In addition to occupational and professional groups, there are many other types of subcultures that supply slang. These include sexual deviants, narcotic addicts, ghetto groups, institutional populations, agricultural subsocieties, political organizations, the armed forces, Gypsies, and sports groups of many varieties. Some of the most fruitful sources of slang are the subcultures of professional criminals who have migrated to the New World since the 16th century. Old-time thieves still humorously refer to themselves as FFV--First Families of Virginia.
In criminal subcultures, pressure applied by the dominant culture intensifies the internal forces already at work, and the argot forming there emphasizes the values, attitudes, and techniques of the subculture. Criminal groups seem to evolve about this specialized argot, and both the subculture and its slang expressions proliferate in response to internal and external pressures.
Most subcultures tend to draw words and phrases from the contiguous language (rather than creating many new words) and to give these established terms new and special meanings; some borrowings from foreign languages, including the American Indian tongues, are traditional. The more learned occupations or professions like medicine, law, psychology, sociology, engineering, and electronics tend to create true neologisms, often based on Greek or Latin roots, but these are not major sources for slang, though nurses and medical students adapt some medical terminology to their slang, and air force personnel and some other branches of the armed services borrow freely from engineering and electronics.
6. Linguistic processes forming slang
The processes by which words become slang are the same as those by which other words in the language change their form or meaning or both. Some of these are the employment of metaphor, simile, folk etymology, distortion of sounds in words, generalization, specialization, clipping, the use of acronyms, elevation and degeneration, metonymy, synecdoche, hyperbole, borrowings from foreign languages, and the play of euphemism against taboo. The English word trip is an example of a term that has undergone both specialization and generalization. It first became specialized to mean a psychedelic experience resulting from the drug LSD. Subsequently, it generalized again to mean any experience on any drug, and beyond that to any type of "kicks" from anything. Clipping is exemplified by the use of "grass" from "laughing grass," a term for marijuana. "Funky," once a very low term for body odour, has undergone elevation among jazz buffs to signify "the best"; "fanny," on the other hand, once simply a girl's name, is currently a degenerated term that refers to the buttocks (in England, it has further degenerated into a taboo word for the female genitalia). There is also some actual coinage of slang terms.
7. Characteristics of slang
Psychologically, most good slang harks back to the stage in human culture when animism was a worldwide religion. At that time, it was believed that all objects had two aspects, one external and objective that could be perceived by the senses, the other imperceptible (except to gifted individuals) but identical with what we today would call the "real" object. Human survival depended upon the manipulation of all "real" aspects of life--hunting, reproduction, warfare, weapons, design of habitations, nature of clothing or decoration, etc.--through control or influence upon the animus, or imperceptible phase of reality. This influence was exerted through many aspects of sympathetic magic, one of the most potent being the use of language. Words, therefore, had great power, because they evoked the things to which they referred.
Civilized cultures and their languages retain many remnants of animism, largely on the unconscious level. In Western languages, the metaphor owes its power to echoes of sympathetic magic, and slang utilizes certain attributes of the metaphor to evoke images too close for comfort to "reality." For example, to refer to a woman as a "broad" is automatically to increase her girth in an area in which she may fancy herself as being thin. Her reaction may, thus, be one of anger and resentment, if she happens to live in a society in which slim hips are considered essential to feminine beauty. Slang, then, owes much of its power to shock to the superimposition of images that are incongruous with images (or values) of others, usually members of the dominant culture. Slang is most popular when its imagery develops incongruity bordering on social satire. Every slang word, however, has its own history and reasons for popularity. When conditions change, the term may change in meaning, be adopted into the standard language, or continue to be used as slang within certain enclaves of the population. Nothing is flatter than dead slang. In 1910, for instance, "Oh you kid" and "23-skiddoo" were quite stylish phrases in the U.S. but they have gone with the hobble skirt. Children, however, unaware of anachronisms, often revive old slang under a barrage of older movies rerun on television.
Some slang becomes respectable when it loses its edge; "spunk," "fizzle," "spent," "hit the spot," "jazz," "funky," and "p.o.'d," once thought to be too indecent for feminine ears, are now family words. Other slang survives for centuries, like "bones" for dice (Chaucer), "beat it" for run away (Shakespeare), "duds" for clothes, and "booze" for liquor (Dekker). These words must have been uttered as slang long before appearing in print, and they have remained slang ever since. Normally, slang has both a high birth and death rate in the dominant culture, and excessive use tends to dull the lustre of even the most colourful and descriptive words and phrases. The rate of turnover in slang words is undoubtedly encouraged by the mass media, and a term must be increasingly effective to survive.
While many slang words introduce new concepts, some of the most effective slang provides new expressions--fresh, satirical, shocking--for established concepts, often very respectable ones. Sound is sometimes used as a basis for this type of slang, as, for example, in various phonetic distortions (e.g., pig Latin terms). It is also used in rhyming slang, which employs a fortunate combination of both sound and imagery. Thus, gloves are "turtledoves" (the gloved hands suggesting a pair of billing doves), a girl is a "twist and twirl" (the movement suggesting a girl walking), and an insulting imitation of flatus, produced by blowing air between the tip of the