Slang

Tonight’s impossible-to-answer-easily question from a student:  When watching or listening to English media, how can one identify slang usages?

My too-difficult-to-understand-easily answer:  The best way to identify slang usages in English is to listen for adjectives used out of context, e.g. “That’s a really cool movie.”  Of course, the movie is not physically cool, hence the use of cool to describe the movie is slang.  A second tell is when nouns are used as verbs or vice versa, e.g. “He’s got a sweet ride.”  “Ride” is a verb, however, the use of the indefinate article “a” indicates that “ride” is used as a noun in this sentence, therefore, it is slang.

Obviously, this answer is a little overwhelming for the average student who just wants to know if “sweet” really means that it has a sugary taste, or is very pleasant, or just an exclamation of delight, in a given situation.

If anyone reading this has a better way to explain the basic uses of slang, I’d love to hear them as I’m a bit stumped.

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1 Comment

Filed under Learning From the Master, The Language We Speak

One response to “Slang

  1. Steve Stander

    Quite a difficult nuance to explain to non native English speakers.
    Perhaps a brief explanation into the origins of slang and informing the students that not all slang is universal. In other words if they hear it whilst watching a film based in the US, most other English speaking counties would be able to decipher the meaning, but rarely use it in day to day use. Prescriptive and teaching grammar make very little if any reference to slang. Remind the students that slang kind of brands which decade you were a teenager in.

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