Slang

Do you ever use words with your friends that your parents don't know the meaning of? Or do you use words that someone in another country (or even city) wouldn't understand? This is where our good friend slang comes into play. Chances are, everyone uses some type of slang when they talk to different people; it has become a part of the way we socialise with others. But what actually is slang, and why do we use it? 

Slang Slang

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Table of contents

    In this article, we will explore the meaning of slang and look at some examples. We will also consider the reasons for people using slang and the effects it can have in different situations.

    Slang meaning in English language

    Slang is a type of informal language comprised of words and phrases that are generally used within specific social groups, regions and contexts. It is used more frequently in spoken conversation and online communication than in formal writing.

    Why do people use slang language?

    Slang can be used for a variety of reasons:

    Slang words/phrases take less time to say or write out, so it is a quicker way to communicate what you want to say.

    Within a group of friends, slang can be used to create a sense of belonging and closeness. You can all use similar words/phrases to relate to one another and express yourselves, and you are all familiar with the language you use together.

    Slang can be used to reflect who you are and which social groups you belong to. It can help to distinguish yourself from others. The slang you use to communicate and express yourself can be understood by people you associate with but won't always be understood by outsiders.

    In particular, slang can be used by teens and young adults to separate themselves from their parents and create more freedom in how they communicate. It is a good way to show the differences between generations. For example, your parents may not understand the slang you use with friends and vice versa. It's like each generation has a secret language that distinguishes them from others!

    Depending on where you are from, different slang words are used that are often only understood by the people in those particular areas.

    Examples of slang and colloquial language

    Now, let's take a look at different types of slang and some examples of them.

    Internet slang

    A common type of slang in today's society is internet slang. This refers to words or phrases that have been made popular or have been created by people who use the internet.

    It is worth noting that because internet slang is so popular, it is sometimes used in daily life outside of online communication.

    Who uses internet slang the most?

    Compared to older generations who didn't grow up with the internet, younger generations are more likely to use social media and the internet to communicate, and they are more familiar with internet slang as a result.

    Slang.Internet.Social Media Icons. StudySmarterFig. 1 - Younger generations are more likely to be familiar with internet slang.

    Do you recognise any or all of the icons in the picture above?

    Examples of internet slang

    Some examples of internet slang include letter homophones, abbreviations, initialisms, and onomatopoeic spellings.

    Letter Homophones

    This refers to when a letter is used in the place of a word that is pronounced in the same way. For example:


    SlangMeaning

    C

    See

    U

    You

    R

    Are

    B

    Be

    Y

    Why

    Abbreviations

    This refers to when a word is shortened. For example:


    SlangMeaning

    Abt

    About

    Rly

    Really

    Ppl

    People

    Min

    Minute

    Probs

    Probably

    Approx

    Approximately

    Initialisms

    An abbreviation that is made from the first letters of several words which are pronounced separately. For example:


    SlangMeaning

    LOL

    Laugh out loud

    OMG

    Oh my God

    LMAO

    Laughing my ass off

    IKR

    I know right

    BRB

    Be right back

    BTW

    By the way

    TBH

    To be honest

    FYI

    For your information

    Fun fact: 'LOL' has been used so much that it is now recognised as its own word in the Oxford English Dictionary!

    Onomatopoeia

    This refers to words that are used to mimic sounds. For example:


    SlangMeaning

    Haha

    Used to replicate laughter

    Oops/whoops

    Used when a mistake is made or to express an apology

    Ugh

    Often used to show annoyance

    Eww

    Often used to show disgust

    Shh/shush

    Used to tell someone to be quiet

    Fun fact: The way to write 'haha' in Korean is ㅋㅋㅋ (pronounced like 'kekeke')

    Do you know of any other ways to write or say 'haha'?

    As we have explored internet slang, we will now take at some newer slang words created and commonly used by the younger generation.

    Gen Z slang words

    Gen Z refers to the generation of people born from 1997 to 2012. Gen Z slang is used mostly by young adults and teenagers, both on the internet and in real life. It is a way to create an identity and sense of belonging between people in the same generation, as they can relate to one another. At the same time, it gives a sense of independence from the older generations, who are seen as outsiders as they are not familiar with the slang of younger generations.

    Slang Image of teenagers StudySmarterFig. 2 - Teenagers on their phones.

    Examples of Gen Z slang

    Have you heard of any of the examples listed below?

    Word/phrase

    Meaning

    Example sentence

    Lit

    Really good/exciting

    'This party is lit'

    Stan

    An excessive/obsessive fan of a celebrity

    'I love her, I'm such a stan'

    Slaps

    Cool

    'This song slaps'

    Extra

    Overly dramatic

    'You're so extra'

    Sus

    Suspicious

    'That looks a bit sus'

    On fleek

    Look very good

    'Your eyebrows are on fleek'

    Spill the tea

    Share the gossip

    'Go on, spill the tea'

    Mood

    Relatable

    'Getting out of bed at 1 pm? Mood'

    It is also important to be aware of AAVE, a dialect that is not gen z slang but could be wrongly mistaken for it. AAVE stands for African American Vernacular English; it is an English dialect influenced by African languages and is widely used in Black communities in the US and Canada. It is an important part of African American culture, but it is often appropriated by non-Black people. Have you heard of phrases such as 'Chile, anyways' or 'we been knew'? These have roots in AAVE but are widely used by non-Black people on the internet.

    What are your thoughts on non-Black people using AAVE on the internet? Do you think it's important we understand the roots and history of a dialect to avoid appropriation?

    Regional English slang words

    Slang can be region and language-based, meaning that people from different regions in the same country and people from different countries altogether use different slang words.

    We will now compare English slang used in different regions by looking at some examples and their meanings. Although England is small, there are many different dialects, resulting in the creation of new words in each region!

    Word:

    Meaning:

    Example sentence:

    Commonly used in:

    Boss

    Great

    'That's boss, that'

    Liverpool

    Lad

    A man

    'He’s a handsome lad'

    Northern England

    Dinlo/Din

    A foolish person

    'Don’t be such a dinlo'

    Portsmouth

    Bruv/Blud

    Brother or friend

    'You alright bruv?'

    London

    Mardy/Mardy bum

    Grumpy/whiny

    'I'm feeling mardy'

    Yorkshire/Midlands

    Geek

    To look at

    'Take a geek at this'

    Cornwall

    Canny

    Nice/pleasant

    'This place is canny'

    Newcastle

    Which of the above words are the most interesting or unusual to you?

    Slang - Key Takeaways

    • Slang is informal language used with specific groups of people, regions and contexts.

    • Slang is used more in speech and online communication than in formal writing.

    • Internet slang refers to the words used by people on the internet. Some internet slang is also used in daily life.

    • Gen Z slang refers to the slang used by people born from 1997 to 2012.

    • Slang is dependent on region and language; different countries use different slang.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Slang

    What is slang?

    Slang is informal language used within certain social groups, contexts and regions.

    What is a slang example?

    An example of slang is 'chuffed', meaning 'pleased' in British English.

    Why is slang used?

    Slang can be used for a variety of reasons, some of which include:

    • more efficient communication
    • fit into certain social groups
    • create own identity
    • gain independence
    • show belonging or understanding of a certain region/country

    What is slang's definition?

    Slang can be defined as a type of informal language comprised of words and phrases generally used within specific contexts.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    True or falseSlang is a type of formal language.

    True or false?Internet slang is never used in everyday life.

    Slang words/phrases take ____ time to say or write out than formal words.

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