Slang as a part of spoken English
Defining the notion "slang"; origins, sources and diffusion. Spoken English and Slang. Tracing the origin and sources of slang. Singling out the classification, forms and characteristics of slang; ànalyzing the its use. The Cockney language and Polari.
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Today countries and continents are becoming closer and closer. They are connected with transport routes, radio and satellite broadcasting and the Internet. The attitude towards foreign languages has changed too. The knowledge of a foreign language is now not only a part of a good education, but a necessity.
Without doubt, English has already won a world status. It is the most widespread language in the world. For approximately 400 million people English is a native language. More than 200 million people speak English as a second language. It is learned in all countries as a language of world communication. It has become a world language in politics, science, business and culture. No other language is as popular in information technology, advertising and popular music. It is certain that English is accepted everywhere around the world.
A well-educated person should know at least one foreign language. The Latin proverb says: “Quo linguis calet, tot hominess valet”, which means “As many languages a person knows, as many people he is worth.” Each country, each culture and each language has something unique to offer. Some ideas can be expressed only in a foreign language. It also helps one to understand one's own language. Goethe said: “A man, who does not know any foreign language, does not know his native one either”. [1; ñ 12]
English is a language that has a lot of different variants. Each of these variants has special and unique peculiarities in vocabulary, grammar and phonetics. That is why people, whose native language is English but who live in different countries do not always easily understand each other. So it is obvious and apparent that it is almost impossible for a “non-native speaker” to perform a perfect communication. But why? Answering the question it should be mentioned that phonetic peculiarities in speech of a speaker and his rate of speaking are very important in the process of comprehension. But, however, vocabulary that predetermines the meaning of the utterance is of great importance too. But what is going on when we hear very familiar words and notions but cannot put them together to make sense? The answer is found in the simple and seemingly familiar notion SLANG (more detailed information about slang is found in the Chapter I). Slang makes 1/3 part of the spoken language but in spite of this fact most teachers and specialists in methodology ignore slang, although a lot of words and expressions belonging to slang are gradually becoming normal. [2; ñ 43]
Spoken language is quite different from literary and written standards. Language should be a means of communication not a barrier. Using slang comparatively simplifies communication with native speakers. It is even urgent to know slang, because nowadays a lot of people from our country leave for English-speaking countries as international students and trainees. That is why slang should also be learned and taught, for it is also an inseparable part of Spoken English.
Analyzing the above the following theme of this research work is singled out: “Slang as a part of Spoken English.” The theme of the investigation is considered to be vital because today people need to contact with native speakers more than ever and besides a formal language it is impossible to avoid an informal one. Thus slang is relevant here. The aim of this paper is studying the importance of knowledge of slang. [3; ñ 1]
In accordance with the aim the following hypothesis is suggested:
The knowledge of slang is a very important component in the development of linguistic competence, for it simplifies communication in real-life situations and comprehension of authentic movies and literary works.
Linguistic competence is a system of knowledge of a language, its rules in speech functioning and ability with this system to understand one's thoughts and to express one's own ideas in oral and written form.
The object of the investigation is Spoken English and the subject is slang.
The practical significance of this research consists in the fact that it suggests practical examples and situations where slang can be revealed and how it can be applied. The paper contains the appendix displaying slang vocabulary, which includes the most popular slang words and expressions. This research also contributes to teaching EFL: it suggests teaching slang in schools, for it also promotes the development of one's linguistic competence.
The aim of this paper predetermines certain tasks, namely:
· Studying and systematizing the theoretical material on the topic;
· Defining the notion “slang”;
· Tracing the origin and sources of slang;
· Singling out the classification of slang, its forms and characteristics;
· Analyzing the use of slang;
· Describing the results of the investigation.
Accordingly the following methods are suggested:
· Analysis of the theoretical material;
· Study of literary works;
· Analysis of the American movies;
· Analysis of the songs;
· Method of investigation.
1. Spoken English and Slang. Origins, sources and diffusion of slang
Just as there is formal and informal dress, so there is formal and informal speech. Consequently, the social context, in which the conversation is taking place determines both the mode of dress and the modes of speech. When placed in different situations, people instinctively choose different kind of words and structures to express their thoughts. That means that the actual situation of the communication has evolved to varieties of language- spoken and written.
