It should be kept in mind that every slang word and phases of course has its personal history and main reasons for popularity. During the conditions changing, the terms may also change in meaning, be adopted into the standard language, or just continue to be used as slang words and phrases and words within certain ways of the population. In 1910, for instance, "Oh you kid" and "23-skiddoo" were quite stylish phrases in the U.S. but they have gone with the hobble skirt. Some slang becomes respectable when it loses its edge; "spunk," "fizzle," "spent," "hit the spot," "jazz," "funky," once thought to be too indecent for feminine ears, are now family words. Other slang survives for centuries, like "bones" for dice, "beat it" for run-away, "duds" for clothes, and "booze" for liquor. It is interesting to note, that these words sounded like a slang long before origin in the print, and they have remained slang ever since. Normally, considering slang from both sides of the coin, it has a high birth and death rate in the dominant culture, and excessive use tends. Currently the rate of slang diffusion is undoubtedly encouraged by the mass media, and a term must be increasingly effective to survive. While many slang words introduce new concepts and meanings, some of the most effective slang provides new expressions fresh, modern, satirical, shocking for established concepts, often very respectable ones. Sound is sometimes used as a basis for this type of slang, as, for instance, in different phonetic distortions. It is also used in rhyming slang, which employs a fortunate combination of both sound and imagery. Slang is not all of equal quality, a considerable body of it reflecting a simple need to find new terms for common ones, such as the hands, feet, head, and other parts of the body. As it is generally said, food and drink also involve extensive slang vocabulary. The most effective slang works and phrases on a more dainty level and often tells something about the thing named, the person using the term in everyday life.
Specific and general slang
So far, we have established that slang may be classified as a social variety characterizing a group (e.g. music slang, military slang, navy slang, drug slang, thieves’ slang, teenage slang, college slang, etc.), as a regional variety distinguishing an area (e.g. British slang, American slang, Anglo-Irish slang) or a district (Cockney slang), and as an informal style of the language. It must be further subdivided into either specific or general slang.
It is well known fact that general slang, from the one point of view, is language that speakers use in order to break with the standard language and to change the level of conversation in the way of informality. It shows the speakers’ intention to refuse talks and their need to be fresh to ease social exchanges and induce friendliness. General slang words have a wide spreading as they are neither group nor subject-restricted. To illustrate this point of view let me refer to the following example. So, the items like bevvy (‘a drink), caff (‘a cafe’) and footy (‘football’) are much more likely to get established as informal or colloquial English.
Usually, speaker use specific slang in order to show their belonging to a specific group and ascertain solidarity or intimacy with the other group members. It is often used by speakers to create their own identity, including such aspects as social status and geographical belonging, or even age, education, occupation, lifestyle and special interests. It is widely used among people of similar age-groups and like teenagers or students, in order to encode some important and personal information and also in purpose of keeping outsiders out. It should be kept in mind that specific slang is also used by people of the same profession. For example: military men and computer users, to increase efficiency in communication; or by those sharing the same living conditions. For instance: prisoners and criminals, to hide secret data from people in authority. Lastly, it should be said that even used by people sharing an attitude or a lifestyle like drug addicts and homosexuals to reinforce their group cohesiveness.
The significant distinctions between them results from the fact that the first has an expressive function, meanwhile the second one is primarily deals with the secrecy. There are cases, of course, when words originating as professional slang later on assume the dignity of special terms or pass on into general slang. The borderlines are not always sharp and distinct. For example, the expression “be on the beam” was first used by pilots about the beam of the radio beacon indicating the proper course for the aircraft to follow. Then figuratively “be on the beam” came to mean ‘to be right’, whereas be off the beam came to mean ‘to be wrong’ or ‘to be at a loss’. Slang grows from, depends on, and marks social differences in its everyday use. The subgroup or subcultural origins of general slang include social classes, genders, sexual interests, all majority and minority ethnic groups, regional groups, age groups, many occupational specialties, a host of lifestyle and consumer cultures, and all of the so-called deviant subcultures. Everyone, especially city people, belongs to a variety of these overlapping subgroups. Some of the most intense subcultures have their own dialects or varieties of English that exist in degrees of distinction from standard speech. Each variety may include distinctive pronunciations, special words or special meanings of ordinary words, or even and Popular Speech grammatical differences. There is no single New York dialect or accent of English, but there are as many varieties of speech as there are major social differences. As an exploration of the literature shows, the classification of slang is a challenging task. On the one hand, there is a conceptual and terminological overlap which makes slang hard to distinguish from other similar language varieties (e.g. cant, jargon, dialect). On the other hand, the nature of slang is so vast and all-encompassing that a sub-distinction between specific and general slang is definitely required.
Slang and jargon
Jargon is related to slang because it is also an in-group language. However, jargon and slang differs because of their intended function: Jargon belongs to people of a specific profession or specific interests, such as doctors, soldiers, and train enthusiasts. Rather than employing lay-man terms so that everybody understands, people within the specific profession or with a specific interest use the expert terms associated with the specific area without explaining what the words mean because it is implied that you know them, e.g. a doctor talking to another doctor an using Latin medical terms instead of using standard language terms. Jargon is language of convenience that is used within a specific area to facilitate communication between people within the specific profession or interest. The difference between jargon and slang is thus found in the intended function as slang is meant to show speaker’s attitude while jargon is meant to facilitate communication between experts. Slang is not jargon, a widely used term referring to the specialized vocabulary and phraseology of a set of people sharing a trade or profession although slang may be a choice within jargon. Slang differs from jargon in its lack of prestige and pretentiousness. In fact, slang terminology is much more familiar and spontaneous than the technical jargon of science, medicine, academics, law, bureaucracy, business and so on. Generally slang should be distinguished from jargon, which is commonly known as the technical vocabulary of a particular profession. However jargon, as many examples of slang, may be used in order to exclude non-group members from the conversation, but in general has the function of allowing its users to talk exactly about technical issues in a given field, such as “electric eye” — a photo-cell, “dead end”- an idle end of a coil, “beemer” is A BMW vehicle, e.g. Slang may be used within a particular group like musicians, doctors, soldiers or seamen, but it does not exactly deal with status or reputation. Examples of Slang and Jargon usage:
A word can be both slang and jargon as it seen in the use of the word “say”. The word “say” is not slang despite the fact it is used at the beginning of a sentence as in “tell me”. For instance, the following application of the word “say” are considered slang:
- - “Say, how much does it cost?”
- - “Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light.”
Jargon, on the other hand, is “technical talk.” As started earlier, it may be used as a barrier to keep outsiders from something, but not always. An example of how close slang and jargon are may be seen in the use of the following medical terms:
- - Bilateral probate hematoma. — Jargon
- - A “black eye” or “shiner”. — Slang
Slang and dialect
Slang is not geographically restricted, like dialect, even if it is often regional and “may vary from place to place, dialect to dialect” Therefore, what is slang in British English may be standard in American English, or may have a different meaning within the two regional varieties. For example, the slang word bomb is used in British English to refer to ‘a success but in American English, some of which is gaining currency in Britain, it is used in the exactly opposite sense of ‘a failure’. Despite its local peculiarities, slang is not necessarily associated with one region or social class. Some slang words are of more general use or they happen to be understood by practically anyone within the language community.
To run deeply into the question of non-standard languages, I focused my attention on concrete examples supported by the same text which was translated by a web-translator. Here you will read the same text written on Cockney rhyme slang, and Scottish dialect.