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I have always had a serious problem with Urban Dictionary as I do not know when to take it seriously and when not! Sometimes it seems very useful to me to understand what ordinary people on the street, teenagers and jerks are talking about, but sometimes I find it like a joke! An out of control joker laughing at everything with bold sexist and chauvinist phrases, expressions, slang and definitions though, doesn't give you enough trust to believe it.

Now, the question is: Is there any method or solution to find which definitions in the Urban Dictionary are false and doubtful and which definitions are correct and according to the reality which is going on on the street, in culture and the language of the masses in English language countries?

As a non native who has never lived in these countries I don't have the ability to find out it by myself.

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closed as off topic by MετάEd, aedia λ, tchrist, Kris, simchona May 6 '13 at 2:05

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Given your explanation, probably it is best to treat them all as jokes. –  GEdgar May 2 '13 at 2:43
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Closevoters: Could you please add a comment too? –  Persian Cat May 2 '13 at 3:29
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UD is totally worthless as an authority; it is invaluable as a source for examples of how (mostly) young people of every degree of intelligence and sophistication play with language. I love UD; but it's an acquired taste. And I must tell you that I am by virtue of my age just as much a foreigner as you when I visit there –  StoneyB May 2 '13 at 3:43
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The only way to do it is to carefully observe the usage in the wild and confirm or deny based on your own observations and personal experience. –  Jim May 2 '13 at 5:39
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@PersianCat UD is where you go to experience those people. It is a playground where you may see children 'playing dictionary', pretending to write a dictionary. –  StoneyB May 2 '13 at 11:37

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Some of Urban Dictionary's definitions are jokes, but others are genuine. Each word or term can have multiple definitions by different authors, and they can be up and down voted like here on Stack Exchange, so the top answers are more likely to be genuine. But then some may just vote up because it's funny for them.

Now, how to tell if they're genuine? Well, look up in another dictionary. But these may not have the very latest slang. So you can search for some real-life examples and see if the context matches. Twitter is a good place to search.

Urban Dictionary can be useful. I've referenced it in etymological answers here on English Language & Usage: because definitions have dates it can be useful to find early examples of slang and trace its evolution. For example:

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Obviously it's nigh-on impossible to tell whether a given entry describes a way a word is actually used. But that's only a problem if you are browsing Urban Dictionary itself with the aim of learning new vocabulary. If instead you only look up words you actually hear/see used, you automatically filter out most joke entries, since they will generally be for words that are not in usage.

As long as the entry you find only has one definition listed you can then be reasonably confident that it is accurate (and note that even works for jokes that have entered usage - there are a few terms for sexual practices that began as 'nobody would ever seriously do this' definitions but have since been used legitimately). That reduces the problem to the much rarer cases where there are several definitions listed, and in most cases upvotes and context will help you identify the right definition.

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One sure way could be this:

Wait. If the entry eventually makes it to standard dictionaries, the wiktionary or the wikipedia, you know it has substance.

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Material from the Urban Dictionary was included in a question on University Challenge last week. –  Edwin Ashworth May 2 '13 at 18:16

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