Slang Words: Not What You Think
Megan Branch, Intern
What do you think of when you think of slang? Maybe you think of a bunch of teenagers running around saying “OMG, like, LOL.” The truth is that everyone, not just young people, use slang –sometimes without even realizing it. In his new book, Slang: The People’s Poetry, Michael Adams suggests that our use of slang “outlines social space” and that “attitudes about slang partly construct group identity and identify individuals as members of groups”.
Adams, English language professor at Indiana University and author of several books on slang, writes that in addition to allowing slang users to be accepted into certain social groups, slang also acts as a barrier to keep those who aren’t “in the know” out. This is why someone over fifty may have trouble understanding the slang words of the under-twenty set. Below is a list , taken from Slang, of the top 10 slang words that are so hip they don’t even sound like slang.
1. Morning glory More than a flower, this slang term has existed since the early 1900s and has meant “something which or someone who fails to maintain an early promise” as well as, in the 1950s, “the first narcotic injection of the day.”
2. Gone Borneo This absurd-sounding phrase had a fairly short lifespan of about 10 years and was used in the 1980s to mean “intoxicated”.
3. Flash Still in use today, flash was used at least as far back as Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist to mean “hip”.
4. Suck Although many people want this word to originate somewhere far more off-color, suck is simply a shortening of the phrases “suck eggs,” “suck rope,” and “suck wind”—all of which can be used to mean “disappointing.”
5. Wig It sounds like a hairpiece, but wig is the clipped form of “wig out,” a less widely-used synonym for “freak out.”
6. Duck A pretty, but “snob[by], stuck-up young woman,” who often requires a lot of “lettuce ‘cash in bills’” to please.
7. Pegging Used at a dance, much to her embarrassment, by Jo in Louisa May Alcott’s novel, Little Women.
“’I suppose you are going to college soon? I see you pegging away at your books—no, I mean studying hard,’ and Jo blushed at the dreadful ‘pegging’ which had escaped her.”
8. Bad Used “to mean its opposite, as well as ‘stylish, sexy, wonderful, formidably skilled’”.
9. Snack From a dictionary of terms “supposedly used by the criminal element” published in 1698 or 1699. After stealing your possessions, the thieves would snack ” ‘share, go halves’ on them.”
10. Trouble & Strife A Cockney rhyming slang term that originated in London’s East End, trouble and strife is used to mean ‘the wife.’