The stability of a word for each particular situation depends on its stylistic characteristics, or, in other words, on the functional style it represents. I.V. Arnold defines “functional style” as “a system of expressive means peculiar to a specific sphere of communication”. By the sphere of communication linguists mean the circumstances attending the process of speech in each particular case: professional communication, a lecture, an informal talk, a formal letter, an intimate letter, a speech in court, etc. All these situations can be roughly classified into 2 types: formal (a lecture, an official letter, a speech in court) and informal (an informal talk, an intimate letter). [4; ñ 3]
No living language is simply one set of words which can be used the same way in all situations. The nature of language is such that there are a lot of different ways to arrange its elements. What this means is that there are many ways to say the same thing, depending on where a speaker is, who he is talking to, and how he feels. One is all advanced enough in his study of English to realize that he does not talk to a roommate the same way he would talk to his roommate's mother. One of the main factors which determine which words and structures are appropriate is the degree of formality of the situation in which one is using the language.
Informal vocabulary belongs to the Spoken language and is used in one's immediate circle: family, relatives or friends. One uses the spoken language, i.e. informal speech, when at home or when feeling at home. There are many situations in everyday life where Informal English is allowed, even preferred. Some examples include: while playing sports, while studying with friends, while watching a sport event, with close family members, with friends while shopping or hanging out, at work (depending on the job), on a date, at the movies, while listening to popular music, in email, in notes, on the phone with friends.
The spoken language has a considerable advantage over the written one, in that the human voice comes in play. This is a powerful means of modulating the utterance, as are all kinds of gestures, which, together with the intonation give additional information. The spoken language by its very nature is spontaneous, momentary, fleeting. It vanishes after having fulfilled its purpose, which is to communicate a thought, no matter whether it is trivial or really important. The idea remains, the language dissolves in it.
The spoken variety differs from the written language (that is, in its written presentation) phonetically, morphologically and syntactically. But the most striking difference between the spoken and the written language is, however, in the vocabulary used. Colloquial expressions and slang are an essential part of spoken English. There is hardly a person who does not make use of them upon occasion. Everyone from teenagers to scientists use it. All countries and periods of history have had slang. It reflects the peculiarities of contemporary daily life in a unique way. All types of semantic changes can be illustrated from that part of the vocabulary.
Much has already been said about slang but what is it? There are different opinions of what slang is. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as:
“non-standard 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.” [5; ñ 51]
The definition of the Oxford Dictionary of 1911 is very different:
“…language of a high colloquial type, below the level of standard educated speech and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense”.
According to the American poet Carl Sandburg slang is the language “which takes off its coat, spits on its hands and goes to work”. Slang has also been characterized as “an ever-changing set of colloquial words and phrases generally considered distinct from and socially lower that the standard language. It occurs in all languages, and the existence of this part of the vocabulary is probably as old as the language itself”. [6; ñ 11]
Slang can also be defined as “a peculiar kind of vagabond language, always hanging on the outskirts of legitimate speech, but continually straying or forcing its way into the most respectable company.”
These definitions vary, and they clearly show different attitudes to slang. But there is one thing that is the same in all of these definitions. They characterize slang as the language lower than standard educated speech. Slang is considered to be vulgar and rude, as the language of lower social classes. That is right; slang belongs to so-called “vulgar speech”. [7; ñ 2]
Slang is used by all kinds of groups of people who share situations or interests. The group which uses these words is always in minority, and often uses slang to set its members apart or make it difficult for ordinary people to understand them. Slang fulfills at least two different functions, depending on whose point of view. For the groups that use slang, it is a way to express themselves in an individual way, and sometimes to keep secrets from being known by others. But foe the society in general and the development of the language, slang performs another role. For the language slang is like a linguistic laboratory, where new words and forms can be tested out, applied to a variety of situations, and then either abandoned or incorporated into the regular language. It is like a trial period for new words. If they allow people to say something that cannot be said using traditional language, and a majority of people accept them, then these words and expressions join their regular language. [8; ñ 32]
Though slang belongs to the spoken part of the language, not all conversational expressions are slang. For example, it is hard to imagine such expressions as “shut up” (for “be quiet”) in a book (except in a dialog), but it is not slang. Slang is often confused with jargon, but they are quite different. Jargon is itself a loaded word. It is obscure and pretentious language marked by a roundabout way of expression and use of long words. Jargon is said to be a bad use of language, something to be avoided at all costs.
