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The life of the USA during the twentieth century is full of quick changes brought about by historical events. These changes influenced all the sides of the American life: culture, economy, political life, social life, and also the language. The two World Wars took place in that century, and this modified not only the social life, but also the cultural life of the country, including the language vocabulary. Racial discrimination, that was one of the remains of the slavery politics of the previous century USA, disappeared in about 1960-s, and in this way the Blacks also influenced the language, not speaking about Jazz, which was also a result of the interchange of the native and black Americans. We will discuss the changes in the language in our research, but in order to pass on to that topic we should first find out what is slang, how it appears, who give rise to it, what role it plays in the language and so on. Only after that well speak about the American slang, particularly that of the twentieth century.

What is slang?
This should be our first question to the topic. According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, slang is very informal usage in vocabulary and idiom that is characteristically more metaphorical, playful, elliptical, vivid and ephemeral than ordinary language. For instance, a quick internet search showed that the following are all slang variants for excellent: phat, obese, shiznit, coolio. And such examples can be found in all slang dictionaries. So, what is slang? Its informal, nonstandard words and phrases, generally shorter lived than the expressions of ordinary colloquial speech, and typically formed by creative, often witty juxtapositions of words or images. Slang can be contrasted with jargon(technical language of occupational or other groups) and with argot or cant(secret vocabulary of underworld groups), but the borderlines separating these categories from slang are greatly blurred, and some writers use the terms cant, argot, jargon in a general way to include all the foregoing meanings. According to I.V. Arnold, slang words are identified and distinguished by contrasting them to standard literary vocabulary. They are expressive, mostly ironical words serving to create fresh names for some things that are frequent topics of discourse. Arnold also gives

in his book Lexicology of modern English the classification of slang according to the sphere of its usage. In like manner, we differentiate between two types of slang: general and special. General slang includes words that are not specific for any social or professional group, whereas special slang covers the words, used by certain groups like: teenagers, university slang speakers, public school slang users, and so on. We should also stress that a great deal of American slang words entered Britains slang vocabulary, but this mustnt give us the impression that slang is always American in its origin. There are such words in the American slang coming from Great Britain, but they are not so many.

Slang: the definition

Main entry: slang- 1.slang peculiar to a particular group: as a.argot; b.jargon; informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant,forced or facetious figures of speech. Main entry: rhyming slang-slang in which the word intended is replaced by a word or phrase that rhymes with it(as loaf of bread for head) or the first part of the phrase(as loaf for head). Source: Websters Revised Unabridged Dictionary Main entry: slang- very informal words and expressions that are more common in spoken language, especially used by a particular group of people, for example, children, criminals, soldiers, etc.: Teenage slang- a slang word/expression/term. Slangy- containing a lot of slang; A slangy style. Rhyming slang- a way of talking in which you use words or phrases that rhyme with the word you mean, instead of using that word. For ex., in Cockney rhyming slang apples and pears means stairs. Source: Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary

Slangs.From where did they appear?

Origins of slang Slang tends to originate in subcultures within a society. Occupational groups(for example, loggers, police, medical professionals, and computer specialists) are prominent originators of both jargon and slang; other groups creating slang include the armed forces, teenagers, racial minorities, ghetto residents,













denominations. We should mention that an apt expression becomes slang, if it is adopted by members of the subculture. And if this or that subculture contacts with the whole society greatly, its figures of speech become slang expressions known to the whole society. For example, cat(a sport), cool(aloof, stylish), Mr. Charley(a white man), the Man(the law), and Uncle Tom(a meek black) all originated in the predominantly Harlem district of New York City and have traveled far since their inception. So, we come to the conclusion that slang is generally not tied to any geographic region within a country.

Development of slang Slang is arisen from conflicts in values, sometimes superficial, often fundamental. When someone wants to express hostility, ridicule or contempt in a new way, he may give rise to slang, but the new phrase or unit may disappear unless it is picked up by other members of the community. But slang may occur also by the social group or the community itself, so, thats why its difficult to determine the origin of slang.

Creators of slang Civilized society tends to divide into a dominant culture and various subcultures that flourish within the dominant framework. The subcultures show specialized linguistic phenomena, varying widely in form and content, that depend on the nature of the groups and their relation to each other and to the dominant culture. The shock value of slang stems largely from the verbal transfer of the values of a subculture to diametrically opposed values in the dominant culture. Names such as fuzz, pig, fink, bull, and dick for policemen were not created by officers of the law. (The humorous "dickless tracy," however, meaning a policewoman, was coined by male policemen). Sources Most subcultures tend to draw words and phrases from the contiguous language (rather than creating many new words) and to give these established terms new and special meanings; some borrowings from foreign languages, including the American Indian tongues, are traditional. The more learned occupations or professions like medicine, law, psychology, sociology, engineering, and electronics tend to create true neologisms, often

based on Greek or Latin roots, but these are not major sources for slang, though nurses and medical students adapt some medical terminology to their slang, and air force personnel and some other branches of the armed services borrow freely from engineering and electronics. Linguistic processes forming slang The processes by which words become slang are the same as those by which other words in the language change their form or meaning or both. Some of these are the employment of metaphor, simile, folk etymology, distortion of sounds in words, generalization, specialization, clipping, the use of acronyms, elevation and degeneration, metonymy, synecdoche, hyperbole, borrowings from foreign languages, and the play of euphemism against taboo. The English word trip is an example of a term that has undergone both specialization and generalization. It first became specialized to mean a psychedelic experience resulting from the drug LSD. Subsequently, it generalized again to mean any experience on any drug, and beyond that to any type of "kicks" from anything. Clipping is exemplified by the use of "grass" from "laughing grass," a term for marijuana. "Funky," once a very low term for body odour, has undergone elevation among jazz buffs to signify "the best"; "fanny," on the other hand, once simply a girl's name, is currently a degenerated term that refers to the buttocks (in England, it has further degenerated into a taboo word for the female genitalia). There is also some actual coinage of slang terms. Diffusion of slang Slang invades the dominant culture as it seeps out of various subcultures. Some words fall dead or lie dormant in the dominant culture for long periods. Others vividly express an idea already latent in the dominant culture and these are immediately picked up and used. Before the advent of mass media, such terms invaded the dominant culture slowly and were transmitted largely by word of mouth. Thus a term like snafu, its shocking power softened with the explanation "situation normal, all fouled up," worked its way gradually from the military in World War II by word of mouth (because the media largely shunned it) into respectable circles. Today, however, a sportscaster, news reporter, or comedian may introduce a lively new word already used by an in-group into millions of homes simultaneously, giving it almost instant currency. For example, the term uptight was first used largely by criminal narcotic addicts to indicate the onset of withdrawal distress

when drugs are denied. Later, because of intense journalistic interest in the drug scene, it became widely used in the dominant culture to mean anxiety or tension unrelated to drug use. It kept its form but changed its meaning slightly. Other terms may change their form or both form and meaning, like "one for the book" (anything unusual or unbelievable). Sportswriters in the U.S. borrowed this term around 1920 from the occupational language of then legal bookmakers, who lined up at racetracks in the morning ("the morning line" is still figuratively used on every sports page) to take bets on the afternoon races. Newly arrived bookmakers went to the end of the line, and any bettor requesting unusually long odds was motioned down the line with the phrase, "That's one for the end book." The general public dropped the "end" as meaningless, but old-time gamblers still retain it. Slang spreads through many other channels, such as popular songs, which, for the initiate, are often rich in double entendre. When subcultures are structurally tight, little of their language leaks out. Thus the Mafia, in more than a half-century of powerful criminal activity in America, has contributed little slang. When subcultures weaken, contacts with the dominant culture multiply, diffusion occurs, and their language appears widely as slang. Criminal narcotic addicts, for example, had a tight subculture and a highly secret argot in the 1940s; now their terms are used freely by middle-class teenagers, even those with no real knowledge of drugs. Uses of slang In some cases slang may provide a needed name for an object or action ( walkietalkie, a portable two-way radio; tailgating, driving too close behind another vehicle), or it may offer an emotional outlet (buzz off! for go away!) or a satirical or patronizing reference (smokey, state highway trooper). It may provide euphemisms (john, head, can, and in Britain, loo, all for toilet, itself originally a euphemism), and it may allow its user to create a shock effect by using a pungent slang expression in an unexpected context. Slang has provided myriad synonyms for parts of the body (bean, head; schnozzle, nose), for money (moola, bread, scratch), for food (grub, slop, garbage), and for drunkenness (soused, stewed, plastered).

