Slang & jargon/register


Further reading:

McArthur, Tom, ed. “Slang,” “Jargon”. Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992 (and online)

Andersson, Lars-Gunnar and Peter Trudgill. “Slang,” Bad language. Penguin, 1992.


The terms


More interchangeability in the past: slang could denote “professional language”


Jargon denoted “unintelligible language”


Register vs jargon


Slang is harder to define

o       onomatopoeia

o       vomit: ralf, barf

o       irony

o       bad, wicked, killer = “good”

o       metaphor

o       blitzed, bombed, fried, hammered, polluted, etc.

o       ‘deformation’

o       “the F-word”, F-ing, fudge


Ask for exx from teen culture?


AA: ex of a teacher saying “Does that suck, or what?”


What might be a motive for


Jargon / register


Zoe’s article: “the lexicon of bicycle messengers in Toronto”



-personal experience

-online research

-printed research


Finds patterns in data

-e.g. groups to which messengers also happen to belong – not all the same


            -under-educated, under-employed people

-professional/career couriers

            -use a much larger lexicon than the others


-most are “twenty-something white heterosexual males living in large urban centers and conversant with pop and drug culture”

            -use their slang

                        -which has probably changed since she wrote the article


-nature of terminology

            -created and used orally: they primarily talk to each other

            -creativity prized

                        -lots of sites!


-they need to be articulate in registers of the several activities involved in being a bicycle courier

            -general bike terms

                        -bike component names

                        -bike related trade names

                        -bike racing terms

            -general courier terminology

-e.g. receptionist the hub, clients the calls, couriers instructed by their dispatch

-because of the use of radios to relay calls: some terms adopted from trucking, police, shortwave radio

-because dispatching has to be clear, efficient, there’s

            -minimal teasing, profanity

            -little creativity

                        -mostly clipping: dispatch “dispatcher”, pick

                        -and some acronyms, e.g. POD “proof of delivery”

            -courier-company-specific terminology

                        -e.g. levels of service

                        -e.g. terms within a city: uptown means something different in Toronto


-terms specific to bike couriers, often have specialized senses (cf. register generally)

            -occupational hazards: slide “lean against a moving vehicle while riding beside it”

            -civilians, cattle “pedestrians”


-like other in-group slang, show creativity

            -affixation: messengerdom

-blending: copsicle: “referring to some officers’ cold-hearted penchant for targeting the frequent traffic violations of couriers”



-doesn’t just describe it


-found regional differences

            -Ottawa vs Toronto: hub or base?

            -Ottawa vs NY: I’m clear vs I’m clean “holding no packages”


-realized that it was ever-changing

            -rapid turnover of workers

            -oral nature of workplace communication


-admitted that even the most key terms are often undocumented (it was oral)

            -e.g. skitching, grinding, waving


-but it’s ever-changing: the shift to text-messaging and PDAs made it less oral

            -and rendering some of the lexicon obsolete