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The Evolution of Slang
August 19, 2014 8:53 AM   Subscribe

For a century and a half, The New York Times has been earnestly—and hilariously—defining the evolving language of cities.
We marveled at the way these expressions—the ones we understood, anyway—captured the spirit of the era in which they were defined. It makes sense, for instance, that the Times defined acid ("a slang term for the drug LSD") in 1970, grunt ("a slang word for an infantryman") during the Vietnam War, diss ("a slang term for a perceived act of disrespect") in 1994, and macking ("a slang term for making out") in 1999.

via Languagehat
posted by the man of twists and turns (46 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is fun, but I don't get why it's so crazy that a paper would explain slang terms to its audience that probably isn't very familiar with them.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:07 AM on August 19 [4 favorites]


“A chump is slang for a sucker.”

Alrighty, then.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:11 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]


Wordsplain is bloggist for "define," I suppose.
posted by psoas at 9:25 AM on August 19 [4 favorites]


Things don't have to be crazy to be funny. These are merely quaint.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:25 AM on August 19


This is fun, but I don't get why it's so crazy that a paper would explain slang terms to its audience that probably isn't very familiar with them.

Because white-bread institutions like the NYT are usually late to the party and their so-called explanations are often either overkill or flat out wrong. For example, Time magazine recently made itself look silly.

Also, unless it had a regional usage that was perhaps unique to the NYC area, I don't think that's what "macking" is/was generally understood to mean. Urban Dictionary only has the NYT's definition fifth and sixth on their list of potential meanings.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:33 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]


This is fun, but I don't get why it's so crazy that a paper would explain slang terms to its audience that probably isn't very familiar with them.

Particularly when you consider who the Times is thinking about when it thinks of its "audience." They take that whole "paper of record" thing pretty seriously. Part of the impulse people have to laugh at this is that they imagine some hilariously out of touch blue-haired old lady as the target audience, but the Times is also thinking about an audience 100 years from now (e.g., the "wonga" example--which any modern reader reading through the archive would be deeply thankful for, however much the young hipsters of the time might have rolled their eyes at the explanation). And, of course, the Times knows they have a genuinely international readership, including many second-language speakers. I'm sure such readers find "marijuana cigarette" a great deal more helpful than "joint" (especially when "joint" is such a polymorphous slang word: "the joint is jumping," "he spent two years in the joint" etc.).
posted by yoink at 9:35 AM on August 19 [11 favorites]


How this article could fail to mention swingin' on the flippity flop I can't even imagine.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:43 AM on August 19 [8 favorites]


Wordsplain is bloggist for "define," I suppose.

It's also amazingly inapt. "Mansplain" isn't about "explaining men to you." If they wanted to form something analogous to "mansplain" they needed to swap out the "man" with something describing the person doing the explaining, not the thing being explained. "Timesplain" or "Editorsplain" or something.
posted by yoink at 9:46 AM on August 19 [4 favorites]


Nix. Twenty three skiddoo, small change.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:48 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Time magazine recently made itself look silly

Nowhere near as silly, in my opinion, as the people who either failed, spectacularly, to catch the obviously tongue-in-cheek tone of that piece or--more likely--deliberately ignored it so as to play out the tired "OMG, how could TIME be so uncool" script.
posted by yoink at 9:49 AM on August 19


scrub: [noun] 1. a guy who thinks he's fly, cf. buster
posted by stinkfoot at 9:52 AM on August 19 [7 favorites]


Nowhere near as silly, in my opinion, as the people who either failed, spectacularly, to catch the obviously tongue-in-cheek tone of that piece or--more likely--deliberately ignored it so as to play out the tired "OMG, how could TIME be so uncool" script.

"We were just joking!" is a tried and true fallback position though not one I would expect from Time. Meh, at least the Onion owns up to its failed "jokes".
posted by fuse theorem at 10:02 AM on August 19


"We were just joking!" is a tried and true fallback position though not one I would expect from Time.

I'm just saying nobody who wasn't brain dead could read that article and not realize that it is intended to be humorous. I'm responding to the article itself, not to any explanation Time may or may not have offered in the wake of all the foofaraw (I frankly have no idea whether they bothered to respond or not).
posted by yoink at 10:12 AM on August 19


Nowhere near as silly, in my opinion, as the people who either failed, spectacularly, to catch the obviously tongue-in-cheek tone of that piece or--more likely--deliberately ignored it so as to play out the tired "OMG, how could TIME be so uncool" script.

Oh bum! (That's actually "burn" but they overkerned it)
posted by hal9k at 10:14 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]


kern (v.) - a slang term for the process of changing how items are spread out, commonly used in graphic design circles.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:17 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]


What's funny is that they're so often so late, and so wrong.
Mack daddy – an accomplished street hustler (2008)
“‘Obama is a long-legged mack daddy,’ using a slang term for an accomplished street hustler.”
Um... No.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:21 AM on August 19


How this article could fail to mention swingin' on the flippity flop I can't even imagine.