Slang is used for many purposes, but generally it expresses a certain emotional attitude; the same term may express diametrically opposed attitudes when used by different people. Many slang terms are primarily derogatory, though they may also be ambivalent when used in intimacy or affection. Some crystallize or bolster the self-image or promote identification with a class or in-group. Others flatter objects, institutions, or persons but may be used by different people for the opposite effect. "Jesus freak," originally used as ridicule, was adopted as a title by certain street evangelists. Slang sometimes insults or shocks when used directly; some terms euphemize a sensitive concept, though obvious or excessive euphemism may break the taboo more effectively than a less decorous term. Some slang words are essential because there are no words in the standard language expressing exactly the same meaning; e.g., "freak-out," "barnstorm," "rubberneck," and the noun "creep." At the other extreme, multitudes of words, vague in meaning, are used simply as fads. There are many other uses to which slang is put, according to the individual and his place in society. Since most slang is used on the spoken level, by persons who probably are unaware that it is slang, the choice of terms naturally follows a multiplicity of unconscious thought patterns. When used by writers, slang is much more consciously and carefully chosen to achieve a specific effect. Writers, however, seldom invent slang. It has been claimed that slang is created by ingenious individuals to freshen the language, to vitalize it, to make the language more pungent and picturesque, to increase the store of terse and striking words, or to provide a vocabulary for new shades of meaning. Most of the originators and purveyors of slang, however, are probably not conscious of these noble purposes and do not seem overly concerned about what happens to their language. Attitudes toward slang With the rise of naturalistic writing demanding realism, slang began to creep into English literature even though the schools waged warfare against it, the pulpit thundered against it, and many women who aspired to gentility and refinement banished it from the home. It flourished underground, however, in such male sanctuaries as lodges, poolrooms, barbershops, and saloons.

By 1925 a whole new generation of U.S. and European naturalistic writers was in revolt against the Victorian restraints that had caused even Mark Twain to complain, and today any writer may use slang freely, especially in fiction and drama. It has become an indispensable tool in the hands of master satirists, humorists, and journalists. Slang is now socially acceptable, not just because it is slang but because, when used with skill and discrimination, it adds a new and exciting dimension to language. At the same time, it is being seriously studied by linguists and other social scientists as a revealing index to the culture that produces and uses it. Formation 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). Position in the Language Slang is one of the vehicles through which languages change and become renewed, and its vigor and color enrich daily speech. Although it has gained respectability in the 20th century, in the past it was often loudly condemned as vulgar. Nevertheless, Shakespeare brought into acceptable usage such slang terms as hubbub, to bump, and to dwindle, and 20th-century writers have used slang brilliantly to convey character and ambience. Slang appears at all times and in all languages. A persons head was kapala (dish) in Sanskrit, testa (pot) in Latin; testa later became the standard Latin word for head. Among Western languages, English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Yiddish, Romanian, and Romany (Gypsy) are particularly rich in slang.

American slang has Irish origins!

There is but one work, so far as I can discover, formally devoted to American slang, and that work is extremely superficial. Moreover, it has been long out of date, and hence is of little save historical value. There are at least a dozen careful treatises on French slang, half as many on English slang, and a good many on German slang, but American slang, which is probably quite as rich as that of France and a good deal richer than that of any other country, is yet to be studied at length. Nor is there much discussion of it, of any interest or value, in the general philological literature. Fowler and all the other early native students of the language dismissed it with lofty gestures; down to the time of Whitney it was scarcely regarded as a seemly subject for the notice of a man of learning. Lounsbury, less pedantic, viewed its phenomena more hospitably, and even defined it as the source from which the decaying energies of speech are constantly refreshed, and Brander Matthews, following him, has described its function as that of providing substitutes for the good words and true which are worn out by hard service. But that is about as far as the investigation has got. Krapp has some judicious paragraphs upon the matter in his Modern English, there are a few scattered essays upon the underlying psychology, and various superficial magazine articles, but that is all. The practising authors of the country, like its philologians, have always shown a gingery and suspicious attitude. The use of slang, said Oliver Wendell Holmes, is at once a sign and a cause of mental atrophy. Slang, said Ambrose Bierce fifty years later, is the speech of him who robs the literary garbage cans on their way to the dumps. Literature in America, as we have seen, remains aloof from the vulgate. Despite the contrary examples of Mark Twain and Howells, all of the more pretentious American authors try to write chastely and elegantly; the typical literary product of the country is still a refined essay in the Atlantic Monthly manner, perhaps gently jocose but never roughby Emerson, so to speak, out of Charles Lambthe sort of thing one might look to be done by a somewhat advanced English curate. George Ade, undoubtedly one of the most adept anatomists of the American character and painters of the American scene that the national literature has yet developed, is neglected because his work is grounded firmly upon the national speechnot that he reports it literally, like Lardner and the hacks trailing after Lardner, but that he gets at and exhibits its very essence. It would stagger a candidate for a doctorate in philology, I daresay, to be told off by his professor to investigate the slang of Ade in the way that Bosson, the Swede, has investigated that of Jerome K. Jerome, and yet, until something of the sort is undertaken, American philology will remain out of contact

with the American language. Most of the existing discussions of slang spend themselves upon efforts to define it, and, in particular, upon efforts to differentiate it from idiomatic neologisms of a more legitimate type. This effort is largely in vain; the border-line is too vague and wavering to be accurately mapped; words and phrases are constantly crossing it, and in both directions. There was a time, perhaps, when the familiar American counterword, proposition, was slang; its use seems to have originated in the world of business, and it was soon afterward adopted by the sporting fraternity. But today it is employed without much feeling that it needs apology, and surely without any feeling that it is low. Nice, as an adjective of all work, was once in slang use only; today no one would question to be a nice day, going the or a nice time, or a nice hotel. Awful seems same route. Awful sweet

and awfully dear still seem slangy and school-girlish, but awfulchildren and awful job have entirely sound support, and no one save a pedant would hesitate to use them. Such insidious purifications and conscrations of slang are going on under our noses all the time. The use of some as a general adjective-adverb seems likely to make its way in the same manner, and so does the use of kick as verb and noun. It is constantly forgotten by purists of defective philological equipment that a great many of our respectable words and phrases originated in the plainest sort of slang. Thus, quandary, despite a fanciful etymology which would identify it with wandreth (=evil), is probably simply a composition form of the French phrase, quen dirai-je? Again, to turn to French itself, there is tte, a sound name for the human head for many centuries, though its origin was in the Latin testa (=pot), a favorite slang word of the soldiers of the decaying empire, analogous to our own block, nut andconch. The word slacker, recently come into good usage in the United States as a designation for a successful shirker of conscription, is a substantive derived from the English verb to slack,which was born as university slang and remains so to this day. Brander Matthews, so recently as 1901, though to hold

up slang; it is now perfectly good American.

