A dictionary of English slang and colloquialisms

A slang dictionary - introduction

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This online resource is a reference guide to the many slang and informal expressions heard in the United Kingdom.

 
Determining what slang is listed.

The listing of a slang expression is determined by its use beyond that of the localised employment of a few friends; in due course these localised expressions may gain greater popularity and achieve expanded regional, national or even global recognition, however it is only at that time that they will be included here. We should be aware that there is a large volume of slang we encounter through the media such as television, film and press, which invariably increase our reference points but genuinely remain outside of personal use. These media promoted expressions may in due course be adopted into our vernacular, and as such, when they can be confirmed as in use, then they will be listed at that time. With repeated exposure, via film, television and music, the volume of North American slang we hear in the UK is vast, but a large percentage is still to make inroads into the forefront of British use. Slang we have adopted that originates outside the U.K. is indicated where known.


Etymology

Due to the nature of the World Wide Web and the limitations imposed by the current Internet technology, there has needed to be a conscious effort to limit the size of the dictionary pages, by restricting the length of definitions, etymology and accompanying examples of usage. I have tried to include such information where I believe there may be confusion as to an expression's meaning or use, and etymology when I think it may be of interest. Generally, slang is, or used to be, in verbal use long before its first written documentation, consequently true etymological dating is difficult at best. With that in mind, the dates accompanying definitions will usually only approximate the first written use of the term.


Dialect and regionalisms

Although the United Kingdom is a comparatively small country, the number of dialects and regional variations in language is arguably the most diverse in the English speaking world. I have included suggestions as to where an expression is in use and whether confined to a particular district, town, or county, however the now common migratory habits of people weakens the strength of regionalisms and widens the locality of use. Consequently the boundaries of slang and dialect use is becoming increasingly blurred and making the task of regional notation more difficult. Dialect is also included, and athough not slang, its peculiarity of use can present confusion to a outsider and appears to all intents and purposes as being slang. Additionally there is a further relationship with regional tongues, in that many slang expressions have their root in dialect.


Informal expressions.

Our everyday conversations may or may not utilize slang itself but our vernacular often has a relaxed quality that comes from our use of informal expressions, or colloquialisms. This dictionary includes many informal words common to British speech. They are a colourful part of modern English whose informal qualities are very much related to slang, indeed they can be as confusing as slang to a visitor to the U.K. or student of English. As the dictionary focusses on British speech an attempt has been made to restrict any informal terms as those peculiar to the UK.

The ephemeral nature of slang.

A majority of slang falls by the wayside after its parent scene or fashion has lost momentum and interest has waned. The ephemeral nature of slang is all too easily forgotten without some form of documentation which is one of the purposes of this dictionary. Bearing in mind the complicated dynamics of slang, I think it is pertinent to remind the user of this resource that terms listed may have become obsolete from use. The inclusion of specific terms is by no means an indication of current or widespread use.


The slang arena.

It is noteworthy that a huge proportion of current slang originates from just a few areas, such as sex, the gay scene, the drug scene and the music scene; all areas dominated by and important to adolescents and younger generations; indeed slang known to be coined by senior citizens is rare at best, however I believe this in itself will change in the future. The gay scene has for many years proffered an immense amount of slang, but with 'straight' society's less prejudiced views and acceptance of homosexuality, openly mixed socialising is revealing a once private and discreet language. The very fact that homosexually has been persecuted for so long reinforces one of the very reasons slang is developed and resorted to, as a means of communicating freely and secretly, which in itself helps as a means of identification and exclusion. Similarly, with the ever growing popularity of illicit drug use, the quantity of related slang is encyclopaedic in size, however with the criteria of selection chosen for this dictionary most are still omitted. Drug slang is coined quite freely in the user's social circles, but most will not become universally known due to the nature of the scene's illegality. The necessity for discretion when using drugs encourages a need to retain the associated vernacular within the immediate environment.


With all these changing parameters I hope you will appreciate that ongoing research will mean an ever expanding and changing dictionary.

Unfortunately slang does have a tendency to be vulgar and offensive, hence I would like to apologise now for any offence taken from the following dictionary. I am aware of the contentious nature of the inclusion of racist, sexist and prejudicial expressions, but to omit them from the collection would present a false impression of current linguistics. I do not in any way condone the use of these expressions and welcome any feedback regarding the ethics of the incorporation of such terms within this dictionary.

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