Sometimes slang is treated as the language of the underworld, but it is a mistake. Only a part of slang vocabulary originates from the underworld. The main sources of slang change from period to period. Yet many slang words arise from the groups that have nothing to do with the underworld, such as college students, sport fans, or enlisted personnel in the military. It is often the usage of the young people and those who see themselves as distinct from the rest of society. Vocabulary, as always, has been the index of change. There are many differences between the slang of previous years and the slang of nowadays. If one characterizes slang in two words, the first would be” non-standard” and the second is “changing”. Slang words fall out of use more quickly than words of standard language. Slang is constantly renewed and is always modern. Such slang items like “vamoose, skedaddle, beat it, scram, buzz off” all had their periods of popularity in the 20th century. They express quite the same idea of getting away, being used in imperative form. [9; ñ 11]
Even though mostly slang is regarded from the lexical point of view as a particular vocabulary typical of Spoken English, it is necessary to say that slang expressions can be viewed phonetically, orthographically and grammatically. These can be standard words applied with some phonetic, orthographic or grammatical alterations, what brings to the utterance some slangy coloring and freshness. The freshness of slang is appealing. It stems from an instinctive desire for novelty of expression. We use it just as we use a nickname instead of the real name of a person. Slang arises due to our propensity for replacing habitual old denominations by original expressive ones. Slang words are used because they are highly emotive and expressive. H. Wentworth and S. Flexner in their “Dictionary of American Slang” write:
“Sometimes slang is used to escape the dull formality of standard words, to suggest an escape from the established routine of everyday life. When slang is used, our life seems a little fresher and a little more personal. Also, as at all levels of speech, slang is sometimes used for the pure joy of making noise. The sheer newness and informality of certain slang words produce pleasure.
G.K. Chesterton, a famous English writer says: “All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry…” Speaking about the author's words “All slang is metaphor”, it is a true observation, though the second part of the statement “ all metaphor is poetry” is difficult to accept, especially if one considers the following examples “ mug” (for “face”), “saucers” or “blinkers” (for “eyes”), “trap” (for “mouth”), “dogs” (for “feet”). All these meanings are certainly based on metaphor, yet they strike one as singularly unpoetical. [10; ñ 18]
All or most slang words are current words whose meanings have been metaphorically shifted. Each slang metaphor is rooted in a joke, but not in a kind of amusing joke. This is the criterion for distinguishing slang from colloquialisms: most slang words are metaphors and jocular, often with a mocking, coarse and cynical coloring. This is one of the common objections against slang: a person using a lot of slang seems to be sneering and jeering at everything under the sun.
Slang is regarded as the phenomenon of colloquial speech and therefore stands above all the laws of grammar. Though it is regarded by some purists as a language that stands below standard English, it is highly praised nowadays as “vivid”, “more flexible”, “more picturesque”, “richer in vocabulary” and so on. Unwittingly one arrives at the idea that slang, as used by English or Americans, is a universal term for any word or phrase which, though not yet recognized as a fact of standard English, has won general recognition as a fresh innovation. [11; ñ 67]
Why do people use slang? For a number of reasons. To be picturesque, arresting, striking and, above all, different from others. To avoid the tedium of outmoded “common” words. To demonstrate one's spiritual independence and daring. To sound “ modern” and “up-to-date”.
Slang's colorful and humorous quality makes it catching, so that a considerable part of slang may become accepted by nearly all the groups of speakers.
American linguist Khaya-Kava writes: “Slang is the poetry of every-day life”, he considerers slang “a sign of life and development of a language”. But in opposition to this opinion slang is said to be “a negative phenomenon overloading the language”. That is why many slang words are used to insult. For example, a person considered inferior or unpleasant can be described by such words as “creep”, “drip”. “fink”, “jerk” and “turkey”. Some insulting slang words refer to certain ethnic, racial and religious groups. Slang is also used to criticize or poke fun at established institutions. That is why many people disapprove of slang. They consider it inferior language and accuse those who use it of careless and lazy thinking. Some believe the use of slang limits a person's vocabulary and even weakens the standard language itself.
But with the development of society and language many words and expressions, which earlier belonged to slang and were not to be used in literary norms of the language, tend to become generally accepted lexical units. Thus, one is not even aware, like some native speakers that some words used to belong to a slang group before. For example: “bones” for “dice” was used by Chaucer in the 14th century, and is still slang now. It is not typical and may be called unique. Usually when slang items stay in the general language, they become standard vocabulary and enjoy full rights as members of the language. American linguist M. Pan said:” It is useless to try to look down on words used in slums or in this or that professional group. Tomorrow these very words will be accepted by all users of the language and they will inevitably penetrate the vocabulary”. That is why 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. 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. [12; ñ 5]
Professional and age peculiarities of speakers, their social status and various differences concerning their culture, background and education enormously influence o language. Thus, one and the same person may speak different sublanguages (forms of a language: literary, colloquial, scientific etc.) and use them according to the situation. So during the social intercourse a person may play different social roles and come into different relations (employer- employee, father-son, teacher- student). Changing situations presupposes changing roles, which characterizes relations between communicants, and this means choosing an appropriate sublanguage, and slang can also be used as a sublanguage. [3; ñ 23]
As it has been mentioned above, slang may become “legal”, but there is the reverse side. A lot of standard words find their ways into slang. Sometimes it is very difficult to define the precise quality that makes an expression slang. It is often not in the word itself, but in the sense in which it is used. When speaking of soldiers who put down a rebellion, “put down” is proper enough. But it is slang when one speaks of a remark which “puts someone down”.
