THE SLANG AND NEW LANGUAGE ARCHIVE

A research portal for scholars, the press and the public

The Slang and New Language Archive was created in 1994 while I was Director of the Language Centre at King’s College London. The archive, consisting of a small library of books and periodicals and a number of databases and sub-directories, was designed as a repository for the collection, storage and dissemination of new language, in particular examples of nonstandard varieties of English such as slang, jargon and buzzwords. The archive was later expanded to take in examples of media language, political language, linguistic curiosities and etymologies. It remains a resource, unique in the UK, assisting researchers, students, teachers and journalists, as well as non-specialists, in accessing information about aspects of contemporary language that are under-represented in traditional dictionaries and reference works.

This link will take you to the Archive webpage at King’s College, where there are further links to relevant articles and published sources…

https://www.kcl.ac.uk/research/slang-and-new-language

Glossaries from the archive may be accessed on this site by entering keywords, such as slang, jargon, MLE (Multiethnic London English), familect (highly colloquial language used in the home), coronaspeak (language related to the COVID-19 pandemic) and weaponised words (the contentious language of Brexit and populism) and slurs (racist and misogynist terms) in the search box. Once you have accessed a post of interest, check the tags and categories at the foot of the page for other articles or glossaries on the same topic.

Two of the larger archive datafiles are hosted on Aston University’s Institute of Forensic Linguistics Databank site. These are a glossary of current youth slang

https://fold.aston.ac.uk/handle/123456789/4

And a glossary of UK street slang, rap music and gang terminology

https://fold.aston.ac.uk/handle/123456789/5

Please note that the King’s archive focuses principally on contemporary language, that is terms used from the twentieth century to the present day. If you are interested in historical slang, I strongly recommend the monumental work by my associate, the British lexicographer Jonathon Green. His dictionary, now generously freely available online, lists current and historical slang terms with timelines and citations illustrating their usage and development…

https://greensdictofslang.com/

For more information, for queries, or to donate examples of language, contact me via this website or via the King’s College webpage. I’m on Twitter as @tonythorne007 too.

FAMILECT AGAIN

DOMESTIC DIALECT FEATURES FAMILY FIXATIONS

Families and Older Generations Stock Vector - Illustration of grandparents,  seniors: 114207016

In 2016 I wrote about so-called familect, the ‘microdialect’ originating in the home*. Also known as ‘family slang’ and ‘kitchen table lingo’, this is one of those underappreciated, under-researched varieties of ‘in-group’ language which, like slang and jargon, make use of the same techniques (metaphor, irony, analogy – alliteration, rhyme, assonance, reduplication) as poetry and literature and at the same time offer a window into the private worlds of ordinary people: their preoccupations, pleasures and ways of bonding. Familect can also be a sharing ritual within the household whereby humour and creativity and inventiveness are enjoyed across generations. Kids are adept in creating new words from an early age and at playing with existing language to create new and colourful expressions, while older family members have their own ways of coining expressions and recycling or reworking the language of their youth, so the home is also a laboratory in which to cultivate new literacies.

Just recently the cApStAn Translation Team reviewed the topic and provided a useful link-fest and bibliography…

Today another article, by my friend Connie Chang, featuring interviews with specialists in the field, was published in the National Geographic

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/family/article/why-your-familys-secret-language-is-good-for-kids?loggedin=true

Familect can provide a useful subject for research and field work as part of exploring word creation and language innovation for school or college projects. Its users can be encouraged to look more carefully at the words and phrases they have invented themselves or shared or just heard, and asked to consider…

  1. Why was the expression invented? (usually because the object, idea or feeling described is precious or important or super-familiar. Sometimes because there isn’t an existing word or a memorable word to describe it in standard English)  
  2. What is it that makes these words funny, understandable, memorable? Is it that they sound like something else, remind you of something already familiar? Or is it the spelling and sound of them itself that makes them amusing?

