SlangBy Winona Bullard, Shirley Johnson, Jerkeshea Morris, Kelly Fox, Cassie Howell
Students, University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Who loves ya, baby? (Kojak)
Hasta la vista, baby. (Terminator)
Beam me up, Scotty. (Star Trek)
Make love, not war.
A sprinkle a day helps keep odors away!
Examples: Lethargy rulezzzzzzzzzzz
Kilroy Woz Here
Lisa loves Michael
-S. I. Hayakawa, Language in Action, 1941
Slang, n. The grunt of the human hog (Pignoramus intolerabilis)
with an audible memory.
I shall invent a new game; I shall write bits of slang and poetry on
slips and give them to you separate.
Slang is "language which takes off its coat, spits on its hands -- and
goes to work."
Slang is humanity's first play toy.
Slang, at its worst, it is stupidly coarse
and provocative. At its best, it makes standard English seem pallid.
Slang was the main reason for the development of prescriptive language in an attempt to slow down the rate of change in both spoken and written language. Latin and French were the only two languages that maintained the use of prescriptive language in the 14th century. It was not until the early 15th century that scholars began pushing for a standard English language.
During the Middle Ages, certain writers such as Chaucer, William Caxton, and William of Malmesbury represented the regional differences in pronunciations and dialects. The different dialects and the different pronunciations represented the first meaning for the term “slang.”
However, our present-day meaning for slang did not begin forming until the 16th or 17th century. The English Criminal Cant developed in the 16th century. The English Criminal Cant was a new kind of speech used by criminals and cheats, meaning it developed mostly in saloons and gambling houses. The English Criminal Cant was at first believed to be foreign, meaning scholars thought that it had either originated in Romania or had a relationship to French. The English Criminal Cant was slow developing. In fact, out of the four million people who spoke English, only about ten thousand spoke the English Criminal Cant. By the end of the 16th century this new style of speaking was considered to be a language “without reason or order” (Thorne 23). During the 18th century schoolmasters taught pupils to believe that the English Criminal Cant (which by this time had developed into slang) was not the correct usage of English and slang was considered to be taboo.
However, slang was beginning to be presented in popular plays. The first appearance of the slang was in a play by Richard Brome’s and later appeared in poems and songs by Copland. By the 1700’s the cultural differences in America had begun to influence the English-speaking population, and slang began to expand.
Almost all of the slang words during this time were anatomical and well known all through Britain and in America due to the British colonists. Furthermore, certain events happened in the 18th century that helped the development of slang such as, Westward expansion, the Civil War, and the abolitionist movement . By this time scholars such as Walt Whitman, W. D. Whitney, and Brander Matthews all considered slang to be anything that sounded new, and that was not in the “glossaries of British dialects” (Thorne 26). Walt Whitman consider slang to be the life of the language. Whitman wrote “that slang was a wholesome.....of common humanity to escape the form bald literalism, and express itself illimitably” (Thorne 26).
This was a turning point for slang it was starting to escape the harsh criticism of being associated with criminals or foreigners. It was not until the early 1920’s that slang had gained the interest of popular writers. It was during the post-World War I era that society gained new attitudes about slang. There was now a demand for entertainment, mass media, and slangy fiction.
Today modern American slang has been shaped and reshaped by the different cultures and the emergence of technology, which has left our society with varieties of slang from extremes like Street/Drug Slang to African-American Slang.
Because most people are individuals who desire uniqueness, it stands to reason that slang has been in existence for as long as language has been in existence. Even so, the question of why slang develops within a language has been hotly debated. Most agree that the question is still unanswered, or perhaps it has many answers. Regardless, there is no doubt that we can better explain slang's existence by analyzing how and why it exists.
Foreign words are a common resource for the development of slang, as are regional variations of standard words. David Crystal, author of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, calls the introduction of foreign words into a language "borrowings." Likewise, slang may incorporate "elements of the jargons of special-interest groups (e.g., professional, sport, regional, criminal, and drug subcultures)." The Historical Dictionary of American Slang says that "Slang is lexical innovation within a particular cultural context." Sometimes these foreign words and regional variations become part of the standard language.
The Historical Dictionary of American Slang points out that many groups "use slang largely because they lack political power." It is simply a safe and effective way that people rebel against the establishment. Often, however, it appears that slang is ever present and exists even in complacent times. It is created by individuals and perpetuated based upon its usefulness and applicability.
The Columbia Encyclopedia notes that slang is often "well developed in the speaking vocabularies of cultured, sophisticated, linguistically rich languages." Whereas slang was once considered as the lowest form of communication, many now consider slang to be an intelligent and insightful variation to the blandness of the standard language. Gerald Parshall, in a 1994 article for U.S. News & World Report, describes this as "proletarian poetry." The Oxford English Dictionary points out that George Eliot's character in Middlemarch, written in 1871, says that "Correct English is the slang of prigs who write history and essays." For some, it is enough that Shakespeare often used slang.
Others, however, condemn the use of slang, believing that it undermines the standard language and reflects poorly upon its users. Parshall notes that Ambrose Bierce, in his dictionary, called slang "the grunt of the human hog." Even The Oxford English Dictionary's 1989 edition defines slang as "the special vocabulary used by any set of persons of a low or disreputable character; language of a low and vulgar type." In fact, both Crystal and The Historical Dictionary of American Slang point out that Samuel Johnson and Jonathan Swift produced the very first dictionaries partly out of great concern for the corruption of the standard English language.
