Here’s my bet about slang

There will be just as much of it, just as much variation, but it will be different:

Are you terrified by “harvest men” or “long-legged tailors”? Do you have “ferntickles” or “brunny-spots” on your face? If someone called you “gibble-fisted” would you be affronted or amused?

The words for daddy long-legs, freckles and left-handed are all examples of English regional dialect discovered in the 1950s by a team of fieldworkers in what was the most comprehensive survey of its kind ever undertaken.

On Saturday, the University of Leeds announced plans to update the survey by recruiting volunteers to be modern-day dialect researchers, thanks to more than £500,000 of national lottery funding.

The original surveyors set out from Leeds 70 years ago, targeting “old men with good teeth” for two reasons: they were a more likely to be a bridge to the past, and they could be understood.

Slang is, in one way of looking at it, the signifier of ingroup and outgroup. We still have such. How we do has changed for sure. For example, we have our own little bits of slang around here. The Eksian Solution, pendantry, Snippa is not the polite Swedish word for something gynecological but the recent Senior Lecturer and so on. In this reading slang simply arises from the shared experience of the community. As communities still exist as do shared experiences we still have divergent slang. It’s just not quite as related to geography as it used to be. Or, if you prefer, it is to the new geography of shared experiences and community, not to the old based on mere accidents of land.

ARRSE has a subtly different language to Reddit for example. Both to Mumsnet.

Have to admit I do like “gibble-fisted” but I would use it to refer to Snippa’s typing style.

11 thoughts on “Here’s my bet about slang”

  1. The language used by particular groups is not so much slang as a register of language with dialect being something else again.

  2. Mr Bison

    Talking of registers of language, isn’t the interaction between groups just part of the casual register, which incorporates slang?

  3. From Wiki on sociolinguistics, Martin Joos’s model of registers

    “Casual: In-group friends and acquaintances; no background information provided; ellipsis and slang common; interruptions common. This is common among friends in a social setting.”

  4. So, yes, dialect is rather more than slang,. Things like accent, turns of phrase, pronunciation, grammar, etc.

    Just using cockney rhyming slang doesn’t mean that you are talking in the cockney dialect

  5. One of the markers of general intelligence is how quickly an outsider can pick up insider slang. It being one of those things which fades with age.

  6. >Douglas said dialect was a way of looking in at a window to the past. “Sometimes people feel embarrassed saying ‘oh it’s slang’. When you say to somebody, it’s not, and it’s got a really long, distinguished and historical pedigree, suddenly you get people with this sense of empowerment.”

    You just knew that this would end with some woke framing.

  7. ” “We will speak to people whose families haven’t stayed in one area for generations, as well as those who can trace their roots back to the same place over hundreds of years. …”


  8. Most people are in many overlapping non-geographical ingroups.

    Feel the chuntey!
    Pull up a sack of blue circle
    Version 7a
    Flight Stimulator

  9. ARRSE has a subtly different language to most

    …and it takes a long time to learn it all.

    Meanwhile, “Boss, Hamilton Ackie on phone for you”

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