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Questions about “Language of a highly colloquial type, considered as below the level of standard educated speech, and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense.” [OED: 𝒔𝒍𝒂𝒏𝒈]

Merriam-Webster says that slang is:

an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech.

The OED [paywalled link] gives these (historically ordered) subsenses under sense 1 of its noun³ entry for slang:

  • 1a. The special vocabulary used by any set of persons of a low or disreputable character; language of a low and vulgar type. (Now merged in sense 1c.)
  • 1b. The special vocabulary or phraseology of a particular calling or profession; the cant or jargon of a certain class or period.
  • 1c. Language of a highly colloquial type, considered as below the level of standard educated speech, and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense.

Most present-day mentions of slang fall under OED subsense 1c, sometimes but not always carrying the disreputable connotations of subsense 1a. In particular, slang does not simply mean informal. It requires special vocabulary and figures of speech such as those in these examples of slang:

  • Whoa there, Nellie, cool your jets!
  • Just one cotton-pickin’ minute, now, Angel Cakes!
  • You just hold your horses while I go powder my keister!

Example Questions

See also

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