"slang" and "informal" as dict labels [WAS: shirty?]

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Fri Feb 14 03:43:28 UTC 2003

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society
> [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of Frank Abate
> Sent: Thursday, February 13, 2003 2:25 AM
> Subject: "slang" and "informal" as dict labels [WAS: shirty?]

> However, I like "slang" as a label, as long as it is
> understood to mean 'term/phrase that originated in speech,
> is never formal, and that serves as a substitute for a
> formal or regular term for a thing'.

I'm not sure "formal" is a good term to use in the last clause, especially
given the use of "informal" in dictionaries. Take for example, the words
"child" and "kid." Child is formal, kid informal. But I wouldn't consider
"kid" to be slang (at least not now; it was slang once).

Is a factor in slang the use by only a subset of the population? If a term
is generally used, doesn't it become regular or standard, even if it remains

And does slang have to originate in speech? Is there slang in sign language?
What about texting and internet slang? I guess you could equate all of these
with speech in that they are ephemeral modes of communication, but "grok" is
a slang term and that originated in sci-fi literature. There are probably
other terms from literature that have become slang (but I can't think of any
others off the top of my head).

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