An initial 4A N2...?

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Mon Jul 1 11:59:19 UTC 2002

I'm still at a loss. Does this mean that no special interest group
has slang? And, by your definition, drug use slang written down for
police to memorize would have ceased to be slang on the spot (at
least for those cops), although they set out to learn "slang."

I suspect the difficulty really lies in our inability to pinpoint
what we mean by slang, and I suspect a set of prototypical categories
(ephemerality, raciness, etc...). no one of which is defining is the
major source of the difficulty.

For me, therefore, every item of technical language must undergo the
same investigation to determine whether it is slang or not (as well
as, of course, a reinvestigation for in-group and out-group users).

One suspicion I have is that we often use the word "jargon" to
indicate the convergence of technical vocabulary and slang (but
sertainly not exclusively; we obviously also use jargon when we feel
that technical language is "unnecessary:).


>In a message dated 06/30/2002 4:06:26 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
>preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU writes:
>>  if anyone publishes a book which employees must
>>   learn words or terms from have those items "lost" their slang status
>>   by that means alone?
>I say yes.  If a word is jargon, it is not slang.  If an employer gives his
>employees a glossary of words which the employees are required to use, then
>the words in that glossary have become jargon.
>A clarificaition:  a word can be part of the technical vocabulary of one
>group, and therefore jargon as far as that group is concerned, yet be slang
>to the outside world.  "Homer" was the only example I could think of.  A
>baseball player is not unlikely to get into a discussion of the alleged
>home-team bias of a particular umpire, and therefore finds "homer" meaning
>"umpire biased towards the home team" as part of his technical vocabulary.
>To the fan in the stands, however, "homer" is merely another, and not very
>necessary, term for a home run.
>The only other example I can think of is "pimp".  To the general public the
>word means "procurer" and I won't take a stand on whether it should be
>considered a slang word.  However, to a prostitute, "pimp" has the specific
>meaning of "prostitute's boyfriend".
>>   That "homer" (home-team favoring unmpire) is not slang is very odd to
>>   me. It is not "necessary" in any sense except that those who deal
>>   with baseball must know it. I think there is a confusion here of
>>   slang which is slang but is jargon at the same time technical speech,
>>   or jargon, which is not slang.
>Yes, a word or term can simultaneously be jargon, within a particular group,
>and slang outside that group.  See examples above.
>A jargon expression may have started out as a slang expression, but have
>since become jargon.  One example: sometime after World War II (I think in
>the 1960's, but I haven't been able to track down the date) airplanes were
>required to be equipped with transponders if they wished to fly in positive
>control zones (in the US, any airspace over 18,000 feet).  I am guessing that
>someone coined the term "squawk", as in "the transponder squawks a response"
>or "I just got back the sqawk from flight so-and-so."  If my guess is
>correct, then this was slang.  However, the FAA and ICAO (International Civil
>Aviation Organization, a branch of the UN to which the FAA answers for
>international flights) both added the word "squawk" to the glossaries of what
>air traffic controllers and pilots say to each other.  For example, to tell a
>pilot to turn off his transponder, the controller says "Stop Squawk", or to
>turn on the altitude reporting portion of the transponder, "Start Altitude
>Squawk."  Hence "squawk", once slang, is now jargon.  (To tell the pilot to
>report his altitude verbally instead of by transponder, the controller says
>"Say Altitude".)
>                   - James A. Landau
>                     systems engineer
>                     FAA Tech Center (ACB-510/BCI)
>                     Atlantic City Int'l Airport NJ 08405 USA
>P.S.  An air traffic control story, perhaps apochryphal:
>Controller:  SAY ALTITUDE
>Pilot:          ALTITUDE
>Controller (annoyed): SAY ALTITUDE
>Pilot:          ALTITUDE
>Pilot reports his altitude.

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
740 Wells Hall A
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office - (517) 353-0740
Fax - (517) 432-2736

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