Harsh realm, man. Harsh realm.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:22 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Whack – crazy (2011)
“Kemp had 39 homers and 40 stolen bases. Kemp said it was ‘whack’—a slang word for crazy that he uses often—to imagine his 40-40 goal dying on the warning track and winding up as the league’s most valuable player anyway.”


The word is wack; cf. wacky. Dates to the 1930s.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:31 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]


I ain't like that any more....bummer.
posted by mule98J at 10:32 AM on August 19


"the Times defined ... diss ("a slang term for a perceived act of disrespect") in 1994"

"Look, digitally, at the Sunday Times of Perth, Western Australia. Specifically at 10 December 1906 and find: "When a journalistic rival tries to 'dis' you / And to prejudice you in the public's eyes."" [BBC]
posted by marienbad at 10:36 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


The main use I recall for "macking" in the '90s was for hitting on girls in a particularly assertive way, or preening and strutting otherwise trying to get their attention. "I couldn't believe the way you were macking on those girls."

For what little it's worth -- and that's very little indeed -- the Urban Dictionary seems to agree with me.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:36 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Exactly. And a mack daddy is a ladies man.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:41 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Twenty three skiddoo, small change.

If you go into town, it's only twenty skiddoo.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:43 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]


They say they're not herbert. We reach!
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:43 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]


I remember in the late 90s asking what "mack" meant, and getting conflicting answers. Nobody in this thread seems to agree either. Frankly I applaud the Times and Time for trying to help me out.
posted by JanetLand at 10:52 AM on August 19


Nobody in this thread seems to agree either.

You sure? I don't see any disagreement in this thread about it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:55 AM on August 19


Oh, you're right. I read the Obama thing as disagreement, and it wasn't.
posted by JanetLand at 10:58 AM on August 19


I remember in the late 90s asking what "mack" meant, and getting conflicting answers. Nobody in this thread seems to agree either. Frankly I applaud the Times and Time for trying to help me out.

No, apparently it's wrong to want to know or try to explain what unfamiliar terms mean.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:58 AM on August 19


I think it's groovy that they're hep to the lingo.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:03 AM on August 19


The word is wack; cf. wacky. Dates to the 1930s.

Not sure it's derived from "wacky" actually because it means a different thing--it wasn't "crazy" (unless this is a new thing?)
posted by Hoopo at 11:17 AM on August 19


I remember in the late 90s asking what "mack" meant, and getting conflicting answers. Nobody in this thread seems to agree either.

See also, suckas.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 11:18 AM on August 19


Mack daddy – an accomplished street hustler (2008)
“‘Obama is a long-legged mack daddy,’ using a slang term for an accomplished street hustler.”

Um... No.


In context I would say that's a reasonable explanation of what the speaker meant. He was calling Obama a "pimp." I don't think by "mack daddy" he meant "Obama is a super duper ladies man"--he clearly meant it in the "king pimp" sense. So "accomplished street hustler" seems about right.
posted by yoink at 11:20 AM on August 19


I'd always understood macking on someone as making out with them; that's the meaning that we Britischers seem to have divined from American media. Daresay we're wrong, though.
posted by Drexen at 11:21 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


When I was a teen in the early 00's, we definitely used "mackin on" to mean making out. I wonder if its meaning varies based on time, place, or demographics.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:26 AM on August 19


I'd always understood macking on someone as making out with them

Yeah, "mack daddy" (or "mac daddy") is a pretty specific term, though with some obvious relationship to "macking" as making out. Urban Dictionary's #1 definition of "Mac Daddy," for example, is this:
The pimp-meister, the king of the streetwalkers, possessor of the blingest of bling-bling. The mac daddy is the man who means everything (and the only man who really means anything) to his ladies of the night.
Which, again, seems pretty close to "accomplished street hustler." But maybe Urban Dictionary is overly swayed by close scrutiny of editorial asides in the NYT?
posted by yoink at 11:28 AM on August 19


Be nice if they gave an actual list rather than just the click for random Timesism button.
posted by ckape at 11:29 AM on August 19


Look no further than the Teen Ministry Slang Dictionary, which I believe appeared on the blue in the previous decade.

Did you see his pants? Bootsy!
posted by dr_dank at 12:17 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Exactly. And a mack daddy is a ladies man.

Because he's good at flirting with or otherwise working them (in the case of a pimp). Not because he "makes out" with them.

The main use I recall for "macking" in the '90s was for hitting on girls in a particularly assertive way, or preening and strutting otherwise trying to get their attention. "I couldn't believe the way you were macking on those girls."