In fact, most slang words are homonyms of standard words and only sometimes differ in spelling and pronunciation. Slang items usually arise by the same means - by recycling words and parts of words which are already in the language. Limitless opportunities are allowed by affixation. Slang frequently uses abbreviated words and phrases like “VJ' from” video jockey” and “'Sup” from “what's up?” Unlike the general vocabulary, English slang has not borrowed from foreign languages a lot, although it does borrow from dialects of ethnic minorities. Words can change their fluid status and cross the borders of different types of speech. What is slang today may have been in a good use once or may be accepted in the standard speech tomorrow. It is hard to define where the vulgar speech ends and the spoken language begins. Thousands of words and expressions are in the process of changing from one level to another at any given time. Some interchange between one type and the next is constantly going on. So slang can be regarded as a lexical supplement of the language, because all neologisms first find their life in colloquial expressions and only then develop into literary speech. [13; ñ 2]
Nowadays slang is becoming more and more popular. In our high speed epoch language is simplifying. Short and abbreviated words are preferred to long and complicated ones. And perhaps that is why slang is used. Because of its brevity, capacity and exactness it makes conversation easier. It can hardly be denied that some slang expressions express an idea that would be difficult to convey by other means. There is the paradox of slang: people look down on it, but they cannot avoid using it. Slang is vivid and natural in speech. It is impossible to shut eyes to the prominent role which it plays in the language.. It is a part of the language and cannot be treated as non-existent.
The origin of the word SLANG itself is unknown. Its resemblance in sound and figurative meaning to the noun and verb “sling” and the occurrence of apparently the same root in Scandinavian expressions referring to language, suggest that the term “slang” is development of a Germanic root from which the current English “sling” is derived. Another conjecture is that “slang” has been formed by shortening from genitive phrases like “beggar's language” or “rogues' language”, in which the genitive “language” and then the final syllable is lost.
Slang tends to originate in subcultures within a society. Occupational groups such as loggers, police, medical professionals and computer specialists are prominent originators of slang. Other groups creating slang include the armed forces, teenagers, racial minorities, ghetto residents, labor unions, broadcasters, sport groups, drug addicts and even religious denominations. 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. If the subculture has enough contact with the mainstream culture, its figures of speech becomes slang expressions known to the whole society. For example: cat (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. A slang expression may suddenly become widely used. It may become accepted as standard speech, either in its original slang meaning (bus from omnibus) or with alerted meaning (jazz, which originally had sexual connotation). Some expressions have persisted for centuries as slang (booze for alcoholic beverage). In the 20th century, mass media and rapid travel have speeded up the circulation of slang items. 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. [14; ñ 48]
Most subcultures tend to draw words and phrases from the contiguous language and 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 of slang though nurses and medical students adapt some medical terminology to their slang, and air force personnel and some other branches of the armed service borrow freely from engineering and electronics.
The subcultures show specialized linguistic phenomena 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.
Occupational groups are legion and there is enough social and linguistic hostility to maintain group solidarity. Terms like “scab, strike-breaker, company-man and goon' were highly charged words in the era in which labor began to organize in the United States; they are not used lightly even today, though they have been taken into the standard language. [15; ñ. 21]
Teenage culture and its slang are the main source of new words in the language. They give it an opportunity to change and develop. Teenage culture uses a lot of slang expressions, which quickly became popular among older people, too. Teenage slang has existed for a long time. Natural and free, slang aspires to leave this dull and boring world of adults. It results from a wish for change, for creating a new world. Teenage slang is especially sympathetic to all kinds of neologisms. Such new words are constantly appearing and are connected with new inventions, mainly with computer technology. It can be said that the major part of new words in the recent ten years has started with two groups of people - computer scientists and users, and teenagers. Computer technologies have already entered our lives. The majority of people have computers at home; computer technology is studied at schools. It highly possible that developing special computer slang will be the next step towards natural communication with the PCs. [16; ñ 4]
In addition to occupational, professional and teenage groups, there are many other types of subcultures that supply slang. These include sexual deviants, narcotic addicts, institutional populations, agricultural sub-societies, political organizations, Gypsies and sport groups of many varieties of professional criminals who migrated to the New World since the 16th century.
