A Brief Analysis to Modern American Slang

时间:2024-06-14 人气:

Abstract: Modern American slang has a unique display of feelings and ideas and a long history. It has become a language used widely in every field of work, and it continues to appear in newspapers, TVs, reports, and even election speeches. Modern American slang has gained importance over the years, During its development process, American slang has formed its own unique characteristics: it is humorous, vivid, easy to express feelings, and updates fast. Although scholars’ opinions toward slang have a wide discrepancy, it is undeniable that the emergence and development of modern American slang has conformed to the needs of the society and times.

Keywords: Modern American Slang; characteristics;English Language

Modern American slang is a very interesting language, some words or phrases can be very vulgar and coarse, and cannot be used in formal occasions. However, not all of them are like that, some are concise and explicit, vivid and humorous, and can be used in public. Some words are used only in a specific working field, a district or a time period and are short-lived, but some words are widely accepted by the public and can survive a very long time. According to statistics, there are about 10,000 to 20,000 common words used daily by Americans, among them, about 10% (2,000 words) are slang words, which are frequently used by Americans also. It is a common conception that if a person cannot use or be familiar with slang, he cannot communicate effectively with American people and society, the latter of which is by now saturated with slang. For example, when people say “get it?” means do you understand? “booze” means alcohol, “coke on the rocks” means coke with ice, “I’m going nuts” means I’m going crazy, “flick” means movie, “have a crush on somebody” means be infatuated with somebody, “Chinese food rules” means Chinese food is the best, “sour-puss” is a habitually gloomy or sullen person, “chip in” means a few people each contribute a small amount of money to buy something expensive or pay for something together, and “close call” means miss something bad by narrow chance or something just being finished on time before deadline(especially in a situation where it couldn’t have been completed). Modern American slang has an increasing importance in American social function. It is a kind of special language innovation which is becoming an indispensable complement to Standard English

1.The characteristics of modern American slang

1.1 Humor3.1 Humor

The most prominent features of modern American slang would be its humor. When you want to tell someone to leave you alone, if you use Standard English by saying: “leave me alone”, it sounds plain and without emotions. However, if you use slang to express, the sentence would be: “go take a hike” or “get lost”, which can express your annoyance while having a humorous effect. When you are mad at someone, you would yell at him in a rude way. In this situation, instead of using the sentence “I yelled at him angrily”, it would be better to use the saying “I snapped at him”, which is more vivid and gives people an image of how angry you were to “snap” someone. When you want to express your disgust for something,, you don’t say “that is distasteful” or “that is disgusting”, you pucker your nose and blab out “that’s gross!” When you are having something delicious, you say “yummy!” but when you are having something that taste horrible, you furrow your brow and say “yuk!” It is not hard to see that slang is much funnier than standard expressions, it can express people’s strong emotions, have a hint of sarcasm in the tone while still stays humorous. As long as we use the right slang and the right expressions, our speeches would be charming and fashionable, and would give other people a lasting impression. The humor of modern American slang can be divided into two categories; they are the pronunciation of slang, and the rhetoric techniques used in slang to give it a sense of humor.

1.2 The pronunciation

Many American slang use rhyming words, those rhyming words make it easy to understand and memorize, they are very catching, vivid, and funny, and are used to express many different things in a humorous way. For example, we have “mumble-jumble” (speech one doesn’t understand), “tell-tale” (to gossip indiscreetly or something that can reveal the truth), “tip-top” (excellent or the best), “dilly-dally”(wander around doing nothing useful), “wiggle-waggle”(to sway side to side or to chat with somebody), “razzle-dazzle”(wild excitement or to revel in something) and so on. Another interesting pronunciation of slang would be the reiteration of a word. In this kind of slang, a word is said twice to emphasize or exaggerate something in order to deepen impression and to add a humorous tone. For example, there are “so-so”, “ding-ding”(full of energy or strong in mind), “super-super”(eye-catching, very big or striking), “no-no”, “dum-dum”(a stupid person), “freaky-freaky” (very, super as e.g. freaky-freaky fresh).

1.3 Concise and convenient

Standard English is, to some extent, dull and rigid, and is mainly used in formal occasions. When Americans are communicating, they usually use slang because it is concise, convenient, lively and easy to understand. For example, the slang word “hop” and the standard word “scamper” both means “jump”, however, the word “hop” is concise and easy to understand, and it can trigger the image of a grass hopper hopping on the ground along with a feeling of its vitality and energy, while the word “scamper” is more obscure and formal, and cannot incur much visual images.

