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In today's culture, mainly with the rise in Gen Z kids getting online, slang in English seems to have become more fluid.

In a YouTube video from JackSepticEye, while he was reading sentences that combined Gen Z parlance, he commented that one can make whole sentences where nearly every word is slang.

e.g. I low-key deadass yeeted my hydroflask and dabbed on the haters

Whereas in the past slang was usually a word or two, usually in response to something or an adjective.

Rad, Cool, Grok, Dude

No doubt?, You trippin?

Cleaned my clock. Give me the skinny.

Has there been a time where slang was pidginned together similarly? Specifically if the majority of the sentence used English slang (so not including actual pidgin or languages like Creole languages).

  • 4
    Oh snap; you be trippin'. Here's the 411: back in the day peeps used hella phat slang. – Juhasz Dec 2 '19 at 22:18
  • You speak in slang all the time. It's just that the slang you speak is "normal" to all the people around you. – Hot Licks Dec 4 '19 at 0:43
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What about thieves' cant? Here, let me share a song:

The Ruffin cly the nab of the Harmanbeck,
If we mawnd Pannam, lap, or Ruff-peck,
Or poplars of yarum: he cuts, bing to the Ruffmans,
Or els he sweares by the light-mans,
To put our stamps in the Harmans,
The ruffian cly the ghost of the Harmanbeck
If we heaue a booth we cly the [Jerk].

This is from The Beggar's Curse (1608), described by a contemporary (Dekker) as "a canting song, wherein you may learn, how this cursed generation pray, or (to speake truth) curse such officers as punish them" (see the book Three Centuries of Canting Songs and Slang Rhymes [1536 - 1896] for this and more).

A tiny bit of the barrier to understanding it is just it being old. For example, I'm sure you know the words "els" (else), "sweares" (swears), and "heaue" (have).

And then there's the cant, which is almost the rest of it, because the very point of cant is to obscure the meaning of what's being said:

  • The Ruffin/ruffian cly [someone]: the devil take [someone] (used to wish evil on someone)
  • nab: head
  • Harmanbeck: a beadle
  • mawnd: beg or ask
  • Pannam: bread (related to Latin panem)
  • lap: liquor (or some other drink)
  • Ruff-peck: bacon
  • poplars of yarum: milk pudding
  • cuts: says
  • bing to the Ruffmans: off to the hedges
    • the OED lists "bing" as "Slang. ? Gipsy." and not cant specifically
  • light-mans: day
  • stamps: legs
  • Harmans: the stocks
    • This and several other words use the suffix "man(s)", which is used "either as an affectionate diminutive or as a disguise device" according to the OED
  • cly: take or steal
  • Jerk: a seal on a counterfeit license (the counterfeit license itself is called a "gybe" in cant)
    • While Gutenberg has this as "lerk" (starting with an L), this is certainly an error for either "Jerk" or "Ierk", which were just two different ways to write the same word

See also Green's (2015) and Dekker's (1608) translations of the song.

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