Slang is the non-standard use of words in a language and sometimes the creation of new words or importation of words from another language. Slang terms are often particular to a certain subculture - such as drug users, skaters, or musicians. Slang is sometimes confused with jargon which is the collection of vocabulary specific to a profession: medical terminology for example. "Slang" generally implies playful, informal speech. Compare colloquialism.
Slang is often used to discuss semi-taboo subjects, such as
- Sexual organs and activities (Human sexuality)
- Recreational drugs
- Elimination and bodily wastes
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 example is Cockney rhyming slang in which, in the simplest case, word and phrases are replaced by a word or phrase that rhymes with it. Often the rhyming replacement is abbreviated further, making the expressions even more obscure, and a new rhyme may then be introduced for the abbreviation. 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. 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 or Back slang is a form of slang where words are reversed. English backwards slang tends to reverse words letter by letter while French backwards slang tends to reverse words by syllables. Verlan is a French slang, that uses backwards words, similar in its methods to the cockney back slang. Louchebem is French butcher's slang, similar to Pig latin.
Polari is an interesting mixture of Italian and Cockney back slang (i.e. common words pronounced as if spelled backwards e.g. '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, Jules and Sandy, in Round the Horne, a popular radio show.
The theater profession produced rich slang, some of which has crossed into the mainstream. Success is often referred to in violent metaphors - a successful performer will "knock them (the audience) dead", a comedian who succeeds in making the audience laugh "kills" or "slays" them. A great performance "brings the house down".
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Use of slang on Wikipedia
See Wikipedia talk:Foul language.