Slang

related topics
{language, word, form}
{system, computer, user}
{group, member, jewish}
{woman, child, man}
{black, white, people}
{theory, work, human}
{food, make, wine}
{area, part, region}

Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's dialect or language. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo (see euphemism). It is often used to identify with one's peers and, although it may be common among young people, it is used by people of all ages and social groups.

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Defining slang

Few linguists have endeavored to clearly define what constitutes slang.[1] Attempting to remedy this, Bethany K. Dumas and Jonathan Lighter argue that an expression should be considered "true slang" if it meets at least two of the following criteria:

  • It lowers, if temporarily, "the dignity of formal or serious speech or writing"; in other words, it is likely to be considered in those contexts a "glaring misuse of register."
  • Its use implies that the user is familiar with whatever is referred to, or with a group of people who are familiar with it and use the term.
  • "It is a taboo term in ordinary discourse with people of a higher social status or greater responsibility."
  • It replaces "a well-known conventional synonym". This is done primarily to avoid the discomfort caused by the conventional item or by further elaboration.[1]

Slang should be distinguished from jargon, which is the technical vocabulary of a particular profession. Jargon, like many examples of slang, may be used to exclude non–group members from the conversation, but in general has the function of allowing its users to talk precisely about technical issues in a given field.[citation needed]

Extent and origins of slang

Slang can be regional (that is, used only in a particular territory), but slang terms are often particular instead to a certain subculture, such as music or video gaming. Nevertheless, slang expressions can spread outside their original areas to become commonly used, like "cool" and "jive." While some words eventually lose their status as slang (the word "mob", for example, began as a shortening of Latin mobile vulgus[2]), others continue to be considered as such by most speakers. When slang spreads beyond the group or subculture that originally uses it, its original users often replace it with other, less-recognized terms to maintain group identity.

One use of slang is to circumvent social taboos, as mainstream language tends to shy away from evoking certain realities. For this reason, slang vocabularies are particularly rich in certain domains, such as violence, crime, drugs, and sex. Alternatively, slang can grow out of mere familiarity with the things described. Among Californian wine connoisseurs (and other groups), for example, Cabernet Sauvignon is often known as "Cab Sav," Chardonnay as "Chard" and so on;[3] this means that naming the different wines expends less superfluous effort; it also helps to indicate the user's familiarity with wine.

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