Yep, that's generally been my understanding of it but back in the 70s it meant closer to "straight up pimpin'". For it to now mean "making out" seems to be an interesting sanitization of the original meaning, in my opinion.
posted by fuse theorem at 12:21 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Freaking – acting lewd (1995)
“‘My Mom wrote y’all a letter, and she wants to know why y’all are always talking about freakin’, she asks, using a slang term for acting lewd.”


Adorable.
posted by ckape at 1:09 PM on August 19


Be nice if they gave an actual list rather than just the click for random Timesism button.

They do, you just have to dig into the javascript to see it...


Wipe – handkerchief (1855)
“I have found by of late with and other low people, that Marianne is argot for guillotine, just as wipe is slang for handkerchief.”

Submissionist Party – loyal Union men (1861)
“With the Southern ‘arsenals and forts commanding their rivers and strategic points’ properly garrisoned, as urged by Gen. Scott upon Mr. Buchanan, it is admitted that ‘revolution would have been paralyzed in the whole South, and the Submissionist Party’—Secession slang for loyal Union men—‘would have been organized on a very different footing from what we now know.’”

Square – political slang for honest (1858)
“‘A square man,’ said Mr. Tucker once to a friend of mine—square being political slang for honest—‘can’t live in politics as they are now conducted.’”

A monkey – a sum of £500 (1877)
“A pony is turf slang for £25; a century means, of course, a hundred; while a monkey represents a sum of £500.”

Browns – bronze money (1884)
“In our day ‘browns’ is a slang term for bronze money.”

Gills – the lower part of the face (1888)
“‘Gills,’ a slang term for the lower part of the face, was used with much the same meaning by Ben Jonson, and by Lord Bacon.”

Chump – a sucker (1910)
“A chump is slang for a sucker.”

Honeyfugle – to wheedle or cajole (1912)
“‘To honeyfugle,’ according to the dictionary, is American slang for ‘wheedle’ or ‘cajole’ but ‘fugleman’ is good old English that was ‘made in Germany,’ where it was meant originally an expert soldier who led or directed the less skillful in military exercises.”

Fed up – used to depict the disgust of the speaker with the world in general or any subject in particular (1918)
“‘Fed up’ is one of the favorite expressions, and is used to depict the disgust of the speaker with the world in general or any subject in particular.”

Jag – an umbrella (1923)
“Jag is also a slang term for an umbrella, possibly from that article being so constantly carried.”

Flop – vaudeville slang for failure (1923)
“But he was a complete ‘flop,’ to use the descriptive vaudeville slang for failure.”

The Back Shop – railroad slang for the hospital where damaged and broken equipment is rebuilt (1925)
“The ‘back shop’ is railroad slang for the hospital where damaged and broken equipment is rebuilt.”

Vaudevilled – cut (1926)
“I had just had my tonsils Vaudevilled (slang for cut), When I came out of the ether there he was, cre as a traffic bull, and he proceeded to bawl me out.”

Money player – a player who plays his best under fire (1926)
“Besides, don’t forget that Dugan is a money player, which is the slang for a player who plays his best under fire.”

Stiver – a slang term for a penny in England (1928)
“‘Stiver,’ of course, although it is derived from The Dutch, has for scores of years been a slang term for a penny in England.”

Storm and Strife – wife (1929)
“He is credited, for example, with originating the phrase ‘storm and strife’ as a slang term for ‘wife.’”

Rhino – money (1938)
“As a slang term for money ‘rhino’ is dead.”

Prang – crash (1942)
“American fliers in the R.A.F. Eagle Squadrons have a slang word for crash. It is ‘prang.’”

Strobe – a slang term for an electronic flash or speed light (1951)
“For example; he defines strobe as a: slang, term for ‘electronic flash, but speed-light, another popular word meaning.”

Jitney – a nickel (1957)
“The term ‘jitney’ itself is believed to come from a slang term for nickel.”

Acid – the drug LSD (1970)
“Acid is a slang term for the drug LSD.”

Heads – marijuana smokers (1971)
“‘All the guys were heads,’ Mr. Lemon said, using a slang term for marijuana smokers.”

Greasers – ordinary working people (1972)
“‘Greasers’ is a slang term for ordinary working people, a synonym for another New Left term, the ‘Jumpen,’ from lumpen-proletariat.”

Grunt – infantryman (1972)
“‘Grunt,’ a slang word for an infantryman widely used by Americans, simulates tactical combat in Vietnam in 1965.”

Punk – young hoodlums (1977)
“Slanguist Eric Partridge speculates that punk is hobo lingo to describe very stale bread, perhaps from the French pain. Punk, applied to a person, began as a slang term for a catamite, or boy kept by a pederast, and later extended to cover young hoodlums.”

Boxcars – double sixes (1977)
“‘Boxcars’ is a slang term for double-sixes, which is a losing roll for bets on the ‘come line.’”

Weed – marijuana (1981)
“She told Mr. Klein that she drank and smoked, and said ‘every now and then I smoke a little weed,’ a slang term for marijuana.”

