QA: What Is SLANG? Is It OK To Use It?

Photo Credit: duncan Slang graffiti, Leake Street via photopin (license)

WHAT IS SLANG?

Slang is informal language which is more common in speech than in writing. Certain slang words and phrases may be used by a specific group of people so people outside the group cannot understand the meaning.

What is slang? Slang is informal language which is more common in speech than in writing. Certain slang words and phrases may be used by a specific group of people so people outside the group cannot understand the meaning.

Where does the word ‘slang’ come from? There are many suggestions and the original origin is open to debate. One view is that it referred to a delimited piece of land where tramps would wander around and came to be associated their vocabulary. It was regarded as an offence against conventional language, lowering the dignity of formal or serious speech or writing.

IT IS OK TO USE SLANG?

Some slang words are so common they would never cause offence. Other slang words are considered rude or obscene which obviously can cause offence.

It depends on the context and the purpose of the speech or writing. For professional and formal letters, it has no place. However, for informal letters or emails, it is often used without any negative connotation.

The short answer is: Just consider your audience before using it. Only use slang if it is not likely to cause offence and your audience will understand it.

Internet slang: Since the 2000s social network sites have become popular and a specific kind of slang has evolved. The generation that grew up with the internet are generally very familiar with this kind of slang very often to he exclusion of the older generation. The use of text messages has also contributed to the dramatic rise in abbreviations and slang terms unique to this social phenomenon.

There is an ongoing controversy regarding the acceptance of slang. Linguists concerned with the purity of language may argue that slang has no place in a language lexicon while other academics argue that slang words and phrases that have become commonplace should be included in a language lexicon.

Some common slang words and phrases:

dig – to really like something
“I really dig your hat”

vibes – feelings and emotions are communicated, an atmosphere
“She decided to leave as she was getting some negative vibes.”

kudos – respect and recognition
“Kudos to you for a great party.”

pear shaped – a disaster
“The whole plan suddenly went pear shaped.”

airhead – a person who is not very intelligent or acts foolishly
“He behaves like an absolute airhead sometimes.”

piece of cake – something that is considered very easy to do
“Leave it to me, it’s a piece of cake.”

gobsmacked – to be amazed
“When he gave her the ring she was completely gobsmacked.”
(gob is informal English for mouth. When is person is very surprised or amazed they often cover their mouth with their hand.)

earful – to be told off
“He was very late and expected an earful when he arrived.”

wimp – a coward
“Don’t be such a wimp.”

threads – clothes
“I desperately need a new set of threads.”