The contrary movement of words from the legitimate vocabulary into slang is constantly witnessed. Some one devises a new and arresting trope or makes use of an old one under circumstances arresting the public attention, and at once it is adopted into slang, given a host of remote significances, and ding-donged ad nauseam. The Rooseveltian phrases, muck-raker, Ananias Club, short and ugly word, nature-

faker and big-stick, offer examples. Not one of them was new and not one of them

was of much pungency, but Roosevelts vast talent for delighting the yokelry threw about them a charming air, and so they entered into current slang and were mouthed idiotically for months. Another example is to be found in steam-roller. It was first heard of in American politics in June, 1908, when it was applied by Oswald F. Schuette, of the Chicago Inter-Ocean, to the methods employed by the RooseveltTaft majority in the Republican National Committee in over-riding the protests against seating Taft delegates from Alabama and Arkansas. At once it struck the popular fancy and was soon in general use. All the usual derivatives appeared, to

steam-roller, steam-rollered, and so on. Since then the term has gradually forced its
way back into good usage, and even gone over to England. In the early days of the World War it actually appeared in the most solemn English reviews, and once or twice, I believe, in state papers. Much of the discussion of slang by popular etymologists is devoted to proofs that this or that locution is not really slang at allthat it is to be found in Shakespeare, in Milton, or in the Authorized Version. These scientists, of course, overlook the plain fact that slang, like the folk-song, is not the creation of people in the mass, but of definite individuals, and that its character as slang depends entirely upon its adoption by the ignorant, who use its novelties too assiduously and with too little imagination, and so debase them to the estate of worn-out coins, smooth and valueless. It is this error, often shared by philologists of sounder information, that lies under the doctrine that the plays of Shakespeare are full of slang, and that the Bard showed but a feeble taste in language. Nothing could be more absurd. The business of writing English, in his day, was unharassed by the proscriptions of purists, and so the vocabulary could be enriched more facilely than today, but though Shakespeare and his fellow-dramatists quickly adopted such neologisms as to

bustle, to huddle, bump, hubbub and pat, it goes without saying that they exercised
a sound discretion and that the slang of the Bankside was full of words and phrases which they were never tempted to use. In our own day the same discrimination is exercised by all writers of sound taste. On the one hand they disregard the senseless prohibitions of schoolmasters, and on the other hand they draw the line with more or less watchfulness, according as they are of conservative or liberal habit. I find the

best of the bunch and joke-smith in Saintsbury; one could scarcely imagine either in Walter Pater. But by the same token one could not imagine chicken (for young girl), aber nit, to come acrossor to camouflage in Saintsbury.
What slang actually consists of doesnt depend, in truth, upon intrinsic qualities,

but upon the surrounding circumstances. It is the user that determines the matter, and particularly the users habitual way of thinking. If he chooses words carefully, with a full understanding of their meaning and savor, then no word that he uses seriously will belong to slang, but if his speech is made up chiefly of terms pollparroted, and he has no sense of their shades and limitations, then slang will bulk largely in his vocabulary. In its origin it is nearly always respectable; it is devised, not by the stupid populace, but by individuals of wit and ingenuity; as Whitney says, it is a product of an exuberance of mental activity, and the natural delight of language-making. But when its inventions happen to strike the popular fancy and are adopted by the mob, they are soon worn thread-bare and so lose all piquancy and significance, and, in Whitneys words, become incapable of expressing anything that is real. This is the history of such slang phrases, often interrogative, as Howd you like to be the ice-man? Hows your poor feet? Merci pour la langouste, Have a heart, This is the life, Where did you get that hat? Would you for fifty cents? Let her go, Gallagher, Shoo-fly, dont bother me, Dont wake him up and Let George do it. The last well exhibits the process. It origin ated in France, as Laissez faire Georges, during the fifteenth century, and at the start had satirical reference to the multiform activities of Cardinal Georges dAmboise, prime minister to Louis XII. It later became common slang, was translated into English, had a revival during the early days of David Lloyd Georges career, was adopted into American without any comprehension of either its first or its latest significance, and enjoyed the brief popularity of a year. Krapp attempts to distinguish between slang and sound idiom by setting up the doctrine that the former is more expressive than the situation demands. It is, he says, a kind of hyperesthesia in the use of language. To laugh in your sleeve is idiom because it arises out of a natural situation; it is a metaphor derived from the picture of one raising his sleeve to his face to hide a smile, a metaphor which arose naturally enough in early periods when sleeves were long and flowing; but to talk through

your hat is slang, not only because it is new, but also because it is a grotesque
exaggeration of the truth. The theory, unluckily, is combated by many plain facts. To hand it to him, to get away with it and even to hand him a lemon are certainly not metaphors that transcend the practicable and probable, and yet all are undoubtedly slang. On the other hand, there is palpable exaggeration in such phrases as he is not worth the powder it would take to kill him, in such adjectives as break-bone (fever), and in such compounds asfire-eater, and yet it would be absurd to dismiss them as slang. Between block-head andbone-head there is little to

choose, but the former is sound English, whereas the latter is American slang. So with many familiar similes, e. g., like greased lightning, as scarce as hens teeth; they are grotesque hyperboles, but surely not slang. The true distinction between slang and more seemly idiom, in so far as any distinction exists at all, is that indicated by Whitney. Slang originates in an effort, always by ingenious individuals, to make the language more vivid and expressive. When in the form of single words it may appear as new metaphors, e. g.,

bird and peach; as back formations, e. g., beaut and flu; as composition-forms, e. g., whatdyecallem and attaboy; as picturesque compounds, e. g., booze-foundry; as onomatopes, e. g., biff and zowie; or in any other of the shapes that new terms take.
If, by the chances that condition language-making, it acquires a special and limited meaning, not served by any existing locution, it enters into sound idiom and is presently wholly legitimatized; if, on the contrary, it is adopted by the populace as a counter-word and employed with such banal imitativeness that it soon loses any definite significance whatever, then it remains slang and is avoided by the finical. An example of the former process is afforded by tommy-rot.It first appeared as English school-boy slang, but its obvious utility soon brought it into good usage. In one of Jerome K. Jeromes books, Paul Kelver, there is the following dialogue:

The wonderful songs that nobody ever sings, the wonderful pictures that nobody ever paints, and all the rest of it. Its tommy-rot!

I wish you wouldnt use slang. Well, you know what I mean. What is the proper word? Give it to me. I suppose you mean cant.

8 9 10

No, I dont. Cant is something that you dont believe in yourself. Its tommy- 11

rot; there isnt any other word.

Nor was there any other word for hubbub and to dwindle in Shakespeares time; he 12 adopted and dignified them because they met genuine needs. Nor was there any other satisfactory word for graft when it came in, nor for rowdy, nor for boom, nor for joy-ride, nor for omnibus-bill,nor for slacker, nor for trust-buster. Such words

often retain a humorous quality; they are used satirically and hence appear but seldom in wholly serious discourse. But they have standing in the language nevertheless, and only a prig would hesitate to use them as Saintsbury used the best

of the bunch and joke-smith.

On the other hand, many an apt and ingenious neologism, by falling too quickly 3 into the gaping maw of the proletariat, is spoiled forthwith. Once it becomes, in Oliver Wendell Holmes phrase, a cheap generic term, a substitute for differentiated specific expressions, it quickly acquires such flatness that the fastidious flee it as a plague. One recalls many capital verb-phrases, thus ruined by unintelligent appreciation, e. g., to hand him a lemon, to freeze on to, to have the

goods, to cut no ice, to give him the glad hand, to fall for it, and to get by.One recalls, too, some excellent substantives, e. g., dope and dub, and compounds, e. g., come-on and easy-mark, and verbs, e. g., to vamp. These are all quite as sound in structure as the great majority of our most familiar words and phrases to cut no ice, for example, is certainly as good as to butter no parsnipsbut their adoption by
the ignorant and their endless use and misuse in all sorts of situations have left them tattered and obnoxious, and they will probably go the way, as Matthews says, of all the other temporary phrases which spring up, one scarcely knows how, and flourish unaccountably for a few months, and then disappear forever, leaving no sign. Matthews is wrong in two particulars here. They do not arise by any mysterious parthenogenesis, but come from sources which, in many cases, may be determined. And they last, alas, a good deal more than a month. Shoo-fly afflicted the American people for at least two years, and I dont think and aber nit quite as long. Even good-night lasted a whole year. A very large part of our current slang is propagated by the newspapers, and much of it is invented by newspaper writers. One need but turn to the slang of baseball to find numerous examples. Such phrases as to clout the sphere, the initial sack, to slam

