Slang is 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. In its earliest attested use , the word slang referred to the vocabulary of "low" or "disreputable" people. By the early nineteenth century, it was no longer exclusively associated with disreputable people, but continued to be applied to usages below the level of standard educated speech.
A Scandinavian origin has been proposed compare, for example, Norwegian slengenavn , which means "nickname" , but based on "date and early associations" is discounted by the Oxford English Dictionary. Linguists have no simple and clear definition of slang, but agree that it is a constantly changing linguistic phenomenon present in every subculture worldwide. Some argue that slang exists because we must come up with ways to define new experiences that have surfaced with time and modernity.
Dumas and Jonathan Lighter argue that an expression should be considered "true slang" if it meets at least two of the following criteria: . Michael Adams remarks that, "[Slang] is liminal language While many forms of lexicon may be considered low-register or "sub-standard", slang remains distinct from colloquial and jargon terms because of its specific social contexts.
While viewed as inappropriate in formal usage, colloquial terms are typically considered acceptable in speech across a wide range of contexts, while slang tends to be perceived as infelicitous in many common communicative situations.
Jargon refers to language used by personnel in a particular field, or language used to represent specific terms within a field to those with a particular interest.
Although jargon and slang can both be used to exclude non-group members from the conversation, the purpose of jargon is said to be optimizing conversation using terms that imply technical understanding. While colloquialisms and jargon may seem like slang because they reference a particular group, they do not necessarily fit the same definition, because they do not represent a particular effort to replace the general lexicon of a standard language.
Colloquialisms are considered more acceptable and more expected in standard usage than slang is, and jargon is often created to talk about aspects of a particular field that are not accounted for in the general lexicon. It is often difficult to differentiate slang from colloquialisms and even high-register lexicon, because slang generally becomes accepted into common vocabulary over time. Words such as "spurious" and "strenuous" were once perceived as slang, though they are now considered general, even high-register words.
The literature on slang even discusses mainstream acknowledgment of a slang term as changing its status as true slang, because it has been accepted by the media and is thus no longer the special insider speech of a particular group. It is often difficult to collect etymologies for slang terms, largely because slang is a phenomenon of speech, rather than written language and etymologies which are typically traced via corpus.
Eric Partridge , cited as the first to report on the phenomenon of slang in a systematic and linguistic way, postulated that a term would likely be in circulation for a decade before it would be written down. This "spawning" of slang occurs in much the same way that any general semantic change might occur. The difference here is that the slang term's new meaning takes on a specific social significance having to do with the group the term indexes. Still, while a great deal of slang takes off, even becoming accepted into the standard lexicon, much slang dies out, sometimes only referencing a group.
An example of this is the term "groovy" which is a relic of 's and 70's American "hippy" slang. Nevertheless, for a slang term to become a slang term, people must use it, at some point in time, as a way to flout standard language.
It is still in common use today by a significant population. The word "gig" to refer to a performance very likely originated well before the s, and remained a common term throughout the s and s before becoming a vaguely associated with the "hippy slang of the s". The word "gig" is now a widely accepted synonym for a concert, recital, or performance of any type.
Generally, slang terms undergo the same processes of semantic change that words in the regular lexicon do. Slang often will form from words with previously differing meanings, one example is the often used and popular slang word "lit", which was created by a generation labeled "Generation Z".
The word itself used to be associated with something being on fire or being "lit" up until when it was first used in writing to indicate a person who was drunk  in the book "Warbirds: Diary of an Unknown Aviator". As the popularity of the word has increased so too has the number of different meanings associated with the word. Words and phrases from popular Hollywood films and television series frequently become slang.
Slang is usually associated with a particular group and plays a role in constructing our identities. While slang outlines social space, attitudes about slang partly construct group identity and identify individuals as members of groups.
Therefore, using the slang of a particular group will associate an individual with that group. Using Michael Silverstein 's notion of different orders of indexicality , it can be said that a slang term can be a second-order index to this particular group. Employing a slang term, however, can also give an individual the qualities associated with the term's group of origin, whether or not the individual is actually trying to identify as a member of the group.
This allocation of qualities based on abstract group association is known as third-order indexicality. As outlined by Elisa Mattiello in her book,  a slang term can take on various levels of identification. Giving the examples of the terms "foxy" and "shagadelic", Mattiello explains that neither term makes sense given a standard interpretation of English:. Nevertheless, Matiello concludes that those agents who identify themselves as "young men" have "genuinely coined" these terms and choose to use them over "canonical" terms —like beautiful or sexy—because of the indexicalized social identifications the former convey.
In terms of first and second order indexicality, the usage of speaker-oriented terms by male adolescents indicated their membership to their age group, to reinforce connection to their peer group, and to exclude outsiders. In terms of higher order indexicality, anyone using these terms may desire to appear fresher, undoubtedly more playful, faddish, and colourful than someone who employs the standard English term "beautiful".
This appearance relies heavily on the hearer's third-order understanding of the term's associated social nuances and presupposed use-cases. Often, distinct subcultures will create slang that members will use in order to associate themselves with the group, or to delineate outsiders.
Slang terms are often known only within a clique or ingroup. For example, Leet "Leetspeak" or "" was originally popular only among certain Internet subcultures, such as software crackers and online video gamers.
During the s, and into the early 21st century, however, Leet became increasingly more commonplace on the Internet, and it has spread outside Internet-based communication and into spoken languages. As subcultures are also often forms of counterculture and counterculture itself can be defined as going against a standard, it follows that slang has come to be associated with counterculture. Slang is often taken from social media as a sign of social awareness and shared knowledge of popular culture. This particular branch of slang has become more prevalent since the early s as a result of the rise in popularity of social networking services, including Facebook , Twitter , and Instagram.
This has created new vocabularies associated with each new social media venue, such as the use of the term "friending" on Facebook, which is a verbification of "friend" used to describe the process of adding a new person to one's list of friends on the website, despite the existence of an analogous term "befriend".
This term is much older than Facebook, but has only recently entered the popular lexicon. These are especially associated with services such as Twitter, which now has a character limit for each message and therefore requires a briefer, more condensed manner of communication. Some critics believe that when slang becomes more commonplace it effectively eradicates the "proper" use of a certain language.
However, academic descriptive linguists believe that language is not static but ever-changing and that slang terms are valid words within a language's lexicon. While prescriptivists study and promote the socially preferable or "correct" ways to speak, according to a language's normative grammar and syntactical words, descriptivists focus on studying language to further understand the subconscious rules of how individuals speak, which makes slang important in understanding such rules.
Noam Chomsky, a founder of anthropological linguistic thought, challenged structural and prescriptive grammar and began to study sounds and morphemes functionally, as well as their changes within a language over time.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Slang disambiguation. Language words, phrases, and usages used by particular in-groups. This article's lead section does not adequately summarize key points of its contents. Please consider expanding the lead to provide an accessible overview of all important aspects of the article. Please discuss this issue on the article's talk page. April This section may contain indiscriminate , excessive , or irrelevant examples. Please improve the article by adding more descriptive text and removing less pertinent examples.
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