Youth slang

Slang as the way in which the semantic content of a sentence can fail to determine the full force and content of the illocutionary act being performed in using the sentence. Features of American students’ slang functioning. Teen and high school slang.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
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Язык английский
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1.Slang as a variant of modern youths' language

1.1 Definition

1.2 Origins

1.3 Development of slang

1.4 Creators of slang

1.5 Sources

1.6 Linguistic processes forming slang

1.7 Characteristics of slang

1.8 Diffusion of slang

1.9 Uses of slang

1.10 Formation

1.11 Position in the Language

2. Teen and high school slang

2.1 Along with a Smattering of the Collegiate and Skateboard Jargon

2.2 Yuppies, Dinks and other moderns

2.3 American slang

2.4 Features of American students' slang functioning



youth slang semantic


Every language allows different kinds of variations: geographical or territorial, perhaps the most obvious, stylistic, the difference between the written and the spoken form of the standard national language and others. It is the national language of England proper, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and some provinces of Canada. It is the official language of Wales, Scotland, in Gibraltar and on the island of Malta. Modern linguistics distinguishes territorial variants of a national language and local dialects. Variants of a language are regional varieties of a standard literary language characterized by some minor peculiarities in the sound system, vocabulary and grammar and by their own literary norms.

Standard English - the official language of Great Britain taught at schools and universities, used by the press, the radio and the television and spoken by educated people may be defined as that form of English which is current and literary, substantially uniform and recognized as acceptable wherever English is spoken or understood. Its vocabulary is contrasted to dialect words or dialectisms belonging to various local dialects. Local dialects are varieties of the English language peculiar to some districts and having no normalized literary form. Regional varieties possessing a literary form are called variants. Dialects are said to undergo rapid changes under the pressure of Standard English taught at schools and the speech habits cultivated by radio, television and cinema.[1; с 22]

This Qualification Paper is devoted to the study of the topic “Youths' lexicon of Modern American.” The choice of a theme of this paper is caused by the small studying of this question by way of teaching it in schools. The youths' lexicon, as one of branches of lexicon, is a difficult and volumetric question, therefore requires the careful studying. The basic theme of this paper is the question on conversion, as the most productive way of lexicon however the other kinds of formation of new words also are mentioned.

Actuality of research: The problem of such a theme has got a great theoretical meaning for analysis of the form/function relation in language: the same form performs more than one function. To generate the young students' lexicon, the speaker has to use qualitatively different types of knowledge, both linguistic and extralinguistic (interactive and encyclopaedic), as well as the ability to reason. A number of theories try to explain why we should use “extra words” sometimes and how we understand their non- literal meaning, but the research is still far from being complete.

The practical value of research lies in the fact that it is impossible to reach a high level of linguistic competence without understanding the nature of speech and knowing typical youths' speech of a particular language.

Thus the hypothesis of our theme is the following: if to study a lexicon of young generation of Americans, it becomes a little more accessible to professionals as it can not always be found in general dictionaries.

The tasks of research: analysis of the theories on different kinds of slang; finding out why interlocutors generate slang instead of saying exactly what they mean; comparing typical youths' lexicon in English, American and in Russian; providing examples of slang in various communicational situations.

The object of research is slang as a communicational action that speakers perform by saying things in a certain way in a certain context.

The subject of research is Slang as the main way in which the semantic content of a sentence can fail to determine the full force and content of the illocutionary act being performed in using the sentence.

Methods of research include critical analysis of scientific works on the subject, analysis of speech of native English and American speakers in various communicational situations, analysis of speech behavior of literary personages created by modern British and American writers.

At first it is necessary to tell some words about the term "slang", which is the main one in the paper and should be definite. The term "slang" is taken to denote the smallest independent unit of speech susceptible of being used in isolation.

Having analysed some courses of studying the foreign language it was interesting to find out, that the slang is not mentioned at all there, though, being one of the most productive ways of lexicon, could be a good way of updating the students' active and passive vocabulary. Taking into account the opportunities, which are given by the knowledge of this way of formation the new words, it is easy to estimate a role of studying this material at schools and in the universities, it is natural that the beginning of presenting some items of this phenomenon to students is necessary to start from that moment, as soon as the students would have the sufficient lexical base for this purpose. It is possible to consider the third year of training as the most successful moment for the beginning of presenting the essence of this phenomenon to students.

It would be desirable to note the works of some authors, which were used in this work, such as: “English language nowdays” by L. Bauer, “The categories and types of present day English” by H. Marchand, and others.

1.Slang as a variant of modern youths' language

1.1 Definition of slang

People seem fascinated by slang, and it is widely beloved in all languages, especially in the abstract by people who cringe when it is actually spoken. Slang, in one word, just “is”. Slang is unruly, unrefined, irreverent, and illogical. It can be brutally frank and direct, or deceptively kind and euphemistic. Euphemism is the verbal trick that has been termed the deodorant of language, and slang has given us dozens of terms for drunkenness and insanity that are remarkably gentle. There are many beliefs about slang:

A. Slang is as old as language itself, and that American slang started on the Mayflower. Shakespeare used the slang of his time, and by doing so gave us such words as hubbub, fretful, fireworks, and dwindle, which today are no longer considered slang, but literary words in everyday use.