Whatever the reason(s), slang is here to stay, and its longevity demands attention and explication. Below is an excerpt from David Crystal's book. Crystal cites examlpes from Eric Partridge's Slang, Today and Yesterday to illustrate the many uses of slang. Partridge, according to The Historical Dictionary of American Slang, is "perhaps the century's best-known collector of unconventional English." Of Partridge's "fifteen important impulses behind the use of slang," Crystal notes that he considers numbers 13 and 14 to be the most significant:
1. In sheer high spirits, by the young in heart as well as by the young in years; 'just for the fun of the thing'; in playfulness or waggishness.
2. As an exercise either in wit and ingenuity or in humour. (The motive behind this is usually self-display or snobbishness, emulation or responsiveness, delight in virtuosity).
3. To be 'different', to be novel.
4. To be picturesque (either positively or - as in the wish to avoid insipidity - negatively).
5. To be unmistakeably arresting, even startling.
6. To escape from clichés, or to be brief and concise. (Actuated by impatience with existing terms.)
7. To enrich the language. (This deliberateness is rare save among the well-educated, Cockneys forming the most notable exception; it is literary rather than spontaneous.)
8. To lend an air of solidity, concreteness, to the abstract; of earthiness to the idealistic; of immediacy and appositeness to the remote. (In the cultured the effort is usually premeditated, while in the uncultured it is almost always unconscious when it is not rather subconscious.)
9a. To lesson the sting of, or on the other hand to give additional point to, a refusal, a rejection, a recantation;
9b. To reduce, perhaps also to disperse, the solemnity, the pomposity, the excessive seriousness of a conversation (or of a piece of writing);
9c. To soften the tragedy, to lighten or to 'prettify' the inevitability of death or madness, or to mask the ugliness or the pity of profound turpitude (e.g. treachery, ingratitude); and/or thus to enable the speaker or his auditor or both to endure, to 'carry on'.
10. To speak or write down to an inferior, or to amuse a superior public; or merely to be on a colloquial level with either one's audience or one's subject matter.
11. For ease of social intercourse. (Not to be confused or merged with the preceding.)
12. To induce either friendliness or intimacy of a deep or a durable kind. (Same remark.)
13. To show that one belongs to a certain school, trade, or profession, artistic or intellectual set, or social class; in brief, to be 'in the swim' or to establish contact.
14. Hence, to show or prove that someone is not 'in the swim'.
15. To be secret - not understood by those around one. (Children, students, lovers, members of political secret societies, and criminals in or out of prison, innocent persons in prison, are the chief exponents.)
College students have enriched daily speech to the fullest!
Below is a survey of the slang used by college students on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. College slang is widely used from north to south to east to west. Different colleges in different areas use different terms, and we set out to find what terms are used on this campus. According to Judi Sanders, college slang is so widely used because it is fun, it is humorous, and at times we use these words to confuse those who won't understand their meaning. One hundred students were surveyed. They were residents, commuters, old, young, athletes, SGA members, BSU members, CAB members, sororities, fraternities, drinkers, and smokers. I have found that age and the activities they are involved in contribute to the type of speech that is used. The older generations only recognized words such as "dude" or other words their teenagers used a couple of years ago. Athletes, sororities, fraternities, SGA, BSU, and CAB members wrote in terms that had a meaning for their specific groups. Residents all recognized the same terms and commuters used terms that were known in their home community.
BELOW ARE 25 TERMS REFERRED TO AS "SLANG". CHECK THE
CATEGORY THAT DEFINES YOUR USAGE OF THESE WORDS AS "NEVER," "SELDOM," "SOMETIMES,"
Classification: Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior
Have a Cow: This is normally used as part of a sentence. For example: "Don't have a cow." Or "My mom’s going to have a cow." There are some variations, for instance, "have a bird."
Cool: This popular expression is used to describe something
that is very good.
Cat’s Pajamas: Used in the 20’s, this expression is very
similar to "cool."
Chill: This can mean to calm down, for example, “Chill out, Dude.” It also can have an "-in" ending added to mean to relax, as in “We’re just chillin at my house.”
Dude: This is can be used to refer to any person whether they are known by the speaker or not. Ex. “That dude is stealing my car.” Or “Dude, I’m glad you finally called.”
Peace: Used as a greeting during the late 60’s and early 70’s.
Stinks: When used as a slang term, this means "is bad." For example: “This exam stinks.”
Trollin: Used to describe a car or cars traveling slower than the flow of traffic. Example: "This car is really trollin."
Mr. Charley: a white man
The Man: the law
Uncle Tom: a meek black person
23-skiddoo: used in the 1920s
buzz off: go away
john, head, can, loo: toilet
grub, slop, garbage, gas: food
tart: upstart young woman or prostitute
makin' whoopee (Walter Winchell - 1929): making love
Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English
Lighter, Jonathan E., ed. Historical Dictionary of American
Slang. New York: Random House, Inc., 1994.
"Slang." Microsoft ® Encarta ® 97 Encyclopedia.
CD-ROM. Microsoft Corporation, 1993-1996.
Thorne, Tony. The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang.
New York: Pantheon Books, 1990.
Allee, Ph.D., John Gage. Webster's Encyclopedia of Dictionaries.
New York: Ottenheimer Publishers, Inc., 1978.
Parshall, Gerald. U.S. News & World Report, 06/27/94, v116:n25. p61(5),