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Slang 101

by Cassie, Publicity Assistant

I recently discovered why it is that Ammon Shea loves reading dictionaries so much. They’re really a lot of fun. Of course, it helps that the dictionary I’m reading is a dictionary of slang terms from the US, Australia, and Great Britain. Being new to this dictionary-reading business, I wanted to share some of my favorite words so far. The definitions are from Stone the Crows: Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang, by John Ayto and John Simpson. The commentary is, of course, mine.

Stone the crows was the first term I looked up, since it’s the name of the dictionary and a term I’m not at all familiar with. I found it under stone, which has several definitions. The term “stone the crows” means an exclamation of surprise, originating in Australia. Some of the other definitions of stone are as follows:

  • A testicle
  • A diamond
  • Stone the crows
  • Stone me: also an exclamation of surprise
  • To become intoxicated with drink or drugs
  • To make drunk or ecstatic

Quite an interesting assortment, isn’t it? The first really fun word I found on my own (at least, the first one that’s fit to use in polite company) is banger: A kiss, esp. a violent one; a sausage; an old motor vehicle, esp. one which runs noisily. Banger is fascinating because of the range in its definition. How, exactly, can one word be used for a kiss, a sausage, and an old car? Yet that’s exactly what it means. The earliest meaning of the word is a violent kiss, but that’s hardly a pleasant thought, so I’ll probably stick with the sausage definition. Maybe the next time I go to a diner, I’ll order eggs and bangers. I’m looking forward to the waiter’s blank stare already.

Some of the more interesting words are the dated ones; dated meaning they’re no longer in common use. The original term for hipster (a person who is ‘hip’) is hepster, meaning hip-cat, or, in my own terms, a person who thinks he or she is really cool. Hipster might technically make more sense as a direct derivation of hip, but I just prefer the sound of hepster. Help me bring back hepster, people!

Another slang term no longer in use is prune-picker, meaning “someone from California.” The term was only used from 1918-1929. I thought this one deserved some additional scrutiny, so I looked it up in the OED. According to the OED Online, the term came into use because of the abundance of prunes grown in California. Still, I wonder why the term died out in 1929? Perhaps with the crash of the stock market and the onset of the Great Depression, people weren’t thinking about prunes anymore. Or maybe Californians stopped growing prunes.

A handy feature of Stone the Crows is that it tells you when a word is meant to be an insult. Noun derog, meaning derogatory, precedes the definition of ambulance-chaser (a lawyer who specializes in actions for personal injuries). This feature could particularly come in handy for politicians, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that term was offensive to [insert cultural or racial group here]!” I’m not including more of these terms because I don’t want to offend anyone. Though there are a number of interesting terms for blondes.

I’ve saved the best for last, of course. I’ll admit that I haven’t quite pulled off the trick of reading the dictionary straight through (I’ve done some jumping around), but my wandering through found this absolute gem of a word/term: noodge.

I think this is the Kevin Smith fan coming out in me, but I’m amazed to learn that this phrase (repeated quite often by Smith character Jay of Jay and Silent Bob) is a real word. Noodge means “to pester, nag” as well as “a person who complains or nags; pest.” The adjective form is noodgy. To cap it all off, it comes from the Yiddish term nudyen, meaning “to bore, pester.” How perfect is that? Jay is calling everyone around him a nag and a pest, and they all just think he’s a babbling stoner.

Recent Comments

  1. Book Calendar

    I always thought bangers came from the phrase bangers and mash, for sasuges and mashed potatos.

  2. Myfwnwy

    Prune puckers refers to 1st generation Californians born from folks who migrated to California as migrant laborers, usually from the south.

  3. Catmom

    I am a Prune Picker. My parents were born in OK and I was born in California in 1958. I have heard this term used through out my life here in California. Definitely not an extinct slang term.

  4. posaunebri

    Me too, Catmom. My dad called me a Prune Picker, as I was the only “native son” of the Golden West in the family. A point of pride, once.

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