B. Slang binds and identifies and thrives in groups with a strong sense of novelty and group activity. Farmers produce little slang, but boxers, science fiction fans, surfers, high school students, and actors produce a lot.

C. Slang is produced by living languages, and the moment it stops being produced, the language in question is dead. It is also true that slang replenishes standard language. English words as diverse as snide, hold up, nice (as in “nice work”), bogus, clumsy, and spurious were regarded as slang not that long ago. Much slang has become so common that when we use it we forget that it is slang: “Pick up the phone and find out what time the movie starts.”

D. It is all but impossible to destroy or avoid slang, especially with the argument that it is improper or impolite.

E. America is particularly hospitable to slang, and it tends to be embraced rather than spurned. American slang has been called one of the “successful stories” of English, and one estimate, made in the Reader's Digest Success with Words, claims that there are some 35,000 expressions which are, or once were, American slang. 35,000 may not be a very accurate estimate when one considers the British, Irish, Scotch, Australian, and Canadian contributions to slang.

F. Slang is not that hard to create, but it is hard to sustain a `new slang” without a group that continues to speak it. This is exactly what happened to the short-lived Valley Girl (1982-1983) and the Citizen Band radio slang (1975-1977).

G. Slang often has as much to do with who says something as what they are saying. A simple word like hot has many conventional and slang meanings, depending on whether you are talking to a musician, police officer, electrician, florist, radiologist, cook, or basketball player.

If a television talk-show guest talks about the Green Room, he's referring to the room in which guests wait to go on camera, regardless of its actual color. On the other hand, to a surfer on a California beach, the Green Room is the sought-for-realm inside the curl of a wave. By extension, at some West Coast colleges, to be doing exceptionally well is to be in the Green Room.

G. Slang is often as much defined by context and position (in the sense that cowgirl and girl cow, OK and KO, and breaking ball and ball breaker, all differ) as by the expression itself. The word say is not slang unless it is used at the beginning of a sentence, in the sense “tell me.” This is as much true of the contemporary teenager who says, “Say, how much did that cost?” as it is in the line, “Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light.” [2; с 4]

Slang is nonstandard vocabulary composed of words or senses characterized primarily by connotations of extreme informality and usually by a currency not limited to a particular region. It is composed typically of coinages or arbitrarily changed words, clipped or shortened forms, extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech, or verbal novelties.

Slang consists of the words and expressions that have escaped from the cant, jargon and argot (and to a lesser extent from dialectal, nonstandard, and taboo speech) of specific subgroups of society so that they are known and used by an appreciable percentage of the general population, even though the words and expressions often retain some associations with the subgroups that originally used and popularized them. Thus, slang is a middle ground for words and expressions that have become too popular to be any longer considered as part of the more restricted categories, but that are not yet (and may never become) acceptable or popular enough to be considered informal or standard. (Compare the slang "hooker" and the standard "prostitute.") [3; с 4]

Under the terms of such a definition, "cant" comprises the restricted, non-technical words and expressions of any particular group, as an occupational, age, ethnic, hobby, or special-interest group. (Cool, uptight, do your thing were youth cant of the late 1960s before they became slang.) "Jargon" is defined as the restricted, technical, or shoptalk words and expressions of any particular group, as an occupational, trade, scientific, artistic, criminal, or other group. (Finals used by printers and by students, Fannie May by money men, preemie by obstetricians were jargon before they became slang.) "Argot" is merely the combined cant and jargon of thieves, criminals, or any other underworld group. (Hit used by armed robbers; scam by corporate confidence men.)

Slang fills a necessary niche in all languages, occupying a middle ground between the standard and informal words accepted by the general public and the special words and expressions known only to comparatively small social subgroups. It can serve as a bridge or a barrier, either helping both old and new words that have been used as "insiders' " terms by a specific group of people to enter the language of the general public or, on the other hand, preventing them from doing so. Thus, for many words, slang is a testing ground that finally proves them to be generally useful, appealing, and acceptable enough to become standard or informal. For many other words, slang is a testing ground that shows them to be too restricted in use, not as appealing as standard synonyms, or unnecessary, frivolous, faddish, or unacceptable for standard or informal speech. For still a third group of words and expressions, slang becomes not a final testing ground that either accepts or rejects them for general use but becomes a vast limbo, a permanent holding ground, an area of speech that a word never leaves. Thus, during various times in history, American slang has provided cowboy, blizzard, okay, racketeer, phone, gas, and movie for standard or informal speech. It has tried and finally rejected conbobberation (disturbance), krib (room or apartment), lucifer (match), tomato (girl), and fab (fabulous) from standard or informal speech. It has held other words such as bones (dice), used since the 14th century, and beat it (go away), used since the 16th century, in a permanent grasp, neither passing them on to standard or informal speech nor rejecting them from popular, long-term use. [4; с 33]

