Saturday, February 12, 2011

The takeaway language of slang by James Sharpe - TLS

These two rather different yet equally fascinating works raise some fundamental thoughts about the nature and function of slang, a word itself of uncertain derivation. All students of the subject will agree that it is at once, like fashion in clothing, a means of inclusion and exclusion, whether for Tudor vagrants, nineteenth-century Oxbridge undergraduates, or modern gays or drug-users. Cracking the code that slang can constitute therefore admits outsiders, if only vicariously, to a new, and often deviant, cultural environment. Thus the early commentators on cant seem to have been fully aware that the terms they listed not only represented the argot of underworld characters conspiring against the norms of straight society, but also constituted a safe means of access to members of straight society into a world of adventure and freedom from convention.

Link:
The takeaway language of slang by James Sharpe - TLS

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