Студопедия — Features of youth slang in Modern English. Types of slang in Modern English.
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Features of youth slang in Modern English. Types of slang in Modern English.

Rhyming slang

Rhyming slang is a form of phrase construction in the English language and is especially prevalent in dialectal English from the East End of London; hence the alternative name, Cockney rhyming slang (or CRS). The construction involves replacing a common word with a rhyming phrase of two or three words and then, in almost all cases, omitting the secondary rhyming word, in a process called hemiteleia, making the origin and meaning of the phrase elusive to listeners not in the know.

The most frequently cited example—although it is almost never employed by current users—involves the replacement of "stairs" with the rhyming phrase "apples and pears". Following the usual pattern of omission, "(and) pears" is then dropped and "stairs" becomes "apples". Thus the spoken phrase "I'm going up the apples" means "I'm going ['up the stairs'/'upstairs']".

In similar fashion, "telephone" is replaced by "dog" (= 'dog-and-bone'); "wife" by "trouble" (= 'trouble-and-strife'); "eyes" by "minces" (= 'mince pies'); "wig" by "syrup" (= 'syrup of figs') and "feet" by "plates" (= 'plates of meat'). Thus a construction of the following type could conceivably arise: "It nearly knocked me off me plates—he was wearing a syrup! So I got straight on the dog to me trouble and said I couldn't believe me minces."

In some examples the meaning is further obscured by adding a second iteration of rhyme and truncation to the original rhymed phrase. For example, the word "Aris" is often used to indicate the buttocks. This has been subjected to a double rhyme, starting with the original rough synonym "arse", which was rhymed with "bottle and glass", leading to "bottle". "Bottle" was then rhymed with "Aristotle" and truncated to "Aris".

The use of rhyming slang has spread beyond the purely dialectal and some examples are to be found in the mainstream British English lexicon and internationally, although many users may be unaware of the origin of those words. One example is "berk", a mild pejorative widely used across the UK and not usually considered particularly offensive, although the origin lies in a contraction of "Berkeley Hunt", as the rhyme for the significantly more offensive "cunt".

Most of the words changed by this process are nouns. A few are adjectival e.g. 'bales' (of cotton = rotten), or the adjectival phrase 'on one's tod' (Tod Sloan, a famous jockey).

History of a rhyming slang

Rhyming slang is believed to have originated in the mid-19th century in the East End of London, with several sources suggesting sometime in the 1840s.

According to Partridge (1972:12), it dates from around 1840 and arose in the East End of London, however John Camden Hotten in his 1859 Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words states that (English) rhyming slang originated "about twelve or fifteen years ago" (i.e. in the 1840s) with 'chaunters' and 'patterers' in the Seven Dials area of Westminster. (The reference is to travelling salesmen of certain kinds. Chaunters sold sheet music and patterers offered cheap, tawdry goods at fairs and markets up and down the country). Hotten's Dictionary included a "Glossary of the Rhyming Slang", the first known such work. It included later mainstays such as "Frog and toad—the main road" and "Apples and pears—stairs" as well as many that later grew more obscure, e.g. "Battle of the Nile—a tile (vulgar term for a hat)", "Duke of York—take a walk", and "Top of Rome—home".

It remains a matter of speculation whether rhyming slang was a linguistic accident, a game, or a cryptolect developed intentionally to confuse non-locals. If deliberate, it may also have been used to maintain a sense of community. It is possible that it was used in the marketplace to allow traders to talk amongst themselves in order to facilitate collusion, without customers knowing what they were saying. Another suggestion is that it may have been used by criminals (see thieves' cant) to confuse the police.


At any point in history, in any location, rhyming slang can be seen to incorporate words and phrases that are relevant at that particular time and place. Many examples are based on locations in London and, in all likelihood, will be meaningless to people unfamiliar with the capital e.g. "Peckham Rye", meaning "tie" (as in necktie), which dates from the late 19th century; "Hampstead Heath", meaning "teeth" (usually as "Hampsteads”), which was first recorded in 1887 and "Barnet Fair", meaning "hair", which dates from the 1850s. (In these examples and many subsequent ones the final step of hemiteleia has been omitted in order to allow the reader more readily to trace the origin of the substituted words).

By the mid-20th century many rhyming slang expressions used the names of contemporary personalities, especially actors and performers: for example "Gregory Peck" meaning "neck" and also "cheque"; "Ruby Murray" meaning "curry"; "Alans", meaning "knickers" from Alan Whicker; "Max Miller" meaning "pillow" when pronounced /ˈpilə/ and "Henry Halls".

