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Иностранные языки и языкознание


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Chapter I. Characteristic features of Slang… 2

1. Feature Articles: Magical Slang: Ritual, Language and Trench Slang of the Western front… 2

2. Background of Cockney English… … 13

Chapter II. Slang and the Dictionary. … … 17

1. What is slang… 17

2. Slang Lexicographers… …18

3. The Bloomsbury Dictionary Of Contemporary slang… …20

4. Slang at the Millennium… 22

5. Examples of slang… 24

Conclusion… 35

Literature… 38


Slangizms are a very interesting groups of words. One of the characteristics of slangizm is that they are not included into Standard English

EG: mug = face; trap = mouth

Such words are based on metaphor, they make speech unexpected, vivid and sometimes difficult to understand.

Slang appears as a language of a subgroup in a language community. We can speak of black-americans' slang, teenagers' slang, navy and army slang.

Feature Articles: Magical Slang: Ritual, Language and Trench Slang of the Western Front

Unprecedented in its conditions, ferocity, and slaughter, the First World War was also unprecedented in its effect on the psyches of the men who fought and on the languages they spoke. Like the soldiers who spoke it, English emerged from the war, as Samuel Hynes maintains, a «damaged» language, «shorn of its high-rhetorical top…» (1)

French linguistic purists, led by the Academie Francaise, vigorously denounced damaging incursions of journalistic language and trench slang into standard French. (2) Only in Germany did a nationalist ideology with its high rhetoric of struggle, sacrifice, and military glory survive, adopted and nourished first by rightist veterans' groups and paramilitary formations, and finally institutionalised by the National Socialists and their leader, former Frontsoldat Adolf Hitler.

But whatever damage the war may have wrought on the «high» language is, in a sense, compensated by the emergence of two new popular «languages» of great interest to the historian. One is the language of popular journalism; already well-established in 1914, it was characterised by its own chauvinistic diction and aggressively patriotic attitude and was the means by which most civilians got information about the war.

Universally excoriated by the fighting troops as bourrage de crone (head stuffing, i.e. false stories) and Hurrah-patriotismus (hurrah patriotism), journalistic prose nevertheless significantly shaped civilian attitudes about the war and soldiers' attitudes about the press. (3) French troops called the official war bulletin le petit menteur (the little liar). The other language was, of course, what we call trench slang, the common idiom of the front. The literate mass armies trapped in the entrenched stalemate of the First World War provided a fertile medium for the development and dissemination of the special language of the trenches. (4)

In this essay, I intend to focus on the two predominant roles of slang in the context of the Western Front: its denotation of membership in the community of combat soldiers, and its magical or talismanic function as the protective language of that community and its individual members. The selected examples are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive.

Among the many rhetorical and social functions of slang and jargon, that of defining and delimiting a social group by reinforcing its social, professional and often visual identity with a verbal one is broadly significant. (5)

Robert Chapman has noted that «an individual… resorts to slang as a means of attesting membership in the group and of dividing himself… off from the mainstream culture.» (6)

Niceforo neatly pinpoints the genesis of slang: «sentir differement, c’est parler diffJrement; - s’occuper differement, c’est aussi parler differement» («to feel differently is to speak differently; - to occupy oneself differently is also to speak differently»). (7) The creation of a verbal identity based on occupation and feeling is particularly marked in military society, where social function, enforced separation from the civilian world, and uniform appearance already distinguish the members of a circumscribed, hierarchical society from outsiders.

It would be useful at this point to differentiate between the terms «jargon» and «slang» in a military context, as both exist, are sometimes commingled, and often confused. (8) By jargon I mean the language of the profession, consisting primarily of technical terms (including acronyms) proper to the military service, what Flexner calls «shop-talk.» (9) In current American military jargon, for example, the acronym PCS, which stands for Permanent Change of Station, appears occasionally as a noun, as in «Did you have a good PCS?» but more frequently as a verbal structure, as in «He PCSed last month» or «She's PCSing in January. «

The «alphabet soup» of acronyms, an enduring characteristic of military jargon, first appeared in bewildering array in the First World War, although some had existed earlier. (10) Military jargon is, of course, not limited to acronyms, but includes such things as abbreviations for weapons and equipment, terms for promotion and failure, punishments under the code and the like.

Genuine slang, on the other hand, generally eschews technical terms in favour of the renaming of objects and actions, and the invention of neologisms. Chapman remarks that slang relies heavily on «figurative idiom… (and) inventive and poetic terms, especially metaphors.» (11) Partridge likewise signals the importance of metaphor and figurative language of all sorts. (12)

Drawing again on current American usage, the gold oak leaves on a field-grade army officer’s hat become «scrambled eggs» and the collective designation for senior officers is «brass hats» or simply «the brass,» a phrase which, along with many others from the two world wars, has migrated into the general vocabulary. (13)

The hats of field-grade air force officers are decorated with stylised clouds and bolts of lightning, universally dubbed «darts and farts.» Similarly a colonel, who wears eagles as his insignia, is distinguished from a lieutenant colonel by being called an «eagle-colonel,» or with the fine pejorative edge present in «scrambled eggs» and «darts and farts,» a «chicken colonel.» To the disparagement implicit in such phrases, I shall shortly return.