From this tabulation we can conclude that slang is much more concise and convenient than Standard English expression, that’s why modern Americans prefer slang to Standard English expressions.

1.4 Rhetoric techniques

Rhetoric techniques are used in modern American slang, including analogy, exaggeration, and euphemism. The use of rhetoric techniques can make the expression for things more vivid, funny, catching, visual, charming and attractive. With the continual updating of information, people are tired of ordinary words and phrases, for they can no longer express their emotions to the fullest extent or describe the latest events or things. That’s the reason why new slang continues to be created and appear in everyday conversation or communications, it makes conversations all the more interesting and fascinating. It is like the fresh blood and vigor of the American language and it is deeply rooted into the American culture. For example, after e-mail is widely used, people began to call paper mail, which was too slow compared to e-mails, “snail mail”. Peanuts are small objects, when people describe something trivial or small in quantity, they usually say “that’s peanuts!” If someone is stubborn, he is “hard-headed”; if someone is unintelligent and silly as if there is only air in his head, he is an “airhead”; If someone’s way of thinking is simple and can only think of one thing at a time, what he has would be a “one-track mind”; and if a person is soft and easy-going, when argument arises, he is not likely to stand at the front to argue, but would only lay where he is and stays at the back, so the word “laid back” is used to describe this kind of people.

From the above tabulation we can conclude that, slang is more expressive than standard expressions. Slang enriches the English vocabulary and makes one’s saying much more interesting and vivid.

1.5 Acronyms

Among modern American slang, many are acronyms. An acronym is a word which is formed by the first letter of each word in a phrase. When each first letter is used to form an acronym, they are written in capitals. For example there are “OMG”(oh my God).

Acronyms are used very frequently on the Internet. When Americans are chatting with someone, writing an e-mail, or posting blogs on forums, they use a lot of acronyms, among them many contains numbers to replace the sounds of letters. For example, when people want to say “see you later”, they write “C U L8ER”, the number 8 has the same pronunciation as the letters “a” and “t” combined. There are many more words like this, such as “F2F” (face to face),

Some words use numbers not for its pronunciation, but for its meaning, as in the word “P911” (parent alert!), 911 is used to mean “alert”. There are many other acronyms on the Internet and from every part of the society, they have become a part of the English language and have gained increasing importance in the Internet lingo of the American netizens.

1.6 Update fast

Modern American slang update rapidly, some is transient while some may last a very long time and finally become Standard English or oral vocabulary. The word “OK” was originally slang, but after a long time it is still in use, and now it is listed in dictionaries and used everywhere across the country. Generally, slang has a few years’ lifespan, after that, they would be forgotten or become old-fashion and be out of use, but not all slang would be like this, some may survive a long time and would eventually become common oral expressions or Standard English, such as the words “fan”, “cop”, and “guy”.

2.The Influence of Modern American Slang on the English Language

People’s attitudes toward the kind of influence modern American slang has on the English language vary from person to person. Some think slang is cool and creative, and can help the development of English. Some people, however, have the opinion that slang is ruining the English language. They claim that although slang is now very popular and easy on the ears, it is in fact disturbing the English language, making it neither fish nor fowl. Anyway, slang nowadays is taking an increasing importance in English, and is used much more frequently in people’s daily lives. Some of it is even used in formal occasions and speeches. Slang has now become an indispensable channel for people to communicate, they are in almost everywhere: movies, TV shows, sports, newspapers, columns, advertisement, radios and broadcasts. It would be impossible to erase slang off of the English language, and it would also be impossible for English to maintain all of its characteristics. To America, English is losing its individuality gradually, however not all in a bad way. It is fair to say that slang has some negative effects on the English language, but it is also undeniable that slang is a powerful language tool when it comes to communication. Its humor, conciseness, vividness, uniqueness, and convenience all contribute to its indispensability in daily communications.

As an efficient tool for communication, modern American slang has been accepted by the majority of Americans and is used widely across the nation. Although people has different opinions toward modern American slang, whether they should be good or bad, it is widely acknowledged that modern American slang has contributed greatly to the development of the English language and the American society. Slang exist in every place, occasions, and medium of America, it has become part of the flesh and bones of American culture and is by no means possible to be separated from it.


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