The use of personal names as rhymes continued into the late 20th century, for example "Tony Blairs" meaning "flares", as in trousers with a wide bottom (previously this was "Lionel Blairs" and this change illustrates the ongoing mutation of the forms of expression) and "Britney Spears", meaning "beers".

Many examples have passed into common usage. Some substitutions have become relatively widespread in England in their contracted form. "To have a butcher's", meaning to have a look, originates from "butcher's hook", an S-shaped hook used by butchers to hang up meat, and dates from the late 19th century but has existed independently in general use from around the 1930s simply as "butchers". Similarly, "use your loaf", meaning "use your head", derives from "loaf of bread" and also dates from the late 19th century but came into independent use in the 1930s.

Rhyming slang, in keeping with the rest of the language, is at the mercy of what one might loosely refer to as "false etymology". An example occurs that involves the term "barney", which has been used to mean an altercation or fight since the late 19th century, although without a clear derivation. Thus, in 1964, in A Hard Day's Night, John Lennon taunts the road manager into “having a barney”.[ In the 2001 feature film Ocean's Eleven Don Cheadle uses the term "barney" and the claim is made that this rhyme is derived from Barney Rubble, ("trouble") with references to a character from the Flintstones cartoon show. This usage can be seen as either an abuse of history, or as a good example of the ever-changing nature of rhyming slang.

Regional and international variations

Rhyming slang is used mainly in London in England but can to some degree be understood across the country. Some constructions, however, rely on particular regional accents for the rhymes to work. The term "Charing Cross" for example (a place in London) has been used to mean "horse" since the mid-19th century[3] but does not rhyme unless "cross" is pronounced /ˈkrɔːs/ to rhyme with "course". A similar example is "Joanna" meaning "piano", which is based on the pronunciation of "piano" as "pianna" /piˈænə/). Unique formations also exist in other parts of the United Kingdom, such as in the East Midlands, where the local accent has formed "Derby Road", which rhymes with "cold", a conjunction that would not be possible elsewhere in the UK.

Outside England, rhyming slang is used in many English-speaking countries. In Australian slang the term for an English person is "pommy", which has been proposed as a rhyme on "pomegranate" rhyming with "immigrant". A more recent Australian invention is the term "reginalds" to describe underpants, from "Reg Grundies" after Reg Grundy, the Australia media tycoon. In Australia and South Africa, the colloquial term "China" is derived from "mate" rhyming with "China plate" (the identical form, heard in expressions like "me old China" is also a long-established Cockney idiom).

In London rhyming slang is continually evolving, and new phrases are introduced all the time. As mentioned new personalities replace old ones (as in Lionel/Tony Blairs—flairs), or pop culture introduces new words—as in "I haven't a Scooby" (from Scooby Doo, the eponymous cartoon dog of the cartoon series) meaning "I haven't a clue".

Rhyming slang and taboo terms

Rhyming slang is often used as a substitute for words regarded as taboo, often to the extent that the association with the taboo word becomes unknown over time. "Berk" (often used to mean "foolish person") originates from the most famous of all fox hunts, the "Berkeley Hunt" meaning "cunt"; "cobblers" (often used in the context "what you said is rubbish") originates from "cobbler's awls", meaning "balls" (as in testicles); and "hampton" meaning "prick" (as in penis) originates from "Hampton Wick" (a place in London).

Lesser taboo terms include "pony and trap" for "crap" (as in defecate, but often used to denote nonsense or low quality); "D'Oyly Carte" for "fart"; "Jimmy Riddle" for "piddle" (as in urinate), "J. Arthur Rank" (a film mogul), or "ham shank" for "wank", "Bristol Cities" for "titties", etc. "Taking the Mick" or "taking the Mickey" is thought to be a rhyming slang form of "taking the piss", where "Mick" came from "Mickey Bliss".

Rhyming slang terms for Jew have included "Chelsea Blue", "Stick of Glue", "Four by Two" and "Buckle my shoe".

In December 2004 Joe Pasquale, winner of the fourth series of ITV's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, became well known for his frequent use of the term "Jacobs", for Jacob's Crackers, a rhyming slang term for knackers i.e. testicles.

Rhyming slang in popular culture

Rhyming slang is used, then described and a number of examples suggested as part of dialogue in one scene of the 1967 film To Sir With Love starring Sidney Poitier. The English students are telling their foreign teacher that the slang is a drag and something for old people.[

In Britain rhyming slang had a resurgence of popular interest beginning in the 1970s resulting from its use in a number of London-based television programmes such as Steptoe and Son, Mind Your Language, The Sweeney (the title of which is itself rhyming slang—"Sweeney Todd" for "Flying Squad", a rapid response unit of London’s Metropolitan Police), Minder, Citizen Smith, Only Fools and Horses, and EastEnders. Minder could be quite uncompromising in its use of obscure forms without any clarification. Thus the non-Cockney viewer was obliged to deduce that, say, "iron" was "male homosexual" ('iron' = 'iron hoof' = 'poof'). One episode in Series 5 of Steptoe and Son was entitled "Any Old Iron", for the same reason, when Albert thinks that Harold is 'on the turn'.

