A Mythunderstanding of Slang

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by gendanken, Aug 20, 2010.

  1. sniffy Banned Banned

    Stepping very lightly in....

    This being a sciencey place and all:

    Once you have a trumpet and can blow a bit it's just a matter of time before you learn how to use it (unless you're a complete dipshit). Sure, some might learn to use it better than others; make the notes come out in a different order; manipulate the them; make them louder or quieter; shorter or longer but essentially to make like a trumpet you need a trumpet in the first place.

    After a while some clever bugger will come along and adapt the trumpet so that it will make a greater variety of sounds. Someone else might amend it further. Pretty soon the trumpet begins to look and sound more like a saxophone. Then there will be some argument over whether or not a saxophone is better or worse than a trumpet. But, hey, lets agree that they are both recognisable as brass instruments and get to rooting and a tooting.

    It's the common equipment we've got that makes the notes or we'd all still be squawking. Or clicking.

    equipment + brains = language

    Language x migration x evolution = adapted language

    adapted language x isolation = another language

    Something like that in't it?

    /screams runs away
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    In honor of that revolting vulgarity called netspeak: LOL.

    Thank you, quite nice.

  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Because you are a "self-respecting snob"?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Who is this "we"?

    Well, this is the old conflict between prescriptive grammar and descriptive grammar -

    I doubt it is inherent - more like inherited or just plain learned.
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  7. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    "We" as in the first person plural pronoun.

    Meaning a small group of me with my arms curled around you

    Now, imagine what you perceive as a moron attempting to embarrass you with a slop of poor English.

    What then?
    Good, now read the thread.
    In its entirety.
  8. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member


    I rest in my enlightenment, of course.

    Really, I am barely bothered by "poor language" as such.

    I am only concerned when I sense the person is trying to express negative feelings for me or others by their use of poor or hypercorrect grammar (esp. in written communication); or when I notice someone is trying to conceal something (such as their origin) because they think this would please me (which it doesn't, and I hate it when people try to think for me) or someone else; or some other example of a proud man's contumely.

    IOW, for me, it has to do with intentions and circumstances rather than language or variation of it itself.

    It's a practical example of addressing that conflict ...

    I suppose you - and some others - would like to come to some conclusion about slang and issues related to it.
    I think that while a linguistic discussion of the topic may aid understanding, an individual person's (final) decision rests on non-linguistic premises about what communication between humans is about.
  9. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member


    Sniff sniff--that is the first, delicate fragrance of Shakespeare I've had the pleasure of smelling in these new Sciforums, Signal.

    *exhale and ahhhh*

    Thank you.
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I've seen it mentioned by scholars a couple of times and the standard explanation is that emigrant communities are generally smaller than the homeland they left behind, so there aren't as many forces at work to change their language. When the emigrant communities grow, sometimes even larger than the homeland, their dialects undergo the same influences as everyone else's. Look at American English and Latin American Spanish. (I'm not as familiar with Portuguese but I know that the pronunciation, at least, in Rio has gone off on its own tangent.)

    You already mentioned that a few weeks ago. How many times are you going to repeat yourself? I'm an editor in real life. Sometimes I just forget to take off my work hat. Sorry.
    What country do you live in that you need this phrase defined??? In the U.K. they tend to refer to them as "civil servants." That term is sometimes used here too, but less often.
  11. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    I don't think so, Papa.

    You most certainly are not going to turn this into a case of female hysteria-- we'll do this again:

    You, very condescendingly and for some reason, attempted to shun my lingustistic snobbery as a type of behavior seen 'outside the discourse of this board'

    In other words, not done around here.

    I, in reaction and because of you, point out that you, Papa Editor, were going around correcting people's grammar in Sciforums.

    In other words, done right here.

    And so that you, of all people, had the temerity to say my disdain for bad language was in any way not in tune with what goes on around here when you're running around like a barefoot Socrates sticking his pug nose
    in fallacies to fix it with snot-- was ridiculous.

    So don't act all dismayed and exasperated as though Gendanken is some crazy female with a meningitis of obsessive compulsions.
    It might serve a purpose for you, but not here.

    And why..
    ...are you acting as if I'm asking you for the definition of a government employee?

    With three question marks "???", for emphasis.

    Or is it that you realized you should have looked up what you've grown accustomed to preaching-- you know, like the spiel about Hopis having no concept of time?

    Tell me, then.