Slang words cannot be distinguished from other words by sound or meaning. Indeed, all slang words were once cant, jargon, argot, dialect, nonstandard, or taboo. For example, the American slang to neck (to kiss and caress) was originally student cant; flattop (an aircraft carrier) was originally navy jargon; and pineapple (a bomb or hand grenade) was originally criminal argot. Such words did not, of course, change their sound or meaning when they became slang. Many slang words, such as blizzard, mob, movie, phone, gas, and others, have become informal or standard and, of course, did not change in sound or meaning when they did so. In fact, most slang words are homonyms of standard words, spelled and pronounced just like their standard counterparts, as for example (American slang), cabbage (money), cool (relaxed), and pot (marijuana). Of course, the words cabbage, cool, and pot sound alike in their ordinary standard use and in their slang use. Each word sounds just as appealing or unappealing, dull or colourful in its standard as in its slang use. Also, the meanings of cabbage and money, cool and relaxed, pot and marijuana are the same, so it cannot be said that the connotations of slang words are any more colourful or racy than the meanings of standard words. [5; с 14]

Here is the example of two students' communication. Imagine that they talk about Bob whom they both know.

Bob is a great guy. He never blows his slack. He hardly ever flies off the handle. Well, of course, he is actually getting on, too. But he always knows how to make up for the-lost time by taking it easy. He gets up early, works out, and turns in early. He knows how to get away with things. Bob's got it made. This is it for him. He is a cool cat.

All words seem to be clear, but the general sense appears hardly probable. And if we look at our mini-dictionary it will decipher something:

a great guy классный чувак, клевый парень

to blow one's stack не держать себя в руках, заводиться

to fly off the handle выходить из себя, срываться

to be getting on изнашиваться, стареть

to make up for something восстанавливать, компенсировать

to take it easy не брать до головы упражняться

to work out делать зарядку, качаться

to turn in идти на боковую

to get away with thingsпроворачивать дела

to get it made быть удачливым, уметь все схватывать

this is itвот так, это главное

coolклассный, четкий (четко), клевый (клево)

cat парень

Let us translate the whole paragraph which, certainly, on lexicon hardly concerns to the Oxford English, but is quite modern colloquial variant:

Боб -- классный парень. Он никогда не заводится с пол-оборота и спокоен, как удав на солнце. Ну да, годы на нем тоже сказываются. Но он всегда умеет держать себя в форме, потому что старается ничего не брать до головы. Рано встает, тренируется и рано уходит на боковую. Он отлично проворачивает свои дела. У него все получается. В этом он весь. Он отличный малый.

Using standard English we would translate this as follows:

Bob is a calm person. He never loses control of himself, he hardly ever becomes very angry. Needless to say, he is getting older. But he knows how to compensate by relaxing. He rises early, exercises, and goes to bed early. Bob is successful, he reached his lifes ' s goal. He is a good guy.

A word cool in dictionaries is translated as something average between warm and cold, i.e. cool. In daily dialogue cool sounds at those moments when we speak: «здорово!», «класс!», «клево!», «чётко!». Sometimes it is possible to tell great, that is translated the same way. In this case it is important who is speaking. If the word "great" is said by decently dressed gentleman it will be translated as "грандиозно", if the punk - it will be "круто", if hippie -" клево, хиппово" if it is said by a girl - than it will be "обалденно" and if a guy - it will mean "здорово!".

-- Do you like the ice cream? -- Как мороженое

-- Man, it's cool !

Here cool will not mean that ice-cream is cool. "Класс! " - is that John answers Mike. It is necessary to be the quite good psychologist to translate, for example, expression cool weather. We should translate it according to the speaker. It can sometimes be "прохладная погода ", and another time - "классная погода". The same concerns almost all words of English language. In a press translations of interview are often bring to difficulties. For example, known rock-musicians while giving interview often use words "круто", i.e. "Я тащусь" in Russian. In English it appears, they speak instead of "I am dragged" simply I love it, i.e. "it is pleasant to me, I love it", but the translator has counted, that Russian rock-fans will not understand the idol if he speak as everybody. So that phrase I love it needs to be treated the same way as great, according to the speaker. [6; с 2]

-- It's very different. But I love it. -- Здесь все по-другому. Но мне нравится, -- one American tells to another in foyer of Russian capital hotel.

-- Man, I love it. -- Паря, я тащусь, -- one hippie tightening marihuana transfers a stub to the buddy.

-- Oh boy! I love it! -- Ого! Обалденно! -- Jane shouts Mike having rolled down from an abrupt hill in water.

At those moments when we are surprised we pronouns:

"Ничего себе! Вот это да!", Americans cry out " Oh boy! " Without dependence from that, "boy" stands beside or "girl".

