Slang Part Two
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.
— Robert Frost
“Codswallop” is defined as nonsense or drivel. Its first use is shown in a radio script for the show “Hancock’s Half Hour,” although it seems unlikely that it swept into common use from these fragile underpinnings. Its creation may come from inventor Hiram Codd, who invented a bottle that would hold fizzy drinks, but lexicographers are divided on Hiram being the source for half the word. The term “wallop” was used in the 1920s in reference to beer, but its popularity was short-lived and, again, it is hard to see this splashy noun as giving birth to “codswallop.” In some manner that defies modern word sleuths, “codswallop” entered the lexicon and has stayed in use despite its imprecision. Personally, I believe it to be an invented word that gained a homely popularity and became part of our language because it serves a rare and unique purpose for a certain kind of vocabulary.
The same may be said about a number of words currently in play in the realm of slang. They may have a long life and see much use simply because they express a truth perhaps a little better than any other word in the dictionary. The current generation shows a clear preference for abbreviated terms and creations designed to convey meaning while cloaked in secrecy. If you are trendy and in the know, they make sense. If not, they bewilder, which is a very real part of their intended use.
For Part 2 in our exploration of colloquial terms, we’ll again compare words of new origin with those of lasting endurance.
Canceled: blocked on social media.
Finna: about to do something, nonspecific in use.
Fleeky: amazing or great.
Juice: credibility and presence. Alternate use: alcohol or drugs.
KRS/KYS: kill myself, kill yourself, in both cases use is meant to be sarcastic and flippant.
Lean: An intoxicant used by teenagers composed of soda and cough syrup.
Current And Former
Kook (1961): a novice surfer, adapted from common use to describe a “crazy person.”
Gremlin (1961): someone who frequents surf beaches causing trouble, but does not surf. From historic use as a sprite that causes mechanical problems and acts of mischief.
Swingster (1937): a musician who mixes jazz with swing music. Current: someone who follows party trends.
Groove (1968): To play rock or jazz music with style and excellence. Current: to enjoy oneself with natural ease.
Ratchet: loud and obnoxious.
Clout chaser: a person who tries to latch onto more popular people to become more popular personally.
Thicc: a person endowed with physical beauty, curvaceous.
TBH: To be honest.
The word “heyday” has endured since the 16th century. Originally, it meant expressing a strong, positive emotion such as joy. By the 17th century, it had become more specific: a state of high spirits or passion. In the mid-18th century, it gained its current meaning—a period in which a person or thing has their greatest success. Words often change in meaning because they begin to become more significant in an increasingly narrow way. In this case experiencing joy became existing in a sustained state of joy. Slang may also change because the word itself signifies something other than the meaning in use. In this case, “day” may have caused the ear to perceive a day of transcendent joy, a short period of time that represents the best in a person’s life. The ears hear and the mind uses, and meaning shifts with effortless ease.
Attribution: Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins, Oxford Dictionary of Slang, Jennifer Jolly, contributor to USA Today.