the pill and the dexter meadow are obviously not of bleachers manufacture. There is
not enough imagination in that depressing army to devise such things; more often than not, there is not even enough intelligence to comprehend them. The true place of their origin is the perch of the newspaper reporters, whose competence and compensation is largely estimated, at least on papers of wide circulation, by their capacity for inventing novelties. The supply is so large that connoisseurship has grown up; an extra-fecund slang-maker on the press has his following. During the summer of 1913 the Chicago Record-Herald, somewhat alarmed by the extravagant

fancy of its baseball reporters, asked its readers if they would prefer a return to plain English. Such of them as were literate enough to send in their votes were almost unanimously against a change. As one of them said, one is nearer the park when Schulte slams the pills than when he merely hits the ball. In all other fields the newspapers originate and propagate slang, particularly in politics. Most of our political slang-terms since the Civil War, from pork-barrel to steam-roller, have been their inventions. The English newspapers, with the exception of a few anomalies such asPink-Un, lean in the other direction; their fault is not slanginess, but an otiose ponderosityin Dean Alfords words, the insisting on calling common things by uncommon names; changing our ordinary short Saxon nouns and verbs for long words derived from the Latin. The American newspapers, years ago, passed through such a stage of bombast, but since the invention of yellow journalism by the elder James Gordon Bennettthat is, the invention of journalism for the frankly ignorant and vulgarthey have gone to the other extreme. Edmund Clarence Stedman noted the change soon after the Civil War. The whole country, he wrote to Bayard Taylor in 1873, owing to the contagion of our newspaper exchange system, is flooded, deluged, swamped beneath a muddy tide of slang. A thousand alarmed watchmen have sought to stay it since, but in vain. The great majority of our newspapers, including all those of large circulation, are chiefly written, as one observer says, not in English, but in a strange jargon of words that would have made Addison or Milton shudder in despair.

American slang in the 20-th century: the main part

Now lets turn to our main topic: the American slang of the twentieth century. The history of the twentieth century was really one of quick changes and many important events. For instance, the two World Wars that took place in that very century, particularly in the first half of it. There took place no military action in the land of the USA, but the country participated in both of them, and that brought a lot of changes in all the aspects of life. Many Americans went to the front, and those who were lucky enough, came back bringing new phenomena with them. These news also were connected with the language, new words, new expressions, new ways of pronunciation, etc.. The racial discrimination didnt disappear until 1960s, so, this modification too brought many changes with it. Those changes, brought about by black Americans, were then called African American.

Another way of the influence of the African culture was the appearance of jazz music in New Orlean. Actually, its formation has started long ago, but its final definition as jazz was in the twentieth century. Thats why we often meet the phrase Jazz age, used instead of the twentieth century. Jazz was influenced by both American and African cultures, and this was also a means for formation of a new type of language, called the slang. The twentieth century is known to be one of the flourishing times for the USA(called the time of progressism), so, the social improvement also did its work in changing the culture, as well as the, shall we say, technical production. So, we see under what circumstances was formed the American slang of the twentieth century. Here is the chronological history of the slang during the previous century. In the years of 1900-1919 the term 23 Skidoo was introduced into the language, and this is believed to be the first national slang term(1905). This phrase was used to mean ok; good; See you later and so on. This age is thought to be the Flappers age:flappers were women, who wore fashionable clothes, had short hair and were interested in modern music and new ideas. So, in 1920-1930-s the flappers age lets its place had by the jazz age. In 1920-s times were really good for the US. Literature was captured by Fitzgerald. The early 1930-s were depression years, times were tough. But the second half of it is known as the age of swing and big-band jazz. America was flourishing, and good cheer was needed, people began singing and dancing. That is the reason of the first appearance of the bands, made up by the Black people. So, slang was greatly influenced from the Blacks culture. Jazz began its spreading. 1941-45 saw World War II. Much slang was based on male war interactions. But after the war, America experiences good times( Happy Days Are Here Again -number one song of those times). In this period such terms as drooly, pappy, swoony, BTO(big-time operator), PC(prince charming), appeared to mean an attractive man. 1950-s were actually happy times, though, we can say that young were restless. They rejected parents and this found its way to the literature(Salinger The catcher in the rye, Brando Wild One, Dean Rebel, Elvis Jailhouse rock and so on). Slang was generally used by the young ones,

and this fact also can convince that slang was a way of understanding the youth. Then, the Beatnick movement exploded. They wore black, drank coffee and read poetry. Terms like hipster; daddy-o, cat, dig came along. In 1960-s people ceased to think conservatively. Rock music peaked, and the socalled Hippie style came along. This was the most politically active and individually expressive decade of the century. Anti-Vietnam, Feminism, Civil Rights, Free speech, Black Power: So, you see how many changes took place. So was the period of 19701980s. A new wave splashed the country. New terms like to chill; hang; veg; jell; kick it; ease are found mentioning to do nothing. 1990-2000s are the times I can call my generation. Times have been good-strong economy, no world wars, high college rates. Three major influences in this age were pop culture(TV & movies), computers/technology, hip-hop. Terms like biscuit; burner; heater; joint; steel; toast to mean guns. New types of greeting came along: How you doin, Whas up. New terms were admitted also for money: bones, Franklins, Gs, jacks, yard, clout. As rap began airing, new words appeared for rap-singing: break, bust, chat, comp, freestyle, kick, rip, etc.. So, summing up what is said above, we should stress that many words are cyclical and reincarnated. Thus, each generation is not as innovative as they think. Besides, we come to the conclusion that every generation slangs the same 8 things: 1. Girls/guys 2. Drinking (in 1737 Ben Franklin counted 228 terms for drunkenness) 3. Greetings 4. Sexual life 5. Popular people 6. Unpopular people 7. Money 8. and at last- homosexuals This last fact comes to prove that all generations are alike, as they are interested in the same things, when young.


In this work a type of vocabulary is inserted to show the word-stock of American slang, namely that of the twentieth century. We have shaped it both chronologically and alphabetically to make it easy to see the changes done. In the terms of 1920s youll also find slang words and expressions connected with jazz(Jazz-age slang). The vocabulary is based on the sources you can find at the end of this work. Jazz age slang(1920s) - -ski, -avous: these are two suffixes (derived from Russian and French, respectively) used in flapper parlance to dress up normal words. The suffix could be added to any word. There was only one hard and fast rule: if you responded to a question containing a suffix, you had to use the same part of speech somehow. Example: Would you like a drink-avous? No thanks, Im on the wagon-avous. The sun-ski is so bright! Put on a hat-ski. A ab-so-lute-ly: affirmative Abe's Cabe: five-dollar bill ace: one-dollar bill all wet: incorrect And how!: I strongly agree! ankle: to walk, i.e.. "Let's ankle!" apple sauce: flattery, nonsense, i.e.. "Aw, applesauce!" Attaboy!: well done!; also, Attagirl! B baby: sweetheart; also denotes something of high value or respect baby grand: heavily built man baby vamp: an attractive or popular female; student balled up: confused, messed up baloney: nonsense Bank's closed.: no kissing or making out ie. "Sorry, mac, bank's closed." barrell house: illegal distillery bearcat: a hot-blooded or fiery girl beat it: scram, get lost beat one's gums: idle chatter bee's knee's: terrific; a fad expression. Dozens of "animal anatomy" variations existed: elephant's eyebrows, gnat's whistle, eel's hips, etc. beef: a complaint or to complain beeswax: business; student bell bottom: a sailor

