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«Non-literary vocabulary (slang)»
Extent and origins of slang
Distinction between slang and colloquialisms
1. Defining slang
Slang is the use of highly informal words and expressions that are not
considered standard in the speaker's dialect or language.
Few linguists have endeavored to clearly define what constitutes
slang. 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 seen in such contexts as a
"glaring misuse of register."
Its use implies that the user is familiar with whatever is referred to,
or with a group of people that 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
An example would be "getting a pop meaning getting a haircut, or buying
threads as in buying clothes"."
Slang should be distinguished from jargon, which is the technical
vocabulary of a particular profession. Jargon, like many examples of
slang, may on occasion 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.
Slang may be used in a variaty of ways including insults, compliments,
and just another way of expressing one's self.
2. Extent and origins of slang
Slang is sometimes regional in that it is used only in a particular
territory, such as California, but slang terms are frequently particular
to a certain subculture, such as musicians. 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, 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, for example,
Cabernet Sauvignon is often known as "Cab Sav", Chardonnay as "Chard"
and so on; this means that naming the different wines expends less
Even within a single language community, slang tends to vary widely
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