Coffin Nail – cigarette (1982)
“And the American Tobacco Institute is unlikely to enjoy reading that ‘coffin nail’ is a slang term for cigarette, derived from ‘the unhealthful effects of smoking cigarettes.’”

Codds Wallop – fizzy ale (1985)
“Mineral waters were sold in such bottles and, wallop being a slang term for fizzy ale, the contents became known as Codd’s Wallop.”

Bird – woman (1989)
“‘Bird’ being a slang term for woman, Janet Kauffman takes the image and makes it beautiful, ominous and eerie.”

Barry's body – crack (1990)
“‘They’re saying Scotty’s got Barry’s body,’ he said, using a slang term for crack.”

Joint – gun (1992)
“‘Joint’ is a slang term for gun.”

Wessi – western German (1993)
“Wessi is a slang term for a western German.”

Doobie – marijuana cigarette (1994)
“At 18, Mr. Hartman was the drummer for the band, which took the ‘doobie’ in its name from a slang word for a marijuana cigarette.”

Piece – gun (1994)
“Hemingway called her a piece, a slang word for gun.”

Gas – steroids (1994)
“Earlier, the prosecutor, Sean O’Shea, had established that ‘gas’ is sometimes used as a slang term for steroids.”

Diss – a perceived act of disrespect (1994)
“‘What you basically have here is an officer who felt dissed because a football hit his car,’ she concluded, using a slang term for a perceived act of disrespect.”

Chiboogan – a place to eat (1994)
“Chiboogan, which is a slang term for ‘a place to eat.’”

Freaking – acting lewd (1995)
“‘My Mom wrote y’all a letter, and she wants to know why y’all are always talking about freakin’, she asks, using a slang term for acting lewd.”

Jones – a drug craving (1995)
“‘And I have a tobacco jones,’ I added, using a slang term for a drug craving. “

Poindexter – nerd (1996)
“‘I’m hoping we can make the whole Poindexter thing cool,’ he said, using a slang word for nerd.”

Rubber – condom (1998)
“After class, she gingerly told him that he had stumbled upon a slang term for condom.”

Ten Benny – the alleged shoe size of Paul Newman (1998)
“The unfortunate title of Eric Bross’s first feature film, ‘Ten Benny,’ is a slang term for the alleged shoe size of Paul Newman.”

Bindlestiff – hobo (1998)
“Like other members of Bindlestiff—a slang term for hobo that was widely used in the 1920’s—Mr. Nelson has a wide range of acts in his repertoire, from juggling and horn tooting to fire eating.”

Juice – wine (1998)
“‘At $60 a bottle this is wonderful juice,’ he said, a slang word for wine in the industry.”

Macking – making out (1999)
“‘I don’t believe it, it’s like you’re macking with Jar Jar,’ she screeched, using a slang term for making out.”

Dork – penis (2001)
“The juvenile insult ‘dork’ is from a slang term for the penis, as are the Yiddish-derived terms “schmuck” and “putz.”

Juicing – taking steroids (2001)
“Mr. Joseph said he is no longer ‘juicing,’ a slang term for taking steroids, but had just finished a 10-week cycle of doses.”

Props – proper respect (2002)
“That’s it: props, coined on the West Cost in the music business, is a slang term for ‘proper respect’ and is now sweeping the country...”

Ends – money (2003)
“Grady sums up Sweetback’s business difficulties by saying to his brother, ‘We need ends,’ using a slang word for money.”

A minute – a lot of time (2005)
“‘He was coming around for a minute,’ said Mr. Mason, his childhood friend, using a slang term for a lot of time.”

Yat – a New Orleans resident (2005)
“‘You can’t take the city out of the yat, and you can’t take the yat out of the city,’ said Frank Searle, a longtime Baton Rouge resident, using a slang term for New Orleanians derived from the local greeting, ‘Where y’at?’”

Chronic – marijuana (2005)
“And Mr. Samberg found himself in the delicate position of having to explain to his mother that the song’s chorus is a play on words involving the name ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ and the word chronic, a slang term for marijuana.”

Coyotes – smugglers (2006)
“The assistant United States attorney who has led the prosecutions here, Daniel C. Rodriguez, in final arguments Friday described the Rodriguezes as ‘not just partners in marriage’ but ‘partners in crime’ and, using a slang term for smugglers, called on jurors ‘to send a message to these three coyotes.’”

Slags – loose women (2006)
“The prosecutors say Mr. Akbar, is heard on one of the surveillance tapes saying that a nightclub would be a good target because ‘no one could put their hands up and say they are innocent—all those slags dancing around,’ using a slang term for loose women.”

Fishscale – uncut cocaine (2006)
“Worst of all, he said he was planning a new album called ‘Fishscale,’ named after a slang term for uncut cocaine.”