belt: a drink of liquor bent: drunk berries: (1) perfect (2) money big cheese: important person big six: a strong man; from auto advertising, for the new and powerful six cylinder engines bimbo: a tough guy bird: general term for a man or woman, sometimes meaning "odd," i.e. "What a funny old bird." blind: drunk blotto (1930 at the latest): drunk, especially to an extreme blow: (1) a crazy party (2) to leave bohunk: a derogatory name for an Eastern European immigrant; out of use by 1930, except in certain anti-immigrant circles, like the KKK bootleg: illeagal liquor breezer (1925): a convertable car brown: whiskey brown plaid: Scotch whiskey bubs: breasts bug-eyed Betty (1927): an unattractive girl; student bull: (1) a policeman or law-enforcement official, including FBI. (2) nonesense, bullshit (3) to chat idly, to exaggerate bump off: to kill bum's rush, the: ejection by force from an establishment bunny (1925): a term of endearment applied to the lost, confused, etc; often coupled with "poor little" bus: any old or worn out car busthead: homemade liquor bushwa: a euphemism for "bullshit" Butt me.: I'll take a cigarette C cake-eater: a lady's man caper: a criminal act or robbery cat's meow: great, also "cat's pajamas" and "cat's whiskers" cash: a kiss Cash or check?: Do we kiss now or later? cast a kitten/have kittens: to have a fit. Used in both humorous and serious situations. i.e. "Stop tickling me or I'll cast a kitten!" celestial: derogatory slang for Chinese or East Asians chassis (1930): the female body cheaters: eye glasses check: kiss me later chewing gum: double-speak, or ambiguous talk Chicago typewriter: Thompson submachine gun choice bit of calico: attractive female; student chopper: a Thompson Sub-Machine Gun, due to the damage its heavy .45 caliber rounds did to the human body chunk of lead: an unnattractive female; student

ciggy: cigarette clam: a dollar coffin varnish: bootleg liquor, often poisonous copacetic: excellent, all in order crasher: a person who attends a party uninvited crush: infatuation cuddler: one who likes to make out D daddy: a young woman's boyfriend or lover, especially if he's rich daddy-o: a term of address; strictly an African-American term dame: a female; did not gain widespread use until the 1930's dapper: a Flapper's dad darb: a great person or thing, i.e. "That movie was darb." dead soldier: an empty beer bottle deb: a debutant dewdropper: a young man who sleeps all day and doesn't have a job dick: a private investigator; coined around 1900, the term finds major recognition in the 20s dinge: a derogatory term for an African-American; out of use by 1930 dogs: feet doll: an attractive woman dolled up: dressed up don't know from nothing: doesn't have any information don't take any wooden nickels: don't do anything stupid dope: drugs, esp. cocaine or opium. doublecross: to cheat, stab in the back dough: money drugstore cowboy: a well-dressed man who loiters in public areas trying to pick up women drum: speakeasy dry up: shut up, get lost ducky: very good dumb Dora: an absolute idiot, a dumbbell, especially a woman; flapper dump: roadhouse E earful: enough edge: intoxication, a buzz. i.e. "I've got an edge." egg: a person who lives the big life Ethel: an effeminate male. F face stretcher: an old woman trying to look young fag: a cigarette; also, starting around 1920, a homosexual. fella: fellow. as common in its day as "man," "dude," or "guy" is today, i.e. "That John sure is a swell fella." fire extinguisher: a chaperone fish: (1) a college freshman (2) a first timer in prison

flat tire: a bore flivver: a Model T; after 1928, could mean any broken down car floorflusher: an insatiable dancer flour lover: a girl with too much face powder fly boy: a glamorous term for an aviator For crying out loud!: same usage as today four-flusher: a person who feigns wealth while mooching off others fried: drunk futz: a euphemism for "fuck;" i.e. "Don't futz around." G gams (1930): legs gasper: cigarette gatecrasher: see "crasher" gay: happy or lively; no connection to homosexuality; see "fag" Get Hot! Get Hot!: encouragement for a hot dancer doing his or her thing get-up (1930): an outfit get a wiggle on: get a move on, get going get in a lather: get worked up, angry giggle water: booze gigolo: dancing partner gimp: cripple; one who walks with a limp; gangster Dion OBannion was called Gimpy due to his noticeable limp gin mill: a seller of hard liquor; a cheap speakeasy glad rags: "going out on the town" clothes go chase yourself: get lost, scram. gold-digger (1925): a woman who pursues men for their money goods, the: (1) the right material, or a person who has it (2) the facts, the truth, i.e. "Make sure the cops don't get the goods on you." goof: (1) a stupid or bumbling person, (2) a boyfriend; flapper. goofy: in love grummy: depressed grungy: envious H hair of the dog (1925): a shot of alcohol half seas over: drunk; also "half under" handcuff: engagement ring hard-boiled: a tough person, i.e: "He sure is hard-boiled!" harp: an Irishman hayburner: (1) a gas guzzling car (2) a horse one loses money on heavy sugar (1929): a lot of money heebie-jeebies (1926): "the shakes," named after a hit song heeler: a poor dancer high hat: a snob hip to the jive: cool, trendy

hit on all sixes: to perform 100 per cent; as "hitting on all six cylinders;" perhaps a more common variation in these days of four cylinder engines was "hit on all fours;" also see "big six". hoary-eyed: drunk hooch: booze hood (late 20s): hoodlum hooey: bullshit, nonsense; very popular from 1925 to 1930, used somewhat thereafter hop: (1) opiate or marijuana (2) a teen party or dance hope chest: pack of cigarettes hopped up: under the influence of drugs horse linament: bootleg liquor Hot dawg!: Great!; also: "Hot socks!" hot sketch: a card or cut-up I "I have to go see a man about a dog.": "I've got to leave now," often meaning to go buy whiskey icy mitt: rejection Indian hop: marijuana insured: engaged iron (1925): a motorcycle, among motorcycle enthusiasts iron ones shoelaces: to go to the restroom ish kabibble (1925): a retort meaning "I should care," from the name of a musician in the Kay Kayser Orchestra J jack: money Jake: great, i.e. "Everything's Jake." Jalopy: a dumpy old car Jane: any female java: coffee jeepers creepers: "Jesus Christ!" jerk soda: to dispense soda from a tap; thus, "soda jerk" jigaboo: a derogatory term for an African-American jitney: a car employed as a private bus; fare was usually five cents, ergo the alternate nickname of "nickel" joe: coffee Joe Brooks: a perfectly dressed person; student john: a toilet joint: establishment jorum of skee: a drink of hard liquor juice joint: a speakeasy junk: opium K

kale: money keen: appealing kike: a derogatory term for a Jewish person killjoy: a solemn person knock up: to make pregnant know one's onions: to know one's business or what one is talking about L lay off: cut the crap left holding the bag: (1) to be cheated out of one's fair share (2) to be blamed for something let George do it: a work evading phrase level with me: be honest limey: a British soldier or citizen; from World War I line: a false story, as in "to feed one a line" live wire: a lively person lollapalooza (1930): a humdinger lollygagger: (1) a young man who enjoys making out (2) an idle person M M: morphine manacle: wedding ring mazuma: money Mick: a derogatory term for Irishmen milquetoast (1924): a very timid person; from the comic book character Casper Milquetoast, a hen-pecked male mind your potatoes: mind your own business mooch: to leave moonshine: homemade whiskey mop: a handkerchief Mrs. Grundy: a prude or kill-joy mulligan: Irish cop munitions: face powder N neck: to kiss passionately; what would today be called "French kissing" necker: a girl who wraps her arms around her boyfriend's neck nifty: great, excellent noodle juice: tea nookie: sex "Not so good!": "I personally disapprove." "Now you're on the trolley!": "Now you've got it!". O