In fact the school itself may be a source of similar novelties, as Tabitha McIntosh wrote in the TES this summer…

https://www.tes.com/news/schools-teachers-does-your-classroom-have-its-own-unique-language

Grandparents with Kids are Walker Stock Vector - Illustration of happiness,  cute: 153811703

One year on, in August 2022, the Guardian featured the phenomenon in an article by Arwa Mahdawi

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/09/i-am-beshwiggled-and-incatacipated-why-theres-nothing-better-than-family-slang?CMP=share_btn_tw

*https://language-and-innovation.com/2016/07/23/family-language/

FAMILY LANGUAGE

“STOP PLOITERING AND GRAB THE MELLY!”

I’ve long been interested by the inventive, jokey, sometimes ludicrous expressions that arise within the family and only very occasionally emerge into the speech of the wider community. This variety is sometimes known as family slang or familect, otherwise, by the English Project at Winchester University, as kitchen-table lingo.

The following article gives some examples of these lighthearted, eccentric expressions…

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2571693/Fancy-blish-Its-new-slang-nice-cuppa-New-list-gibberish-words-used-families-country-published.html

PR specialist Hamish Thompson has been working on his own glossary of family language and was kind enough to send me his introduction, acknowledgements and a selection of entries:

Most families have an invented vocabulary – the words that grow out of mishearing, misspelling, kids’ early attempts at talking or things that you might have seen that have become folkloric.

One of my kids coined the term ‘argubating’, which means arguing a point in a self-indulgent, unproductive way.  We also have ‘wookthack’, which for complicated reasons means ‘a rucksack from Derbyshire’.

And then there’s ‘scrapey’, which is a disappointing texture, named for the moment that my daughter, aged about 5, jumped the fence at the Postman Pat Village at Longleat to touch Mrs Goggins’ hair.

I asked people on Facebook last week whether they had any words that were part of their family vocabulary and I got some lovely responses.

I like the idea of a new dictionary, which I’m going to call ‘Famguage’ (thanks Alex Johnson).  I heard my son talking to his girlfriend about some of our words the other day. Clanguage is something that you’re eventually introduced to when you really enter a family.

I’d love to hear yours and add them to this list.  Tweet me at @HamishMThompson or email me at hthompson@houstonpr.co.uk and I’ll add them here.  Acknowledgements below.’

‪Alligator – a moving staircase.

‪Angipodes – crawly insect

‪Apogetic – opposite of energetic

‪Argubating – self indulgent row

‪Bantry – basement pantry

‪Bisgusting – poor personal habits

‪Bishee bishee Barnarbee – ladybird

Bleenger – someone who keeps losing something

‪Bonger – TV remote control)

‪Boop and bamwhiches – nutritious lunch

Cake Out – a stake out with bought cakes

‪Calm chowder – popular meal for kids in New England

‪Cat-flap – have a big panic or over fussy reaction to something

‪Chish and fips – Fish and Chips

Cluckston – generic term for chicken, hen, rooster, cockrell etc. “It’s some kind of cluckston.” See also, crucially, ‘Quackston’

‪Complify – opposite of simplify

‪Daddy’s soda – beer

‪Dinger- TV remote control

‪Embuggery – embroidery

‪Fi (pronounced like hi) plural of foxes

‪Forgettabox. Floatycoat. Windy man (fart)

‪Goggy for the favorite blankets the boys used when they were little.

‪Graunch – the scraping of furniture on a wooden floor when moving it improperly.

Gruncle and Graunt – great uncle and aunt

‪Gruntled – happy

Hairochopter – helicopter

‪Hangry – annoyed because of lack of food.

‪’Have you forgotten how to English?’