    How is Robert Williams, professor at Washington University, a government employee who you claim coined the term 'ebonics'?
  12. Spud Emperor solanaceous common tater Registered Senior Member

    Well seeing as you put it so nicely (if you really must kill me, can you please do that asphyxial thingy where you apply equal pressure to my frenulum and trachea at once? {reading Shakespeare optional}), try it again out loud, phonetically without moving your upper lip or increasing the entire embrasure of your gob to more than 3 millimetres whilst keeping your opposing cuspids in soft contact and in a redneck rural Australian twang.

    It should start to become apparent,... you're a clever girl.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Williams is credited with the first written record of the word, but he did not claim to have coined it.
  14. Ripley Valued Senior Member

    But was it truly an invention? Or a compulsion?

    Depends on what needs to be communicated, and by whom. But to me, an inferior language reflects an inferior people—a people whose culture is so narrow and pompous that it will dilapidate a fledging raw talent to extinction. A language is the seat of a society’s culture, affecting directly or indirectly access or obstruction to an individual’s most personal compulsions. The German tongue gave me Nietzsche, the British one, Iris Murdoch—imagine your modern world without Darwin or Freud.

    I’m not sure I follow: ‘utilitarian’ describing the arts? Perhaps as a theme or a reaction to it, but not as a building block.

    You mean the politics of commerce and the commerce of invention as being more important than soul? How depressing. Yet, antithetically, America gave us jazz.

    Again, it’s not the language but the culture behind the language that either encourages or impedes an individual’s compulsions.

    Ah, but here’s the catch: I came here as an infant knowing neither.

    Why, in the city of Wanders!
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2010
  15. invert_nexus Ze do caixao Valued Senior Member

    See what you did?

    "You did not move the second one, you moved the first one:"

    No. You moved the second one.
    Your conscious mind couldn't get it right, but underneath? The mechanics did the job.

    More to say, but no time.
  16. Liebling Doesn't Need to be Spoonfed. Valued Senior Member

    Woman... I swear that your butchering of the German language is going to kill me one day. L i e b l i n g. G e d a n k e n. You make me weep.

    Was nützt die Liebe in Gedanken
    Dies Buch trägt die Ergüsse deiner Seele.
    Mein Sohn, du bist poetisch angehaucht.
    Zwar sind die Reime ohne Fehle,
    doch die Gedanken sind in Finsternis getaucht.

    (From the movie 'Was nützt die Liebe in Gedanken' which is a German film, and is poetic in it's cinematography and writing.)

    As for the condoms, if I had girls (which I don't thankfully)... I'd march them straight to the Gyne as soon as they bled for pills and a checkup, and then still provide them with condoms. Kids have sex. Parents can deny this all they want, but they should be having healthy sex. I also tell my oldest that even if the girl says she's on the pill, he should still wear a condom. Women are evil scamps, and unless he likes missing half a paycheck and a good college education, he should wrap it up. It's just smart to be open with them about it. I'd rather be honest and have my eyes open than be blindsided by something dumb that one of them did because they didn't know any better. I've even lent my son a Joy of Sex book so he doesn't learn from porn. He had told me he was fooling around with a girl and that they wanted to go "all the way" so I thought it prudent for him to know the basics. If I had a girl, I'd want her first time to not be as awkward and weird as mine was. Plus, I don't want to stunt the boys creativity and growth with bullshit, lies and guilt trips. I'm just not that kind of mom.

    That's completely off topic, so back to our regularly scheduled program...

    Ebonics for me also seems lazy. A throwback to when people were less literate and didn't understand the structural grandeur of language. Like Canadian French, it's lazy. Ill formed, and uneducated. It takes many years and many iterations to define a language, and I don't care what government employee "declares" to be true, it doesn't make it so for at least another two hundred years or so. If they are still speaking "Ebonics" 200 years from now, wake me out of a cryogenic sleep so I can witness the miracle. I doubt it will be so.

    Language must have distinct patterns and structures. Ebonics seems to have neither of these things because even here in Chicago there is West side and South side and even they use different structures. Same with French and Montreal. If you learn French in school in Alberta, I doubt highly that you will understand the craptacular sputum they hack up through their smoke stained teeth in Quebec. Oh, but that's "Quebequois" they say... and I call shenanigans because French is the official language along with English, not this half drunk nonsense.