The military proclivity for acronyms occasionally and amusingly spills over into true slang. A famous instance is that Second World War favourite «SNAFU,» politely rendered as «situation normal, all fouled up.» A rudimentary knowledge of scatological language will quickly provide the ruder and more popular version. (14)

In wartime, the general store of military slang is augmented by a special subspecies — the slang of combat troops.

Such troops use the general slang but employ, in addition, a vocabulary unique to their situation. The slang of combat troops distances its users from the safe, punctilious (and by implication, cowardly) rear echelons, while concomitantly reinforcing the separate identity and moral superiority of the combat units. (15)

Anyone familiar with the literature of World War I will immediately recall the pervasive «us vs. them» mentality of front and rear and the suffocating smugness of staff officers. The front line troops psychologically and linguistically occupied the moral high ground of courage, suffering and sacrifice, leaving the rear to hold the low ground of shirking and blind adherence to form and tradition at the cost of lives. Franz Schauwecker wrote that there was a crack in the structure of the army that «ran parallel to the front somewhere just outside the range of enemy fire.» (16)

Before examining the characteristic language of the trench soldiers of World War I, let us briefly review the physical and psychological stresses inherent in the static trench systems of the Western Front, and the ways in which the troops coped with those pressures. In the forty years of European peace that followed the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the general staffs of the armies analysed the campaigns, drew their conclusions, and plotted their strategies for the rematch that most were convinced was inevitable.

Unlikely as it may seem, the generals of victorious Germany and defeated France arrived at the same conclusions: only total offensive — offensive B l’outrance — could ensure victory. While the Germans planned the von Schlieffen offensive, Revanche became the motive force behind French military planning in the years between the wars. (17)

With all sides (including the British, despite their experience in the Boer War) committed to the theory of the offensive, the sudden concretion of the long-awaited war into defensive entrenchment baffled even the generals. In their obsession with the offensive, and with its psychological component of troop morale, they had failed to recognize that the enormous technological advances in weaponry worked more to the benefit of defence than of offence. The Western Front was shaped by artillery, the machine gun, barbed wire, and the spade. As early as October of 1914, a prescient young German officer wrote to a friend that

(t)he brisk, merry war to which we have all looked forward for years has taken an unforeseen turn. Troops are murdered with machines, horses have almost become superfluous… The most important people are the engineers… the theories of decades are shown to be worthless. (18)

Unfortunately for the miserable troops mired in the wet, cold, and filthy trenches, the generals refused to accept the deadly efficacy of the defensive weapons, and spent the first three years of the war mounting one costly frontal assault after another, until the abortive Nivelle offensive of May 1917 precipitated the mutiny of the French army and ended what J.M. Winter calls «the great slaughter.» (19)

What, then, was the effect of trench warfare on the soldiers? First, the experience of war was an initiatory one. That is, the experience is, per se, so remarkable that no one who has not experienced it can ever share it or understand it. (20)

For Aldington soldiers were «men segregated from the world in this immense barbaric tumult.» (21) «Ein Geschlecht wie das unsere ist noch nie in die Arena der Erde geschritten,» («A generation such as ours has never before stepped into the arena of the earth») proclaimed Ernst Junger. (22)

This «initiate mentality» among combat troops was immeasurably strengthened in World War I by the characteristics of the fighting, the first of which was a tactical stasis that imposed physical inertia on the front line troops. The soldiers were literally immobilised in a maze of trenches, subjected to severe shelling and regular sniping, to say nothing of the rigours of outdoor life in northern Europe, with virtually no reliable protection from any of them. It is little wonder that the most common metaphor for the trench system, and by extension the war itself, was the labyrinth, a true «initiatory underground.» (23)

It was not lost on German troops that the root word of der Schhtzengraben (trench) was das Grab, a grave. In Otto Dix’s lost painting, Der Schhtzengraben, the trench becomes a grotesque grave filled with horribly mutilated bodies.

The group identity of the «troglodytes» (to borrow Fussell’s term) emerges in the striking special language of trench slang. In his preface to Dechelette’s dictionary, Georges Lentre recounts hearing a conversation between two soldiers that appeared to be mutually intelligible, but which he found incomprehensible. (24)

Against the incomprehension of the rear and the patriotic drivel of the press, the troops erected a linguistic wall that Jacques Meyer perceptively calls «le language d’une franc-mahonnerie» («a language of free-masons»). (25)

The sense of identity and community is evident in what the soldiers called themselves. The usual two-week stint in the front and reserve lines tended to leave soldiers filthy, lousy, unshaven, and exhausted. (26) For the Germans, a front line infantryman was a Frontschwein, a front pig. For the French, he was a poilu, literally a hairy beast, as the noun poil is used primarily for the hair of animals. Dauzat points out that the term implies more than just an unshaven man, because the poilu is hairy, as he delicately puts it, «au bon endroit,» — a traditional symbol of virility. (27)

In neither case is the animal reference pejorative. Bill Mauldin’s World War II cartoons of «GI Joe» stand in the same tradition of affectionate commonality, all contempt reserved for those who are not a part of the community of combat.

