What is Slang?
Copyright © ProZ.com, 1999-2019. All rights reserved.
Slang is the linguistic expression of the young and the alienated – it is a challenge to the authority of the standard form of the language. Each generation invents its own slang as a rejection of the standard and as a rejection of the previous generations slang.
As a result, many slang words are buzzwords and most are ephemeral. Slang´s main purpose is not as an efficient form of communicating information but as a means of belonging to a group. You do not wear this year´s style because it is more practical but rather because it shows that you belong to a specific group (the "fashion conscious").
The problem with slang is that, while most natives speak in a more or less slangy way, what you are taught tends to be standard English. Standard English is much less ephemeral and more easily recognised across social and geographical barriers.
Moreover, since slang is spoken language, it is very difficult to effectively learn and practise because it is more difficult to find and study.
Here are some useful examples if you are faced with a translation or interpretation full of British Slang.
The largest group of words which British slang has generated recently is that of insults. You can draw your own conclusions from that!
Anorak: An anorak is a person who is obsessive about his/her hobby(computing, films, etc.)
Saddo: A socially-inadequate person who is boring and unfashionable. (From the adjective sad: pathetic)
Geek: A boring, socially inept person.
Crusty: It is a person who follows a New Age ideology, washes infrequently, and wears old clothes. Crusties often beg and busk in cities, accompanied by groups of dogs. Many are punks and others are environmentalists.
Squeegee: A person who cleans car windscreens at traffic lights and then asks for money.
Headcase: Someone who is mentally –unstable and violent.
Slaphead: A bald man.
Slapper: A promiscuous woman. A prostitute. Especially "old slapper".
Tree hugger: An environmentalist.
Wheneye: A person who bores others with his/her experiences.
Adjectives Meaning “Good”
Be good news: Be a positive thing “Paul is good news for British football”.
Be sorted: Be prepared, in control.
Stonking: Excellent, impressive, considerable.
Sussed: Informed, aware.
Wicked: Excellent, wonderful.
Mad: Exciting, unusual, excellent.
Air quotes: The gesture with the fingers to illustrate speech marks (""). Used to distance oneself from what one is saying.
Not!: Expression used after a statement to demonstrate that you don´t agree. E.g. “He´s the greatest singer in the world. Not!"
Been there, done that: The idea that you have experienced something, and don´t need to experience it again. Originally used to talk about a tourist attitude which saw destinations as a list of places which had to be visited and crossed off. E.g. “Oh, Nepal! Been there, done that!"
Bog-standard: Basic, standard, uninteresting.
Gobsmacked: Surprised, astonished.
Get a life!: Imperative used to tell people to change their life and to do something more interesting. You might say this expression to a crusty, an anorak, or a geek.
Next article will be dedicated to American Slang, I hope you have enjoyed this!