On the Uglies series

All That Glitters Is Not Hovery

By Lili Wilkinson

Teens are generally more interested in language than adults. They produce more slang, more poetry, more neologisms and nicknames, and memorize more song lyrics than their elders. They’re still acquiring language in ways that most adults aren’t: as a tool for self-definition.

–Scott Westerfeld1

Shay sometimes talked in a mysterious way, like she was quoting the lyrics of some band no one else listened to. (Uglies)

What if you had no control over your body? The way you looked, what you wore? How your brain worked? How would you still know that you were you?

When you see me, how do you know I’m me, and not someone else?

There’s how I look, where I live, what I wear. What I listen to, read, watch.

And there’s the way I talk.

I live in Melbourne, Australia. Here, when you blow off fifth period and go shopping, you’re wagging. When I give someone a dirty look, I’m giving them a greasy. In Adelaide, 1,000 kilometres away, wagging is cutting, and greasies are daggers.

Where I live, carbonated beverages are called soft drinks, not pop or fizz or soda. We sleep under a doona, not a duvet or comforter, and eat capsicums, not bell peppers. We travel in lifts, not elevators, and the storage compartment at the back of our cars is called the boot, not the trunk.

Sometimes only a single letter is different–like the way we have maths classes and the U.S. has math classes. You wouldn’t think a single letter could tell you much  …

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