- Oh boy! - Michael exclaims getting out of the car and estimating, how many centimeters from a column he has managed to park.

- Oh boy! - Mike and John are laughing looking as their friends in suits of the play "Hamlet"'s heroes enter the stage.

All languages, countries, and periods of history have slang. This is true because they all have had words with varying degrees of social acceptance and popularity.

All segments of society use some slang, including the most educated, cultivated speakers and writers. In fact, this is part of the definition of slang. For example, George Washington used redcoat (British soldier); Winston Churchill used booze (liquor); and Lyndon B. Johnson used cool it (calm down, shut up).

The same linguistic processes are used to create and popularize slang as are used to create and popularize all other words. That is, all words are created and popularized in the same general ways; they are labeled slang only according to their current social acceptance, long after creation and popularization. [7; с 23]

Slang is not the language of the underworld, nor does most of it necessarily come from the underworld. The main sources of slang change from period to period. Thus, in one period of American slang, frontiersmen, cowboys, hunters, and trappers may have been the main source; during some parts of the 1920s and '30s the speech of baseball players and criminals may have been the main source; at other times, the vocabulary of jazz musicians, soldiers, or college students may have been the main source.

To fully understand slang, one must remember that a word's use, popularity, and acceptability can change. Words can change in social level, moving in any direction. Thus, some standard words of William Shakespeare's day are found only in certain modern-day British dialects or in the dialect of the southern United States. Words that are taboo in one era (e.g., stomach, thigh) can become accepted, standard words in a later era. Language is dynamic, and at any given time hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of words and expressions are in the process of changing from one level to another, of becoming more acceptable or less acceptable, of becoming more popular or less popular.

What about jargon? A rough distinction between slang and jargon is that jargon is technical, professional talk which acts as a barrier to keep outsiders from understanding what is going on. But not always. For instance, medical doctors have a polysyllabic, latinate jargon as well as a blunt and sometimes cruel slang. It is one thing to say that one has a bilateral probital hematoma (jargon), but quite another to say that you have a shiner, black eye, or mouse (slang). The word screw has now become something abusive. The most decent word with a root screw is screwdriver ("screw-driver") which means directly «отвертка» less often than an alcoholic drink, juice with vodka. The girl sat down at a rack and speaking to the barman: " I wanna be screwed ", means that wishes to drink and in general to spend good evening, shortly to be delayed with a man.

Screw up has two meanings in American slang. The first one is «внести сумятицу, напортачить, все испортить». For example:

The main treasurer of the Blind Society who has forged the accounting report is brought to the commissioner:

- What has he done? - asks sergeant Holduin, looking as the thief is lead out from a cabinet in handcuffs.

- This dude screwed up the accounts of the Blind Society.

-- Этот придурок напортачил с отчетом Общества слепых. Думал, что если они слепые, то не заметят...

The second meaning of “screw up” is “доконать, довести до нервного срыва кого-нибудь, заколебать...”:

On a Football match:

-- Why have you forced all of us to worry so much? - exclaims Jane -- I was hardly screwed up! -- Я чуть не рехнулась!

-- You were screwed up?-- Чуть не рехнулась?-- grins Мike, taking his wet hair away from a forehead.

-- Did you see how they screwed us up in the first two quarters? -- А ты видела, как они нас продрали в первых двух четвертях?

Screw around - бить баклуши, валять дурака, пороть чушь, ворон считать - and in English sounds rudely.

- Get up! - Sergeant Timpson shouts on the soldiers of his platoon, sitting and doing nothing. - Your screw around is over! - Ваше валяние дурака закончилось!

1.2 Origins

Slang tends to originate in subcultures within a society. Occupational groups (for example, loggers, police, medical professionals, and computer specialists) are prominent originators of both jargon and slang; other groups creating slang include the armed forces, teenagers, racial minorities, ghetto residents, labor unions, citizens-band radiobroadcasters, sports groups, drug addicts, criminals, and even religious denominations (Episcopalians, for example, produced spike, a High Church Anglican). Slang expressions often embody attitudes and values of group members. They may thus contribute to a sense of group identity and may convey to the listener information about the speaker's background. Before an apt expression becomes slang, however, it must be widely adopted by members of the subculture. At this point slang and jargon overlap greatly. If the subculture has enough contact with the mainstream culture, its figures of speech become slang expressions known to the whole society. For example, cat (a sport), cool (aloof, stylish), Mr. Charley (a white man), The Man (the law), and Uncle Tom (a meek black) all originated in the predominantly black Harlem district of New York City and have traveled far since their inception. Slang is thus generally not tied to any geographic region within a country. [8; с 56]

A slang expression may suddenly become widely used and as quickly date (23-skiddoo). It may become accepted as standard speech, either in its original slang meaning (bus, from omnibus) or with an altered, possibly tamed meaning (jazz, which originally had sexual connotations). Some expressions have persisted for centuries as slang (booze for alcoholic beverage). In the 20th century, mass media and rapid travel have speeded up both the circulation and the demise of slang terms. Television and novels have turned criminal cant into slang (five grand for $5000). Changing social circumstances may stimulate the spread of slang. Drug-related expressions (such as pot and marijuana) were virtually a secret jargon in the 1940s; in the 1960s they were adopted by rebellious youth; and in the 1970s and '80s they were widely known.

