Characteristically individual, slang often incorporates elements of the jargons of special-interest groups (e.g., professional, sport, regional, criminal, drug, and sexual subcultures). Slang words often come from foreign languages or are of a regional nature. Slang is very old, and the reasons for its development have been much investigated. The following is a small sample of American slang descriptive of a broad range of subjects: of madness—loony, nuts, psycho of crime—heist, gat, hit, heat, grifter of women—babe, chick, squeeze, skirt of men—dude, hombre, hunk of drunkenness—sloshed, plastered, stewed, looped, trashed, smashed of drugs—horse, high, stoned, tripping of caressing—neck, fool around, make out of states of mind—uptight, wired, mellow, laid back the verb to go —scram, split, scoot, tip miscellaneous phrases—you push his buttons, get it together, chill, she does her number, he does his thing, what's her story, I'm not into that.
See H. L. Mencken, The American Language (3 vol., 1936–48) P. Farb, Word Play (1973) J. Green, The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang (1985) and Green's Dictionary of Slang (3 vol., 2011) R. Chapman, Thesaurus of American Slang (1989) E. Partridge, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (1990) J. E. Lighter, ed., Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang (A–G, 1994, H–O, 1997) Bodleian Library, ed., The First English Dictionary of Slang, 1699 (2010) J. Coleman, The Life of Slang (2012).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Language and Linguistics
Browse by Subject
- Earth and the Environment +-
- History +-
- Literature and the Arts +-
- Medicine +-
- People +-
- Philosophy and Religion +-
- Places +-
- Australia and Oceania
- Britain, Ireland, France, and the Low Countries
- Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic Nations
- Germany, Scandinavia, and Central Europe
- Latin America and the Caribbean
- Oceans, Continents, and Polar Regions
- Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and the Balkans
- United States, Canada, and Greenland
- Plants and Animals +-
- Science and Technology +-
- Social Sciences and the Law +-
- Sports and Everyday Life +-