Slang of the 20th Century: From Flappers to Rappers (From Tom Dalzell’s Book) Alan D. DeSantis
Some Opening Notes: A) Slang changes quickly –10% retention rate every 10 years (Eble, 1987) B) But slang is reincarnated over and over again –The same terms are seen every generation –Often w/ different meanings (drag, fat, bimbo) C) Used almost exclusively by the young D) Every generation “slangs” what is important to them –Studying their slang is a way to understand a generation
Some Opening Notes: E) Why is slang used? –1) It conceals meaning from parents But do kids use slang in front of them? –2) It identifies you as part of the tribe –3) It defies authority (talking like a rebel) –4) It makes one feel special & important –5) It excludes other peer groups
Let’s Test Your Knowledge of Slang Use the open spaces in your workbook –Or number your paper from 1 through 21. For each question, give me your best guess. At the end of class, we will award the Championship to the “Hippest Cat!” No Cheating!!
I. From 1900-1919 Before the end of WWI (1919) there was little use of slang –Why: Mass media was not a “national” phenomenon Terms could not be shared or spread by the youth culture College students used slang “locally” –At UK, we have: Ho, POT, the Keys But there was one NATIONAL exception...
I. From 1900-1919 1) 23 Skidoo –Three meanings: OK, Good, See You Later –This was the 1st National Slang Term (1905)
II. 1920-30s: From Flappers to Jazz 1920s captured by F. Scott Fitzgerald –Times were good and decadent The early 30s were depression years –Times were tough The late 30s were swing and big-band jazz ( the gangster rap of the age) –Strong slang influence from blacks culture
II. 1920-30s: From Flappers to Jazz 2) Half-cut, fried, jammed, juiced, pie-eyed, polluted, plastered, shot, tanked –Drunk (most popular reference of the age) 3) Bat, brawl, buzz, rag, toot, wrestle, egg harbor –A dance party 4) 5 Things: Gob stick, dog house, gobble pipe, skins, git box –Instruments: clarinet, bass, sax, drums, guitar If you got all 3, you are swanky or tasty
III. 1940s: From the War to Babies 1941-45 saw WWII –Much slang was based on male war interactions After the war, America experience good times –“Happy Days Are Here Again” #1 Song They seemed to name everything –Not many stayed around
III. 1940s: From the War to Babies 5) Drooly, pappy, swoony, BTO, PC, –An attractive man (big-time operator, prince charming) 6) 5 Things: Moss, blinkers, flops, schnozz, pillars –Body Parts: Hair, eyes, ears, nose, legs 7) Fatal pill, go-away kiss, lead pill, check out, blotto, in the drink –WWII Terms: Bullets and dying If you got these 3, you are a real hep cat (most popular term)
IV. 1950s: From Cool to Beat 1950s were “Happy Days,” at least on the surface –But there were always Fonzies Young were restless (rejection of parents) –Salinger’s Catcher, Brando’s Wild One, Dean’s Rebel, & Elvis’ Jailhouse Rock The Beatnick movement also exploded –Wore black, drank coffee, & read poetry –Terms: Hipster, like, daddy-o, cat, & dig
IV. 1950s: From Cool to Beat 8) Bad news, beast, bomb, hack, kemp, wedge –Cars & Hot Rods (many terms) 9) Cut the grass, don’t tense, fade out, get bent –Insults: Shut up, take it easy, disappear, I hate you 10) Squaresville, deadsville, dullsville –A bad place to be If you got all 3, you are cool (#1), creamy, fat, mad, hairy
V. 1960’s: From Surf to Dope Breaking away from the conservative 50s Rock Peaked: –Motown, British Invasion, Acid Rock, Hippie Rock, folk, & Woodstock It was the most politically active & individually expressive decade of the Century –Anti-Vietnam, Feminism, Civil Rights, Free Love, Free Speech, Black Power, etc.
V. 1960’s: From Surf to Dope 11) Barf, blow, beets, flash, heave, ralph, –To get sick 12) Category: Hang ten, stoked, bitchin, dude, bro –Surf Terms 13) Reefer, gage, mary jane, spliff, jay, doobie, roach –Marijuana If you got all 3, you’re bad, boss, freak, suave
VI. 1970-80s: From Disco to New Wave 70s and 80s share a lot in common Politically inactive, pop-culture driven, no wars, no meaningful direction –Called the “Me Generation” Really big with 1 or 2 word exclamations!! –Basic! (right) Be real!, Bite me!, Cool Beans!, Eat me!, Go for it! H0! (great), Heard that!, Not!
VI. 1970-80s: From Disco to New Wave 14) Boff, boink, grind, do the nasty, deed, or wild thing –Sex 15) To chill, hang, veg, jell, kick it, ease –To do nothing 16) Category: Fer sure, Tscha, grody, totally, to the max –Valley girl: “Gag me with a spoon” If you missed these, you are beat, gnarly, harsh, heinous
VII. 1990-2000: Your Generation Times have been good –Strong economy, no world wars, high college rates Three Major Influences –Pop culture (TV & Movies) –Computers/Technology –Hip Hop
VII. 1990-2000: Your Generation 17) Biscuit, burner, heater, joint, steel, toast –Guns 18) Category: Later, Peace Out, “How you doin’,” “Wha’s up” –Greetings 19) Bones, Franklins, G’s, jacks, yard, clout –Money 20) Break, bust, chat, comp, freestyle, kick, rip –Rap or sing 21) Been there, done that; outta my way man; cowabunga; hurl; take a pill; babe-osity; Not!; schwing; party on! –Bart & Wayne (pop culture icons) If you got all 5, you are “Phat,” “Tight,” or “the Bomb”
Some Extra Credit Hip-Hop Digits 10, 1555, 186(7), 40, 808 –10: Mac 10; –1555: The year the first slaveships arrived in America; –186 or (7): Police term for a homicide. To be on the lookout for someone who is trying to kill you; –40: 1) a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor or 2) a 40 caliber gun; –808: 1) The bass drum from a Roland TR-808 drum machine, which is now a popular sample and 2) the penal code for disturbing the peace. Refers to the sound of bass from stereos. –If you answered 3 of 5, give yourself 1 extra point
How did you do on the test? All 21 right = You are a “bad mother” More than 15 right = You are the “mac daddy” More than 10 right = You are “lame-o” Less than 5 right = You are “totally bogus”
Closing Thoughts A) Many words are cyclical and reincarnated –1930’s gave us: Suck, sweet, mellow, not! –1940’s gave us: Brutal, cap, fly, scrub, tasty, groovy –1950’s gave us: Clue, hang, kill, nerd, trip, turn on –All have been reincarnated at least 3 times –Thus, each generation is not as innovative as they think
Closing Thoughts B. Every generation “slangs” the same 8 things –1) girls/guys –2) drinking In 1737, Ben Franklin counted 228 terms for drunkenness (1st slang list) –3) greetings –4) sex –5) popular people –6) unpopular people –7) money –8) homosexuals Are these the most important topics for the young? Looks like you, your parents, & your grandparents were not that different after all
Closing Thoughts C. What causes “slang” to change? Answer: When mainstream America starts using it! –Why Hip-Hop vocabulary changes so quickly D. Slang is here to stay –And NO, you will not understand the next generation –Isn’t that the point of slang?!