The sense of community felt by the combat troops (a bond particularly marked among the Germans) was reinforced by the mass of war material thrown against them.

The Germans, in fact, use the phrase «war of material» (Materialschlacht) instead of «war of attrition» for the 1916−1918 period.

Front line soldiers often felt that they had more in common with the enemy soldiers in the trenches opposite than with their own rear echelon troops and the people at home. That sense of a common bond of suffering is reflected in the slang names for opposing and even allied forces. With the exception of boche, and perhaps «Hun,» to which I shall return, epithets for opposing forces were generally based on a stereotypical national name or characteristic or a deformed foreign phrase, and were largely inoffensive.

On the German side, the favoured names for the French were Franzmann and several names based on germanised French phrases: Parlewuhs (parlez-vous), Wulewuhs (voulez-vous), Olala, and the very popular Tulemong (tous le monde). (28) For British soldiers, the Germans, like the French, used «Tommy,» although naturally deforming the pronunciation.

English soldiers employed a variety of epithets for the Germans. «Fritz» was popular early in the war, with «Jerry» favoured later. According to Brophy, «Hun,» a journalistic creation, was used almost exclusively by officers, as was the borrowed French «Boche. «

Although the French used Fritz as well, Boche was the term of choice. Its etymology is complex and uncertain, (29) but its pejorative implications of obstinacy and generally uncivilised behaviour are undeniable. The Germans loathed the word and considered it a profound insult. Bergmann claimed that the Germans used no such derogatory terms, for «wir Deutschen wissen uns zum Glhck frei von… kindischen Hass» («we Germans know ourselves to be happily free from such childish hatred»), but Dauzat disputes that. (30)

The unusually derogatory nature of Boche may reflect French bitterness over the defeat of 1870 and the invasion of 1914. Dauzat insists that Boche is a «mot de l’arripre» («a word of the rear»), and that the soldiers preferred Fritz, Pointu (for the pre-1916 German spiked helmets) or even Michel for artillerymen. (31) Nevertheless, the other collective epithets suggest, in their general mildness, that the front line troops considered enemy soldiers less dangerous than the men to their rear.

Entrapment, immobility, and alienation led to what Leed has called «the breakdown of the offensive personality.» (32) Instead of being a mobile offensive warrior, the soldier of trench warfare was «humble, patient, enduring, an individual whose purpose was to survive a war that was a 'dreadful resignation, a renunciation, a humiliation. '» (33)

A young German soldier, Johannes Philippson, wrote home in the summer of 1917 that «only genuine self-command is any use to me.» (34) French historian Marc Bloch described the feelings of his troops in December 1914: «Trench warfare had become so slow, so dreary, so debilitating to body and soul that even the least brave among us wholeheartedly welcomed the prospect of an attack.» (35)

How, then, could soldiers combat the soul-killing existence in the trenches and the ever-present fear of death and wounds? One method was through a reliance on talismans and rituals. As Fussell has noted «no front-line soldier or officer was without his amulet and every tunic pocket became a reliquary… so urgent was the need that no talisman was too absurd.» (36)

Luck also depended on ritual — on doing some things and refraining from others, doing things in threes for example, or Graves' conviction that his survival was due to the preservation of his virginity. (37) Another form of talismanic protection was provided by the use of slang. Niceforo defines «magical slang» («l'argot magique») as the language used by individuals when they fear (for reasons having a magical basis) to call things and people by their real names. (38)

Slang allowed the troops to create a ritualised discourse, fully intelligible only to the initiates, that suppressed fear by avoiding any mention by name of death, wounds, weapons, and the authorities whose orders could expose a soldier to those dangers. In short, the trench slang of World War I served a protective function by creating a language that familiarised, trivialised, and disparaged those objects and persons posing the greatest danger to the individual soldier.

One of the most important taboos in the language of soldiers was any mention of death. While the author of a novel or memoir may state in a narrative capacity that someone was killed or wounded, such statements are nearly non-existent in the dialogues of soldiers. Niceforo notes that the taboo against mentioning death is very widespread, even in modern cultures. (39)

The taboo is particularly strong when death is omnipresent. A «Tommy» might say «He's gone west» or «He's hopped it.» The Germans simply said Er ist aus (He's gone, done for). (40) A poilu remarked that his comrade had earned la croix de bois, the wooden cross, probably an ironic formation on croix de guerre. The important decorations for valour on all sides in the First World War were in the shape of a cross, providing ample scope for metaphoric formations.

As an interesting comment on the insignificance of medals to common soldiers, German Frontsoldaten scathingly called all decorations Zinnwaren, (tinware), while the French referred to them as batterie de cuisine (cookware).

