Slang – Sik Metaphor or Shabby Lingo?
The use of slang is so widely criticised in modern society, but it’s been going on for time, innit?
Many words listed in the Oxford English Dictionary began life as slang. We have “banter”, “flimsy”, “flippant”, “sham” and even “fun” – words that were considered extremely vulgar in the 18th century. Although many slang words have a short lifespan, drifting in and dying out again before you can ask them, “what’s goin’ down?”, many have stood the test of time and have, maybe with some reluctance on the part of lexicographers, found their way into official dictionaries simply because they refuse to “do one”, gradually becoming an undeniable and accepted norm. Surely slanguage is as much a sign of changing times as it has always been. The English language not only gains new words but also loses words which are no longer relevant to current times. We would not use words in everyday language to describe parts of suits of armour, such as “greave” or “cuisse” and words can change meaning over a period of time. “Gay” is a perfect example of this. It is very seldom used to denote its original meaning of happy or joyful, instead it is more commonly known to mean, homosexual and most recently as, bad or unfashionable. The world changes, society changes and the language generated is a representation of that – get over it peeps, chill! This very mutability is what makes the language so interesting to study, be it academically or just as a hobby.
Do we ever hear the language police slagging off Shakespeare? His works are taught as part of the National Curriculum in schools and are treasured as a very important part of our rich cultural heritage, but Shakespeare actually gave voice to and created many slang words and phrases, used widely for centuries and revered as metaphorical poetry. “One fell swoop” and “vanish into thin air” are both phrases coined by Shakespeare and words such as, “critical”, “leapfrog”, “majestic”...