    In some cases, slang does seem like it dumbs down language, but in some cases it enhances it. We have to allow a bit of creativity on that front and allow people to mingle with the language a bit or our own English lexicon will become like latin... beautiful in tongue and text, but rarely ever spoken correctly outside of scientific and scholarly circles.
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Perhaps our distant ancestors felt compelled to find a way to share complex ideas. So they invented spoken language. They could have invented sign language, as the Neanderthals did in Jean Auel's Earth's Children novels, e.g., Clan of the Cave Bear. Nonetheless both words seem fine to this mediocre linguist and I'm not going to split that hair.
    But every population seems quite capable of changing its language to keep up with its cultural advances. The schedule of the first Paradigm Shift from the Paelolithic (hunter-gatherer) Era to the Neolithic (agriculture) was largely the whim of geography: in regions with a north-south axis like Africa and the Americas it was impossible to spread successful ideas about plant cultivation and animal husbandry very far because the species could not adapt to different climate zones, slowing the development of civilization. So in Eurasia with its east-west axis (including North Africa which was on a continuum with Asia rather than with sub-Saharan Africa), both the Agricultural Revolution and the second Paradigm Shift, the Dawn of Civilization, occurred many thousands of years earlier than they did for the Olmecs and Incas. The languages of Mesoamerica and the Inca Empire were just as sophisticated and just as suitable for the daily lives of their speakers as the languages of the other four civilizations (Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and China) during their considerably earlier Bronze Ages.
    That's my point. "Utilitarian" purposes outweigh artistic purposes. Language conforms to Maslow's Hierarchy: first it has to facilitate our survival and security before we start worrying about using it for self-actualization.
    The soul doesn't have much of a chance to worry about lofty questions unless the body is fed, clothed and protected. I'm not saying that non-utilitarian concerns aren't important, I'm just pointing out an obvious priority. Our ancestors spent a couple of hundred thousand years focusing their lives on survival before their stone age technologies wrested enough control over the environment to leave them time and effort to start producing art and philosophy.

    I haven't got the source material on this computer, but the earliest artifacts of artistic expression are less than a hundred thousand years old. This correlates broadly with several key technologies such as cooking--if you've ever tried getting a day's nutrition by chewing up raw meat (without a knife) you'll understand how many hours we save out of our day by cooking it first--hours we can devote to loftier pursuits.
    Are you saying that as an infant you had already started learning a different language? Or that you learned both simultaneously but your parents established one as the primary language of the household?
    That sounds like a Dutch name to me, but I can't find any city by that name.

    You mean the majority of human history? There was no writing until several thousand years ago, and for most of the time since then there was so little written material that most people didn't know anyone who could read and write. Literacy only began to spread after the invention of the printing press and has only been widespread in the West for a couple of centuries. Somehow some very great languages evolved despite that handicap.
    The French and the Quebecois have little trouble communicating. I suspect considerably less trouble than a man from Birmingham, England and one from Birmingham, Alabama.
    How do you think languages evolve to adapt to evolving culture? Only in countries like France and Germany do scholars or bureaucrats spend their days deciding what new words the "common people" should be allowed to add to their language.
    Priests speak the best Latin because they actually speak it. But I'd like to see even a priest speak "correct" Latin at a rave, an off-road motorcycle competition, or a teddy bear collectors' convention.
  18. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    1) 'beauteous orbs' is really quite terrible, now. Unless it is wholly ironic.
    2) formal speech is not slurred. Slang is not used in formal speech and generally does not refer to it - unless it specifically is referring to it - 'egghead blab' 'tight-ass spiel'. And 'beauteous orbs' if used non-ironically deserves to be mocked and slurred. Slang is what it is, and formal speech is what it is. And 'slur' comes from a word for mud. The verb was probably slang for a while.
    3) slang is troped language that does not make its way into accepted formal language. slang that catches on there is no longer slang.
    The first two terms being combinations of formal and slang. The latter formal. It seems like you are complaining that we cannot use slang here.

    Apropos you OP, long ago I heard the utterance.

    I'll pop a cap in your ass.

    This is delightful. Contrary to expectation this contains triple understatement.

    The white movie tough guy will 'blow your head off' - iow hyperbole unless he has a shotgun.

