Episode 17 – Slang

Slang argot jargon patter cant patois lingo

In this episode we have a little natter about slang – what it is, where it comes from, and how it’s used.

Here are a few definitions of slang:

  1. language peculiar to a particular group: such as argot or jargon.
  2. an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech.

Source: Merriam-Webster

  1. A kind of language occurring chiefly in casual and playful speech, made up typically of coinages and figures of speech that are deliberately used in place of standard terms for added raciness, humor, irreverence, or other effect.
  2. Language peculiar to a group; argot or jargon.

Source: wordnik (from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition)

  • colloquial words and phrases which have originated in the cant or rude speech of the vagabond or unlettered classes, or, belonging in form to standard speech, have acquired or have had given them restricted, capricious, or extravagantly metaphorical meanings, and are regarded as vulgar or inelegant.

Source: wordnik (from The Century Dictionary)

  1. very informal usage in vocabulary and idiom that is characteristically more metaphorical, playful, elliptical, vivid, and ephemeral than ordinary language, as Hit the road.
  2. speech and writing characterized by the use of vulgar and socially taboo vocabulary and idiomatic expressions.
  3. the jargon of a particular class, profession, etc.
  4. the special vocabulary of thieves, vagabonds, etc.; argot.

Source: Dictionary.com

  • language (words, phrases, and usages) of an informal register that members of particular in-groups favor (over the common vocabulary of a standard language) in order to establish group identity, exclude outsiders, or both.

Source: Wikipedia

The origins of the word slang are not known. It was first used in writing in 1756 to refer to the language of “low” or “disreputable” people, or the “special vocabulary of tramps or thieves”. It possibly comes from the same root as sling, from the Old Norse slyngva (to hurl) [source]


Information about slang

Details of specific words: natter, chat, gob (English), gob (Irish), mush, fika

Slang dictionaries
Green’s Dictionary of Slang
A Dictionary of Slang (British English)
Cockney Rhyming Slang
The Online Slang Dictionary (American, English, and Urban slang)

Music featured in this episode

The Scampering Squirrels / Y Gwiwerod sy’n Prancio

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The Unexpected Badger / Y Mochyn Daear Annisgwyl

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One thought on “Episode 17 – Slang

  1. One aspect of slang that you don’t mention above is that slang is often only understood in context. That is, a group of friends may “hang out” and use slang that is dependent on their activities and interests, in a way that wouldn’t make sense to those not in the group. That gives rise to a common expression, that those “not in the know just wouldn’t understand”.

    The problem with defining words by context is that the context changes over time, so much of the slang of 50 years ago may seem quaint, old-fashioned or “corny” to our ears of today. To outsiders trying to use the “lingo” of a group they don’t belong to, in not having the context of being a member of the group, their efforts seem “lame”, “fake” and artificial – which it is.

    Those inside the group might believe they are conveying more information in fewer words by using slang, but in reality, the “information value” of those slang words is very poor. Since slang is context-dependent, the actual meaning and intent behind any given slang word is uncertain. Anything important would have to be spelled-out in more words (preferably ones in plain English) or else a slang-laden statement could be (mis)understood in several ways, and not all those understanding would be close approximations to the truth.

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