1.3 Development of slang

Slang emanates from conflicts in values, sometimes superficial, often fundamental. When an individual applies language in a new way to express hostility, ridicule, or contempt, often with sharp wit, he may be creating slang, but the new expression will perish unless it is picked up by others. If the speaker is a member of a group that finds that his creation projects the emotional reaction of its members toward an idea, person, or social institution, the expression will gain currency according to the unanimity of attitude within the group. A new slang term is usually widely used in a subculture before it appears in the dominant culture. Thus slang--e.g., "sucker," "honkey," "shave-tail," "jerk"--expresses the attitudes, not always derogatory, of one group or class toward the values of another. Slang sometimes stems from within the group, satirizing or burlesquing its own values, behaviour, and attitudes; e.g., "shotgun wedding," "cake eater," "greasy spoon." Slang, then, is produced largely by social forces rather than by an individual speaker or writer who, single-handed (like Horace Walpole, who coined "serendipity" more than 200 years ago), creates and establishes a word in the language. This is one reason why it is difficult to determine the origin of slang terms. [9; с 67]

1.4 Creators of slang

Civilized society tends to divide into a dominant culture and various subcultures that flourish within the dominant framework. The subcultures show specialized linguistic phenomena, varying widely in form and content, that depend on the nature of the groups and their relation to each other and to the dominant culture. The shock value of slang stems largely from the verbal transfer of the values of a subculture to diametrically opposed values in the dominant culture. Names such as fuzz, pig, fink, bull, and dick for policemen were not created by officers of the law. (The humorous "dickless tracy," however, meaning a policewoman, was coined by male policemen.) [10; с 6]

Occupational groups are legion, and while in most respects they identify with the dominant culture, there is just enough social and linguistic hostility to maintain group solidarity. Terms such as scab, strike-breaker, company-man, and goon were highly charged words in the era in which labour began to organize in the United States; they are not used lightly even today, though they have been taken into the standard language.

In addition to occupational and professional groups, there are many other types of subcultures that supply slang. These include sexual deviants, narcotic addicts, ghetto groups, institutional populations, agricultural subsocieties, political organizations, the armed forces, Gypsies, and sports groups of many varieties. Some of the most fruitful sources of slang are the subcultures of professional criminals who have migrated to the New World since the 16th century. Old-time thieves still humorously refer to themselves as FFV--First Families of Virginia. [11; с 101]

In criminal subcultures, pressure applied by the dominant culture intensifies the internal forces already at work, and the argot forming there emphasizes the values, attitudes, and techniques of the subculture. Criminal groups seem to evolve about this specialized argot, and both the subculture and its slang expressions proliferate in response to internal and external pressures.

1.5 Sources

Most subcultures tend to draw words and phrases from the contiguous language (rather than creating many new words) and to give these established terms new and special meanings; some borrowings from foreign languages, including the American Indian tongues, are traditional. The more learned occupations or professions like medicine, law, psychology, sociology, engineering, and electronics tend to create true neologisms, often based on Greek or Latin roots, but these are not major sources for slang, though nurses and medical students adapt some medical terminology to their slang, and air force personnel and some other branches of the armed services borrow freely from engineering and electronics. [12; с 22]

1.6 Linguistic processes forming slang

The processes by which words become slang are the same as those by which other words in the language change their form or meaning or both. Some of these are the employment of metaphor, simile, folk etymology, distortion of sounds in words, generalization, specialization, clipping, the use of acronyms, elevation and degeneration, metonymy, synecdoche, hyperbole, borrowings from foreign languages, and the play of euphemism against taboo. The English word trip is an example of a term that has undergone both specialization and generalization. It first became specialized to mean a psychedelic experience resulting from the drug LSD. Subsequently, it generalized again to mean any experience on any drug, and beyond that to any type of "kicks" from anything. Clipping is exemplified by the use of "grass" from "laughing grass," a term for marijuana. "Funky," once a very low term for body odour, has undergone elevation among jazz buffs to signify "the best"; "fanny," on the other hand, once simply a girl's name, is currently a degenerated term that refers to the buttocks (in England, it has further degenerated into a taboo word for the female genitalia). There is also some actual coinage of slang terms. [13; с 78]

1.7 Characteristics of slang

Psychologically, most good slang harks back to the stage in human culture when animism was a worldwide religion. At that time, it was believed that all objects had two aspects, one external and objective that could be perceived by the senses, the other imperceptible (except to gifted individuals) but identical with what we today would call the "real" object. Human survival depended upon the manipulation of all "real" aspects of life--hunting, reproduction, warfare, weapons, design of habitations, nature of clothing or decoration, etc.--through control or influence upon the animus, or imperceptible phase of reality. This influence was exerted through many aspects of sympathetic magic, one of the most potent being the use of language. Words, therefore, had great power, because they evoked the things to which they referred. [14; с 5]

