Slang (стр. 1 из 6)


Chapter I. Characteristic features of Slang …………….... 2

1.Feature Articles: Magical Slang: Ritual, Language and Trench Slang of the Western front…………………………………….2

2.Background of Cockney English………………….……….13

Chapter II. Slang and the Dictionary. …………......……... 17

1.What is slang?……………………………………………...17

2. Slang Lexicographers……………………..………………18

3. The Bloomsbury Dictionary Of Contemporary slang…..…20

4. Slang at the Millennium…………………………………...22

5.Examples of slang………………………………………….24




Slangizms are a very interesting groups of words. One of the characteristics of slangizm is that they are not included into Standard English

EG: mug = face; trap = mouth

Such words are based on metaphor, they make speech unexpected, vivid and sometimes difficult to understand.

Slang appears as a language of a subgroup in a language community. We can speak of black-americans’ slang, teenagers’ slang, navy and army slang.

Feature Articles: Magical Slang: Ritual, Language and Trench Slang of the Western Front

Unprecedented in its conditions, ferocity, and slaughter, the First World War was also unprecedented in its effect on the psyches of the men who fought and on the languages they spoke. Like the soldiers who spoke it, English emerged from the war, as Samuel Hynes maintains, a "damaged" language, "shorn of its high-rhetorical top..." (1)

French linguistic purists, led by the Academie Francaise, vigorously denounced damaging incursions of journalistic language and trench slang into standard French. (2) Only in Germany did a nationalist ideology with its high rhetoric of struggle, sacrifice, and military glory survive, adopted and nourished first by rightist veterans' groups and paramilitary formations, and finally institutionalised by the National Socialists and their leader, former Frontsoldat Adolf Hitler.

But whatever damage the war may have wrought on the "high" language is, in a sense, compensated by the emergence of two new popular "languages" of great interest to the historian. One is the language of popular journalism; already well-established in 1914, it was characterised by its own chauvinistic diction and aggressively patriotic attitude and was the means by which most civilians got information about the war.

Universally excoriated by the fighting troops as bourrage de crone (head stuffing, i.e. false stories) and Hurrah-patriotismus (hurrah patriotism), journalistic prose nevertheless significantly shaped civilian attitudes about the war and soldiers' attitudes about the press. (3) French troops called the official war bulletin le petit menteur (the little liar). The other language was, of course, what we call trench slang, the common idiom of the front. The literate mass armies trapped in the entrenched stalemate of the First World War provided a fertile medium for the development and dissemination of the special language of the trenches. (4)

In this essay, I intend to focus on the two predominant roles of slang in the context of the Western Front: its denotation of membership in the community of combat soldiers, and its magical or talismanic function as the protective language of that community and its individual members. The selected examples are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive.

Among the many rhetorical and social functions of slang and jargon, that of defining and delimiting a social group by reinforcing its social, professional and often visual identity with a verbal one is broadly significant. (5)

Robert Chapman has noted that "an individual... resorts to slang as a means of attesting membership in the group and of dividing himself... off from the mainstream culture." (6)

Niceforo neatly pinpoints the genesis of slang: "sentir differement, c'est parler diffJrement; - s'occuper differement, c'est aussi parler differement" ("to feel differently is to speak differently; - to occupy oneself differently is also to speak differently"). (7) The creation of a verbal identity based on occupation and feeling is particularly marked in military society, where social function, enforced separation from the civilian world, and uniform appearance already distinguish the members of a circumscribed, hierarchical society from outsiders.

It would be useful at this point to differentiate between the terms "jargon" and "slang" in a military context, as both exist, are sometimes commingled, and often confused. (8) By jargon I mean the language of the profession, consisting primarily of technical terms (including acronyms) proper to the military service, what Flexner calls "shop-talk." (9) In current American military jargon, for example, the acronym PCS, which stands for Permanent Change of Station, appears occasionally as a noun, as in "Did you have a good PCS?" but more frequently as a verbal structure, as in "He PCSed last month" or "She's PCSing in January."

The "alphabet soup" of acronyms, an enduring characteristic of military jargon, first appeared in bewildering array in the First World War, although some had existed earlier. (10) Military jargon is, of course, not limited to acronyms, but includes such things as abbreviations for weapons and equipment, terms for promotion and failure, punishments under the code and the like.

