Fwd: [lg policy] If You Dance With No Pants, a Well-Defined Body (of Slang) Helps

Damien Hall djh514 at YORK.AC.UK
Mon Aug 17 15:05:45 UTC 2009

With apologies for cross-postings, this article about the recent
publication of the sixth edition of (the dictionary of) _UCLA Slang_
appeared in _The Chronicle of Higher Education_ on 10 August. I got it on
the Language Policy List.


Damien Hall

University of York
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
YO10 5DD

Tel. (office) +44 (0)1904 432665
     (mobile) +44 (0)771 853 5634
Fax  +44 (0)1904 432673


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 17 Aug 2009 10:24:09 -0400
From: Harold Schiffman <hfsclpp at gmail.com>
To: lp <lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu>
Subject: [lg policy] If You Dance With No Pants,
        a Well-Defined Body (of Slang) Helps

If You Dance With No Pants, a Well-Defined Body (of Slang) Helps

By Jennifer Howard

The hottest read this fall on the University of California at Los
Angeles campus won't be part of the literature curriculum. The sixth
edition of U.C.L.A. Slang has just come out, and it's a sizzler.
Parents, order your copies now (contact linguist at humnet.ucla.edu).
Cost of the book? $10.95, plus shipping. Insight into your offspring's
social life? Priceless. Before we get to the good and often profane
stuff, here's a little background in standard English. Compiled by
undergraduates in a linguistics seminar run by Pamela Munro, a UCLA
professor of that subject, the dictionary is a series of field reports
from the students about how they and their UCLA friends speak.

U.C.L.A. Slang 6 does not put students under a sociological
microscope; it relies on their grass-roots expertise. Four student
author-editors-Erik Blanco, Emily Franklin, Colleen Carmichael, and
Alissa Swauger-sifted through a database of words and phrases compiled
by Ms. Munro's fall 2008 seminar and came up with the present volume.
Not only do the students learn about linguistics and how to compile a
dictionary; they also get to publish their research, through the UCLA
linguistics department. (Proceeds go to support departmental

The dictionary has come out every four years since 1989. That makes it
an institution, but a lot of the lingo in the newest version will be
alien to those who came of age circa the first edition (or the second,
third, fourth, or fifth, for that matter). Slang flowers and fades; it
puts a time stamp on the speaker.

It's an identity marker, too. "Slang aids in the identification of
people of a common age and experience," Ms. Munro writes in an
introduction to the sixth edition. "Today's college students are now
learning slang expressions some of which they will continue using (to
their future children's sure disgust) for most of their lives."

Sure, "mooch" has hung around since the 16th century, and generations
of Americans still agree on "cool," but most of the collegespeak of
your youth and mine is nowhere to be seen in U.C.L.A. Slang 6. There
are many reasons to be glad that so much slang is here today, gone
tomorrow; I don't miss "hosed," which spread viruslike when I was in
college, back in the day.

Although U.C.L.A. Slang 6 is a linguistic portrait of that campus in
2008-9, most of the preoccupations laid out in the book have obsessed
college kids since the dawn of time: studying, dating, partying (with
or without illicit substances). Props (yes, that expression is still
in use among UCLA undergrads) to today's collegians for continuing the

Kids these days-they know how to talk. Where was "shitteous" ("shitty"
plus "hideous") when I needed a word to describe my freshman facebook
picture? When my roommate got wasted on rum and Coke, I couldn't say
she'd had "hella much" to drink. If someone messed up a test big time,
"epic fail" wasn't yet available to describe it.

See also "barge it" (go quickly), "blingify" (add sparkly
accessories), "hyna" (it rhymes with "mynah" and means
"girlfriend"-the dictionary cites a Spanish term, jaina, as the
origin), "hyphy" (agitated), "obama" (meaning good/cool-"You just aced
that exam! You are so obama!" is the dictionary's sample usage),
"skrilla" (money), "tatted out" (covered with tattoos), and the verb
"to wiki" (look something up on Wikipedia).

Then there's Ms. Munro's favorite phrase: to "dance with no pants,"
which means to express one's affection in a physical manner, as a
friend of mine used to say. Language moves on; lust is forever.


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