Wounds were handled in much the same way. British and German troops had similar expressions for desirable wounds, just serious enough to ensure that the wounded man would be evacuated home. For the British, such a wound was a «Blighty,» a term derived from a Hindu word meaning a foreign country and taken up by British troops in India to refer to Britain.

For the Germans, it was a Heimatschuss (a home shot), or an Urlaubschuss (a leave shot), or even a Deutschlandschuss (a shot that gets one to Germany). For the French, who were already on home ground, une fine blessure, (the adjective weakens the gravity of the noun), nevertheless ensured evacuation and convalescence far from the front.

The tendency to familiarise and trivialise is most apparent in the names for weapons. In the age of the Materialschlacht, the terrifying killing and maiming power of high explosives posed the greatest threat to infantrymen on the Western Front, followed by rifle and machine-gun fire. The distant impersonality of the killing (one scarcely ever saw the enemy), and its unpredictability made it particularly threatening.

Trivializing names for weapons and their projectiles reduced the psychological sense of danger. Bergmann notes that the tradition of naming heavy guns reaches at least to the early seventeenth century. (41) The soldiers of the Great War, faced with the most destructive technology then known, were not behindhand. All the combatants referred to the various artillery weapons by their calibres. Everyone spoke of «75s,» the French 75 millimetre field gun, and «180s,» the German heavy howitzer.

German field guns of various calibres were variously dubbed wilde Marie, dicke Marie, dicke Bertha (the famous «Big Bertha»), der liebe Fritz, der lange Max, and schlanke Emma. (42) The manoeuvrability of the French 75 was honoured in the name Feldhase (field hare). The French called their 75 Julot, which seems to have been one of the few French names in general circulation for heavy artillery pieces.

The French trench mortar, a squat, blunt-nosed gun with angled supports, was called «le crapouillot,» a word formed from «crapaud» (toad), either from its shape or the fact that its shells fired almost vertically and then dropped into the opposing trench line, much like the hop of a toad. Bergmann has correctly assessed the effect of naming guns for people (especially women) and animals: «…man sucht auch auf diesem Wege sich die unheimlichen Kriegsmaschinen n@her zu bringen, sie sich vertrauter zu machen und ihre Gefahr gleichsam geringer erscheinen zu lassen» («in this way one seeks to bring the sinister war machines closer, to make them more familiar and, as it were, to let their danger appear slighter»). (43)

The British seem to have been disinclined to name their guns, but all three languages are richly furnished with names for the projectiles, probably because ordinary infantrymen tended to be on the receiving end. Because of the large quantity of black smoke produced by the explosion, a heavy shell was called a «Jack Johnson», or a «coal-box. «

In French, a similar shell was un gros noir, and one that exploded with greenish smoke was un pernod, named after the popular drink. Others were saucissons (sausages), sacs B terre (sand bags) and marmites, named after the large, deep cooking pot of the same name. Germans called a heavy shell an Aschpott (ash pot) or a Marmeladeneimer (jam pot). The British trivialised the German mine thrower — the Minnenwerfer — by calling its whistling shells «singing Minnies,» thus reducing a dangerous weapon to the status of a harmless girl. (44)

Similarly, the German hand grenades, which had handles, quickly became known as «potato mashers,» which they did, indeed, resemble. The oval hand grenades of France and Britain were called les tortues (turtles) by the French and Ostereier (Easter eggs) by the Germans. A German discus-shaped hand grenade was a Nhrnberger Lebkuchen, the famous gingerbread Christmas cookie. In all of these cases, the movement is to trivialise and familiarise the weapons by noting a resemblance to something common, familiar, and above all, harmless.

The racial and sexual innuendo inherent in several of the slang names (i.e. Jack Johnson, Big Bertha) is part of the same pattern and reflects the attitudes of the period; it is not like the deliberately derogatory and ironic slang used for the rear echelons, as we shall see.

The front line troops also displayed the greatest inventiveness in their slang names for infantry weapons, colouring the euphemism with an ironic twist. Take, for example, the machine gun, the most dangerous infantry weapon. The Germans generally used the acronym MG for Maschinengewehr, although Stottertante (stuttering aunt) and Nuhmaschine (sewing machine) were current. (45) The British called their own machine guns Lewis guns and the enemy’s Maxim guns, named for their inventors.

But for the poilu, the machine gun became un moulin B cafe — a coffee mill — first because the early gatling-gun types were hand-cranked, and secondly for the sound they made. In any event, the gun was reduced to being a familiar household object in everyday use. Later in the war irony took over, and the machine gun was also called la machine B decoudre — a machine to rip open seams, ironically formed on machine B coudre (sewing machine). The verb decoudre also denotes the action of a horned animal ripping open its attackers, giving the phrase a sinister undertone.

But the cleverest French slang involves the bayonet. The French army had succumbed to a veritable cult of the bayonet in the period before the war. It was regarded as the infantry weapon par excellence, the embodiment of the offensive spirit, and the bayonet charge as the surest indication of military elan among foot soldiers — the infantry equivalent of a cavalry charge.

