use of this traditional Chicago lexicon, but also use locutions like “framework”, “optimization”, “data”, as well as, “where the f@#k is printer number five?”. Boothanese is also a state-of-mind, as those who speak it exude confidence, have strong handshakes, and stand firm.
An official language is recognized not only by the number of speakers, but also the prevalence it has in business trade, in the academic community, and in literature. As highlighted above, there’s no need to preach how widespread Boothanese is within the three. Following a standard framework I read about, I’ve already submitted a letter to the Illinois state legislature prompting them to recognize our language. I encourage you to do the same.
The author is an Evening/Weekend student and is a Master Yoda-level practitioner of Boothanese.