    Here we have understatement in the sound - pop, instead of bang.
    Understatement in cap instead of bullet.
    And understatement via synecdoche - ass instead of body especially vital organ regions. (the phrase may have originated as a threat to humiliate, rather than kill, but came to be used for shooting to kill also)

    Of course someone making such a threat could say

    I wlll fire a high caliber round into your heart

    or some such. But there is no art in that. Unless it is meant to be ironic, then it could be hilarious. Oh, wait. 'Fire' is likely slang. I will shoot.

    I can't for the life of me see what the problem is with such language. Not great for dissertations, though I am not sure what the value of these are.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2010
  19. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Perhaps back then, university professors were counted as government employees, along with soldiers, police officers, doctors, nurses, teachers, federal agents, politicians, diplomats, and all their secretaries ...
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    "Fire" is also a verb, meaning "to heat, burn, kindle, etc." In order to fire a bullet you have to kindle the explosive charge at its base. In the earlier firearm technology, you had to actually lower a match into the flash pan in order to set off the charge. Holding the gun with only one hand and not being able to give full attention to aiming at the target, it's a wonder they ever hit anything!
    Washington University is private.
  21. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Why did you call him a "government employee"?
  22. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    It is understandable to a relatively small group. This can be good or bad, depending on whether you are in or outside of the group.

    If you want to be part of that group, but don't speak their language, you won't get in. So naturally, you feel frustrated.
    Also, if that group poses some kind of threat to you, and you don't speak their language, that renders you more or less helpless.

    If you are part of the group, speaking its language helps you to fit in, despite whatever other differences there may be, and it makes you feel safe.
    If you are not part of the group, but somehow speak their language anyway, that gives you some safety as well, because you have some idea of what is going on in relation to the group.

    Other than that, there is the issue of simply feeling excluded from other people's intimacy. Just as we feel it is rude to whisper in other people's presence, it is rude for a few to speak in a language that only they understand, while in the presence of others. "Inside jokes" are also uncomfortable if you're not inside.

    Moreover, generally, people have a tendency to wish that the world would be so as they wish it would be. Whether this means that everyone be Catholic, or everyone be vegetarian, or everyone speak a particular language or its variant.

    All in all, it's a control issue.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Completing a dissertation means that the student has some practical ability to produce a certain kind of discourse; and producing that kind of discourse is part of the education program.
    We could of course wonder why go to college, or why college requirements are what they are ...
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I was not referring to Williams, and in fact I was not aware that it was he who first recorded the use of the word "Ebonics." I was speaking of all the public schoolteachers (government employees) who successfully lobbied to have that name used for AAVE when it is discussed in their classes.
    If that is truly the case, then, as I pointed out earlier, it qualifies as a cant, like Pig Latin. (Which of course is now understood by everyone so it doesn't really qualify any more.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    ) I lost the referent, but if we're still talking about AAVE, there's no effort to keep outsiders from understanding it. Watch enough rap videos and I'm sure you can pick it up.
    Within a social group it is rude to speak a language that some of the members don't understand. It can't help but convey the impression that you don't want them to understand, because you're saying something unflattering about them, discussing a secret, considering them incapable of understanding the subject matter, etc. Of course the dividing line between being "in a group" and being "in public" is not well drawn. We expect to hear foreign languages on the subway, but not in the company cafeteria where we're all supposed to be colleagues. So how about the cafeteria in a huge government building, where you only know a tiny percentage of the people who work there, and in any case half of the people eating there are outsiders?

    I enjoy hearing foreign languages and I assure my friends and colleagues that they're welcome to speak them around me, but that they should not assume that the other monolingual Americans at the office feel the same way. And I leave it up to them to either figure out that some day I might understand a little, or else be very surprised when that day comes.

    I've posted this anecdote before but I don't know who's already seen it. In 1972 my Chinese girlfriend was speaking Sichuan dialect with some of her friends, assuming that I couldn't understand them because I had learned standard Beijing Mandarin. But Sichuan is a dialect of Mandarin and the main difference is in the tones. That's tough for Chinese people, because the words all sound like something else. But for foreigners who did not grow up with a tonal language, we hear the vowels and consonants first and then struggle to match them up with the tones. As far as I was concerned they were just speaking Mandarin with a really strange accent (which is basically true: Sichuan is more properly an accent than a dialect, because almost all of the differences are in pronunciation rather than vocabulary and grammar) and I understood most of it. When I asked her in Mandarin why she was telling lies about me, she turned a color that I didn't know Chinese skin was capable of turning.

Share This Page