The formation and sources of slang words
Юлдашева С. А. The formation and sources of slang words // Молодой ученый. 2016. №12. С. 1048-1049.
Slang expressions are created by the same processes that affect ordinary speech. Expressions may take form as metaphors, similes, and other figures of speech (dead as a doornail). Words may acquire new meanings (cool, cat). A narrow meaning may become generalized (fink, originally a strikebreaker, later a betrayer or disappointer) or vice-versa (heap, a run-down car). Words may be clipped, or abbreviated (mike, microphone), and acronyms may gain currency (VIP, awol, snafu). A foreign suffix may be added (the Yiddish and Russian -nik in beatnik) and foreign words adopted (baloney, from Bologna). A change in meaning may make a vulgar word acceptable (jazz) or an acceptable word vulgar (raspberry, a sound imitating flatus; from raspberry tart in the rhyming slang of Australia and Cockney London; Sometimes words are newly coined (oomph, sex appeal, and later, energy or impact).
The vocabulary of Old English differs from the vocabulary of Modern English. Modern English abounds in the words that were absent in Old English. The language is not a dead phenomenon, it is alive, and it is always up-to-date. The development of the language is gained due to the endless appearance of new words.
Slang comes to be a very numerous part of the English language. It is considered to be one of the main representatives of the nation itself. The birth of new words results from the order of the modern society. Slang arises due to our propensity for replacing old denominations by expressive ones. And yet the growing popularity of ever new creation prevents it from remaining fresh and impressive. What was felt as strikingly witty yesterday becomes dull and stale today, since everybody knows it and uses it. So how do the slang words come to life? There are several ways of slang words formation:
- Various figures of speech participate in slang formation.
For example: upperstorey-head (metaphor), skirt-girl (metonymy), killing-astonishing (hyperbole), some-excellent or bad (understatement), clear as mud (irony).
Slang items usually arise by the same means in which new words enter the general vocabulary.
- The slang word can appear thanks to the recycling of the words and parts of words, which are already in the language.
Affixation allows limitless opportunities for open-ended sets.
For example: megabucks, megabeers, megawork (for vast quantities of the item in questions).
Compounding makes one word from two.
For example: airhead-someone out of touch with reality homeboy-a person from the same hometown
- A currently productive process especially in American English is the addition of a particle like OUT, OFF or ON to a noun, adjective or verb, to form a phrasal verb.
For example: blimp out-to overeat; blow off-to ignore; hit on-to make sexual overtures to.
- In slang, frequently used words are likely to be abbreviated.
For example: OTL-out to lunch-out of touch with reality; VJ-video jock-an announcer for televised music videos; OBNO-obnoxious; Sup?-What’s up?; Pro-professional.
- Unlike the general vocabulary of the language, English slang has not borrowed heavily from foreign languages, although it does borrow from dialects, especially from such ethnic or special interest groups which make an impact on the dominant culture as American Black, or from a second language that is part of the culture.
For example: Yiddish.
- Certain slang words are mere distortions of standard words.
For example: cripes-instead of «Christ!»
- Sometimes new words are just invented.
For example: shenanigans-tricks, pranks.
- Mock dialect and foreign pronunciation result into the formation of slang.
For example: «my feet are staying» (goodbye)-mock for German «auf wiedersehen».
- Some sounds appear to give words a slangier flavor.
For example the sound [z]: zazzy from jazzy, scuz from scum, zap from slap.
- Sometimes a new slang word can appear due to the replacement or addition of a vowel with [oo]
For example: cigaroot from cigarette, bazoom from bosom.
- Rhyming is a favorite means or creating slang for many Londoners
For example: trouble and strife-wife mince pies-eyes.
- The transition of slang words within the English language itself comes to be one of the ways of slang words formation.
Our students study Oscar Wilde’s, Maugham’s, Jack London’s works of art. These masterpieces can be good examples of the last way of slang words formation. The language of Maugham is still understood but even priests don’t speak this way.
There is a good fairy-tale to demonstrate how the transition of slang words is used in practice.
A frogman liked to take pictures under water but a princess liked to stroll along the shore. The princess lived one hundred and ninety seven years ago but the frogman still lives.
One day he happened to dive in 1997 and to emerge in 1800. He was a bit embarrassed to see the boats and fishing net, which were not few hours ago. But having noticed the strolling girl dressed in unfashionable clothes he smiled: «They make movie». The girl came closer and saw him. «Oh boy!» — exclaimed the boy having looked at the wonderful dress of the princess. «I’m a girl» — she answered. «What a nice joke!» — thought the frogman. «I’m a princess» — she said. «I see, she plays the role of princess» — the frogman thought. «Cool day today, isn’t it?» — he told. «Why does he say that it is cool today? It’s too warm.» — thought the poor girl. «No, the day is good. Who are you?» «I’m the frogman» — he introduced himself. «Frogman?!» — exclaimed the princess with fear. The man really liked the frog. «Yeah, frogman, I shoot submarine world. I see you shoot movie over here as well. Cool.»
The princess prowled back. She didn’t want to communicate with the strange frog-man.
Suddenly she saw his camera lying on the sand.
«It’s my camera. Sometimes I shoot.» — he added.
«Ohmy God! He shoots under water. He is the killer. He is the water-monster!!!»
The princess yelled and ran away.
«She is so strange» — the frogman thought and took his way.
The same linguistic processes are used to create and popularize slang as are used to create and popularize all other words. Slang expressions often embody attitudes and values of group members. They may thus contribute to a sense of group identity and may convey to the listener information about the speaker's background. In fact, most slang words are homonyms of standard words, spelled and pronounced just like their standard counterparts, as for example (American slang), cabbage (money), cool (relaxed), and pot (marijuana). Of course, the words cabbage, cool, and pot sound alike in their ordinary standard use and in their slang use. Each word sounds just as appealing or unappealing, dull or colorful in its standard as in its slang use. Also, the meanings of cabbage and money, cool and relaxed, pot and marijuana are the same, so it cannot be said that the connotations of slang words are any more colorful or racy than the meanings of standard words.
«Cool» is a very meaningful word. In the Standard English language it is translated as something between warm and cold. But in the everyday conversations it is used in the meaning of something «great», «wonderful», «good». The word «cool» can be both the noun and the attribute.
Compare: cool cat = great fellow
It’s cool = it’s good.
The meaning depends on the person uses it. So the expression «cool weather» can have two translations depending on the content.
These are the slang meaning of the word «cool».
- To postpone, await developments in; let’s cool this whole business for week or so.
- To kill; who knew what he wanted to it look like when he cooled her.
- In control of one’s feeling; learn to be cool under fire.
- He lost his cool and bolted like a rabbit.
- Aloof and uninvolved, disengaged; He’s cool; don’t give a shit for nothing.
- Cool musician Jazz marked by soft tones, improvisation based on advanced chord extensions, and revision of certain classical jazz idioms.
- Pleasant, desirable; you enjoying it? Iseverythingcool?
- Аврорин В. А. Проблемы изучения функциональной стороныязыка, — М., 2006.
- Алексеева Л. М. Термин и метафора. — Пермь: изд-во Пермского университета, 1998.
- Апресян Ю. Д. Лексическая семантика. — М.: Наука, 1974.
- Арнольд И. В. Лексикология современного английского языка. — М., 1959.