BALTIMORE – A team of scientists and linguistic experts at Johns Hopkins University concluded that men who join fraternities experience a decrease in vocabulary by as much as 50 percent by the time they graduate.
The groundbreaking study, which tracked over 100 fraternity members over a five-year span through a variety of both written and spoken language assessment measures, found that the men’s vocabulary plummeted by about 10 percent for every year active in their organizations.
“We fully expected to find a decline in natural communication abilities among men who join fraternal organizations, but no one could have predicted how severe that decline would be,” said Howard Perkins, Ph.D., a speech-language pathology expert at Johns Hopkins. “The rate of regression is quite shocking… the only other time I’ve seen something like it was when I was working with inner-city Alzheimer’s patients.”
Take Michael, for example. When the bright young man was first examined — before joining the Beta Delta fraternity at the University of Maryland — he answered written questions with thoughtful insight and complex diction, often citing advanced literary works.
But four years into the study, Michael could only answer each question by writing “Frat,” or “Not Frat.” At five years, only “F” or “NF.”
Michael, who had one day hoped to become an architect, now struggles to comprehend even the most basic of language. He became confused and angry when asked for his name.
“Who do you know here?” he demanded.
But Michael is far from alone. In the Speech Therapy Ward of Johns Hopkins, a flurry of men in pastels are examined by doctors with clipboards. The smell of moldy boat shoe permeates the air, which is filled the grunts of men who can hardly speak more than a word.
One man, who had forgotten his name and was only able to refer to himself as Stank Johnson, could hardly speak the name of the country he was standing in.
“Murrrica,” he slurred.
Another, a political science major who had once dazzled professors with his discourse on modern politics, could muster only nonsense when asked about his stance on the Obama administration.
While scientists are still unsure what causes the drastic vocabulary decrease among fraternity men, they have a handful of theories.
Perkins believes the decline in communication skills may be the direct result of self-inflicted head trauma, caused by a startling new trend among fraternity men known as “Cavemanning,” where an alcoholic beverage is opened by repeatedly banging it against one’s forehead.
Perkins says another trend known as “Boob Luge” may also be to blame.
“When men bury their faces in a large pair of breasts for an extended period of time, the flow of oxygen is restricted,” he said. “This, coupled with the alcohol being consumed, can cut off that oxygen flow completely, leading to brain damage.”
Scientists say the declining vocabulary of the fraternity man is a nationwide epidemic, but some communities have found a silver lining. The LGBT community, for example, finds their reference to everyone as “bro” – regardless of gender – to be a step in the right direction towards equality..
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