Tuesday, February 3, 2009

English slang (American-style)

**Attention Kids - this entry is intended for mature audiences - so "bug off!"

I can't resist mentioning this topic anymore. After twisting lyrics to songs and turning impersonal license plates to personalized, nothing pervades my little Reinventing Daddy mind like English slang...American-style. I realize other English speaking corners of the world maintain their own lists of slang, but these lists are not mutually exclusive and we in the U.S. have adopted (or attempted to adopt) these words and phrases as our own. Who wishes we had already incorporated "shagged" into our vernacular? I do. It seems so descriptive, so non-clinical, and not so completely vulgar.

Slang has been around almost as long as English has been around, a byproduct of a time and place, a fad and often times created by a class or subculture. For example in 1950's Minneapolis, a passage in my Dad's yearbook might read "Paul, we had a gay time this year. You are a swell fellow." Fast forward to the present, the 2009 interpretation would be FAR different than the 50's (not that there is anything wrong with that). I can't laugh because my yearbook (from the 80's) would be outdated as well "Damon, we had an ultra-bitchin' year. You're an awesome dude."

HMMM, o-kay. So, what about the ESL people? How did you learn English? Did you learn proper English first and then add the slang to your vocabulary as you went along? Is there nearly the abundance of slang in your native language? Give me your opinion and insight as I'm very curious to know the types of issues you have faced trying to learn English. Has the proliferation of slang been one such obstacle?

What if you yelled "Ouch, did you see how hard John knocked-up Larry at midfield?" Don't you see how one tiny slip-up on opposites (learned by a 2-year old in the U.S.) can affect meaning? Another spectator within an earshot might not understand your attempt at slang and "kick your butt." Seriously, "heads-up" as slang can lead to trouble (e.g. slang pertaining to street drugs or gangs).

Beyond trying to list slang terminology for the act of vomiting, I'll pick a place like....the tool bench, the garden or the kitchen to discover slang which is often derogatory, vile or related in some way to drug/alcohol abuse or sex....I'm not going to lie, these are some of the funniest. What twisted person first rummaged through a kitchen in search of cooking terms to describe someone who was high on drugs (baked, fried, or toasted).

OK for fun - see how many slang terms you can find in the following couple sentences and just for kicks I'm mixing terms from different time periods and keeping it clean......"What a far-out idea, but it's baloney daddy-o. Lay off the sauce pronto piker. Crackass commodores despite the razzmatazz are like totally hyped geek and not worth a Benjamin."


Sunny said...
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Sunny said...
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Sunny said...

Cool post! ;) The paragraph is filled with slang, isn't it. I even tried to figure out its meaning with the help of http://www.urbandictionary.com

All I understood was the following: Your excellent idea just doesn't make sense.Give up drinking too much at once. Don't behave as a decorated general. You don't worth a 100 dollar bill.

So, how many mistakes are there in my version of your paragraph? ;)

Now to your questions. I learnt proper English first (the classic British English), then spent a few years in the USA and picked up some really weird slang. Later I made friends with a lot of afro-americans and enlarged my slang vocabulary even more. In the end I spoke really confusing English.

Now I'm trying to use more or less *classic* version of it.

The obstacle that is always here is phrasal verbs. They drove me nuts, as I sometimes looked UP socks under the bed and looked FOR new words in dictionaries.

My speech is better now, I hope ;)

p.S. too many typos, though

Bee and Rose said...

OMG! I totally want to say thanks, bro-ski for checking out my tubular blog! LOL! (I was a victim of the 80's as well...)

My kids hate it when I use slang! I now torture them with geek speak through email. I REFUSE to text. I am an anti-texter. My tween is my favorite to inflict this torture on. He constantly reminds me that "can you dig it" and "that flippin rocks" is not cool on any level. So, of course, I say it ALL THE TIME!

Loved your post!

A Free Man said...

"Crack-ass commodores"?

One of the best things about living in Britain was learning all the slang, the Brits have about 6,000 different ways to subtly insult you. Now I'm in the midst of learning new Aussie slang - a whole different kettle of fish...

Single Parent Dad said...

When I use slang on my blog post, I often link the definition for my American readers.

I didn't really realise quite how much I used slang until people started querying my stuff.

So get your pork-pies over at my place and see if you can make head-nor-tail if it, my new china.