A lot of words and expressions have interesting stories. Many of them are concerned with different historical events. So the colloquial expression “cock and bull story” (used to describe untrue or highly exaggerated information) has its origins in pub names. A century ago there was a fire in a London pub called “The Cock”. Its guests left it in panic and were given shelter at a nearby inn called “The Bull”. The guests told exaggerated stories of their escape from the fire. These stories became known as “cock-and-bull stories”.
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 others pick it up. If the speaker is a member of a group that finds its 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”, “shave-tail”, “jerk”- express the attitudes, not always derogatory, of the group or class toward the values of the group, satirizing or burlesquing its own values, behavior, and attitudes; e.g., “shotgun wedding”, “cake eater”, “grease spoon”. Slang, then, is produced largely by social forces rather than by an individual speaker or writer who creates and establishes a word in the language. This is one reason why it is difficult to determine the origin of slang items.
Most slang diffuses by word of mouth, and so the paths of many expressions are difficult to trace. A term like “snafu”, its shocking power softened with the explanation “situation normal, all fouled up', worked its way gradually from the military in the World War II by word of mouth (because the media largely shunned it) into respectable circles. Today, however, radio, television and the Internet may introduce and spread a lively new word already used by an in-group into millions of people instant currency and popularity. 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; ñ 6]
Nearly all slang expressions die out soon after they become widely used. For example, “crazy” (wonderful) had a short period of popularity in the 1950's. On the other hand, some slang terms last so long and become so widely used that they are considered colloquialisms. Examples include “belly laugh” (hearty laughter) and “half-baked” (not fully worked out). A few slang expressions become part of the standard language. “Hairdo” was introduced in the 1920's as a slang term for coiffure and became a standard word in less than 20 years. The words “hoax” and “strenuous”, which also began as slang, took longer to be accepted. Some slang words have been used for hundreds of years without reaching the status of colloquialisms or standard words. For example, “grub” (food” dates back to the 1600's, and “lousy” (bad) dates back to the 1700's. However, both of these words are considered slang, not part of the standard vocabulary.
As it has been mentioned, in the case of “uptight” the slang expression has kept its form but changed its meaning. Some terms may change their form or both form and meaning, like “one for the book” (anything unusual or unbearable). Sportswriters in the US borrowed this term in about 1920 from the language of bookmakers, who lined up at racetracks in the morning (“the morning line” is still figuratively used on every sports page) to take some bets on the afternoon races. Newly arrived bookmakers went to the end of the line, and any bettor requesting unusually long adds 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 by many other channels, such as popular songs, which 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 1940's; now middle-class teenagers, even those with no real knowledge of drugs, use their terms freely.
To recap everything above it should be reminded that there are two types of attitude toward slang:
1) Slang is believed to be stupid and vulgar because it occurs in informal conversation, accompanied by grammatical errors;
2) The reasonable use of slang promotes lively speaking it keeps the language fresh and alive.
Slang can be regarded not only from the lexical point of view as a particular vocabulary typical of Spoken English; it can be viewed phonetically, orthographically and grammatically. These can be standard words applied with some phonetic, orthographic or grammatical alterations, what brings to the utterance some slangy coloring and freshness. [18; ñ 4]
It is also obvious that slang is said to have originated mostly in subcultures of occupational and professional groups. Teenagers, criminals and uneducated people also play a great role in creating and maintaining slang. Since slang is a part of spoken English, it diffuses verbally, and not only via real communication but also via television and even the Internet
Thus slang should be learned in order to simplify communication, because the spoken language differs from literary standards. It should be regarded as a prolific source of new word forms “feeding” the general vocabulary.
1.1 Classification of slang. Forms of slang. Characteristics of slang
When systematizing the material on slang one may come to a controversial problem: the problem is that there are two classifications identifying the place of slang.
1) According to M.M Makovsky slang belongs to the so-called social dialects.
Social dialects are variants of a language, which are used by certain social groups.
Besides slang social dialects comprise: jargon, cant and argot. Thus, these social sublanguages, according to this classification, should be regarded as independent.
Since this paper employs such terms as jargon, cant and argot, it is necessary to define these concepts:
Cant comprises the restricted, NON-technical words and expressions of any particular group, as an occupational, age, ethnic or special-interest group.
Jargon is defined as the restricted technical or shoptalk words and expressions of any particular group, as trade, scientific, artistic, criminal, student or other group.
Argot is a special vocabulary used by a peculiar social group, especially by the so-called underworld. Its main point is to be unintelligible to outsiders. [19; ñ 82]
Cant is defined as false or insincere language and refers to the language used by thieves and beggars of the underworld.
Some linguists reserve the term jargon for technical language applied to colorful occupational expressions.