Genuine slang, on the other hand, generally eschews technical terms in favour of the renaming of objects and actions, and the invention of neologisms. Chapman remarks that slang relies heavily on "figurative idiom... (and) inventive and poetic terms, especially metaphors." (11) Partridge likewise signals the importance of metaphor and figurative language of all sorts. (12)

Drawing again on current American usage, the gold oak leaves on a field-grade army officer's hat become "scrambled eggs" and the collective designation for senior officers is "brass hats" or simply "the brass," a phrase which, along with many others from the two world wars, has migrated into the general vocabulary. (13)

The hats of field-grade air force officers are decorated with stylised clouds and bolts of lightning, universally dubbed "darts and farts." Similarly a colonel, who wears eagles as his insignia, is distinguished from a lieutenant colonel by being called an "eagle-colonel," or with the fine pejorative edge present in "scrambled eggs" and "darts and farts," a "chicken colonel." To the disparagement implicit in such phrases, I shall shortly return.

The military proclivity for acronyms occasionally and amusingly spills over into true slang. A famous instance is that Second World War favourite "SNAFU," politely rendered as "situation normal, all fouled up." A rudimentary knowledge of scatological language will quickly provide the ruder and more popular version. (14)

In wartime, the general store of military slang is augmented by a special subspecies - the slang of combat troops.

Such troops use the general slang but employ, in addition, a vocabulary unique to their situation. The slang of combat troops distances its users from the safe, punctilious (and by implication, cowardly) rear echelons, while concomitantly reinforcing the separate identity and moral superiority of the combat units. (15)

Anyone familiar with the literature of World War I will immediately recall the pervasive "us vs. them" mentality of front and rear and the suffocating smugness of staff officers. The front line troops psychologically and linguistically occupied the moral high ground of courage, suffering and sacrifice, leaving the rear to hold the low ground of shirking and blind adherence to form and tradition at the cost of lives. Franz Schauwecker wrote that there was a crack in the structure of the army that "ran parallel to the front somewhere just outside the range of enemy fire." (16)

Before examining the characteristic language of the trench soldiers of World War I, let us briefly review the physical and psychological stresses inherent in the static trench systems of the Western Front, and the ways in which the troops coped with those pressures. In the forty years of European peace that followed the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the general staffs of the armies analysed the campaigns, drew their conclusions, and plotted their strategies for the rematch that most were convinced was inevitable.

Unlikely as it may seem, the generals of victorious Germany and defeated France arrived at the same conclusions: only total offensive - offensive B l'outrance - could ensure victory. While the Germans planned the von Schlieffen offensive, Revanche became the motive force behind French military planning in the years between the wars. (17)

With all sides (including the British, despite their experience in the Boer War) committed to the theory of the offensive, the sudden concretion of the long-awaited war into defensive entrenchment baffled even the generals. In their obsession with the offensive, and with its psychological component of troop morale, they had failed to recognize that the enormous technological advances in weaponry worked more to the benefit of defence than of offence. The Western Front was shaped by artillery, the machine gun, barbed wire, and the spade. As early as October of 1914, a prescient young German officer wrote to a friend that

(t)he brisk, merry war to which we have all looked forward for years has taken an unforeseen turn. Troops are murdered with machines, horses have almost become superfluous... The most important people are the engineers... the theories of decades are shown to be worthless. (18)

Unfortunately for the miserable troops mired in the wet, cold, and filthy trenches, the generals refused to accept the deadly efficacy of the defensive weapons, and spent the first three years of the war mounting one costly frontal assault after another, until the abortive Nivelle offensive of May 1917 precipitated the mutiny of the French army and ended what J.M. Winter calls "the great slaughter." (19)

What, then, was the effect of trench warfare on the soldiers? First, the experience of war was an initiatory one. That is, the experience is, per se, so remarkable that no one who has not experienced it can ever share it or understand it. (20)

For Aldington soldiers were "men segregated from the world in this immense barbaric tumult." (21) "Ein Geschlecht wie das unsere ist noch nie in die Arena der Erde geschritten," ("A generation such as ours has never before stepped into the arena of the earth") proclaimed Ernst Junger. (22)

This "initiate mentality" among combat troops was immeasurably strengthened in World War I by the characteristics of the fighting, the first of which was a tactical stasis that imposed physical inertia on the front line troops. The soldiers were literally immobilised in a maze of trenches, subjected to severe shelling and regular sniping, to say nothing of the rigours of outdoor life in northern Europe, with virtually no reliable protection from any of them. It is little wonder that the most common metaphor for the trench system, and by extension the war itself, was the labyrinth, a true "initiatory underground." (23)

It was not lost on German troops that the root word of der Schhtzengraben (trench) was das Grab, a grave. In Otto Dix's lost painting, Der Schhtzengraben, the trench becomes a grotesque grave filled with horribly mutilated bodies.

