Change is one of the inevitable facts of life. Most of us have seen a number of changes in our own lives from simple things like fashion trends and entertainment to more revolutionary changes in technology and the economy.
Language, too, has undergone change and continues to evolve from a variety of influences, including age, culture, region, other languages, technology, and ethnic groups. This perpetual state of fluctuation and change is what keeps languages alive and breathing.
Slang is a way in which languages can transform and are renewed. Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in a language. While some consider slang to be witty and clever, adding spice to informal writing and spoken language, others condemn its use, believing that it undermines the standard language and reflects poorly upon its users. Walt Whitman described slang as "the start of fancy, imagination and humour, breathing into its nostrils the breath of life".
The spoken English language of today's younger generation is filled with slang words and expressions that exude colour, expression and presence. These vibrant words and phrases are an example of how language plants its own seeds of change that harvest within social circumstances.
Sometimes slang is the use of a word that is already in the standard dictionary, such as lift (to pick up, rise) that is given a new meaning, such as "to steal"; hunk (a large piece of something) which is converted to "a handsome man". Other times, slang is a neologism (invented) word, such as chocoholic, which means "a person who loves chocolate". A similar slang word is shopaholic. Other invented words are mula, which means "money" and airhead, which means "a person who is stupid".
Now, you'll understand your friends if they say something like: "I was such an airhead to think that I could get away with lifting a whole box of chocolates from the store just because I was all out of mula. But the policewoman loved my defence. I told her: 'I'm a chocoholic!"'
Activity: Make your own. You and two friends see if you can create a list of 10 modern slang words.
Heather Vlach is an English-language specialist and Intensive Studies educator at International School Bangkok in Nonthaburi. Contact her at
Heather Vlach is an English-language specialist and Intensive Studies educator at International School Bangkok in Nonthaburi. Contact her email@example.com.