Civilized cultures and their languages retain many remnants of animism, largely on the unconscious level. In Western languages, the metaphor owes its power to echoes of sympathetic magic, and slang utilizes certain attributes of the metaphor to evoke images too close for comfort to "reality." For example, to refer to a woman as a "broad" is automatically to increase her girth in an area in which she may fancy herself as being thin. Her reaction may, thus, be one of anger and resentment, if she happens to live in a society in which slim hips are considered essential to feminine beauty. Slang, then, owes much of its power to shock to the superimposition of images that are incongruous with images (or values) of others, usually members of the dominant culture. Slang is most popular when its imagery develops incongruity bordering on social satire. Every slang word, however, has its own history and reasons for popularity. When conditions change, the term may change in meaning, be adopted into the standard language, or continue to be used as slang within certain enclaves of the population. Nothing is flatter than dead slang. In 1910, for instance, "Oh you kid" and "23-skiddoo" were quite stylish phrases in the U.S. but they have gone with the hobble skirt. Children, however, unaware of anachronisms, often revive old slang under a barrage of older movies rerun on television. [15; с 8]

Some slang becomes respectable when it loses its edge; "spunk," "fizzle," "spent," "hit the spot," "jazz," "funky," and "p.o.'d," once thought to be too indecent for feminine ears, are now family words. Other slang survives for centuries, like "bones" for dice (Chaucer), "beat it" for run away (Shakespeare), "duds" for clothes, and "booze" for liquor (Dekker). These words must have been uttered as slang long before appearing in print, and they have remained slang ever since. Normally, slang has both a high birth and death rate in the dominant culture, and excessive use tends to dull the lustre of even the most colourful and descriptive words and phrases. The rate of turnover in slang words is undoubtedly encouraged by the mass media, and a term must be increasingly effective to survive. [16; с 11]

While many slang words introduce new concepts, some of the most effective slang provides new expressions--fresh, satirical, shocking--for established concepts, often very respectable ones. Sound is sometimes used as a basis for this type of slang, as, for example, in various phonetic distortions (e.g., pig Latin terms). It is also used in rhyming slang, which employs a fortunate combination of both sound and imagery. Thus, gloves are "turtledoves" (the gloved hands suggesting a pair of billing doves), a girl is a "twist and twirl" (the movement suggesting a girl walking), and an insulting imitation of flatus, produced by blowing air between the tip of the protruded tongue and the upper lip, is the "raspberry," cut back from "raspberry tart." Most slang, however, depends upon incongruity of imagery, conveyed by the lively connotations of a novel term applied to an established concept. Slang is not all of equal quality, a considerable body of it reflecting a simple need to find new terms for common ones, such as the hands, feet, head, and other parts of the body. Food, drink, and sex also involve extensive slang vocabulary. Strained or synthetically invented slang lacks verve, as can be seen in the desperate efforts of some sportswriters to avoid mentioning the word baseball--e.g., a batter does not hit a baseball but rather "swats the horsehide," "plasters the pill," "hefts the old apple over the fence," and so on.

The most effective slang operates on a more sophisticated level and often tells something about the thing named, the person using the term, and the social matrix against which it is used. Pungency may increase when full understanding of the term depends on a little inside information or knowledge of a term already in use, often on the slang side itself. For example, the term Vatican roulette (for the rhythm system of birth control) would have little impact if the expression Russian roulette were not already in wide usage.

1.8 Diffusion of slang

Slang invades the dominant culture as it seeps out of various subcultures. Some words fall dead or lie dormant in the dominant culture for long periods. Others vividly express an idea already latent in the dominant culture and these are immediately picked up and used. Before the advent of mass media, such terms invaded the dominant culture slowly and were transmitted largely by word of mouth. Thus a term like snafu, its shocking power softened with the explanation "situation normal, all fouled up," worked its way gradually from the military in World War II by word of mouth (because the media largely shunned it) into respectable circles. Today, however, a sportscaster, news reporter, or comedian may introduce a lively new word already used by an in-group into millions of homes simultaneously, giving it almost instant currency. For example, the term uptight was first used largely by criminal narcotic addicts to indicate the onset of withdrawal distress when drugs are denied. Later, because of intense journalistic interest in the drug scene, it became widely used in the dominant culture to mean anxiety or tension unrelated to drug use. It kept its form but changed its meaning slightly. [17; с 46]

Other terms may change their form or both form and meaning, like "one for the book" (anything unusual or unbelievable). Sportswriters in the U.S. borrowed this term around 1920 from the occupational language of then legal bookmakers, who lined up at racetracks in the morning ("the morning line" is still figuratively used on every sports page) to take bets on the afternoon races. Newly arrived bookmakers went to the end of the line, and any bettor requesting unusually long odds was motioned down the line with the phrase, "That's one for the end book." The general public dropped the "end" as meaningless, but old-time gamblers still retain it. Slang spreads through many other channels, such as popular songs, which, for the initiate, are often rich in double entendre.