Donk – shapely posterior (2006)
“One theory about the provenance of the name ‘donk’ is the resemblance of the Impala logo to a donkey; another is that it derives from a slang term for a shapely posterior.”

Mack daddy – an accomplished street hustler (2008)
“‘Obama is a long-legged mack daddy,’ using a slang term for an accomplished street hustler.”

Boffo – successful musical comedy or other light dramatic performance (2008)
“My dictionary defines boffo as a slang term for a very successful musical comedy or other light dramatic performance.”

Nookie – intercourse (2009)
“In the UK and Australia the word ‘nookie’ is a slang term for intercourse.”

Crotch rocket – high-performance sport motorcycle (2009)
“The Big City column on Saturday, about Sandra Fleming, a social worker for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York who visits her clients by motorcycle, misstated a slang term for a high-performance sport motorcycle. It is ‘crotch rocket,’ not ‘crash-rocket.’”

Hooters – a portion of the female anatomy (2010)
“‘The chain acknowledges that many consider “Hooters” a slang term for a portion of the female anatomy,’ the site says.”

Hawk – what makes Chicago the windy city (2011)
“‘Some of the benefits of being in the city were amorphous, just walking the streets, talking to people, feeling the Hawk’—a slang term for what makes Chicago the windy city—‘blowing in from the lake and hoping you’d absorb certain things by osmosis.’”

Whip – automobile (2011)
“In his opinion deciding a dispute between two companies in the business of after-market modifications to vehicles he dropped a footnote defining a ‘whip’ as ‘a slang term for an automobile.’”

Chocolate – hashish (2011)
“‘Why so much chocolate is still getting through is something that I just can’t understand,’ said José Manuel Jiménez, a 14-year police veteran, using a slang term for hashish.”

The Trap – a location where drugs are peddled (2011)
“Luger isn’t the first Southern rap producer to pair rattling, lawn-sprinkler-ish percussion with ominous synthesized orchestration—he has mostly been working within an established subgenre known as ‘trap music,’ a reference to ‘the trap,’ a slang term for a location where drugs are peddled. “

OOFY – rich (2011)
“Other things that fall into the category of ‘Outside Deb’s Ken’ were the term ‘Brickyard’ for motor racing, or that OOFY is a slang term for ‘rich’ (really?)”

Whack – crazy (2011)
“Kemp had 39 homers and 40 stolen bases. Kemp said it was ‘whack’—a slang word for crazy that he uses often—to imagine his 40-40 goal dying on the warning track and winding up as the league’s most valuable player anyway.”

Hamsters – moscow's digitally connected youth (2013)
“‘Suddenly we—a huge number of Internet hamsters—we decided that we had had enough, we got together and we went out,’ Ms. Fotchenko said, using a slang term for Moscow’s digitally connected youth. “

Wonga – money (2013)
“The archbishop, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, made news last week by declaring what headline writers called war on Wonga, one of the biggest high-interest lenders whose name is derived from a slang term for money.”

Rocks – crack cocaine (2013)
“‘The mayor of the city, Rob Ford, was smoking his rocks today,’ another said, apparently referring to crack cocaine. Another gang member boasted on a wiretap that he had “so much pictures of Rob Ford doing the hezza,’ a slang term for heroin.”

Hezza – heroin (2013)
“‘The mayor of the city, Rob Ford, was smoking his rocks today,’ another said, apparently referring to crack cocaine. Another gang member boasted on a wiretap that he had ‘so much pictures of Rob Ford doing the hezza,’ a slang term for heroin.”

Jay – marijuana cigarette (2014)
“‘A ticket when you just have a jay or something?’ said Clifford Gray, a lifelong District of Columbia resident who is in his 20s, using a slang term for a marijuana cigarette.”

Wipe – handkerchief (1855)
“I have found by of late with and other low people, that Marianne is argot for guillotine, just as wipe is slang for handkerchief.”

Submissionist Party – loyal Union men (1861)
“With the Southern ‘arsenals and forts commanding their rivers and strategic points’ properly garrisoned, as urged by Gen. Scott upon Mr. Buchanan, it is admitted that ‘revolution would have been paralyzed in the whole South, and the Submissionist Party’—Secession slang for loyal Union men—‘would have been organized on a very different footing from what we now know.’”

Square – political slang for honest (1858)
“‘A square man,’ said Mr. Tucker once to a friend of mine—square being political slang for honest—‘can’t live in politics as they are now conducted.’”

A monkey – a sum of £500 (1877)
“A pony is turf slang for £25; a century means, of course, a hundred; while a monkey represents a sum of £500.”

Browns – bronze money (1884)
“In our day ‘browns’ is a slang term for bronze money.”

Gills – the lower part of the face (1888)
“‘Gills,’ a slang term for the lower part of the face, was used with much the same meaning by Ben Jonson, and by Lord Bacon.”

Chump – a sucker (1910)
“A chump is slang for a sucker.”

