How Slang Causes Mental Illness

-Tom Robbins

Imprecise speech is one of the major causes of mental illness in human beings…

The inability to correctly perceive reality is often responsible for humans’ insane behavior. And every time they substitute an all-purpose, sloppy slang word for the words that would accurately describe an emotion or a situation, it lowers their reality orientations, pushes them farther from shore, out onto the foggy waters of alienation and confusion…

The word neat, for example, has precise connotations. Neat means tidy, orderly, well-groomed. It’s a valuable tool for describing the appearance of a room, a hairdo, or a manuscript. When it’s generically and inappropriately applied, though, as it is in the slang aspect, it only obscures the true nature of the thing or feeling that it’s supposed to be representing. It’s turned into a sponge word. You can wring meanings out of it by the bucketful — and never know which one is right. When a person says a movie is ‘neat,’ does he mean that it’s funny or tragic or thrilling or romantic, does he mean that the cinematography is beautiful, the acting heartfelt, the script intelligent, the direction deft…?

Slang possesses an economy, an immediacy that’s attractive, all right, but it devalues experience by standardizing and fuzzing it. It hangs between humanity and the real world like…a veil. Slang just makes people more stupid, that’s all, and stupidity eventually makes them crazy.