When subcultures are structurally tight, little of their language leaks out. Thus the Mafia, in more than a half-century of powerful criminal activity in America, has contributed little slang. When subcultures weaken, contacts with the dominant culture multiply, diffusion occurs, and their language appears widely as slang. Criminal narcotic addicts, for example, had a tight subculture and a highly secret argot in the 1940s; now their terms are used freely by middle-class teenagers, even those with no real knowledge of drugs.

1.9 Uses of slang

In some cases slang may provide a needed name for an object or action (walkie-talkie, a portable two-way radio; tailgating, driving too close behind another vehicle), or it may offer an emotional outlet (buzz off! for go away!) or a satirical or patronizing reference (smokey, state highway trooper). It may provide euphemisms (john, head, can, and in Britain, loo, all for toilet, itself originally a euphemism), and it may allow its user to create a shock effect by using a pungent slang expression in an unexpected context. Slang has provided myriad synonyms for parts of the body (bean, head; schnozzle, nose), for money (moola, bread, scratch), for food (grub, slop, garbage), and for drunkenness (soused, stewed, plastered).

Slang is used for many purposes, but generally it expresses a certain emotional attitude; the same term may express diametrically opposed attitudes when used by different people. Many slang terms are primarily derogatory, though they may also be ambivalent when used in intimacy or affection. Some crystallize or bolster the self-image or promote identification with a class or in-group. Others flatter objects, institutions, or persons but may be used by different people for the opposite effect. "Jesus freak," originally used as ridicule, was adopted as a title by certain street evangelists. Slang sometimes insults or shocks when used directly; some terms euphemize a sensitive concept, though obvious or excessive euphemism may break the taboo more effectively than a less decorous term. Some slang words are essential because there are no words in the standard language expressing exactly the same meaning; e.g., "freak-out," "barn-storm," "rubberneck," and the noun "creep." At the other extreme, multitudes of words, vague in meaning, are used simply as fads.

There are many other uses to which slang is put, according to the individual and his place in society. Since most slang is used on the spoken level, by persons who probably are unaware that it is slang, the choice of terms naturally follows a multiplicity of unconscious thought patterns. When used by writers, slang is much more consciously and carefully chosen to achieve a specific effect. Writers, however, seldom invent slang. [18; с 2]

It has been claimed that slang is created by ingenious individuals to freshen the language, to vitalize it, to make the language more pungent and picturesque, to increase the store of terse and striking words, or to provide a vocabulary for new shades of meaning. Most of the originators and purveyors of slang, however, are probably not conscious of these noble purposes and do not seem overly concerned about what happens to their language.

1.10 Formation

Slang expressions are created by the same processes that affect ordinary speech. Expressions may take form as metaphors, similes, and other figures of speech (dead as a doornail). Words may acquire new meanings (cool, cat). A narrow meaning may become generalized (fink, originally a strikebreaker, later a betrayer or disappointer) or vice-versa (heap, a run-down car). Words may be clipped, or abbreviated (mike, microphone), and acronyms may gain currency (VIP, awol, snafu). A foreign suffix may be added (the Yiddish and Russian -nik in beatnik) and foreign words adopted (baloney, from Bologna). A change in meaning may make a vulgar word acceptable (jazz) or an acceptable word vulgar (raspberry, a sound imitating flatus; from raspberry tart in the rhyming slang of Australia and Cockney London; Sometimes words are newly coined (oomph, sex appeal, and later, energy or impact). [19; с 111]

1.11Position in the Language

Slang is one of the vehicles through which languages change and become renewed, and its vigor and color enrich daily speech. Although it has gained respectability in the 20th century, in the past it was often loudly condemned as vulgar. Nevertheless, Shakespeare brought into acceptable usage such slang terms as hubbub, to bump, and to dwindle, and 20th-century writers have used slang brilliantly to convey character and ambience. Slang appears at all times and in all languages. A person's head was kapala (dish) in Sanskrit, testa (pot) in Latin; testa later became the standard Latin word for head. Among Western languages, English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Yiddish, Romanian, and Romany (Gypsy) are particularly rich in slang. [20; с 3]

2.Teen and high school slang

2.1 Along with a Smattering of the Collegiate and Skateboard Jargon

What links the generations is that much teen slang tends to be about the same things. Today there are a host of words for cool-including cool- and, another batch for geeks and dorks-including geeks and dorks-just as there was for the class of `57. Other terms, including groovy and funk- which now mean “stodgy” or “out of it” - now mean the opposite of what they did to the Woodstock generation.

