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29 October 2014
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Language and age
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1Xtra: Slanguage
Teen talk: Dya hang with the slang?
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Online Dictionary of Playground Slang

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Changing voices
Language and the elderly
Playground talk and teenspeak

Language and age by Philippa Law

School slang isn't all about skipping.
Children have filthy minds. While teachers tut if they spot the beginnings of a 'b*******' forming on their little lips, the kids are busy inventing far, far more disgusting language, full of juicy imagery and leaving you in no doubt as to exactly what bodily function they're referring to.

All this is by way of explaining that although the Online Dictionary of Playground Slang really isn't suitable reading for children, it actually consists of stuff that they made up in the first place. It's a fascinating collection of slang from over the years, including such unpleasant terms as 'tagnuts', defined as a "Piece of excrement that sticks stubbornly to the buttock and/or buttock hairs."Children's language isn't all rude, of course. Alma Prickett wrote to Voices to point out the interesting range of words that children use when they want to have time out or temporarily avoid being 'got'. She mentions 'faynights', 'pax' and 'skinchy'. It's lucky Alma was never chased round our playground - none of these would have had the desired effect at my school, however hard she crossed her fingers: only the word 'twixies' would make whoever was 'It' stop in their tracks.Once children reach adolescence, their conversations seem to become much more opaque - teenagers often use words to mean the opposite of their original sense, or come up with words that could equally mean 'good' or 'bad' to the uninitiated.Slang is a way of reinforcing the boundaries of your social group. If you're a member of the group, you'll understand it; if you're an outsider, you won't. So as soon as a bit of slang escapes and gets used by other people, it's time to slam those barriers shut - by abandoning that word and getting yourself a new one.Teenagers have a particular desire to keep in with their peers and keep secrets from others; that's why teenage slang changes so quickly and why parents and mainstream media are always one step behind. The harder non-teens try to catch on to current teenspeak, the more painfully out of touch most of them sound.I wonder how many of the phrases collated by BBC Gloucestershire in 2003 are still used today?


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