In the realities of trench combat, as Jean Norton Cru has shown, the bayonet, despite its sinister appearance and exalted reputation, was little used and produced minor wounds in comparison to the effects of shrapnel and bullets. (46)

But it was a favourite for nicknames, the most famous of which is Rosalie, from a 1914 song far more popular among civilians than among soldiers. (47) The bayonet was known as la fourchette (the fork), and le cure-dents (the toothpick), as well as a tire-Boche and a tourne-Boche. In the last cases Boche, as the general slang term for the Germans, is substituted into existing phrases.

The former comes from tire-bouchon, a corkscrew, possibly a reference to the twisting movement that soldiers were taught to use in a bayonet thrust. The latter, tourne-boche, is formed from tournebroche, a kitchen spit for roasting meat and fowl in the fireplace.

One of the most striking characteristics of slang is its inclination toward degradation rather than elevation, what Partridge following Carnoy has called dysphemism. (48) Niceforo calls it «l'esprit de degradation et de depreciation,» («the spirit of degradation and depreciation») and goes on to speak of slang as a form of assault directed at a higher class by an underclass. (49)

In its deliberate deformation of words, mispronunciation and taste for impropriety, slang may serve as the only act of rebellion allowed soldiers at war. While most mispronunciations of French place names were probably just that, a few are so wonderfully ironic that they must have been deliberate, such as the German deformation of Neufchatel to Neuschrapnell (new shrapnel). (50)

Fear, and the hatred it spawned, was directed above all toward the «powers that be,» the perfidious and murderous ils (they) as Meyer calls them. (51)

The combat soldiers' hatred of the rear, which certainly involved some envy as well as a sense of moral superiority, rested also on a sense of betrayal — the certainty that the powers, civilian or military, that ordered their lives cared little for them. As we will see, slang terms for rear echelon troops in French and German abound in animal and vegetal metaphors, constituting a figurative vilification of intelligence, courage, and manhood.

The conviction that their lives were not valued emerges in numerous guises in the slang, including slang used for food, which was, naturally, a major preoccupation of troops who were often badly fed. The men exercised their traditional right to grumble about the food and create disparaging epithets to describe it, a custom going back to the «grognards» of the Napoleonic Wars and beyond, and certainly continuing to our own time.

One of the staple rations in World War I was British canned beef, called «Bully» beef by the troops. («Bully» is probably a corruption of the French bouillie, boiled). The Germans also called it «Bully,» and liked it so well that they rarely returned from a trench raid without some, especially since German rations worsened as the war lengthened and the allied blockade cut off German resources.

By 1916, the staple of the German soldier’s diet was a mixture of dried vegetables, mostly beans, that the Frontsoldaten called Drahtverhau (barbed wire). Other German culinary delights included Stroh und Lehm (straw and mud — yellow peas with sauerkraut), and Schrapnellsuppe (shrapnel soup — undercooked pea or bean soup).

Jam, essential for softening stale bread, was Heldenbutter (hero's butter), Wagenschmiere (axle grease), and Kaiser-Wilhelm-Ged@chtnis-Schmiere (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Spread). (52) Some of these terms may refer specifically to the notorious turnip jam that became standard issue after the blockade and crop failures created severe shortages. Spread on ersatz bread made with sawdust and other fillers, it was neither appetizing nor nourishing.

The French did not share their enemy’s or ally’s taste for «Bully». They referred to it as singe, (monkey), and boTte B grimaces, for the grimaces it produced. Other regular items in the French soldier’s diet included schrapnells (undercooked peas or beans), and lentils, known as punaises (bugs).

They called a stew a rata, a shortened form of ratatouille, which in its general sense refers to a stew, not merely the vegetable stew which it designates in modern French. Rata however, also suggests the verb ratatiner (to shrivel or dry up), which may be a remark on the quality of army cooking.

The use of slang as insult, as defensive and offensive weapon, reached its peak in the front line soldier’s contempt for rear echelon soldiers and for civilians. The universal distain for the staffs, soldiers and officers alike, in their relatively safe and sheltered jobs, surfaces in all three languages with vitriolic implications of cowardice, greed, and self-seeking.

In the British army, staff officers were distinguished by the wearing of bright red shoulder tabs and hat bands. The colour constituted a visible symbol that the wearer did not belong to the colourless khaki and field-grey world of the front, where distinguishing marks were abolished because they made good targets for snipers. The frontline troops soon dubbed the tabs «The Red Badge of Funk.» (53) Along this line, one of the trench newspapers provided the following definition of «military terms»:

DUDS — These are of two kinds. A shell on impact
failing to explode is called a dud. They are unhappily
not as plentiful as the other kind, which often draws a
big salary and explodes for no reason. These are
plentiful away from the fighting areas. (54)

The implication of cowardice is less obvious in the French and German terms for staff officers, but the scorn is deepened by the use of animal references. In the German Frontschwein, used for the front soldiers, Schwein was an expression of community and commonality, almost of endearment.

