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)

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