Honeyfugle – to wheedle or cajole (1912)
“‘To honeyfugle,’ according to the dictionary, is American slang for ‘wheedle’ or ‘cajole’ but ‘fugleman’ is good old English that was ‘made in Germany,’ where it was meant originally an expert soldier who led or directed the less skillful in military exercises.”

Fed up – used to depict the disgust of the speaker with the world in general or any subject in particular (1918)
“‘Fed up’ is one of the favorite expressions, and is used to depict the disgust of the speaker with the world in general or any subject in particular.”

Jag – an umbrella (1923)
“Jag is also a slang term for an umbrella, possibly from that article being so constantly carried.”

Flop – vaudeville slang for failure (1923)
“But he was a complete ‘flop,’ to use the descriptive vaudeville slang for failure.”

The Back Shop – railroad slang for the hospital where damaged and broken equipment is rebuilt (1925)
“The ‘back shop’ is railroad slang for the hospital where damaged and broken equipment is rebuilt.”

Vaudevilled – cut (1926)
“I had just had my tonsils Vaudevilled (slang for cut), When I came out of the ether there he was, cre as a traffic bull, and he proceeded to bawl me out.”

Money player – a player who plays his best under fire (1926)
“Besides, don’t forget that Dugan is a money player, which is the slang for a player who plays his best under fire.”

Stiver – a slang term for a penny in England (1928)
“‘Stiver,’ of course, although it is derived from The Dutch, has for scores of years been a slang term for a penny in England.”

Storm and Strife – wife (1929)
“He is credited, for example, with originating the phrase ‘storm and strife’ as a slang term for ‘wife.’”

Rhino – money (1938)
“As a slang term for money ‘rhino’ is dead.”

Prang – crash (1942)
“American fliers in the R.A.F. Eagle Squadrons have a slang word for crash. It is ‘prang.’”

Strobe – a slang term for an electronic flash or speed light (1951)
“For example; he defines strobe as a: slang, term for ‘electronic flash, but speed-light, another popular word meaning.”

Jitney – a nickel (1957)
“The term ‘jitney’ itself is believed to come from a slang term for nickel.”

Acid – the drug LSD (1970)
“Acid is a slang term for the drug LSD.”

Heads – marijuana smokers (1971)
“‘All the guys were heads,’ Mr. Lemon said, using a slang term for marijuana smokers.”

Greasers – ordinary working people (1972)
“‘Greasers’ is a slang term for ordinary working people, a synonym for another New Left term, the ‘Jumpen,’ from lumpen-proletariat.”

Grunt – infantryman (1972)
“‘Grunt,’ a slang word for an infantryman widely used by Americans, simulates tactical combat in Vietnam in 1965.”

Punk – young hoodlums (1977)
“Slanguist Eric Partridge speculates that punk is hobo lingo to describe very stale bread, perhaps from the French pain. Punk, applied to a person, began as a slang term for a catamite, or boy kept by a pederast, and later extended to cover young hoodlums.”

Boxcars – double sixes (1977)
“‘Boxcars’ is a slang term for double-sixes, which is a losing roll for bets on the ‘come line.’”

Weed – marijuana (1981)
“She told Mr. Klein that she drank and smoked, and said ‘every now and then I smoke a little weed,’ a slang term for marijuana.”

Coffin Nail – cigarette (1982)
“And the American Tobacco Institute is unlikely to enjoy reading that ‘coffin nail’ is a slang term for cigarette, derived from ‘the unhealthful effects of smoking cigarettes.’”

Codds Wallop – fizzy ale (1985)
“Mineral waters were sold in such bottles and, wallop being a slang term for fizzy ale, the contents became known as Codd’s Wallop.”

Bird – woman (1989)
“‘Bird’ being a slang term for woman, Janet Kauffman takes the image and makes it beautiful, ominous and eerie.”

Barry's body – crack (1990)
“‘They’re saying Scotty’s got Barry’s body,’ he said, using a slang term for crack.”

Joint – gun (1992)
“‘Joint’ is a slang term for gun.”

Wessi – western German (1993)
“Wessi is a slang term for a western German.”

Doobie – marijuana cigarette (1994)
“At 18, Mr. Hartman was the drummer for the band, which took the ‘doobie’ in its name from a slang word for a marijuana cigarette.”

Piece – gun (1994)
“Hemingway called her a piece, a slang word for gun.”

Gas – steroids (1994)
“Earlier, the prosecutor, Sean O’Shea, had established that ‘gas’ is sometimes used as a slang term for steroids.”

Diss – a perceived act of disrespect (1994)
“‘What you basically have here is an officer who felt dissed because a football hit his car,’ she concluded, using a slang term for a perceived act of disrespect.”

Chiboogan – a place to eat (1994)
“Chiboogan, which is a slang term for ‘a place to eat.’”

