Posts Tagged ‘slang’

I’m starting a new category focusing on words. “Beyond the Dictionary” will look at how the usage and meaning of common words change over time. Today’s word is “bread”.

Form of food prepared by baking or frying dough made from a ground grain. Can be leavened or unleavened, flat or in a loaf. Today there are hundreds of types of bread catering to all tastes.

At one point in history, bread was known as the “staff of life”. It was an important staple of most Western civilization’s diets. In some it became a form of currency (or the ingredients did). Hence the slang use of bread to mean cash. This is no longer in common usage. However the compound noun, breadwinner, is still in use. Thus the slang definition of bread lives on in “One who earns a living for his/her dependants”.

Bonus word: Loaf

 A form that bread can take. Also a synonym meaning to spend time idly. And morphed into a noun, loafer, meaning a casual shoe! (or as a verb a “loafer” is one who loafs!)

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“Shorthand” the writing of common English words eliminating letters has been around for decades. So has jargon and slang that use words specific to an industry or social group. But with the advent of texting, and Twitter, you could say new modern “languages” have been born.

Twitter is really more like a word game. It challenges you to communicate within the confines of its 140 character limitation. Sort of like a journalist having to come up with a good short headline for a story. Only on Twitter you can contract words, leave out letters, or use words that are familiar with your readers but which other groups wouldn’t understand. (Read some of Lady Gaga’s Tweets and you’ll get the idea – who the heck are “little Monsters”???!)

Texting doesn’t put a limit on characters or the number of words but like old fashioned shorthand, it is easier to type a message using special words or leaving out letters. I believe this grew from the fact that your keyboard is so tiny, eliminating keystrokes makes typing the message easier. It took me forever to learn how to “thumb” a message (using my other fingers was a nightmare) and I still am amazed when I see a man with huge “paws” entering a message quickly on a tiny device!

 The result is that people have become so used to communicating in this “shorthand” language, that even at a full sized computer keyboard they don’t want to type out full words. Young people have an especially hard time switching from shorthand to normal English. This, of course, impedes communications such as work related correspondence or creating a job search cover letter that sounds professional.

It has also created what used to be called “slang”, words specific to a certain subculture, that are not in the dictionary. First is was using letters to describe things like the infamous LOL. Then it morphed into respelling words so they were shortened like substituting the numeral 4 instead of spelling “for”. Or getting real cre8tive just for the heck of it. Of course there are the totally new words like “hash tag” that in itself spawned “bashtagging” (bashing a company on Twitter using its own hash tag). Or giving a word another meaning for example a “Tweet” once meant only the sound a bird makes! Good or bad? Well, it’s always been said that language is a living thing and changes over time. We don’t speak the way they did in Shakespeare’s day, so why not #change?

Here are a few websites that will have you laughing, (or should I say twittering) or teach you a thing or two about these new “languages”:

Mashable’s Twitterspeak

A dictionary of Twitter words

For texting there are just too many good ones. So type “texting vocabulary” into your search engine of choice and have fun surfing the results!

Phrases made up of regular words can be used to describe something totally different thus becoming a form of secret communication (also known as slang). Teenagers do it, baseball players do it, and of course we know spies do it. But thanks to an article in the November 2010 issue of Readers Digest, we can now decode “Airline Lingo”, phrases pilots use to describe a variety of situations.

Blue juice: The water in the lavatory toilet. “There’s no blue juice in the lav.”

Crotch watch: The required check to make sure all passengers have their seat belts fastened. Also: “groin scan.”

Crumb crunchers: Kids. “We’ve got a lot of crumb crunchers on this flight.”

Gate lice: People who gather around the gate right before boarding so they can be first on the plane. “Oh, the gate lice are thick today.”

George: Autopilot. “I’ll let George take over.” (and you thought only you were crazy enough to give your car’s GPS a name!)

Landing lips: Female passengers put on their “landing lips” when they use their lipstick just before landing.

So the next time you fly, elbow your way through the gate lice, be sure your seat tray is up for the groin scan, escape your crumb cruncher seat mate with a trip to the lav but make sure that there is blue juice in it, then relax and let George take over and before you know it, it will be time to apply your landing lips to meet your honey!