What was once barfing or losing one's lunch has emerged into a rich vocabulary of vomit. When USA Today wrote about teenage slang in 1988, a fourteen-year old reader wrote to say that she knew 53 different terms for blowing rainbows. Some terms that were once reserved for the young have now slipped into quasi-standard English-for instance, hassle (as in “that is too much of a hassle for me”), put-down, and uptight. [21; с 56]

What all of this proves is that the slang of the young is mercurial, unpredictable, and somewhat allergic to print. If a noted linguist is quoted in the papers as saying that had no longer means “good” the term seems to come back with a vengeance. If teachers start using a term, it is likely to either die or have its meaning change radically.

2.2 Yuppies, Dinks and other moderns

There is nothing new about slang nicknames for groups of people who are classified by age or lifestyle. We have had our flappers and beatniks, hippies and junkies, lounge lizards and drugstore cowboys.

During the 1980s, however, there was a whole new wave of these terms. Some of these were the creations of demographers looking for a handle to put on a group, while others were simply clever neologisms that took off. In any event, they collectively serve to show us a new form of slang that has established itself. For lack of a better description, it is the slang of groups and demographics. It is also unusual in that the British seemed as obsessed with these terms as Americans, in fact some are imports from the U.K.

The term was first put in print and popularized by writer Bob Greene in an article in Esquire (March 1983) on “networking parties” sponsored by former radical leader Jerry Rubin. Writing in the newspaper Newsday (April 7, 1985) Erica Jong pointed out that it was a corruption of “Yippie” which was Rubin's own Youth International Party. The publication of The Yuppie Handbook in January 1984 gave the term a monumental boost. The concept and the term were said to have lost their relevance with the stock market crash of October 19, 1987.

Derivates spawned by the term include yuppification, yuppyesque, yupguilt, yuppieback (book aimed at the yuppie reader), yupsters (yuppie gangsters), yuppie tax (such as one put on health-club membership) yuptopia, yuppyish, yuppie-gate (for any scandal involving yuppie greed), yuplet (Herb Caenнs term for a child yuppie).

2.3 American slang

American slang as a variation of substandard speech is obvious nowadays. The lexical constituent of Anglo- American slang is very dissimilar. There can be singled out the following units:

Units that are common for American and Canadian Languages, North-Americanisms;

Units, that appeared and are used in England, but that gradually get into American language;

Units that appeared and are used in America, but can be met in English language;

Units that appeared and are used exceptionally in America.

1. North-Americanisms:

These units different in their origin but are gut assimilated by Canadian and American languages.

1.1. Units that were registered first in USA and then in Canada:

- Nouns denoting living beings:

buff (enthusiast); floozie (prostitute), ripstaker (a conceited person)

- Nouns denoting inanimate objects:

jitney (a cheap taxi); beanie (a freshman's cloth cap); dump (a pub, a bar).

- Nouns denoting process:

bend (outdoor party, feast); shellacking (defeat)

- Nouns of material:

lightning (cheap whisky); weeno (wine).

- Collective Nouns:

bull (idle talk); guff (nonsense, lies).

1.2. Units that were first registered in Canada and then in USA:

- Nouns denoting living beings:

boomer (seasonal worker); flannel-mouth (smb who is fond of backbiting).

- Nouns denoting inanimate objects:

bug (a small automobile); jolt (a mouthful of alcohol drink).

- Nouns denoting process:

hush-hush (confidential talk); fakery(insincere behavior).

- Collective Nouns:

bushwa(h) (nonsense, rubbish).

It should be mentioned that the nouns with expressive meaning are easier borrowed from American into Canadian and vice versa:

gunsel (murderer); split (sharing of the profit).

2. Units that appeared and are used in England, but that gradually get into American language:

- Nouns denoting living beings:

eager-beaver (boarder); fink (unpleasant person).

- Nouns denoting inanimate objects:

Doodad (a thing for reminding about smth).

3. Units that appeared and are used in America, but can be met in English language:

These units were not well spread, because:

a) there were American equivalents for the English words:

noodle, EngE: nut, AE (head);

b) this word appeared in the language later, than its equivalent:

fink (strike-breaker, blackleg) AE.

In this part of lexis a great influence of American on English language, but not vice versa, is evident. English units are often of the regional nature, so they are twice called in question before getting into the American variant.

4. Units that appeared and are used exceptionally in America.

The common American slang can be subdivided into two groups: the common slang that is described in the previous points and the professional slang of the following professions:

- railway men's slang: pig (locomotive), plug(a small train);

- musicians' slang: canary (a female singer), to blow(to play);

- military slang: Joe boy (a recruit) , moldy(torpedo);

- sport slang: rink-rat (a boy, cleaning the rink),arena rat(fan, supporter);

- criminal argot: pod (cigarette with narcotic), skokum house (prison).

So, we can say that American slang is a very complicated system that unites chronologically different layers of the American and British slang. And in the whole it is a new and quite original system that doesn't copy either American or British system. This system appeared due to the co-operation of all these systems and the national tendencies.

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