An initial 4A N2...?

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Mon Jul 1 15:36:06 UTC 2002

I completely reject the "necessary" argument, which seems to suggest
that "economy" is the defining characteristic of slang. Too many
counterexamples (slang phrases longer than the "standard") to mention.


>In a message dated 7/1/02 8:10:20 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
>preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU writes:
>>  I'm still at a loss. Does this mean that no special interest group
>>   has slang?
>Yes, a special interest group may have slang terms that are not part of their
>jargon, that is, terms that are not "necessary" (that is, can be easily
>avoided by using either jargon or standard terms).  Baseball example:  "gear"
>is jargon, because the alternative is to specify "face mask, chest protector,
>and shin guards" (7 words, 8 if "cup" is included).  However, "toos of
>ignorance", a synonym for "gear", is slang.  Air traffic control example:
>rules require certain separations between aircraft.  There are some jargon
>terms (more than one, because the rules levy multiple requirements.)
>However, controllers have additional terms for loss of separation that are
>slang because they would probably not get into written reports.   One that I
>heard in a conversation between controllers was "deal".  (I suspect, but do
>not know, that the implication was that two controllers might have made a
>"deal" to simplify things by ignoring the regulations.)   Another one I once
>heard was "two jets got a close look at each other".
>>   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."
>No.  For the police officers, it was jargon in that they were ordered to
>learn it.  However, the linguistic interest lies in whether a particular term
>is slang or jargon to a drug user, not to the police who are outside
>observers.  Examples:  I think you will agree that "horse" for "heroin" is
>slang.  However, "nickel" is jargon because it saves the speaker the trouble
>of saying "a five dollar bag of [the drug in question]."
>>   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.
>I do not have any definition of slang worth stating here.
>To confuse the issue, a word can be slang, jargon, and standard at the same
>time, depending on use and meaning.  Example: "jazz", whose origins have been
>disucssed at length on this list.  With the meaning "a type of music"  it is
>standard English.  With the meaning "to have sexual intercourse" it is slang.
>  "To jazz up (a piece of music)" is a jargon term to musicians, as it has a
>specific technical meaning that one could write books about; however, this
>usage is so well known to the general public that arguably it is standard
>English.  Other meanings or connotations of "to jazz up" may well meet
>someone's definition of slang.  Scientific American once discussed whether
>Brahms, as a conductor, had a "jazzy style"  In this case it is borderline
>whether "jazzy" is slang or jargon (or even standard English).  "Jazzy" was
>used to mean "somewhat irregular beat, definitely not like a metronome".  Was
>the writer using a jargon term to describe a conductor's beat, or a slang
>term that could have been replaced by "syncopated"?  I could argue either way.
>>   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).
>I agree.  Hopefully that is what I was doing in my previous paragraph.
>>   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:).
>Agreed.  I am a purist on the word "jargon", but most people are not( my
>teenage daughter says that "jargon" means "slang that has been cleaned up.).
>Example:  Google gives 220 hits on the phrase "barbarous jargon".  Example:
>about a century ago, "Jargon" was used as a derogatory term for "Yiddish".
>          - Jim Landau
>      - Jim Landau

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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