Bob Wright on slang.........

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Bob Wright

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Post on another forum discussing the acquisition of a Colt "Dick Special."

A correspondent commented that he felt uncomfortable using that term. General response was that "dick" was a common term for police back "in the day."

Not so in my bailiwick. My mother taught me to avoid the use of slang, especially when referring to another person. The use of slang was considered "common" and no Southern young man wanted to be considered common. I was taught to use terms like "Sir" or "Ma'am" when addressing adults. Even in that segregated day and age, I was taught never to use the "N word" when referring to folks of color. We did use a racist term that was considered acceptable in those days, but which I no longer use.

And I remember correcting my young daughter for using the word "fuzz" referring to a police officer. And I have trouble today with the use of "wheel gun."

Old joke: Grandmother instructing her young grand daughter:

"There are two words I never want to hear you say. One is "swell" and the other is "lousy."

Sweet young thing: "Okay, Grannie. What are they?"



Bob Wright
 

Bob Wright

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O.K. Exception to my post: After watching a few Andy Hardy movies with Mickey Rooney movies we are apt to exclaim, "Aw, Gee! That was swell!"

Bob Wright
 
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blackhawknj

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My English teachers drummed into my head that you don't use slang except to establish character, ambience, period because:
1. It usually very vaguely defined and is used too broadly.
2. It goes in and out of fashion.
3. It is often very local or regional, ethnic or generational, or occupational
4. A word can revived with a totally different meaning. "Bummer" came back in the 1960s with LSD use. To me a bummer is a Union soldier, and specifically with Sherman's armies.
A good example of occupational slang is one I got from a friend who works for the Staten Island Rapid Transit told me when they say "Put in in the hole" it means the engineer brings the train to a complete stop and locks the controls until he receives the command to proceed.
 

noahmercy

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Warning: I am going to offer a (respectful) dissenting opinion: "Dick" was "detective" for decades (Colt made the Detective's Special), and I knew an old-timer back in the 70s who had been a railroad detective and actually referred to himself using the slang term. How many LEOs refer to themselves as "cops"? I have friends in the military who call themselves grunts, jarheads, devil dogs, airdales, deck apes, etc. When someone uses the vernacular in reference to himself, it is rather hard to argue that there's something inherently wrong with it, common or not. I'm a southern boy, and always address others I don't know as "sir", "ma'am", or their proper title (chef, doctor, officer, deputy, etc.). However, when writing, I regularly use euphemisms and slang because it often makes for better reading than using the same (proper) term repetitively. If I refer to a car spinning its tires as "burning the balonies", "melting the macadam", or "roasting the hides", it is more evocative and interesting to people who are into drag racing culture. Mechanics and afficianados commonly refer to the cylinders of a motorcyle, old Volkswagon, or radial engines as "jugs"...using that slang term garners more respect among certain crowds than the technically correct verbiage, which leads some to feel they are being talked down to or they're dealing with someone who is "book smart" and not very savvy. I feel there is plenty of room for proper nomenclature and slang, and a hard-core stance against it limits one's vocabulary and ability to connect with certain groups. But that's my opinion, and worth exactly what you paid for it. ;)
 

protoolman

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My brother the head of a university English department, recognizes that American English is an ongoing process of new words as well as obsolete words being added or deleted by us all, not Webster's. They eventually recognize everything that comes into common use.
 

Jeepnik

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The purpose of words is to convey information. If a word does that it has fulfilled its function.

Words are freedom itself. No one forces you to use words. If you don’t like one you have two options. Don’t use it and ignore it.

On the rare occasion I encounter someone whose uses of certain words offends me, I simply ignore them. You’d be amazed at how frustrating it is for others when they are ignored. It’s truly satisfying to watch their heads explode when you do this.
 

37fed

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Where I grew up some used and still use “uns” which is one syllable and means you or youall. If you use 2 syllables “you-ns” you are not from there and a faker. Youall is singular and also one syllable. Plural is all youall. If you make it 2 syllables you are also an import. We are very saving with syllables and don’t overuse them. With so many southerners out of work I have never understood why Hollywood uses people from New Jersey to pretend to be southerners.
 

blackhawknj

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"When I use a word" Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone "It means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less."
"The question is" said Alice "whether you can make words mean so many things."
"The question is " said Humpty Dumpty "which is to be the master-that's all."
 

Snake Pleskin

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I tend to go with the flow. I do not judge one way or the other unless an individual is so badly "butchering" the English language that they might as well be speaking a foreign tongue! Slang comes & goes and it is liberal based "political correctness" that tries to shame ,denigrate and coerce everyone into accepting what they consider appropriate. IMHO
 

Bob Wright

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The purpose of words is to convey information. If a word does that it has fulfilled its function.

Words are freedom itself. No one forces you to use words. If you don’t like one you have two options. Don’t use it and ignore it.

On the rare occasion I encounter someone whose uses of certain words offends me, I simply ignore them. You’d be amazed at how frustrating it is for others when they are ignored. It’s truly satisfying to watch their heads explode when you do this.
While words do convey the immediate information, they also convey more. While sloppy conversation conveys the ideas at the time, it also conveys something about the speaker. It can, for instance, tell that the speaker is educated and of good upbringing. Or it may convey the idea that the speaker is ignorant, either through unfortunate circumstances or through his own choosing. And, as I intended to say concerning the use of slang, he may try to make himself more knowledgeable than he really is. That's my opinion.

Bob Wright
 
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blackhawknj

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When people are very foul mouthed with me I subtract 50 points from their IQ.
The late Professor Richard Mitchell, the Underground Grammarian, described jargon as "a handout of material designed to prevent the need for thought."
 

blackhawknj

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Dialects, regionalisms, etc. are a fascinating subject. In the Philadelphia area, you do not go "downtown", you go to "Center City". When you go to New York, "The City" means Manhattan south of 59th St.
 

Acorn

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My wife had an Uncle Rick(Richard).
His wife called him Dick.
His Mother,(my wife’s grandmother) absolutely hated that nickname.
 

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