Freaking – acting lewd (1995)
“‘My Mom wrote y’all a letter, and she wants to know why y’all are always talking about freakin’, she asks, using a slang term for acting lewd.”

Jones – a drug craving (1995)
“‘And I have a tobacco jones,’ I added, using a slang term for a drug craving. “

Poindexter – nerd (1996)
“‘I’m hoping we can make the whole Poindexter thing cool,’ he said, using a slang word for nerd.”

Rubber – condom (1998)
“After class, she gingerly told him that he had stumbled upon a slang term for condom.”

Ten Benny – the alleged shoe size of Paul Newman (1998)
“The unfortunate title of Eric Bross’s first feature film, ‘Ten Benny,’ is a slang term for the alleged shoe size of Paul Newman.”

Bindlestiff – hobo (1998)
“Like other members of Bindlestiff—a slang term for hobo that was widely used in the 1920’s—Mr. Nelson has a wide range of acts in his repertoire, from juggling and horn tooting to fire eating.”

Juice – wine (1998)
“‘At $60 a bottle this is wonderful juice,’ he said, a slang word for wine in the industry.”

Macking – making out (1999)
“‘I don’t believe it, it’s like you’re macking with Jar Jar,’ she screeched, using a slang term for making out.”

Dork – penis (2001)
“The juvenile insult ‘dork’ is from a slang term for the penis, as are the Yiddish-derived terms “schmuck” and “putz.”

Juicing – taking steroids (2001)
“Mr. Joseph said he is no longer ‘juicing,’ a slang term for taking steroids, but had just finished a 10-week cycle of doses.”

Props – proper respect (2002)
“That’s it: props, coined on the West Cost in the music business, is a slang term for ‘proper respect’ and is now sweeping the country...”

Ends – money (2003)
“Grady sums up Sweetback’s business difficulties by saying to his brother, ‘We need ends,’ using a slang word for money.”

A minute – a lot of time (2005)
“‘He was coming around for a minute,’ said Mr. Mason, his childhood friend, using a slang term for a lot of time.”

Yat – a New Orleans resident (2005)
“‘You can’t take the city out of the yat, and you can’t take the yat out of the city,’ said Frank Searle, a longtime Baton Rouge resident, using a slang term for New Orleanians derived from the local greeting, ‘Where y’at?’”

Chronic – marijuana (2005)
“And Mr. Samberg found himself in the delicate position of having to explain to his mother that the song’s chorus is a play on words involving the name ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ and the word chronic, a slang term for marijuana.”

Coyotes – smugglers (2006)
“The assistant United States attorney who has led the prosecutions here, Daniel C. Rodriguez, in final arguments Friday described the Rodriguezes as ‘not just partners in marriage’ but ‘partners in crime’ and, using a slang term for smugglers, called on jurors ‘to send a message to these three coyotes.’”

Slags – loose women (2006)
“The prosecutors say Mr. Akbar, is heard on one of the surveillance tapes saying that a nightclub would be a good target because ‘no one could put their hands up and say they are innocent—all those slags dancing around,’ using a slang term for loose women.”

Fishscale – uncut cocaine (2006)
“Worst of all, he said he was planning a new album called ‘Fishscale,’ named after a slang term for uncut cocaine.”

Donk – shapely posterior (2006)
“One theory about the provenance of the name ‘donk’ is the resemblance of the Impala logo to a donkey; another is that it derives from a slang term for a shapely posterior.”

Mack daddy – an accomplished street hustler (2008)
“‘Obama is a long-legged mack daddy,’ using a slang term for an accomplished street hustler.”

Boffo – successful musical comedy or other light dramatic performance (2008)
“My dictionary defines boffo as a slang term for a very successful musical comedy or other light dramatic performance.”

Nookie – intercourse (2009)
“In the UK and Australia the word ‘nookie’ is a slang term for intercourse.”

Crotch rocket – high-performance sport motorcycle (2009)
“The Big City column on Saturday, about Sandra Fleming, a social worker for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York who visits her clients by motorcycle, misstated a slang term for a high-performance sport motorcycle. It is ‘crotch rocket,’ not ‘crash-rocket.’”

Hooters – a portion of the female anatomy (2010)
“‘The chain acknowledges that many consider “Hooters” a slang term for a portion of the female anatomy,’ the site says.”

Hawk – what makes Chicago the windy city (2011)
“‘Some of the benefits of being in the city were amorphous, just walking the streets, talking to people, feeling the Hawk’—a slang term for what makes Chicago the windy city—‘blowing in from the lake and hoping you’d absorb certain things by osmosis.’”

Whip – automobile (2011)
“In his opinion deciding a dispute between two companies in the business of after-market modifications to vehicles he dropped a footnote defining a ‘whip’ as ‘a slang term for an automobile.’”

Chocolate – hashish (2011)
“‘Why so much chocolate is still getting through is something that I just can’t understand,’ said José Manuel Jiménez, a 14-year police veteran, using a slang term for hashish.”