But the equivalent term for headquarters soldiers, Etappenschwein, was entirely pejorative. The German focus, understandably, since the German troops were very ill-fed, was greed. Rear echelon troops were often called Speck (bacon), and one writer even referred to the Etappenschweine as «bellies on legs.» (55)

The French slang is inventively pejorative. For them, the headquarters sergeant was a chien de quartier, a headquarters dog. The choice of animal is significant, as chien is a broadly-used pejorative in French, common in such phrases as chien de temps (bad weather), chien de vie (a dog’s life) and Ltre chien (to be stingy).

The term in widest use for someone who had a safe job was embusquJ, whose first meaning is someone lying in ambush. The word consequently carries connotations both of hiding and, worse, of betrayal.

Another term, planquJ, has the original meaning of lying flat, ie. safely out of the line of fire; a similar term is assiettes plates (flat plates). The most insulting epithet is the opposite of poilu, JpilJ (someone who has been depilitated), implying the loss of the vaunted courage and virility of the poilu.

High ranking officers, invariably staff officers, since the troops rarely saw anyone above the rank of captain, were reduced to lJgumes (vegetables) and generals to grosses lJgumes (big vegetables). A brigadier’s stripes of rank were sardines, suggesting in French, as in English, a small, smelly fish.

In conclusion then, the unique conditions of the First World War (a war of defensive weapons led by generals obsessed with offensives) engendered a level of psychological stress in the combatants hitherto unknown in Europe. Along with talisman and ritual, the slang of the trenches provided a stylised discourse for the initiates of the labyrinth, through which they could define themselves as initiates, and simultaneously protect themselves from the constant awareness of their horrific situation.

As John Brophy has said of Great War soldiers' songs, the slang may not have diminished the soldier’s danger, but it «may well have reduced the emotional distress caused by fear, and aided him, after the experience, to pick his uncertain way back to sanity again.» (56)

Background of Cockney English:

Due to the fact that London is both the political capital and the largest city within England, Wells, (1982b) doesn’t find it surprising that it’s also the country’s «linguistic center of gravity.» Cockney represents the basilectal end of the London accent and can be considered the broadest form of London local accent. (Wells 1982b) It traditionally refers only to specific regions and speakers within the city. While many Londoners may speak what is referred to as «popular London» (Wells 1982b) they do not necessarily speak Cockney. The popular Londoner accent can be distinguished from Cockney in a number of ways, and can also be found outside of the capital, unlike the true Cockney accent.

The term Cockney refers to both the accent as well as to those people who speak it? The etymology of Cockney has long been discussed and disputed. One explanation is that «Cockney» literally means cock’s egg, a misshapen egg such as sometimes laid by young hens. It was originally used when referring to a weak townsman, opposed to the tougher countryman and by the 17th century the term, through banter, came to mean a Londoner (Liberman, 1996). Today’s natives of London, especially in its East End use the term with respect and pride — `Cockney Pride'.)

Cockney is characterized by its own special vocabulary and usage, and traditionally by its own development of «rhyming slang.» Rhyming slang, is still part of the true Cockney culture even if it is sometimes used for effect. More information on the way it works can be found under the Cockney English features section.

Geography of Cockney English:

London, the capital of England, is situated on the River Thames, approximately 50 miles north of the English Channel, in the south east section of the country. It is generally agreed, that to be a true Cockney, a person has to be born within hearing distance of the bells of St. Mary le Bow, Cheapside, in the City of London. This traditional working-class accent of the region is also associated with other suburbs in the eastern section of the city such as the East End, Stepney, Hackney, Shoreditch Poplar and Bow.

Sociolinguistic issues of Cockney English:

The Cockney accent is generally considered one of the broadest of the British accents and is heavily stimatized. It is considered to epitomize the working class accents of Londoners and in its more diluted form, of other areas. The area and its colorful characters and accents have often become the foundation for British «soap operas» and other television specials. Currently, the BBC is showing one of the most popular soaps set in this region, «East Enders» and the characters' accents and lives within this television program provide wonderful opportunities for observers of language and culture.

Features of Cockney English:

Some of the more characteristic features of the Cockney accent include the following:

· Monophthongization

This affects the lexical set mouth vowel.

· MOUTH vowel

Wells (1982b) believes that it is widely agreed that the «mouth» vowel is a «touchstone for distinguishing between „true Cockney“ and popular London» and other more standard accents. Cockney usage would include monophthongization of the word mouth


mouth = mauf rather than mouth

· Glottal stop

Wells (1982b) describes the glottal stop as also particularly characteristic of Cockney and can be manifested in different ways such as «t» glottalling in final position. A 1970's study of schoolchildren living in the East End found /p, t, k/ «almost invariably glottalized» in final position.


cat = up = sock =

It can also manifest itself as a bare as the realization of word internal intervocalic /t/


Waterloo = Wa’erloo City = Ci’y A drink of water = A drin' a wa’er A little bit of bread with a bit of butter on it = A li’le bi' of breab wiv a bi' of bu’er on i'.