Jargon combines words either non-terminological, unofficial substitutes for professional terms (professionalisms), or official terms misused deliberately to express disrespect.
Cant is a secret lingo of the underworld - of thieves and robbers.
Jargon - substandard, expressive and emotive vocabulary used by limited group of people, united either professionally or socially.
In general slang is more casual and acceptable to outsiders than jargon. Slang and cant are more vivid than jargon.
2) According to I.V. Arnold and N.V. Krupnov slang is subdivided into general and special slang.
General slang includes words that are not specific for any social or professional group. Special slang is peculiar for some group: teenager slang, university slang, military slang, criminal slang and so on.
Thus, second group is heterogeneous. Some authors, A.D. Schweizer for instance, consider cant, jargon and argot to belong here. It seems, however, more logical to differentiate general slang and special slang. The essential difference between then results from the fact that the first has an expressive function, whereas the second is primarily concerned with secrecy. Words of general slang are clearly motivated, e.g. “cradle-snatcher”- and old man who marries a much younger woman; “window-shopping”- feasting one's eyes on goods displayed in the shops without buying anything. Words of special slang on the contrary do not show their motivation, e.g. “rap” (kill), “shin” (knife), “book” (a life sentence).
There are cases, of course, when words originated as special slang later on pass on into general slang. The borderlines are not always sharp and distinct. For example, the expression “be on the beam” was first used by pilots about the beam of the radio beacon indicating the proper course for the aircraft to follow. Then figuratively “be on the beam” came to mean “to be right”, whereas “be off the beam” came to mean “to be wrong” or “to be at a loss”.
Since the theme of this paper is “slang as a part of Spoken English”, it is already obvious that people use slang in speaking than in writing, and mostly with friends than with strangers. Slang thus reminds of “colloquialisms”, which are expressions used in everyday conversation but not considered appropriate for formal speech or writing.
What makes colloquialisms and slang different? Both of them are used in Spoken English and both of them are used in informal speech. But where is the difference? The first characteristic feature consists in emotional coloring of slang and colloquialisms. Here slang possesses a higher degree of emotional coloring. In dictionaries these two concepts are graphically marked as “sl.” and “coll.”
Forms of slang are created by the same processes that affect ordinary speech. Expressions 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.
Actually there are seven chief forms of slang, each created by different processes. These forms are
1) old words used in new ways;
2) shortened or lengthened words;
3) figures of speech;
7) rhyming slang.
Old words used in new ways. Most slang expressions are simply new uses for old words or phrases. The “flap” (excitement) about air pollution is slang, but the “flap” (hinged section) of an airplane wing is not slang. “To rip off” (steal) a camera is slang, but “to rip off” the top of a box is Standard English.
Shortened or lengthened words. The process creating a new word by dropping one or more syllables from a longer word is called “clipping”. Clipping produces many slang terms, including “phiz” (face) which is short for “physiognomy”; “psycho”, short for “psychopath”; and “rep”, short for “reputation”.
Another type of shortened word is back-formation. Most slang back-formations are verbs and were formed by dropping the ending from a noun. Examples of such verbs include “burgle” (to steal), from “burglar”; “letch” (to lust), from “lecher”' and “nuke” (to attack with nuclear weapons), from “nuclear”.
In the reverse process, a new word may be created by adding an ending to an existing one. Slang words created by this process include “payola” (graft), from “pay”; and “slugfest” (fight), from “slug” (to hit).
Figures of speech are expressions in which words are used in unusual ways. One of the most common slang figures of speech is metaphor, an implied comparison between two different things. For example, a slang metaphor “bean pole” describes a thin person.
Another type of slang figure of speech is metonymy, which substitutes a quality of something for the thing itself. Examples of metonymy include “long green” (paper currency) and “skirt” (woman).
Acronyms are words formed from the first letters or syllables of the words in a phrase. The form of slang includes D.J. or “deejay”, from “disc jockey”; and “kidvid” (children's television programs), from “kid video).
Coinages are newly invented words or phrases. Slang coinages include “humongous” (huge), “moola” (money”, “palooka” (inferior athlete) and “zit” (pimple).
Blends are new words created by joining the first part of one word to the second part of another one. Examples of slang blends are: “gyrene” (United States marine), from G.I. Marine; and “sexploitation” (commercial exploitation of people's interests in sex).
Rhyming slang includes words which substitute other words that rhyme with them. Examples include “crumb-bum” (inferior person) and “thriller-driller” (exciting story or motion picture).
Nowadays there is some argument about rhyming slang: should it be called rhyming? The fact is that it is gradually losing its rhyming element. Rhyming slang is also called the language of the Cockneys. More detailed information about the Cockney language and its problem is revealed in 1.3 The Cockney language and Polari - extinct languages.
