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October 3, 2015 | Dispatches

Some Thoughts Re: "Slang"

Jordan Castro

Some Thoughts Re: "Slang" photo

[via dictionary.com]

 

"Slang," as a thing, seems interesting to me.

Who decides what makes slang "slang" and not just a regular word? Does the use of slang help or hinder communication in general? Why and how does geography affect which words a person uses?*

*I don't know the answers to these questions and don't answer them in this essay. When I started writing this essay I just wanted to write about some words I liked, but when I started writing what was meant to be a two-sentence introduction, I ended up with this unmanageable pile of shit. Enjoy...

When I was younger I thought that slang hindered communication in general because slang could potentially alienate anyone who didn't understand [slang word] meant...

I remember kids in my high school using words like "Chig" to mean cigarette, "Belig" to mean [abbreviated version of belligerent], and "Chalked" to mean fucked or in trouble...

At some point I started listening to a lot of southern trap music...

I moved to the west side of Cleveland where my friends have a distinct/constantly-evolving repertoire of slang, which at first I felt confused by then a gradual, inexplicable affinity toward...

I don't know...

I also keep having this thought like 'slang exists for a reason (and is called "slang" for a reason?)'(?)...

Like "slang" feels weirdly 'separatist,' to me. Like it doesn't make sense that slang words aren't just regular words or whatever...like how there are synonyms for stuff (?)...it just seems weird that some words are called slang and others just aren't... I don't know... There are a lot of words in the dictionary that I don't know and if someone said them to me I wouldn't understand them... So like... Just... [end thought]

...Is slang called slang because a certain group of people are afraid of something?...

Keep thinking "jargon..." and "class of people..."

I don't know...

I also keep thinking something about how slang "feels like a powerful and necessary linguistic tool for the growth of our language and our ability to communicate"... Like, how it can be empowering and potentially expansive (and, still, potentially alienating... in the same way [anything] can be potentially expansive or alienating or [anything], to anyone, or whatever) for a lot of people. Or like how slang is essentially just creating new language because we still don't have enough (the right?) words to describe what we're experiencing... (?) ...

And I feel like there will always be new words for things... Like how now no one would really say "thou" in conversation anymore but there was a time when people might have...

But I also kind of feel like even though the words to describe things change, the things don't...

Or...

So here's a thing...

At a party in high school someone said something like "Gucci Mane is stupid. He doesn't even make sense." I said that Gucci Mane used drug lingo and southern slang, and I thought he was "actually really lyrical," citing specific examples of lyrics and explaining to him what they meant. The person I was talking to said something like "I don't care he's still retarded." I said - in an uncharacteristically passionate tone of voice that I felt would 'surely dominate him and end the discussion' - something like, "Shakespeare invented like, thousands of words or whatever. Do you think the first time Shakespeare said 'bedroom' people were like, 'Shakespeare, you're a retard'? Gucci Mane is doing the same thing Shakespeare did and you're calling him a retard."

The person I was talking to said something like "Then why don't we study Gucci Mane lyrics in school?" and I don't remember the rest of the conversation...

So there were some things about "slang."

Now here are some "slang" words that I like...

***

Bones

I think the only person I've heard use this word to mean his friends or lover or family members is rapper Young Thug. "Bones" seems endearing and cute to me and also implies an amount of gratitude for people that other words don't...

A person without bones can't do anything... so to call one's friends or family his/her "bones" illustrates a very real 'I can't live without you' love, which I like.

It also does something interesting with like, other definitions of "bone(s)(ed)," and [something about dogs, perhaps?]

Thug (aka Thugger), it's worth mentioning, has also been under mad scrutiny for other words he uses to describe his (male and female) friends - "Lover," "Bae," "Hubbie," "Partner" - all of which I also like a lot.

Chunk

I don't know when or why, but at some point my friends and I started saying "chunk" to mean genitals.

"Chunk" as a word by itself feels gross and uncomfortable to me, and in this context feels even more gross, in a gross-thing-parodying-itself-as-a-gross-thing kind of way, or something. A caricature of itself, maybe.

"Suck my chunk."
"Feed me the chunkey."
"Oh, you chunk."

Gross, right?

A while after "chunk" hit, we started saying things like "Sucketh thy chunk" and other incredibly damaged variations of "chunk," then eventually things like "The brain doeth oft what makes the chunketh unsoft," "Play that chunkey music white boy," etc...

Energy

The first time I heard "energy" as a synonym for money I was standing outside of a hospital in Northern California with some hippie friends after one of them smashed his face against concrete while biking.

