From Academic Kids

Slang is the non-standard use of words in a language of a particular social group, and sometimes the creation of new words or importation of words from another language. Slang is a type of sociolect aimed at excluding certain people from the conversation. Slang initially functions as encryption, so that the non-initiate cannot understand the conversation, or as a further way to communicate with those who understand it. Slang functions as a way to recognize members of the same group, and to differentiate that group from the society at large. Slang terms are often particular to a certain subculture, such as musicians, skateboarders, and drug users. Slang generally implies playful, informal speech. Slang is distinguished from jargon, the technical vocabulary of a particular profession, as jargon is (in theory) not used to exclude non-group members from the conversation, but rather deals with technical peculiarities of a given field which require a specialized vocabulary.


Functions and origins of slang

One use of slang is a simple way of circumventing social taboos. The mainstream language tends to shy away from explicitly evoking certain realities. Slang, and also the informal forms of language, permit one to talk about these realities in a special language stripped of the usual connotations in the normal register. Slang vocabularies are particularly rich in certain domains, such as sexuality, violence, crime, and drugs.

There is not just one slang, but many varieties—or dialects—of slang. Different social groups in different times have developed their own slang. The importance of encryption and identity vary among the various slangs.

Slang must constantly renew its process of expression, and specifically its vocabulary, so that those not part of the group will remain unable to understand the slang. The existence of slang dictionaries, of course, cancels the effectiveness of certain words. Numerous slang terms pass into informal mainstream speech, and thence sometimes into mainstream formal speech.

Originally, certain slang designated the speech of people involved in the criminal underworld, hooligans, bandits, criminals, etc. Therefore, their vocabulary carried very vulgar connotations, and was strictly rejected by speakers of "proper" language. Other groups developed their own slangs. In general, groups on the margins of mainstream society who were excluded or rejected by it.

Examples of slang

Historical examples of slang are the thieves' cant used by beggars and the underworld generally in previous centuries: a number of canting dictionaries were published.

A famous current example is Cockney rhyming slang in which, in the simplest case, a given word or phrase is replaced by another word or phrase that rhymes with it. Often the rhyming replacement is abbreviated further, making the expressions even more obscure. A new rhyme may then be introduced for the abbreviation and the process continues. Examples of rhyming slang are apples and pears for stairs and trouble (and strife) for wife. An example of truncation and replacement of rhyming slang is bottle and glass for arse (ass). This was reduced to bottle, for which the new rhyme Aristotle was found; Aristotle was then reduced to Aris for which plaster of Paris became the rhyme. This was then reduced to plaster.

Backwards slang, or Back slang, is a form of slang where words are reversed. English backward slang tends to reverse words letter by letter while French backward slang tends to reverse words by syllables. Verlan is a French slang, that uses backward words, similar in its methods to the back slang. Louchebem is French butcher's slang, similar to Pig Latin.

Nadsat is a form of slang used in the book A Clockwork Orange, which borrows words from Russian and from various types of English slang.

Polari is an interesting mixture of Italian and Cockney back slang (in other words common words pronounced as if spelled backward, for example ecaf for face, which became eek in Polari). Polari was used in London fish markets and the gay subculture in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, becoming more widely known from its use by two camp characters, Julian and Sandy, in Round the Horne, a popular radio show.

This list is inspired by the classification of Marc Sourdot.

See also

Various jargons are also loosely considered to be slang:

External links

bg:Групов говор da:Slang de:Umgangssprache eo:slango fr:Argot he:סלנג it:Gergo ja:俗語 nl:Straattaal pl:Gwara ru:Сленг simple:Slang sv:Slang


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