GOOD

Do You Speak College Slang?

Swagger Jackers and Harlot Davidsons Get the Ews! Ah, college... What memories. I was the chicken-finger-eating champion of my dorm. I...

Swagger Jackers and Harlot Davidsons Get the Ews!

Ah, college... What memories. I was the chicken-finger-eating champion of my dorm. I introduced Evildead 2 to approximately 47 friends. I marched on Washington for causes I have completely forgotten, and I danced myself silly at hundreds of concerts. Despite having less musical ability than a brick, I was in two bands myself.


I was also more saturated in slang than at any other time of my life. College has always been an ultimate petri dish for slang: That’s what you get when hordes of young people with identities in flux gather and gab. In honor of the recently begun college year, here’s a look at some current college slang that is totally off the chain.

In his remarkable book Slang: The People’s Poetry, Michael Adams praised the creativity of slang, saying that “Like poetry, slang is the aesthetic exercise of linguistic ingenuity.” It’s easy (and boring) to say that someone is crazy or (more respectfully) that they have mental health issues. Only with slang can say how we really feel at times: that a dude is a total weapons-grade nutbucket.

Besides this creativity and irreverence, slang also tends to exist within specific groups, and to reinforce the boundaries of those groups. As Connie Eble wrote in Slang and Sociability: In-Group Language Among College Students, “Sharing and maintaining a constantly changing in-group vocabulary aids group solidarity and serves to include and exclude members. In this respect, slang is the linguistic counterpart of fashion and serves much the same purpose.” So a slang term is the equivalent of one of those odd moose hats worn by lodge members—it may be goofy and over-the-top, but hey, it’s just what we do around here.

Eble—an English professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—was kind enough to share her latest slang list with me. She’s been collecting such lists of “good, current campus slang” since 1972 in her undergraduate English classes. The lists are not just about collecting new slang, but about seeing what older slang is still in use, so I wasn’t surprised to find familiar terms like “absofreakinlutely,” “alrighty,” “blow off,” “craptastic,” “food coma,” “hammered,” “hook up,” “preggers,” “splitsville,” and “tramp stamp.” Though slang has a reputation for being ephemeral, some terms do stick around for decades—look at what a run “cool” has had.

On her list were also many terms I have never seen before. Before I get to them, a disclaimer: these terms don’t necessarily go beyond undergrads at the University of North Carolina, though many obviously do. You could probably find most of them on Urban Dictionary and who knows where else. The point is that they are verified ingredients in the cauldron of slang among current students. As Adams writes, “Slang is a flexible set of linguistic practices (including but not limited to vocabulary) that we use to fit in and to stand out, that is, that we use to mark group membership on one hand, individual social and linguistic identity on the other.” These terms are part of how UNC students are fitting in, standing out, and having a linguistic blast.

Eble’s collection includes terms formed by just about every method of word creation. There are blends like “beeramid” (a pyramid of empty beer cans), “Helltober” (hell plus October), and “procrastichat,” (a chat that is a form of procrastination—a college classic). There are exaggerated pronunciations—like “bruh” for bro and “mayne” for “man.” Rhyme creates some terms, like “dorm storm,” meaning to annoy residents by going door-to-door looking for signatures. Some words shift in meaning, such as “belligerent” as a term for drunk, no doubt due to the time-honored tradition of the belligerent drunk. Terms also shift in part of speech, as shown by the movement of “ew” from interjection to noun. Eble provides this example: “My date was nice, but he gave me the ews.” (Like the heebie-jeebies, the creeps, and the willies, you do not want the ews.)

Pop culture makes a big impression on college slang. Many terms—like “guido,” “creep on,” and “pouf”—are popularized by Jersey Shore. The expression “The cake is a lie!” comes from the videogame Portal. “Meh” and “totes magotes” (meaning “totally”) come from The Simpsons and I Love You, Man respectively. “M’kay” was used on Beavis and Butthead as well as by smarmy Lumbergh in Office Space. “That’s what she said” is older than The Office, but the American version made it a staple of slangy humor. By email, Eble said, “My impression is that more and more references to popular culture are showing up.” That seems like a valid impression, and she’s planning a more scholarly look at past slang lists to see if the numbers back it up.

Some terms are spectacularly creative and useful. “Ham sandwich!” is a “Holy crap!”-like exclamation that would fit well in the absurd world of Anchorman. We all probably know an “askhole”—the kind of person who asks a lot idiotic questions. A “Harlot Davidson” isn’t a female biker, but a woman in a long-distance relationship who blabs about that relationship at a party and then hooks up with another dude anyway. Then there’s “fubarose”—a mix of F-word-derived slang and chemistry jargon used by chem majors to mean an “impure carbohydrate mixture, an undesired product of sugar synthesis.” Though “fubarose” has a science-specific meaning, I wonder if the inventors of this word have accidentally found the building block of everything in the universe. If we’re all made of fubarose, that would explain a few things.

Though I am usually a proponent of expanding your vocabulary and adopting lonely words into new homes, I can’t recommend slipping any of these terms into your latest blog posts and protest signs. The risks of sounding like a swagger jacker—“someone who copies another's distinctive style"—are just too great.

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health