Basically slang words cannot be distinguished from other words by sound, grammar or other means, because, as it has been already mentioned in this paper, slang terms come into being in the same ways other words do. Thus, slang words and standard words are only WORDS and thy have common features.
But anyway, since the hypothesis of this paper suggests that knowledge of slang is a very important component in the development of one's linguistic competence it is necessary to throw a little light on these characteristics of slang. The characteristics are classified as following: phonetic characteristics, grammatical characteristics, word-building characteristics and orthographic characteristics. Examples described below can not necessarily be lexical slang units but there can be ordinary words phonetically and grammatically used in some slangy way. As it has been mentioned in this paper, from the point of view of grammar and phonetics they may be considered as slang, i.e. social dialects.
1. The literary variant of the diphthong [ou] is expressed as [? ] For example: go [ ] or [ ]; or row [ ] or [ ]
2. The diphthong [ ] expressed graphically in open syllable by means of the letter “I”, is pronounced as [ ], e.g. time [ ], fine [ ], line [ ], etc.
3. In the unstressed syllable [ ] is reduced to [i], e.g. by myself [ bi mi`self]
4. The short sound [ i] is pronounced in slang as [e], e.g. dinner [`den?], children [` ], spirit [`sperit]
5. The literary variant of the sound [ju:] is expressed in slang as [u:], e.g.: new [nu:], student [`stu:dnt], suit [su:t]
6. Short [ ] is expressed as [ ], like: god [ ], dog [ ], loss [ ]
7. Short [ ] is pronounced as [ i] or [e]. For example: “sich” or “seck” instead of “such”, “jist” or “jest” instead of “just”
8. Sometimes sounds [t] and [d] after a consonant sound are omitted, e.g.: an aold chap [ ], I wonder [ ], you must go [ ]
9. [sj] is replaced by [ ], e.g.: we shall miss you [ ], this year [ ]
10. Unstressed syllables are often dropped out, like: `stead (=instead), `cept (=except), `cos (=because)
1. Adjectives are often used instead of adverbs, like: It was done quick. It must be done proper.
2. Instead of personal pronouns in the nominative case personal pronouns in the accusative case are used, e.g.: me and her are great friends.
3. “who” is used instead of “whom”, e.g.: for who, on who.
4. Models of Imperative are very interesting: Leave (=let) me go! Be going!
5. The form “ain't” can stand for literary variants of am, is, are not
6. Past Participle can be used instead of Past Indefinite, e.g.: I done it, I begun
7. “That” is used instead of “so”, e.g.: He was that stuck up: it was that boring
8. “what for” is employed instead of “why”, like: What for did`e come?
1. In the case of slang some words acquire the status of semi-suffixes. For example, the word “monkey” is used as a semi-suffix meaning “worker”, e.g.: air monkey, broom monkey, company monkey.
2. In the case of “hamburger” it has devided into “ham” and “burger”, where the latter turned into an independent suffix, e.g.: beefburger, sausageburger, turkey-burger
3. The word “dog”, as a semi-suffix, is the synonym for “man” (usually a sly or lucky man), e.g.: funny dog, lucky dog, smart dog
4. The suffix “o”, which has no special meaning but has some slangy coloring, e.g.: “weirdo” (from weird), “sicko” (from sick), “wrongo” (from wrong)
5. The process of forming new words in slang is characterized by the use of reduplication, which is sometimes accompanied by sound imitation, e.g.: boom-boom (gun), buzz-buzz, dingy-dingy (crazy), dum-dum (fool)
6. Slang is also characterized by rhyming combination, e.g.: boob-tube (TV), cheat-sheet (crib), kick-stick (the cigarette with marijuana)
1. “going to”, “want to” and “have got to” are substituted by “gonna', “wanna” and “gotta”;
“I don't wanna go there”
“I'm gonna give you a buzz”
“You gotta find this guy”
2. “because” is replaced by “coz”: “coz I saw them with my own eyes”,
“cuz” : “cuz I don't wanna hang out with you”
“cus” : “cus I really wanna rock with you”
“cause” : “cause I need you”;
3. “about” is substituted by “ `bout”
“What is this all shit `bout?”
4. Such phrases as “get you” or “got you” are graphically can be expressed as “getcha” and “gotcha”;
5. -ing form is presented as - in': kickin', fuckin';
6. “ya” can stand for “your” or “you” or “you're”:
“Ya patience getting' short”
“How much the kid love ya”
“Ya lookin' awesome”;
7. The auxiliary verb “are” can be substituted by a single letter “r”, and the personal pronoun “you” by a letter “u”, the preposition “for” can be changed by “4”
“How r u?”; This is 4 u.