I asked about "energy" and one of them said "Yeah, it's just like, you know...Money is energy...Like, where do you want to put your energy? You know?"

Seems sweet.

Babies

Ever since I started listening to rap music I've heard rappers talk about "whipping babies" or "cooking babies," and, though I've never really looked into this and can't be certain, I'm pretty sure it refers to cooking crack - via serving addicts who, if impregnated will then have 'crack babies.'

As dark and sociopathic as it is, I like "babies" a lot, if only for its deep, deep depravity.

Ungrip

"Grip" is a word my friends frequently use to essentially mean "obtain" (more on this word here), but "ungrip" is something entirely different.

I'm pretty sure I 'coined' the term "ungrip" in this tweet, however there's a strong possibility that John Elliot (of Emeralds fame) coined the term and I just don't remember...

I vaguely remember sitting in John's room one day and him clenching his fist while saying something like "Dude, it's like, all I want to do is this..." then unclenching his fist while saying "When all I really need to do is this..."

I use this word a lot in situations where I feel a desire or am trying to control something I can't control - someone else's feelings/actions, the weather, traffic, etc. - maybe saying something like "I know I just need to ungrip, but I can't" or "All I had to do was ungrip and everything worked out fine."

Ungripping is not about not caring or not trying, but recognizing one's powerlessness over certain things then 'letting go' or 'allowing the universe just do it's thing' or simply understanding that there is nothing to be done or '[something].'

Slime

"Slime" is kind of like another way of saying "friend," but it's also an acronym for Street Life Intelligence Money Is Everything, so it's more of a way of referring to a friend you get money with or whatever...

I'm pretty sure the word's been around for a while, and was originally a Harlem thing(?), but it seemed to have died down (or at least wasn't like, super relevant or "hip") for a while, until lately via rappers like Young Thug and his protégés saying it a truly insane amount of times in songs, on social media, etc. Young Thug actually recently released a mixtape titled Slime Season, which I highly recommend and is available to download for free here.

Dabbin'

When I first heard this word used - probably in a song by rapper Peewee Longway song or Instagram video - I felt confused, thinking that it meant doing "dabs" (smoking hash oil). A line that sticks out and frequently gets stuck in my head that uses this word is from the song "Big Homie" by Peewee Longway, in which he says, "Catch me dabbin' out in public / You gon' see it on me / Rich nigga high on three drugs / All my bitches call me big homie." I remember hearing that and thinking like, 'Damn, rappers are smoking oil now.' But the more I heard it used and saw it in his and other rappers Instagram comments/videos, the more I began feeling like "Dabbin'" hd nothing to do with the drug, and as it turns out, according to urbandictionary.com, "Dabbin'" is Atlanta slang for having confidence in ones style. It's essentially a synonym for "swagging" or "styling," but I like it more, probably because it seems so abstract and silly.

 

Finesse

A less harsh way of saying "manipulate," I like this word because it reframes something generally viewed as bad into a skill one should be proud of.

An example of finessing would be robbing someone via persuading him/her to 'simply' give you what you want, or taking what you want then convincing [person you 'finessed'] that you didn't take it.

If I stole from people (or when I stole from people) I feel like this would be/was more my style than the classic kick-a-door/shoot a kneecap style, which I'll talk about more in the next word...

Juug/Jugg

"Juug" essentially means to take someone's stuff by force or whatever. Like "Where the dope at? Everybody on the floor!" style... (Similar to "hitting a lick")...

I first heard this word via Gucci Mane's song "Bussin Juugs." I'd seen promos for the video, and until then my only definition of "juug" was like, a boob or whatever, so I was eager to hear what "Bussin Juugs" was all about. Was instantly satisfied when all Gucci rapped about was selling drugs and robbing people.

Woahdie/Woe/Woda (sp?)

Recently popularized via the Drake lyric "Runnin' thru the 6 with my woes," this word has been used in rap (mostly southern gangster rap) since Birdman was just a rapper and Cash Money Millionaires' "Hood Rich" still played on the radio.

I think I like this word is because it feels 'silly' and 'playful' to me.

Dar

I don't think anyone besides Gucci Mane has really ever used this word, and he may have only used it once, in one song, that may or may not have been released, but I remember watching a YouTube video of him in the studio in which he walked out of the booth laughing and said something like "You hear that? Dar...I said Dar...You know what that is?" to which the person he was talking to said "No," and Gucci replied, "Dar...A dark car."

image: Kevin Hascher


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