As would be expected, an «Estuary English» speaker uses fewer glottal stops for t or d than a «London» speaker, but more than an RP speaker. However, there are some words where the omission of `t' has become very accepted.


Gatwick = Ga’wick

Scotland = Sco’land

statement = Sta’emen

network = Ne’work

· Dropped `h' at beginning of words (Voiceless glottal fricative)

In the working-class («common») accents throughout England, `h' dropping at the beginning of certain words is heard often, but it’s certainly heard more in Cockney, and in accents closer to Cockney on the continuum between that and RP. The usage is strongly stigmatized by teachers and many other standard speakers.


house = `ouse

hammer = `ammer

· TH fronting

Another very well known characteristic of Cockney is th fronting which involves the replacement of the dental fricatives, and by labiodentals [f] and [v] respectively.


thin = fin

brother = bruvver

three = free

bath = barf

· Vowel lowering


dinner = dinna

marrow= marra

· Prosody

The voice quality of Cockney has been described as typically involving «chest tone» rather than «head tone» and being equated with «rough and harsh» sounds versus the velvety smoothness of the Kensington or Mayfair accents spoken by those in other more upscale areas of London.

· Cockney Rhyming Slang

Cockney English is also characterized by its own special vocabulary and usage in the form of «cockney rhyming slang». The way it works is that you take a pair of associated words where the second word rhymes with the word you intend to say, then use the first word of the associated pair to indicate the word you originally intended to say. Some rhymes have been in use for years and are very well recognized, if not used, among speakers of other accents.


«apples and pears» — stairs

«plates of meat» — feet

There are others, however, that become established with the changing culture.


«John Cleese» — cheese

«John Major» — pager

Numerous examples and usage of rhyming slang can be found online. See Note 2 for information.

Slang and the Dictionary

Slang … an attempt of common humanity to escape from bald literalism, and express itself illimitably … the wholesome fermentation or eructation of those processes eternally active in language, by which froth and specks are thrown up, mostly to pass away, though occasionally to settle and permanently crystallise.

Walt Whitman, 1885

What is slang?

Most of us think that we recognise slang when we hear it or see it, but exactly how slang is defined and which terms should or should not be listed under that heading continue to be the subject of debate in the bar-room as much as in the classroom or university seminar. To arrive at a working definition of slang the first edition of the Bloomsbury Dictionary of Contemporary Slang approached the phenomenon from two slightly different angles. Firstly, slang is a style category within the language which occupies an extreme position on the spectrum of formality. Slang is at the end of the line; it lies beyond mere informality or colloquialism, where language is considered too racy, raffish, novel or unsavoury for use in conversation with strangers … So slang enforces intimacy. It often performs an important social function which is to include into or exclude from the intimate circle, using forms of language through which speakers identify with or function within social sub-groups, ranging from surfers, schoolchildren and yuppies, to criminals, drinkers and fornicators. These remain the essential features of slang at the end of the 1990s, although its extreme informality may now seem less shocking than it used to, and its users now include ravers, rappers and net-heads along with the miscreants traditionally cited.

There are other characteristics which have been used to delimit slang, but these may often be the result of prejudice and misunderstanding and not percipience. Slang has been referred to again and again as `illegitimate', `low and disreputable' and condemned by serious writers as `a sign and a cause of mental atrophy'(Oliver Wendell Holmes), `the advertisement of mental poverty'(James C. Fernal). Its in-built unorthodoxy has led to the assumption that slang in all its incarnations (metaphors, euphemisms, taboo words, catchphrases, nicknames, abbreviations and the rest) is somehow inherently substandard and unwholesome. But linguists and lexicographers cannot (or at least, should not) stigmatise words in the way that society may stigmatise the users of those words and, looked at objectively, slang is no more reprehensible than poetry, with which it has much in common in its creative playing with the conventions and mechanisms of language, its manipulation of metonymy, synechdoche, irony, its wit and inventiveness. In understanding this, and also that slang is a natural product of those `processes eternally active in language', Walt Whitman was ahead of his time.

More recently some writers (Halliday being an influential example) have claimed that the essence of slang is that it is language used in conscious opposition to authority. But slang does not have to be subversive; it may simply encode a shared experience, celebrate a common outlook which may be based as much on (relatively) innocent enjoyment (by, for instance, schoolchildren, drinkers, sports fans, Internet-users) as on illicit activities. Much slang, in fact, functions as an alternative vocabulary, replacing standard terms with more forceful, emotive or interesting versions just for the fun of it: hooter or conk for nose, mutt or pooch for dog, ankle-biter or crumb-snatcher for child are instances. Still hoping to find a defining characteristic, other experts have seized upon the rapid turnover of slang words and announced that this is the key element at work; that slang is concerned with faddishness and that its here-today-gone-tomorrow components are ungraspable and by implication inconsequential. Although novelty and innovation are very important in slang, a close examination of the whole lexicon reveals that, as Whitman had noted, it is not necessarily transient at all. The word punk, for example, has survived in the linguistic underground since the seventeenth century and among the slang synonyms for money — dosh, ackers, spondulicks, rhino, pelf — which were popular in the City of London in the 1990s are many which are more than a hundred years old. A well-known word like cool in its slang sense is still in use (and has been adopted by other languages, too), although it first appeared around eighty years ago.

