Slang is the non-standard use of words in a language and sometimes the creation of new words or importation of words from another language. Slang terms are often particular to a certain subculture - such as drug users, skaters, or musicians. Slang is sometimes confused with jargon which is the collection of vocabulary specific to a profession: medical terminology for example. "Slang" generally implies playful, informal speech. Compare colloquialism.

Slang is often used to discuss semi-taboo subjects, such as

Slang is often particular to a brief period of time, with common usage ranging from decades to only a few months. Therefore words which are widely used and understood at one time, are not imbued with the same connotations at a later time. For example, a good thing may have been "swell" in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, "groovy" in the 1960s, and "cool" in the 1970s. And although the term "cool" may still be understood today, the slang "swell" and "groovy" have fallen from that usage. This fluid quality is unique to slang since it is not bound by the rigid meanings and usages of more formal language. With the growth of text messaging, slang terms have even adopted commonly used spellings which do not conform to the rules of formal language; thus what a youth of the 1960s might have called groovy, a youth of 2002 might call "phat", both verbally and in text messages.

Historical examples of slang are the "thieves' cant" used by beggars and the underworld generally in previous centuries: a number of "canting" dictionaries were published.

A famous example is Cockney rhyming slang in which, in the simplest case, word and phrases are replaced by a word or phrase that rhymes with it. Often the rhyming replacement is abbreviated further, making the expressions even more obscure, and a new rhyme may then be introduced for the abbreviation. Examples of rhyming slang are: 'apples and pears' for 'stairs' and 'trouble and strife' for 'wife.' An example of truncation and replacement of rhyming slang is bottle and glass for arse. This was reduced to bottle, for which the new rhyme Aristotle was found; Aristotle was then reduced to Aris for which plaster of Paris became the rhyme. This was then reduced to plaster.

Backwards or Back slang is a form of slang where words are reversed. English backwards slang tends to reverse words letter by letter while French backwards slang tends to reverse words by syllables. Verlan is a French slang, that uses backwards words, similar in its methods to the cockney back slang. Louchebem is French butcher's slang, similar to Pig latin.

Polari is an interesting mixture of Italian and Cockney back slang (i.e. common words pronounced as if spelled backwards e.g. 'ecaf' for face, which became 'eek' in Polari). Polari was used in London fish markets and the gay subculture in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, becoming more widely known from its use by two camp characters, Jules and Sandy, in Round the Horne, a popular radio show.

The theater profession produced rich slang, some of which has crossed into the mainstream. Success is often referred to in violent metaphors - a successful performer will "knock them (the audience) dead", a comedian who succeeds in making the audience laugh "kills" or "slays" them. A great performance "brings the house down".

There is a huge amount of hacker (computer programmer) slang; see leet and Jargon File.

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See also

External links

Use of slang on Wikipedia

See Wikipedia talk:Foul language.