The word slang is a loan from the French (Gallicism) from the seventeenth century, which originally designated an organized group of beggars (since argoter meant “beg”, “beg” or “steal”). But over time this term ended up designating the specific language used by people belonging to the same group, defined on the basis of their social status, their profession, their hobbies, or other common factors. Features of slang
it is possible to speak of “criminal slang” or “street slang”, to refer to the way in which it is spoken in prisons or in the slums, respectively, in the sense that not everyone could understand and master the uses of said language, thus involuntarily revealing that he does not belong to the group.
Thus, the different forms of slang are usually associated with the marginal and often criminal sectors of society, that is, speaking in its most informal and colloquial variant. These codes, however, are the object of study by linguists and are considered as a factor of innovation and change in languages, through the partial alteration of lexical meanings and through the incorporation of idioms.
In some contexts, it is also common to use the word germanía as a synonym for slang.
Explanation of Slang
Slang is the special language among people of the same trade or activity. Rodríguez (1999) defines the slang concept as a part of the lexicon subjected to a constant flow and formed by a cluster of living and picturesque expressions that characterize very different social and professional groups, especially when used for internal communication. Slang provides and reinforces social and group identity, but is also used in society, in general, to give an air of informality and relaxation to communication.
Slang is used by a group of individuals who have certain characteristics in common: it can be their job, their place of origin, their hobbies, or their social class, to name a few possibilities. The terms usually arise when there is no specific translation of a concept and, over the years, can be incorporated into the general language. Features of slang
Progressively within the jargon, linguistic forms used by different social groups –professions, trades, or occupations– concur that legitimize their existence through the peculiarity of their verbal uses. They arise as a necessary instrument to defend and survive within a social group. Do not confuse slang with technical languages, despite the fact that certain argots have technicalities.
Objective of Slang
The purpose of the slang is to encode the message so that it can only be understood by the social group that uses it, so that potential unwanted recipients cannot decode it, for this they use informal language.
Features of Slang
- Its use is restricted to a specific community , as a form of communication in “code” and at the same time as a method to identify those who belong and those who do not belong to the “circle“.
- They are ephemeral , as they present constant innovation, since they must be in constant change to keep their codes updated. Many words and uses of slang are transferred to the common language and become widespread, and then they must change again to preserve their secrecy or their uses among “connoisseurs”. Features of slang
- They are a source of innovation in the language , as some of its uses are integrated into the colloquial speech of broader sectors.
- Slang is an incomplete, limited vocabulary, where only some new lexemes appear to make the phrase incomprehensible to those outside. It is an instrument of secondary and parasitic communication, which always requires the support of a common language, which further explains that slang cannot be international.
- The changing character is one of the main characteristics of this phenomenon. The argots change from generation to generation and from city to city. There are words that change from one generation to the next and from place to place, although others seem to extend over the centuries.
- The slang, as a social phenomenon, shows a great expressive wealth within the social groups in which it is accommodated while allowing to create close linguistic links between its members and enables greater cohesion and identity in front of other external groups. Slang is characterized by terminological inequivalence that can occur in one language versus another, a reflection of the society that manages it. The slang is a reflection of the social groups in which it lives. Features of slang
- Prison speech, in which a vocabulary is handled that reflects the existing power relations in a world as hostile as that usually is. It usually has words for “police”, for “chief prisoner” or for “submissive prisoner”, which vary depending on the prison and the geographic region.
- The codes of criminals, who assign proper names to activities and things that cannot be said in an ordinary way, as they are prohibited. Thus, for example, they have a name for each type of drug, a name for the police, and another for each type of crime.
- Youthful speech, often full of foreigners and generational terms that older people cannot understand without an explanation. They usually have proper names for love, sex, elders, etc.
Difference between slang and Jargon
From a very technical point of view, there is a distinction between the terms slang and jargon, although they can be used colloquially as synonyms. In both cases, they are linguistic varieties, that is, vocabularies that belong to a particular group or social group, but differ in their assessment:
- Slang. As we have seen, slang is typically informal and vulgar, associated with the underground sectors of society. For that reason, it is not common to speak of scientific slang, for example, but of jargon. For example prison slang, criminal slang.
- Jargon . This term is used to name the linguistic variety belonging to specialized sectors of society, often incomprehensible to ordinary speakers due to the fact that prior training or knowledge is required to access it. For example medical jargon, literary jargon. Features of slang