Date: Mon, 3 Nov 1997 11:16:07 -0500 From: Al Futrell Subject: Re: origins of slang On Mon, 3 Nov 1997, Ellen Johnson wrote: > My research on vocabulary slang suggests that words and phrases often > do NOT originate in any particular ethnic or social group these days > and spread from there. Television, radio, and the many other ways > language is communicated to a wide variety of people at once make > another type of explanation more likely: its use by an icon of > popular culture. I agree we are too quick to ascribe slang to AfAm > origins. Ellen: I would have to respectfully disagree with you on this -- at least slightly. No doubt the mass media makes for quicker dissemination, which in turn makes for more difficulty in tracking origins. H.L. Mencken made a claim similar to yours above except that he suggested that certain journalists were the top coiners of slang (I don't have the quotation handy, sorry). Maybe I am old fashioned -- though I am not as old as Mencken would be -- but I think much slang originates socially and not individually. That is, I think most of it comes from subcultural jargon, cant, argot, etc., that becomes popular (often thanks to music, tv, radio, internet, etc.) among large segments of the general population. The meanings, of course, quite frequently do not diffuse with the actually locutions; frequently, they change because the subcultural metaphors make no sense to the new users. But then I have had this argument before..... Al Futrell -- al[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] -- Dept of Communication -- University of Louisville