An initial 4A N2...?

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Mon Jul 1 17:36:22 UTC 2002

When we fly by the seat of our pants in declaring "pot" one thing and
"grass" another, we air our opinions, but we do the linguistic world
no service (except to let it know what our personal feelings are).


>  > Are 'cool' 'pot' 'grass' slang?  Though they may be "associated with a
>>  particular social grouping," they aren't used only by those
>>  groups.  These terms are widely used but aren't exactly "standard."
>>  What about a term like 'threads' for clothing?  Examples of why it's
>>  so hard to define 'slang'.
>Which is precisely why I used the terms "associated with" and "vaguely
>defined group" regarding slang. The groups that use jargon are more
>precisely defined and organized (e.g., medical profession, police, Civil War
>reenactors, model railroaders), as opposed to say "drug culture" which
>encompasses crackhouse junkies, vice cops, Colombian drug lords, college
>students, and yuppie Wall Street stockbrokers.
>I would argue that "cool" has moved into standard American English. It's
>informal, but ubiquitous. Similarly, I would put "pot" into standard English
>nowadays. "Grass" is more problematic; I would still call that one slang.
>Another problem with defining "slang" is ephemerality. While most slang
>terms are ephemeral, some (like "grass" and "threads") hang around for
>decades. Slang is characterized by ephemerality, but it is not defined or
>categorized by it. The same could probably be said for social groups and
>slang usage.

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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