Slang• What is slang?• Where does slang come from?• Why do people use slang?
A formal definition• Highly colloquial; for speaking• Rude; not polite• Not educated• Words used in some special sense• Special words of a profession
Two less formal definitions• Slang is the poetry of everyday life (S. I. Hayakawa)• Slang is language which takes off its coat, spits on its hands and goes to work (Carl Sandburg)
Characteristics of slang• Colloquial• Not standard• Restricted• Imaginative• Variable
Colloquial• Slang is almost always spoken o When it is written, it is used to convey the flavor of spoken language o For example, dialogues in novels
Not standard• Informal• Often not acceptable in formal situations
Restricted• Small groups of people, e.g., college students• Subcultures, e.g., drug culture• People in one profession, e.g., police
Imaginative• Language that is alive! o Colorful o Creative
Variable in 3 ways: By region• American vs. Australian slang o Breeder in San Francisco o Bouncing beef in Sydney
Variable: Gender• In Australia • Males use mate, dude or bro to describe other male friends • Females use babe or bud to describe other female friends• Swearing • For males using the F word is acceptable in more situations than for females
Variable: Time• Most slang disappears quickly o Groovy (1960s) o Main squeeze (1950s)
Variable: Time• One generation’s slang becomes the next generation’s standard language o Bus from omnibus o Zoo from zoological garden o Piano from pianoforte o Jazz
Variable: Time• Some exceptions to slang that quickly disappears o Pig (policeman) is from 1885 and is still slang o Beat it was used by Shakespeare and is still considered slang
Where does slang come from?• Originates from subcultures in societies o For example, occupational groups, teenagers, racial minorities, drug addicts, criminals
Slang from subcultures• Pre-stiff = a patient who is close to dying ▫ (from U.S. hospital slang)• Homey = friend or buddy ▫ (American black slang)• Pot = marijuana ▫ (1960s drug culture)• C-note = $100 ▫ (criminal slang)
Where does slang come from?• Mass media ▫ Movies ▫ TV ▫ Fashion ▫ music
Slang from the media• A bomb = a really bad movie• Bucket list = things you want to do before you die ▫ (from The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson)• 5 – 0 = police ▫ (American TV show Hawaii 5-0 in the 1970s)• Top = the ultimate or best ▫ (French slang from the term top models, e.g., Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, etc.• Cabbage = money ▫ (San Francisco hip-hop slang)
Slang is created by playing with words• Rhyming o Trouble and strife = wife o (Cockney rhyming slang)• Making words shorter o Brill = brilliant o (Glasgow, Scotland and parts of the U.S.) o Fab = fabulous o (American 60’s slang; the Fab 4 = the Beatles)
Slang is created by playing with words• Borrowing words from other languages o Cushy = comfortable o (From the Hindi Khush; no longer slang) o Yadda yadda = and so on o (from Yiddish and made popular by the sitcom Seinfeld)• Giving words the opposite meaning o Bad = good o (U.S. college slang in the 1990s) o Sick = good o (skateboarding slang)
Slang is created by playing with words(3)• Changing the spelling of words o Phat = cool, very good o (U.S. college slang in the 1990s)• Being imaginative with words o Taxed = mugged or robbed o (Honolulu slang) o Gimme some skin = let’s shake o (American 60’s slang)
Why do people use slang• To play with language o For the fun of it o To be different o To be creative o To be shocking• Especially musicians, poets, writers, screenwriters, etc.
Why do people use slang (2)• To identify with a group o To exclude others o To be secretive• Especially lower classes, groups that are outside the main society, subcultures, etc.
Resource for Slang• Urban Dictionary o http://www.urbandictionary.com/