ofay: a commonly used Black expression for Whites off one's nuts: crazy "Oh yeah!": "I doubt it!" old boy: a male term of address, used in conversation with other males as a way to denote acceptance in a social environment; also: "old man" or "old fruit" Oliver Twist: a skilled dancer on a toot: a drinking binge on the lam: fleeing from police on the level: legitimate, honest on the up and up: on the level orchid: an expensive item ossified: drunk owl: a person who's out late P palooka: (1) a below-average or average boxer (2) a social outsider; from the comic strip character Joe Palooka, who came from humble ethnic roots panic: to produce a big reaction from one's audience panther piss/sweat (1925): homemade whiskey pen yen: opium percolate: (1) to boil over (2) as of 1925, to run smoothly; "perk" pet: like necking (see above), only moreso; making out petting pantry: movie theater petting party: one or more couples making out in a room or auto phonus balonus: nonsense piffle: baloney piker: (1) a cheapskate (2) a coward pill: (1) a teacher (2) an unlikable person (3) cigarette pinch: to arrest pinched: to be arrested pinko: liberal pipe down: stop talking prom-trotter: a student who attends all school social functions pos-i-lute-ly: affirmative, also "pos-i-tive-ly" pull a Daniel Boone: to vomit punch the bag: small talk putting on the ritz: after the Ritz Hotel in Paris (and its namesake Caesar Ritz); doing something in high style; also, "ritzy" Q quiff: a slut or cheap prostitute R rag-a-muffin: a dirty or disheveled individual rain pitchforks: a downpour

razz: to make fun of Real McCoy: a genuine item regular: normal, typical, average Reuben: an unsophisticated country bumpkin; also, "rube" Rhatz!: "How disappointing!" flapper rotgut: bootleg liquor rub: a student dance party rubes: money or dollars rummy: a drunken bum S sap: a fool, an idiot; very common term in the 20s sawbuck: ten-dollar bill says you: a reaction of disbelief scratch: money screaming meemies: the shakes screw: get lost, get out, etc.; occasionally, in pre 1930 talkies (such as The Broadway Melody) screw is used to tell a character to leave: one film features the line "Go on, go on-screw!" screwy: crazy; "You're screwy!" sheba: one's girlfriend sheik: one's boyfriend shine box: a bar or club for black patrons shiv: a knife simolean: a dollar sinker: a doughnut sitting pretty: in a prime position skee: Scotch whiskey skirt: an attractive female smarty: a cute flapper smoke-eater: a smoker smudger: a close dancer snort: a drink of liquor sockdollager: an action having a great impact so's your old man: a reply of irritation spade: yet another derogatory term for an African-American speakeasy: a bar selling illeagal liquor spill: to talk splifficated: drunk spoon: to neck, or at least talk of love static: (1) empty talk (2) conflicting opinion stilts: legs strike-me-dead: bootleg liquor struggle: modern dance stuck on: in love; student. sugar daddy: older boyfriend who showers girlfriend with gifts in exchange for sex

swanky: (1) good (2) elegant swell: (1) good (2) a high class person T take someone for a ride: to take someone to a deserted location and murder them tasty: appealing tea: marijuana teenager: not a common term until 1930; before then, the term was "young adults." tell it to Sweeney: tell it to someone who'll believe it three-letter man: homosexual tight: attractive Tin Pan Alley: the center of the music industry in New York City, located between 48th and 52nd Streets tomato: a "ripe" female torpedo: a hired thug or hitman trip for biscuits: wild goose chase U unreal: special upchuck: to vomit upstage: snobby V vamp: (1) a seducer of men, an aggressive flirt (2) to seduce voot: money W water-proof: a face that doesn't require make-up wet blanket: see Killjoy white lightning: bootleg liquor wife: dorm roomate; student. "What's eating you?": "What's wrong?" whoopee: wild fun Woof! Woof!: ridicule X Y "You slay me!": "That's funny!" Z zozzled: drunk


23-Skidoo: This term is used when someone is being asked to leave. This was generally a polite way of saying "Get the fuck out of here!"

At It Again: When someone is doing something they've previously done before.

Baby: A term for a woman.

Booze: Alcohol, could be beer or hard liquor.

Bump: To kill someone. Also known as "Bumping someone off."

Copper: A police officer. Also known as a cop.

Cough Up: To reveal information the subject is unwilling to reveal.

Crumb: A person who works and obeys the law, but is unwilling to take a risk. To a gangster during prohibition, to be a crumb was considered to be a great insult.

Cut Out The Funny Stuff: When someone wants another person to stop kidding around with them, or to get serious.

Fella: Contracted form of the word fellow, pronounced with the W subtracted, and the O is replaced with an A.

Floozy: An unchaste woman, or a prostitute.

Framed: To be wrongfully accused of a crime you didn't commit.

Funny Business: When someone is up to something suspicious.


G-Man: A federal agent.

Get'Cha: Contraction of the words: "Get you."

Gigolo: A male prostitute.

Good Lookin': An attractive person. A woman can say this to a man, or a man can say this to a woman.

Goin' Legit: When a criminal gave up his life of crime and chose to live an honest life.

Gunned down: Someone who was the victim of an assassination by way of a firearm.

Gunnin' For Ya: When someone is out to get you. Either a rival gangster, enemy, or the police are after you. This term pre-dates the 20th century.

Gutter rat: A poor person.

Heater: A handgun or other firearm. This term was used by gangsters and other criminals, and was still being used as late as the early 1960's.

Hideout: A place where criminals can safely hide from the police.

Hood: The early 20th century definition of this word referred to any lowlife criminal, usually in large cities. The 1980's version of this word has a different definition.

In The Worst Way: To desire something to the utmost: "I wanted to be an engineer in the worst way, so I worked my way through college!"

It's Hot: Indicates something is stolen. Usually refers to a car.


Let Him/Her Have It: To pull the trigger of a gun and kill a victim. Typically, this term was used as a threat. The perpetrator would say to someone, "If you don't do as I say, I'll let him have it!"

Lucky Break: Good fortune. It is possible this term originated in the game of pool. During the break at the opening of the game, it is rare to get a ball in a hole. If someone did, it could be said he got a "Lucky break."

Off The Hook: To be charged with a crime, and then found innocent.

On The Level: Obeying the law. If someone gave up a life of crime, it could be said they were "On the level."

Packin' Heat: Carrying a firearm.

Pimp: Someone who employs prostitutes.

Queer for cat: Lesbian.

Rat: An informer. During prohibition, a lot of people were murdered after being accused of being rats. If someone was being charged with a crime, and they had information about an accomplice, the judicial system would strike a deal with the accused, and promise him a lighter sentence if he gave up information about his accomplices. Often, gangsters would retaliate by gunning these informers down in a drive-by shooting.

Run around: If someone isn't giving you the answers or results you want quickly enough, then it is said they're "giving you the run around."

Scram: To depart hastily.

Speakeasy: An illegal saloon (or bar) usually in a secret location unknown to the police. Gangsters such as Al Capone and Lucky Luciano had numerous speakeasys where their

bootleg alcohol was sold. Gambling was also known to take place at these locations.

Stallin': Not taking action while in the process of waiting for a given period of time to go by.

Steppin': Something that is moving exceptionally fast.

Stool Pigeon: An informer. Another word for a stool pigeon is a rat.

Tangled Up With: To be unwillingly associated with someone. Example: "I don't know how I got tangled up with him!"

What's The Idea?: This question was asked when the asker didn't understand the actions of the person he was asking.

Winged: If a bullet grazed the side of your head or body, and the wound wasn't dangerous, it is said to have "Winged" you.

Wisecracks: Sarcastic jokes. 1940-1949

Dressed to the nines: Dressed up for a night on the town.

Fubar: F.U.B.A.R is a an acronym from the American military in World War Two that can either mean "Fucked Up Beyond All Repair" or "Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition."

Gi-rine: A Gi-rine was a soldier in the Marine Corps, and this word was probably a combination of GI and Marine.

Holy Moley: An expression made popular in the Captain Marvel comic books. Billy Batson would often exclaim this remark during stressful situations.

Make Book: To function as a bookie and organize a bet. Used in the film "Stalag 17" when a POW bet against the possibility that two inmates would successfully escape. It is possible that this term originated during the Prohibition era.

Six ways 'till Sunday: Indicates all possibilities would be tried.

SNAFU: A World War Two United States military acronym standing for: "Situation Normal, All Fucked Up."

Square: Someone who wasn't "hip" or "cool."

That's George: George was an adjective for anything good or cool. 1950-1959

Cool: when something is really nice, or looks great. Also, a person who is the opposite of a square.