In The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, a comic twist was added to rhyming slang by way of spurious and fabricated examples which a young man had laboriously to explain to his father (e.g. 'dustbins' meaning 'children', as in 'dustbin lids' = 'kids'; 'Teds' being 'Ted Heath' and thus 'teeth'; and even 'Chitty Chitty' being 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', and thus 'rhyming slang'...).

In modern literature, Cockney rhyming slang is used frequently in the novels and short stories of Kim Newman, for instance in the short story collections "The Man from the Diogenes Club" (2006) and "Secret Files of the Diogenes Club" (2007), where it is explained at the end of each book. Also, in the novel Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett, this slang is frequently used.

In popular music, London-based artists such as Audio Bullys and Chas & Dave (and others from elsewhere in the UK, such as The Streets, who are from Birmingham) frequently use rhyming slang in their songs. The UK punk scene of the late 1970s introduced bands that glorified their working-class heritage: Sham 69 had a hit song "The Cockney Kids are Innocent". The idiom made a brief appearance in the UK-based DJ reggae music of the 1980s in the hit "Cockney Translation" by Smiley Culture of South London; this was followed a couple of years later by Domenick and Peter Metro's "Cockney and Yardie". The 1967 Kinks song "Harry Rag" was based on the usage of the name Harry Wragg as rhyming slang for "fag" (i.e. a cigarette).

In movies, Cary Grant's character teaches rhyming slang to his female companion in the film Mr. Lucky (1943) and describes it as Australian rhyming slang. The closing song of the 1969 Michael Caine crime caper, The Italian Job, ("Getta Bloomin' Move On" a.k.a. "The Self Preservation Society") contains many slang terms. In present day feature films rhyming slang is often used to lend authenticity to an East End setting. Examples include Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) (wherein the slang is translated via subtitles in one scene); The Limey (1999); Sexy Beast (2000); Snatch (2000); Ocean's Eleven (2001); and Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002); It's All Gone Pete Tong (2004), after BBC radio disc jockey Pete Tong whose name is used in this context as rhyming slang for "wrong"; Green Street Hooligans (2005).

Internet slang

Internet slang (Internet short-hand, Cyber-slang, netspeak or chatspeak) refers to a variety of everyday languages used by different communities on the Internet. It is difficult to provide a standardized definition of Internet slang due to the constant changes made to its nature.[1] However, it can be understood to be a type of slang that Internet users have popularized, and in many cases, have coined. Such terms often originate with the purpose of saving keystrokes. Many people use the same abbreviations in texting and instant messaging, and social networking websites. Acronyms, keyboard symbols and abbreviations are common types of Internet slang. New dialects of slang, such as leet or Lolspeak, develop as ingroup internet memes rather than time savers.


Slang as a phenomenon in modern linguistics. Slang, jargon and techspeak.

In linguistics there is no clear notion of slang. The whole vocabulary of a language is divided into literary and non-literary. By literary include:

1. Ink-horn term

2. Standard spoken words

3. Neutral words

The whole vocabulary is used either in literature or in a speech in a formal setting. There is also a non-literary vocabulary, we divide it into:





This part of the lexicon is distinguished by its conversational and informal nature.

Professionalism - words used by small groups of people united by a particular profession.

Vulgargomy - it's harsh words, not usually employed by educated people in society, the special vocabulary used by people of lower social status: prisoners, drug dealers, homeless, etc.

Jargon - words that are used by certain social or common interest groups, which are secret, incomprehensible to all make sense.


Slang - words that are often viewed as a violation of the standard language. This is a very expressive, ironic words serve to indicate items being talked about in everyday life.

It should be noted that some scholars refer to the slang jargon, thus not releasing them as a separate group, and slang is defined as a specific vocabulary used to talk a group of people with common interests.

The term "slang" in the translation from English (Sov. congruence. Dictionary, ed. S. Kovaleva, - M., "Soviet Encyclopedia", str.1234) means:

A. It socially or professionally isolated groups opposed to the literary language;

B. Version of the conversation (including painted expressive elements of the speech) that do not coincide with the standard literary language.

Slang consists of words and phraseology, which originally emerged and were used in separate social groups, and reflect the holistic orientation of these groups. Having become a commonly used, these words remain largely emotional assessment, although some "sign" of evaluation varies. For example, the "trash" (an actor's use of Wednesday) - stands for "perquisite."