8. “too” or “to” can be graphically expressed as “2”: “I love u 2”;
9. “out of” is replaced by “outta”:
“Somethin' got outta hand”.
To sum up everything described above it is necessary to mention again that there are two classifications identifying the place of slang:
1) cant, jargon and argot together make special slang. There is also general slang, which is not restricted to any particular professional group;
2) slang, jargon, argot and cant together make a group of social dialects. All of them are regarded as independent. Colloquialisms have no place in either of these classifications. It is quite a different phenomenon and should be differentiated from slang.
Slang expressions arise in the same ways that other words come into being. Slang words can be presented in different forms: old words used in new meanings, clipped or lengthened words, metaphors and metonymies, acronyms, coinages, blends and rhyming slang.
Slang words like any other words are characterized from the point of view of phonetics, grammar and word-building. All these phonetic, grammatical, orthographical and word-building means bring to slang emotional coloring and expressiveness.
1.3 The Cockney language and Polari - extinct languages
In spite of the fact that slang is a lively language, there are however, such slang languages, which are thought to be extinct. To these the Cockney language and Polari are referred. The Cockney language or Rhyming slang has been popular since the mid-nineteenth century in England, although its origin is unknown. Rhyming slang is a slang that replaces a word with a word or phrase that rhymes with it. Many Cockneys in England and many Australians use such slang. For example, a Cockney might say “Rosie Lee” for “tea”, “apples and pears” for “stairs” or “trouble and strife» for “wife”.
But why is rhyming slang said to be a language of the Cockneys? Who or What are they?
The word “Cockney” comes from “cocken ay”, a “cock's egg”, meaning a worthless towns-person. The term appeared in about the 16th century and was referred to those Londoners who were not part of the Royal Court. It was re-defined in the 18th century, as the working-class population of the city, who were joined by uneducated farm-workers from the countryside who traveled to East London in search of work. So, the Cockneys were uneducated working-class people lived in their own special communities. Like any other small community, the Cockneys had a large number of words and phrases, which had special meanings for them, but they took this to extremes by inventing a whole dialect- Rhyming slang.
However, there is another version of the appearance of this unusual language, but there is almost no evidence that it is correct. It consists in the fact that in the 19th century East End criminals developed a special kind of a language, which made it difficult for the police to understand them.
The Cockneys' language or rhyming slang is characterized by colorful language expressing the sheer enjoyment of words and by words run together.
Rhyming-slang substitutes can be different, the urgent requirement is that they should rhyme with words they replace. Thus, “phone” becomes “dog and bone”, “word” becomes “dicky bird”, “mouth” - “North and South”.
Hat - “tit for tat”
Table - “Cain and Abel”
Money - “bees and honey”
Head - “loaf of bread”
Nose - “I suppose”
One complicating factor in studying rhyming slang is that the word that rhymes is almost always dropped out, thus making the etymology rather obscure to outsiders. For example, “Titfer” (meaning “hat”) was originally “tit for tat”; “Tom” (meaning “jewelry”) is short for “tomfoolery”, or “daisies” (meaning “boots”) came from “daisy roots”.
The other complication is that Cockney pronunciation varies from conventional British speech, it has another system of pronunciation of vowels and consonants, and it is especially famous for its silent “h”. It drops letters and slurs words, so “haven't “turns into “am” and “old” becomes “ol”. “you” turns into “yer” and so on.
With swearing, Cockneys lent their style and expression to the new tongue as well. “Arse” is widely used and acceptable, as is “ sod” in the right context (“he is a cheeky young sod'). Universally used are `bleeding” (÷åðòîâ) and “bugger” (òèï). “Bugger” is freely used to denote a bad person, but there are variants. “You bugger!”- unless there is a note of admiration- will always mean “you're swine!” and is for astonishment, while “bugger off!” means “Get lost!”, and finally, “Bugger all “ means either “little” or “nothing”.
Some people complain that rhyming slang is spoken to give the Cockneys an unfair advantage over strangers. In fact, it is really hard to understand a man or a woman who asks one where “dog and bones “is. If one does not know anything about rhyming slang, s/he will not even imagine that s/he is asked about the telephone.
Since a lot of immigrants to Australia during the period from 1815 to 1861 were from London, most of them were obviously the Cockneys. Still Australians speak a very interesting and complicated slang- rhyming slang whose rhyming part is dropped. Moreover, they have a system of slang words and phrases, which have no resemblance with normal English or American slang, and which are really hard to understand without a special guide dictionary. (Appendix 1)
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