Cooties: Imaginary germs that a boy gets from a girl or vice versa. Commonly used by Kindergarten children. Thi term was used through the end of the 20th century.

Cruisin' for a bruisin': When someone is saying or doing something that is agitating someone to the point that they might engage in a physical confrontation.

Goody-Two-Shoes: Someone who doesn't drink or smoke; someone who doesn't take risks.

Greaser: A teenager who grew his hair long and slicked it back with grease, and listened to rock and roll music.

Hammered: To be exceptionally intoxicated by alcohol. This term was used through the end of the 20th century.

Hit the pavement: When someone wants you to get out of their car, they might use this expression.

Hot: Expression describing an attractive girl or woman.

Keen: Popular word that translates to good or nifty.

Nifty: Another word for cool.

Pep: Stamina.

Put out: When a woman is willing to have sex.

Round and round: To get into a fight. "If you don't stop screwing around, we're gonna go round and round!"

Set Of Wheels: An automobile. A teenage boy might tell his girlfriend: "Next week I'm getting a new set of wheels for my birthday!" Also, just the term "wheels" was used. These terms were still used at the end of the 20th century.

Slacker: An underachiever.

Spiffy: Looking good, all dressed up for a night on the town. 1960-1969

Drop-Out: Someone who quit going to either high-school or college. In the 1960's, dropping out was a popular form of rebellion against the establishment.

Grass: Slang term for marijuana.


Groovy: Another way of saying cool.

High: Under the influence of marijuana. In later decades, high came to describe being under the influence of other drugs, such as methamphetamine and cocaine.

Hip: Someone who is versed in the youth counterculture, and it is assumed uses drugs.

Holding: To be in the possession of drugs. By the early 1990's, this word had fallen out of general use, and was only used by old hippies.

Joint: A marijuana cigarette rolled by hand, or rolled with a rolling machine.

LSD: A hallucinogenic drug. It is an acronym for Lysergic Acid Diethylamide.

Outta': A contraction of the two words "out of." Used in a sentence, a person might say: "Let's get outta' here!" This slang term was very popular in comic books.

Pot: Marijuana.

Speed: Methamphetamine, an illegal stimulant.

Stoned: To be under the influence of marijuana.

Trip: To be under the influence of LSD.

Weed: Another slang term for marijuana. 1970-1979

Blew My Cover: When an undercover cop accidentally reveals that he is a police officer. This became popular in action movies and television shows of this period, but came into common use around average people. Typically, someone might use the term in this

manner: "I was trying to keep it a secret from my friends that I like disco, but my little sister blew my cover!"

Boogie: Boogie was a word associated with disco dancing. It was generally used as a verb.

Disco: A style of dancing that swept the nation and became really popular in the mid to late 1970s. By 1980, it had fallen out of vogue and was all but forgotten.

Do It: To have sex. "Do you want to do it?"

Dyno-Mite: An African-American expression.

Full blast: To turn something up to the maximum. A water valve connected to a hose in which the valve is turned up to the maximum water allowed to be ejected from the hose can be said to be on "full blast." The volume on a television or radio, if turned up all the way, can be said to be on "full blast."

Geek: Another name for a nerd. A person who is socially inept, and extremely intelligent.

Get down: To dance extremely well. Another verb form of this term was "Gettin' down!"

Hang Out: As a verb, it means to socialize at a private residence or a public place with your friends. As a noun, a hang-out was a place where social interaction between friends took place.

Hardcore: Extreme. A girl or a guy might be said to be a "Hardcore skater."

Heavy Metal: A style of hard rock music associated with a youth counterculture known for the males growing their hair long, and smoking marijuana. It consisted of a drummer, an electric guitarist, and an electric bass player. Sometimes there were two guitarists, a lead guitarist and a rhythm guitarist.

Jock: Someone who is an athlete.

Nerd: Someone who usually wears glasses, is extremely intelligent, gets good grades, and is considered uncool. It was common for a nerd to have the inability to fight.

Right On: An African-American expression.

Slut: A promiscuous woman.

Stoner: Someone who grew their hair long, smoked weed, and listened to heavy metal music. By the mid 1980's, Stoners were even more numerous than in the 1970's. 1980-1989

Awesome: Another word for cool.

Bitchin': Word describing an exceptionally great event.

Bodacious: Surfer slang.

Crew: The people you hang out with; your friends.

Dis: Term that is a shortened version of the word "dis-respect." This term became popular in the late eighties and early nineties.

Drive-by: Term for a phenomenon that was nothing new in American society; a drive-by shooting simply meant a person or group of people were gunned down by shooters who were being driven in a moving vehicle. This style of killing can be traced back to the prohibition era.

Fly: A person, thing, or event that is extremely cool. Generally used by people who listen to

Hip-Hop or Rap music.

Full-on: Completely.

Fully: Another way of saying full-on.

Gotta be: A contraction of two words followed by be. "That's the way it's gotta be" translates to: "That's the way it's got to be."

Haze: A college ritual in which a participant drinks as much alcohol as possible. Many participants have died from alcohol poisoning from this ritual. It is possible this term came into use before the 1980's.

Holmes: An expression used to imply someone was a friend. It is unclear where this expression originated, but it is possible the term was coined in honor of heavy-weight champion Larry Holmes. In a sentence, a person might say: "What's up, Holmes?"

Home-boy: Someone from your home town. This term has absolutely nothing to do with homosexuality, as was the common mistake among people unfamiliar with the term.

Hood: Shortened contraction of the word "neighborhood." If somebody was from your hood, it meant they were from your hometown, or your neighborhood.

Hooter A marijuana cigarette.

Melvin: To pull someone's underwear up so it penetrates the butt crack.

Narc: Someone who is a snitch or a rat. An informer. The term was coined because undercover police officers known as narcotics officers posed as high-school students to make a bust. These officers were nicknamed "Narcs," and hence, anyone who told on someone was referred to as a narc.


Rad: Shortened from the word radical. Word used to describe something cool.

Stoked: Surfer slang for feeling positive about something.

That/This sucks!: When something is not good. A child being asked to do chores instead of being allowed to engage in a fun activity might say: "This sucks!"

Tubular: Another surfer expression that found its way into mainstream slang.

Wasted: To be exceptionally intoxicated. 1990-2000

Bust a move: To engage in a skillful dance move.

Bust a nut: To ejaculate.

Hella: Northern California slang expression. "It was hella fun!" This word may have originated in the 1970's.

Mad doggin': To stare at someone inappropriately. "Man, that cop was mad-doggin' me the whole time I was rollin' that cigarette! He must've been making sure I wasn't rolling a joint!"

Wired: To be under the influence of methamphetamine, a powerful illegal stimulant.

Y2K: A term from the late 1990's indicating the possibility that computers would malfunction on January 1st, 2000, because computers were programmed to recognize only the last two digits of the year; therefore, on 1-01-2001, computers would assume it was January 1st, 1900 rather than January 1st, 2000. Some people believed it would lead to disaster, and stockpiled food and water for this event.

Examples of 20-th century American slang

The slang vocabulary given above is rather a good one, it can help one out to get the idea of the American slang of the previous age. But it is more useful when we consider slang terms in sentences or dialogues, finding also the etymology of this or that slang expression. So, this section is dedicated to the study of some particular slang terms used in the twentieth century. Some of them are used even now. BIG HOUSE- this meant a prison, particularly a maximum security federal jail. You may hear this term used in slang speaking societies even nowadays. But the term was born in the early 1900s. This is because in that time crime organized, and the first large scale prisons developed in the United States. To be more effective, lets use this phrase in a sentence: After he got caught robbing a bank, Ted was sent to the big house for 20 years. The term is described etymologically in this manner: a house is where people live, and a prison is quite large or big, thus we have big house, namely, home to hundreds of criminal. This slang term has its synonyms now: instead of it you can hear up the river, under glass, behind bars. These are new terms for it. Another 20-th century slang term is GIG. This word actually meant a musical party, performance with a jazz band. But it was also used to refer to a job, an employment. The word gained this meaning by the fact that jazz musicians used to call paid performances gigs, so, eventually gig came to refer to any kind of job. Are you going to the Neil Young gig at the Knitting Factory on Friday night? Im starting a new gig working for ABC News on Monday. PEACE OUT!- in the 1960s peace started being used as a greeting, out comes from a standard way of finishing a conversation on a two-way radio-over and out. This is just a friendly way to say goodbye, and this term is replaced by later nowadays. Peace out, guys. Im going home.

