Campuspeak: The lingo of American adultalescents

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Sep 28 13:43:33 UTC 2007

September 30, 2007

On Language: Campuspeak

Sketchy about the lingo being spoken by todays adultalescents? As those in
their late teens and early adulthood like to say, Ah-ite! The sound of
that last word is hard to convey on the printed page. The famous cry in
comic books of a man being thrown out a window Ai-ee-ee!  comes closer to
the first semisyllable of the slurred word, but there is a hint of a t at
the end. When you ask a young person conversant in this campuspeak (a word
created on the analogy of George Orwells newspeak) a question like Would
you do this for me? you are likely to hear the answer Ah-ite.

The meaning is O.K. The sound is an amalgam of all and right, which used
to sound like aw-rite but now is compressed into a sliding aight, as the
teen-slanguist Fred Lynch transcribes it.

Word-blending is big in campuspeak. He's sort of a nerd, but he's just so
adorkable combines adorable with dork, the amalgam defined as endearing
though socially inept by Prof. Connie Eble of the department of English
and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill. Another blend is fauxhawk, combining faux, artificial, and Mohawk,
defined as a hairstyle achieved by combing all of the hair to the center
to give the appearance of a Mohawk without shaving the head.

Yet another is ginormous, blending gigantic with enormous (seeking to
outstrip humongous, itself a dated slang blend of huge and monstrous
and/or tremendous). The new slang blend submitted by members of Professor
Ebles English 314 class only a few months ago is chillax, from the
adjective chill, easygoing, and the verb relax, the combo meaning do
nothing in particular, an activity widely practiced in centers of learning
throughout the nation.

Among the relatively new slang words: stella, good-looking female, from
stellar, starlike, improbably influenced by the shouted name of Stanley
Kowalskis wife in Tennessee Williamss Streetcar Named Desire. A synonym is
shorty or shawty, imported from vintage hip-hop for girlfriend of any
height. Such attractiveness is the opposite of the fast-fading butterface
(Great body, but her face. . . .), and a less-than-good-looking male or
female is a blockamore, who only looks good from a block or more.

Metaphor is teen slang at its most creative. The recent nose wide open,
applied to either male or female friends, means totally compliant, perhaps
from the older to be led around by the nose. (This is not to be confused
with the Shakespearean Henry Vs exhortation to his troops going into
battle at Harfleur to set the teeth, and stretch the nostril wide. The
current slang synonym for the subservient shlepper is sprung.)

A rhyming metaphor is thigh five, a celebratory gesture like a high five,
except clapping together the fronts of the thighs, as football players do,
instead of the palms of the hands.

The most frequently used new term at Chapel Hill is sketchy, of dubious
character; shady, potentially dangerous. Usage: Those middle-aged men are
so sketchy. They creep me out. It is being substituted for the
long-lasting ninja of the 1980s, from the Japanese for stealthy,
secretive. Yesteryears in your face has been replaced by all up in your
grill. Sources elsewhere tell me that the adjective crunchy applied to
health-conscious, environmentally correct types is being overtaken by the
attributive noun granola. Anyhoo (nobody says anyhow anymoo), at Rice
University the blended compound adultalescence has for the past few years
been defined as the state of moving back in with ones parents after
college graduation.

Other youthful slang sources concern themselves mainly with the vocabulary
of the three subjects, other than scholarship and sports, apparently
central to campus life: sex, booze and regurgitation. (If your response to
that news is Duh, the latest definition of that sound is Thank you,
Captain Obvious.)

I am not about to yam on (humiliate) readers with a lexicon of making
purple or doing the do other than to note that the most original compound
along the amatory line is the verb sexile, defined as being locked out by
your roommate who is using the premises for an assignation to which you
are not invited. This is somehow related to hallcest, the definition of
which has not been vouchsafed to me, but I suspect it is an extreme
example of what diplomats call proximity talks.

[Comment:  My son instructs me that "ah-ite" is pronounced with (what I
would call)  a kind of laryngeal squeeze, i.e. a constriction in the back
of the mouth that replaces the "l" of "all" and the "r" of "right".  It's
not a glottal stop, a velar or uvular fricative; it sounds more like a
clearing of the throat.  (HS)]


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