Domesticated slang

Randy Alexander strangeguitars at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 8 18:25:50 UTC 2014

A percentage is one way to represent a fraction of a whole.  There are big
problems with your question in that respect.  If your whole is the total
number of English words, then you need criteria for what counts as a word
(and also for a slang word, and also for evidence that it has been accepted
as standard).

You're not even giving an example of a word that "started out as slang but
then became accepted as standard".  (John Baker guesses you might accept

There is no clear, accepted way to count how many words there are in
Standard English, the best you can hope for is to estimate to the nearest
order of magnitude, which is likely going to be 10^5 (some examples along
the lines of word lists that attempt to define Standard English are here:


You'll need to decide what order of magnitude makes up the slang words in
English that have become accepted as standard.  This seems to me a bigger
challenge.  Do you have a list?

Once you have a list, or can guess at how many there are, round to the
nearest order of magnitude and then put that into your fraction.  Since a
fraction is another way to express division, you'll have to round in a
special way: three or lower rounds down to one, and four or higher rounds
up to ten.  This is because 3*3=9 (in the 10^0, or "ones" order of
magnitude), but 4*4=16 (in the 10^1, or "tens" order or magnitude).  When
we're multiplying or dividing ballpark numbers, we want the resulting order
of magnitude to be close, and since multiplying by ten is the number that
defines the next order of magnitude, and the square root of ten is between
three and four, that's where we split the rounding.

But maybe a better way to answer your question would be to ask you to put
it in much clearer terms.  :)


On Tue, Aug 5, 2014 at 7:26 AM, Michael Sheehan <
000000e73f3db4b1-dmarc-request at> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Michael Sheehan <wordmall at AOL.COM>
> Subject:      Domesticated slang
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Can anyone give me an approximate percentage of English words that =
> started out as slang but then became accepted as standard?=20
> Michael Sheehan
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

Randy Alexander
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Language in China (group blog):

The American Dialect Society -

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