UNCLE SAM_ its definition is the following: the US government; a patriotic figure who symbolizes the USA. During the War of 1812 between the US and England, a man named Samuel Wilson provided supplies to the American troops. Wilson was known as Uncle Sam, and he stamped his supplies with US, which stood for both United States and Uncle Sam. Since then, Uncle Sam has been a symbol for the country, especially in times of war. The term was widely used in the twentieth century, for known reasons. However, it continues to find its usage in modern times as well. FREAK- this term comes from 1700s when it meant coveted with spots or colors. By 1900, it meant irregular or not normal, perhaps in reference to spots of color as imperfections in a manufacturing process. The term is used now, but with a slight difference of meaning. We should stress that it has a number of meanings but all of them include some sense of irregular: a hippie, a drug addict, crazy behavior, a sexually promiscuous person, an unusually beautiful woman. Stephan has no friends and spends all his time in the basement. What a freak! HOODIE- a sweatshirt with a hood. This is African-American slang for a hooded sweatshirt, and as we all wear hoodies, the term, though born in the late 1980s, is largely used in our days. Everybodys wearing hoodies these days. YADDA, YADDA, YADDA- a phrase that means and so forth or on and on. It usually refers to something that is a minor detail or boring and repetitive. Instead of it, we use blah, blah, blah nowadays. The term yadda, yadda, yadda comes from Yiddish, and became popular in the 1990s after it was featured on the popular TV show Seinfeld. ROOKIE- this term was born with the creation and progress of the US army. It was used to call a beginner, one who was a new member of an army. Now it has widened its range of meaning, it refers to any one who is new to a profession or field. Its not easy to be a rookie officer.


DA BOMB- a term used by African Americans, that became popular in the 1990s. It means excellent, the best. Da is an informal variant for the definite article the, and bomb refers to something very powerful and explosive. GHETTO BLASTER- a large, extremely loud, portable stereo. A ghetto is a poor neighborhood, and blast means explosion. In the 1980s, many people in poor districts of the USA started carrying portable stereos around their shoulders while blasting loud music. But this term contains some negative meaning in it, so we see that not always this term could be used not to offend people. My street is never quiet at night- too many kids with ghetto blasters. Turn down your ghetto blaster, or Ill get you out of here!(this is the example of the term used in offensive sense). AFRO- in the 1960-1970s a new bushy haircut of curly hair became popular among African-Americans. The word is the short way of African. Did you see that guy? His afro must have been two feet high! CHICK- in the jazz age slang, particularly in the 1920s, a new term was introduced to name young women. A chick is literally a young chicken or any baby bird. But in the slang of the twentieth century they called a chick to an attractive young woman. CHIC- New Orlean: this is where jazz music was born. This was the state where the French immigrants situated, the name itself gives the idea of it(Orlean). Through these interactions many French words entered the language, and the slang also was enrichened. So, chic means stylish, elegant, fashionable. She looked so chic in her long silk dress. FAT CAT- this term comes from the 1920s, when it was used to describe wealthy contributors to American political parties. So, it meant a person who had a great wealth and power. Now a new term is admitted to express that meaning: big shot. Here we should also mention that a term like CAT was also used to mean just a person. This was in the 1950s, while the Beatnik movement.

Many of the citys fat cats eat at that steak restaurant on First Avenue. WUSS- this was used to mean a coward; an ineffectual and timid person. It was popular among the teenage boys in the 1960s. Dont be a wuss, Stephan. Its just a little spider! THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS- this is a term that can still be found in slang speech, though dating originally to the early 20-th century. By this term slang users mean the poor part of town, cause since early times poor people have lived on one side of citys railroad tracks, close to factories and sources of pollution. Temporally we use the term slum to give the same meaning. Chris came from the wrong side of the tracks, but eventually became a millionaire. Acid-this term stood for a narcotic drug popular among hippies. It was widely used among youth of 1960s. Jag is an addict: he uses ep acid, like all his close friends. bad scene- a bad situation. When something inconvenient happened, they called it a bad scene. There was bad scene in the hall, when Tom saw John, his greatest enemy. bad trip- originally described a bad experience using drugs, characterized by frightening hallucinations. Can be used to describe any bad experience. Bag- this slang word used to mean one's main interest or purpose in life. Jacks bag was achieving the title of the best dancer of all times. black light- a decorative light, dark blue in color to the human eye, which makes objects or artwork in flourescent colors appear to glow. blow ones mind- this actually meant the following: to have an enlightening or illuminating experience. It was particularly popular in the 1970s. bread- you could see this term used in another meaning: money. This is because poor Americans worked for having just a little money for being provided with bread.

Alan works hard on railways to earn his bread. to bust- to arrest someone. This was a common term in jail slang, and it was widely used among the prisoners. I was busted unfairly, it wasnt my guilt at all. commune-The word comes from the abbreviation of the word community. It meant a community of people who share possessions, living accommodations, and work. Usually encompasses a farm and other fashionable industries. crash pad- a term for a place where one sleeps, rests, or does nothing. The verb to crash itself was used to mean to have a rest, a pad-a living accommodation. The term came into use in the second half of the previous century. mood ring- a ring worn on the finger which contains a large stone, the color of which is supposed to indicate the wearer's emotional mood. Mood rings were a fad in the mid-1970's. July always wears a mood ring to escape making an impression of a dull one. out of sight- excellent, outstanding. Often used as an exclamation. Oh, Christian, I have no words to say on your new coat. Its out of sight! peace- the American generation of the twentieth century saw many wars, and its not surprising for them to use this term to mean just the absence of war. to rap- to talk, conversation. More recently used to name a category of music where words are spoken, rather than sung. This term also refers to those created by the Blacks for real reasons. Nowadays we even have a great world-wide culture of rap. square- this term meant old-fashioned, not aware of new thinking and customs. This is for the case of stability of square things: its easier for round ones to modify, thats why the case of being square implies the meaning of a stable thing. So, these were the terms, most frequently used in the twentieth century. Hoping to have provided you with a common view of the slang of that age.

Summing up what was said above, we see that the American slang of the twentieth century was a phenomenon which is worth a close study, cause it referred to different fields of life and was used by different slays of the population. According to slang usage they may be classified both socially, politically, culturally and, of course, by age. The twentieth century was one of quick changes for the whole world, and the USA also saw many new things. All these found their reflection in slang. Slang is changing quickly, but its terms can be used by later generations as well, though there may also be changes of meaning, as we saw in the examples above. Having got slang terms we can freely understand this or that community, and this is not only the case of getting the idea of what they speak about, but also getting to know about their way of thinking, lifestyle, social status and so on. So, after this work we got to know the US of the previous age with its all sides of life.


SOURCES Stuart Berg Flexner, preface, Dictionary of American Slang, by Robert L. Chapman (1960; New York: Harper and Row, 1986) Slang and the Dictionary Tony Thorne A Historical Dictionary of American Slang (2006), ed. Robert Beard, alpha, The Bloomsbury Dictionary of Contemporary Slang.
Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (1989) Dictionary of contemporary slang - Tony Thorne. Published by Bloomsbury / London. 1997. Internet guide to American slang expressions Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionnary of Current English, 7-th edition, 2008


Introduction- page 1 What is slang?-page 1 Slang:the definition-page 2 Slangs:from where did they appear?- page 2 American slang has Irish origins!- page 8 American slang in the twentieth century:the main part- page 14 Examples of the 20-th century American Slang- page 37 Conclusion- page 42 Sources- page 43 Contents- page 44