The Trap – a location where drugs are peddled (2011)
“Luger isn’t the first Southern rap producer to pair rattling, lawn-sprinkler-ish percussion with ominous synthesized orchestration—he has mostly been working within an established subgenre known as ‘trap music,’ a reference to ‘the trap,’ a slang term for a location where drugs are peddled. “

OOFY – rich (2011)
“Other things that fall into the category of ‘Outside Deb’s Ken’ were the term ‘Brickyard’ for motor racing, or that OOFY is a slang term for ‘rich’ (really?)”

Whack – crazy (2011)
“Kemp had 39 homers and 40 stolen bases. Kemp said it was ‘whack’—a slang word for crazy that he uses often—to imagine his 40-40 goal dying on the warning track and winding up as the league’s most valuable player anyway.”

Hamsters – moscow's digitally connected youth (2013)
“‘Suddenly we—a huge number of Internet hamsters—we decided that we had had enough, we got together and we went out,’ Ms. Fotchenko said, using a slang term for Moscow’s digitally connected youth. “

Wonga – money (2013)
“The archbishop, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, made news last week by declaring what headline writers called war on Wonga, one of the biggest high-interest lenders whose name is derived from a slang term for money.”

Rocks – crack cocaine (2013)
“‘The mayor of the city, Rob Ford, was smoking his rocks today,’ another said, apparently referring to crack cocaine. Another gang member boasted on a wiretap that he had “so much pictures of Rob Ford doing the hezza,’ a slang term for heroin.”

Hezza – heroin (2013)
“‘The mayor of the city, Rob Ford, was smoking his rocks today,’ another said, apparently referring to crack cocaine. Another gang member boasted on a wiretap that he had ‘so much pictures of Rob Ford doing the hezza,’ a slang term for heroin.”

Jay – marijuana cigarette (2014)
“‘A ticket when you just have a jay or something?’ said Clifford Gray, a lifelong District of Columbia resident who is in his 20s, using a slang term for a marijuana cigarette.”
posted by sfenders at 1:51 PM on August 19 [4 favorites]


Browns (1884): “In our day ‘browns’ is a slang term for bronze money.”

Hooters (2010): “‘The chain acknowledges that many consider “Hooters” a slang term for a portion of the female anatomy,’ the site says.”

Submissionist Party (1861): “With the Southern ‘arsenals and forts commanding their rivers and strategic points’ properly garrisoned, as urged by Gen. Scott upon Mr. Buchanan, it is admitted that ‘revolution would have been paralyzed in the whole South, and the Submissionist Party’—Secession slang for loyal Union men—‘would have been organized on a very different footing from what we now know.’”

Yeah, the tone of these makes the Times amusing in the present, and very very helpful in the future, which are both good outcomes.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:59 PM on August 19 [4 favorites]


> Wipe – handkerchief (1855)
“I have found by of late with and other low people, that Marianne is argot for guillotine, just as wipe is slang for handkerchief.”


This is some kind of OCR error; the original article says “I have found by associating of late with criminals and other low people, that Marianne is argot for guillotine, just as wipe is slang for handkerchief.”

And Eyebrows McGee has it right: it's both possible and recommended to combine appreciation for the educational value of the explanations with laughter at the pompous manner of the Gray Lady.
posted by languagehat at 2:05 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


It's not just that phrase that allows you to find journalists conveniently defining and pointing out words worthy of attention. I have hundreds such phrases — some very productive, some less so — that I have used to find new words since 2003. I wrote about it on page ix of my book, the Official Dictionary of Unofficial English (McGraw Hill, 2006) which is available here for free download.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:06 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]


it's both possible and recommended to combine appreciation for the educational value of the explanations with laughter at the pompous manner of the Gray Lady.

Most though I don't read as pompous so much as involving a kind of posterity targeting clinical and curatorial detachment. It's more like the definitions are imagined as little specimen jars than that they are peering down their nose in disdain. Now if it were the London Times...
posted by batfish at 7:08 PM on August 19


I love how this 1997 trailer for the movie Booty Call includes helpful definitions of both "booty" and "booty call."
posted by jonp72 at 6:56 PM on August 20


What Makes A Word Real? (transcript)
Before I go any further, let me clarify my role in all of this. I do not write dictionaries. I do, however, collect new words much the way dictionary editors do, and the great thing about being a historian of the English language is that I get to call this "research." When I teach the history of the English language, I require that students teach me two new slang words before I will begin class. Over the years, I have learned some great new slang this way, including "hangry," which -- (Applause) — which is when you are cranky or angry because you are hungry, and "adorkable," which is when you are adorable in kind of a dorky way, clearly, terrific words that fill important gaps in the English language. (Laughter) But how real are they if we use them primarily as slang and they don't yet appear in a dictionary?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:17 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


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