Iforloafer – falling over

In a little minute – buying a bit more time before bed

‪Industriocity – busy / va va voom “hoy lad, it’s time you showed a bit of industriocity”

‪Marshmellons – soft sweet

‪Merangutans – Meringues

‪Miseratating – so constantly miserable you are irritating

Nicknames – Lewie, Boogle, Doodie, Moomin

Nommelin – omelette

‪Nonk – milk

‪On the roof – imminent danger

Ploitering about – piddling about and loitering

‪Pokey pola – Coca-cola

Quackston – a duck (see also ‘cluckston’)

Scrapey – unpleasant texture (after jumping the fence at the Longleat Postman Pat Village to touch Mrs Goggins’ hair)

‪Sidey the table – sit around the table for dinner

Sluggerbaths – kids that dawdle in the bath until the water gets cold

‪Smaggy – horrible

Spudy – a spare bedroom that doubles as a study

‪Stinging lentils – weeds to be avoided

‪Swimpamool – the place you go for a swim in the summer

Tahairnairhair – proximity of a friend called Tahir

‪The Feli – two Felixes – my son and his best friend

‪The Ho Ho Hos – the seven dwarves

‪Till donk – the thing supermarkets use to separate your shopping from another customer on the conveyor at the register.

Tootles – toilets

Tryer trick – trousers falling down to a point that makes walking difficult

‪Veggybubbles – veg

Voulez-vous –  vol au vent.

Wice – wood lice

‪Wish dosher – a machine for cleaning crockery

Wookthack – rucksack from Derbyshire

“Yes then!” – exclamation when receiving good news or when a cunning plan is formed

‪Yippers – indoor footwear

With thanks (so far) to: Kellie Evans, Nicola Texeira, Tamzin Benjamin, Shaun Andrews, David Johnson, Clare Corbet, Vanessa Potts, Michael Cullen, Nick Higham, Michael Moran, Rene Wright, Lynne Clark, Cam Ross, Steve Dring, Alex Johnson, Dawn Murray, Chris Winstanley, Helen Hobbs, Jean Harbilas, Tracey Holmes-Reynolds, Elizabeth Varley, Jenny Hodge, Caroline Lavelle, Andy Ravenscroft, Vivien Patterson, Sharon Rasker, Leroy Bingham, Alex Thomson, Donal McCabe, Duncan Wisbey, Gina Jones, Jim Boulden, Joanna Oliver, Peppi Wilson, Mark Webb, Susanna Voyle, MoiOfRa, Jane Symons, Tyler Massie, Rebecca McKie, Dr Decadence Marple.

More from 2013 in the Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/media/mind-your-language/2013/jul/19/mind-your-language-family-slang

…and January 2018, an excellent article that includes personal reflections by Caroline Baum also in the Guardian newspaper…

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/03/shnibble-gunzle-dolltalk-share-your-familys-invented-words

In August 2020 the BBC appealed for examples of family-only expressions. They received a good response on Twitter…

@BBCRadio4
Is there a word, or phrase, that only you or your family use?

Bruce Hiscock
@BruceHiscock

Replying to

‘Boys names’ – whenever one of us can’t be bothered to answer. Our youngest son c 4 and a half on returning from his first day at school was asked whether he had a nice day. He said ‘yes’ . Did you make some friends ‘yes’ . What are their names? Answer ‘boys names’!

Sarah Hagger-Holt
@SarahHaggerHolt

Replying to

Coolth (opposite of warmth)

Lord Tim Moon of Glencoe
@TimMoonMusic

Replying to

More betterer.

Sue Goldman
@SueGoldman1

Replying to

Cowlets = calves
Alastair Schwarz
@riot_salad

Replying to

‘bangers’ – not fit for purpose

Reynold Forman, M.Ed.
@ReynoldLeTreaux

Replying to

Dawn squirt, bagel peel
Jackie Smith
@alassmith

Replying to

Eggy-weggy

Kellie Fisher
@Coastineer
Replying to

We used to live in Australia and were fascinated by the way ‘o’ gets added to the end of words. As a result we invented the term ‘umbo’ for umbrella. Even though it’s made up and not Australian at all we still use it!

Alex.Robinson
@_Star_Tron
Replying to

GIF
alan hendrix
@Siralanhe

Replying to

shambolic

boardman
@hawkstonpark

Replying to

Nor
It’s interesting that some of these words are actually in widespread colloquial usage, though those donating them think that they, their family members or friends invented them. Four years on and the topic was attracting renewed interest, from my friend Professor Richard Norquist for one…