The group identity of the "troglodytes" (to borrow Fussell's term) emerges in the striking special language of trench slang. In his preface to Dechelette's dictionary, Georges Lentre recounts hearing a conversation between two soldiers that appeared to be mutually intelligible, but which he found incomprehensible. (24)

Against the incomprehension of the rear and the patriotic drivel of the press, the troops erected a linguistic wall that Jacques Meyer perceptively calls "le language d'une franc-mahonnerie" ("a language of free-masons"). (25)

The sense of identity and community is evident in what the soldiers called themselves. The usual two-week stint in the front and reserve lines tended to leave soldiers filthy, lousy, unshaven, and exhausted. (26) For the Germans, a front line infantryman was a Frontschwein, a front pig. For the French, he was a poilu, literally a hairy beast, as the noun poil is used primarily for the hair of animals. Dauzat points out that the term implies more than just an unshaven man, because the poilu is hairy, as he delicately puts it, "au bon endroit," - a traditional symbol of virility. (27)

In neither case is the animal reference pejorative. Bill Mauldin's World War II cartoons of "GI Joe" stand in the same tradition of affectionate commonality, all contempt reserved for those who are not a part of the community of combat.

The sense of community felt by the combat troops (a bond particularly marked among the Germans) was reinforced by the mass of war material thrown against them.

The Germans, in fact, use the phrase "war of material" (Materialschlacht) instead of "war of attrition" for the 1916-1918 period.

Front line soldiers often felt that they had more in common with the enemy soldiers in the trenches opposite than with their own rear echelon troops and the people at home. That sense of a common bond of suffering is reflected in the slang names for opposing and even allied forces. With the exception of boche, and perhaps "Hun," to which I shall return, epithets for opposing forces were generally based on a stereotypical national name or characteristic or a deformed foreign phrase, and were largely inoffensive.

On the German side, the favoured names for the French were Franzmann and several names based on germanised French phrases: Parlewuhs (parlez-vous), Wulewuhs (voulez-vous), Olala, and the very popular Tulemong (tous le monde). (28) For British soldiers, the Germans, like the French, used "Tommy," although naturally deforming the pronunciation.

English soldiers employed a variety of epithets for the Germans. "Fritz" was popular early in the war, with "Jerry" favoured later. According to Brophy, "Hun," a journalistic creation, was used almost exclusively by officers, as was the borrowed French "Boche."

Although the French used Fritz as well, Boche was the term of choice. Its etymology is complex and uncertain, (29) but its pejorative implications of obstinacy and generally uncivilised behaviour are undeniable. The Germans loathed the word and considered it a profound insult. Bergmann claimed that the Germans used no such derogatory terms, for "wir Deutschen wissen uns zum Glhck frei von... kindischen Hass" ("we Germans know ourselves to be happily free from such childish hatred"), but Dauzat disputes that. (30)

The unusually derogatory nature of Boche may reflect French bitterness over the defeat of 1870 and the invasion of 1914. Dauzat insists that Boche is a "mot de l'arripre" ("a word of the rear"), and that the soldiers preferred Fritz, Pointu (for the pre-1916 German spiked helmets) or even Michel for artillerymen. (31) Nevertheless, the other collective epithets suggest, in their general mildness, that the front line troops considered enemy soldiers less dangerous than the men to their rear.

Entrapment, immobility, and alienation led to what Leed has called "the breakdown of the offensive personality." (32) Instead of being a mobile offensive warrior, the soldier of trench warfare was "humble, patient, enduring, an individual whose purpose was to survive a war that was a 'dreadful resignation, a renunciation, a humiliation.'" (33)

A young German soldier, Johannes Philippson, wrote home in the summer of 1917 that "only genuine self-command is any use to me." (34) French historian Marc Bloch described the feelings of his troops in December 1914: "Trench warfare had become so slow, so dreary, so debilitating to body and soul that even the least brave among us wholeheartedly welcomed the prospect of an attack." (35)

How, then, could soldiers combat the soul-killing existence in the trenches and the ever-present fear of death and wounds? One method was through a reliance on talismans and rituals. As Fussell has noted "no front-line soldier or officer was without his amulet and every tunic pocket became a reliquary... so urgent was the need that no talisman was too absurd." (36)

Luck also depended on ritual - on doing some things and refraining from others, doing things in threes for example, or Graves' conviction that his survival was due to the preservation of his virginity. (37) Another form of talismanic protection was provided by the use of slang. Niceforo defines "magical slang" ("l'argot magique") as the language used by individuals when they fear (for reasons having a magical basis) to call things and people by their real names. (38)

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