On the problem of allocation of unallocated or slang of a number of others, and as a concept and as a term for local linguists, there are several points of view:


A. I.R. Halperin, in his article "On the term" slang "," referring to the uncertainty in this category, denies its existence. His argument is based on the results of studies of British scientists lexicographers, mainly on their experience in compiling dictionaries of English, which showed that the same word in different dictionaries have different linguistic recognition, the same is given to the litters of "slang," "vernacular" or without litter, indicating that under normal literary language. I.R Halperin does not admit the existence of slang as a separate category of self-offering, the term "slang" used as a synonym, the English equivalent of jargon.

B. Opinion about the identity of the two terms (slang and jargon), but beyond that - a sharp rejection of the presence of this phenomenon in the Russian spoken language (Elena Borisova-Lunashanets, A.N. Mazurova, L. Radzihovsky).

It is interesting to use in this aspect the opinion of Academician AA. Shakhmatova, who offered to point to the attention of such a phenomenon, and not get involved in propaganda denying slang and showing how to speak.

It should not be approached solely from the perspective of slang scholar and linguist, as the language - not a static phenomenon, but versatile, and above all in the way of (slang is present mainly in speech).

In terms of style - the jargon, slang or sociolect - it is not harmful parasitic excrescence on the body language, which is vulgarized spoken language of the speaker, and organic and to some extent a necessary part of the system.

Some researchers believe that the term is slang used here in two senses: as a synonym for jargon (but with reference to English-speaking countries) and as a collection of slang words, slang values of well-known words, slang phrases, belonging by birth to the different jargon, and become, if not commonly used, it is sufficient wide range of understandable. The authors of the various slang dictionaries in this way understand the slang.

Linguists usually refer to informal language as ‘slang’ and reserve the term ‘jargon’ for the technical vocabularies of various occupations. However, the ancestor of this collection was called the ‘Jargon File’, and hacker slang is traditionally ‘the jargon’. When talking about the jargon there is therefore no convenient way to distinguish it from what a linguist would call hackers' jargon — the formal vocabulary they learn from textbooks, technical papers, and manuals.

To make a confused situation worse, the line between hacker slang and the vocabulary of technical programming and computer science is fuzzy, and shifts over time. Further, this vocabulary is shared with a wider technical culture of programmers, many of whom are not hackers and do not speak or recognize hackish slang.

Accordingly, this lexicon will try to be as precise as the facts of usage permit about the distinctions among three categories:

Slang- informal language from mainstream English or non-technical subcultures (bikers, rock fans, surfers, etc).

Jargon- without qualifier, denotes informal ‘slangy’ language peculiar to or predominantly found among hackers — the subject of this lexicon.

Techspeak- the formal technical vocabulary of programming, computer science, electronics, and other fields connected to hacking.

This terminology will be consistently used throughout the remainder of this lexicon.

The jargon/techspeak distinction is the delicate one. A lot of techspeak originated as jargon, and there is a steady continuing uptake of jargon into techspeak. On the other hand, a lot of jargon arises from overgeneralization of techspeak terms (there is more about this in the Jargon Construction section below).

In general, we have considered techspeak any term that communicate primarily by a denotation well established in textbooks, technical dictionaries, or standards documents.

A few obviously techspeak terms (names of operating systems, languages, or documents) are listed when they are tied to hacker folklore that isn't covered in formal sources, or sometimes to convey critical historical background necessary to understand other entries to which they are cross-referenced. Some other techspeak senses of jargon words are listed in order to make the jargon senses clear; where the text does not specify that a straight technical sense is under discussion, these are marked with ‘[techspeak]’ as an etymology. Some entries have a primary sense marked this way, with subsequent jargon meanings explained in terms of it.


We have also tried to indicate (where known) the apparent origins of terms. The results are probably the least reliable information in the lexicon, for several reasons. For one thing, it is well known that many hackish usages have been independently reinvented multiple times, even among the more obscure and intricate neologisms. It often seems that the generative processes underlying hackish jargon formation have an internal logic so powerful as to create substantial parallelism across separate cultures and even in different languages! For another, the networks tend to propagate innovations so quickly that ‘first use’ is often impossible to pin down. And, finally, compendia like this one alter what they observe by implicitly stamping cultural approval on terms and widening their use.

Despite these problems, the organized collection of jargon-related oral history for the new compilations has enabled us to put to rest quite a number of folk etymologies, place credit where credit is due, and illuminate the early history of many important hackerisms such as kluge, cruft, and foo. We believe specialist lexicographers will find many of the historical notes more than casually instructive.


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