Curiously, despite the public’s increasing fascination for slang, as evinced in newspaper and magazine articles and radio programmes, academic linguists in the UK have hitherto shunned it as a field of study. This may be due to a lingering conservatism, or to the fact that it is the standard varieties of English that have to be taught, but whatever the reasons the situation is very different elsewhere. In the US and Australia the study of slang is part of the curriculum in many institutions, in France, Spain, Holland, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe slang, and especially the slang of English, is the subject of more and more research projects and student theses; in all these places slang is discussed in symposia and in learned journals, while in Russia, China and Japan local editions of British and American slang dictionaries can be found on school bookshelves and in university libraries.

Slang Lexicographers

The first glossaries or lexicons of European slang on record were lists of the verbal curiosities used by thieves and ne’er-do-wells which were compiled in Germany and France in the fifteenth century. A hundred years later the first English collections appeared under the titles The Hye Waye to the Spytell House, by Copland, Fraternite of Vacabondes, by Awdeley, and Caveat for Common Cursetours, by Harman. Although dramatists and pamphleteers of seventeenth-century England made spirited use of slang in their works, it was not until the very end of the 1600s that the next important compilation, the first real dictionary of slang, appeared. This was A New Dictionary of the Terms ancient and modern of the Canting Crew by `B. E. Gent', a writer whose real identity is lost to us. In 1785, Captain Francis Grose published the first edition of his Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, the most important contribution to slang lexicography until John Camden Hotten’s Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words, 1859, which was overtaken its turn by Farmer and Henley’s more sophisticated Slang and its Analogues in 1890. All these were published in Britain and it was the New Zealander Eric Partridge’s single-handed masterwork A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, also published in London, in 1937, that, despite its lack of citations and sometimes eccentric etymologies, became the yardstick of slang scholarship at least until the arrival of more rigorously organised compendiums from the USA in the 1950s. Since then several larger reference works have been published, usually confining themselves to one geographical area and based mainly on written sources, together with a number of smaller, often excellent specialist dictionaries dealing with categories such as naval slang, Glaswegian slang, rhyming slang, the argot of police and criminals and the jargon of finance and high technology.

The Bloomsbury Dictionary Of Contemporary Slang

The Bloomsbury Dictionary of Contemporary Slang was first produced with the idea of combining the enthusiasms and instincts of a user of slang — someone who had been part of the subcultures and milieux where this language variety has flourished (and in later life still ventures into clubs, bars, music festivals, football matches and, on occasion, homeless shelters) — with the methods of the modern lexicographer (earlier work on the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English being a particular influence) and applied linguist. The first edition set out to record the 6,000 or so key terms and 15,000-odd definitions which formed the core of worldwide English language slang from 1950 to 1990: the new, updated edition, published in Autumn 1997, extends the time-frame almost to the millennium and expands the number of entries by two thousand, losing a few obscure, doubtfully attested or just plain uninteresting terms in the process. The dictionary aims to pick up the elusive and picturesque figures of speech that really are in use out there in the multiple anglophone speech communities, and many terms which appear in its pages have never been recorded before. In keeping with the modern principles of dictionary-making, the headwords which are listed here are defined as far as possible in natural, discursive language. The modern dictionary ideally moves beyond mere definition and tries to show how a term functions in the language, who uses it and when and why, what special associations or overtones it may have, perhaps even how it is pronounced. Where possible a history of the word and an indication of its origin will be included and its usage illustrated by an authentic citation or an invented exemplary phrase or sentence.

As with all similar dictionaries, the Bloomsbury volume is based to some extent on consulting written sources such as newspapers, magazines, comic books, novels and works of non-fiction. Other secondary sources of slang are TV and radio programmes, films and song lyrics. Existing glossaries compiled by researchers, by journalists and by Internet enthusiasts were also checked, but treated, like fictional texts and broadcasts, with caution; investigators may be misled by their informants and, as society becomes more self-conscious in its treatment of new and unorthodox language, varieties of so-called slang appear that are only partly authentic, such as the gushing 'teen-talk' (a variety of journalese) appearing in UK magazines like Just Seventeen, My Guy or Sugar directed by twenty- and thirty-something journalists at their much younger readers, or the argot developed by writers for cult movies such as Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, Wayne’s World and Clueless. The embellishing or inventing of slang is nothing new; Damon Runyon, Raymond Chandler and P. G. Wodehouse all indulged in it, as did British TV comedy writers for Porridge, Minder, Only Fools and Horses, etc., over the last three decades. For the Bloomsbury dictionary terms have been admitted if they can be verified from two or more sources, thereby, sadly, shutting out examples of idiolect (one person’s private language), restricted sociolects (terms shared by very small groups) and nonce terms (one-off coinages).

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