Our Language

Our Slang

Our slang came mostly from the hot rodders and the beatniks. Both groups had a more profound influence on American language than they get credit for. In fact, they taught us to create and use slang.

The rodders gave us “cut out” (leave), “deuce” (a 1932 Ford), “fire up” (start), “hardeeharhar” (you think it's funny, I don't), “passion pit” (drive in movie), “hang out” (stand around and wait for something to happen, usually a drag race, or a place to do that), “haul ass” (speed, vacate quickly), “hopped up” (modified for speed), “floor it” (go all out), “rag top” (a convertible), “wazoo” (your butt), “rod” (a modified car), “tank” (a large sedan), “cream” (badly damage), and “total” (completely destroy).

The beatniks gave us words that ended in “ville”, such as squaresville, deadsville, and Howdy-Doodyville. “Cool” was the beats’ word used to describe the indefinable quality of people and things they liked, and it became ours, and it has stood the test of time. They also gave us “nowhere” (the opposite of “cool”), “threads” (clothes), “split” (leave), “pad” (abode), “bread” (money), “dig” (understand), “square” (conformist), “lay on” (give) and the term “cat” (a cool person), which Carl Perkins would take with him to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Go, cat, go. Then the beats coined the word “hip” to identify their belief system and the word “hipster” to define those who ascribed to it. From that came the word “hippy”, which would be used to describe the carefree, nonconformist lifestyle and a good part of the generation of the 1960s who lived it.

Our Language Has Changed

Mrs. Coleman once lectured about the changes in the language during her lifetime. Some she agreed with, some she didn't. Regardless of her opinion, she had to change with the language. Now we have experienced this phenomenon first hand.

Some of our words acquired a new definition over the years. The lyrics "May each dawn find you happy and gay" from the Andy Williams Show theme song, or the lyrics "sure like to ball" From Little Richard's song "Good Golly Miss Molly" don't mean the same today as they did to us. And today nobody laughs at the Joker's boner. The comic book above is from our youth. The ad at the right is from 1959.

Here are some words that changed.

WORD     OUR Definition     THEIR Definition
b-team non-starters inferior
bad bad good
ball party, have a good time have sexual intercourse
boner a mistake an erection
bright smart (adjective)      unreligeous (noun)
gay joyous homosexual
green new natural
hack chop, cut gain illegal access to a computer
homey (also spelled homie)     cozy, comfortable (adjective)     friend (noun)
hump work hard have sex with
lame     physically impaired     inferior
spam     brand of canned meat     unsolicited, unwanted, or inappropriate
          commercial advertising
suck     to draw into using suction     be objectionable or inadequate
swipe     to steal     run a credit card thru a card reader

Some of our language became unacceptable to succeeding generations. Here are some terms we used that have been replaced by politically correct ones. Like Mrs. Coleman's, some are justifiable and some are ridiculous, but regardless, we have to go with the flow. None of these are fake (faux). They are all real and in use. In the interests of political correctness, this list omits sexually explicit terms. There's not enough room for all of those on this website, anyway.

OLDSPEAK (our term)     NEWSPEAK (their term)
addict substance abuser
affair extra-marital relationship
apartment flat (single story) or townhouse (multiple story)
artificial limbs prosthetics
bad loan nonperforming asset
bartender mixologist
begger/bum homeless person
belly dancing Middle Eastern dancing
big boned (polite term for fat) full-figured (polite term for fat)
birth control population stabilization
blackjack/nightstick (police weapon) baton
blind visually impaired
body bag human remains pouch
brainstorm thought shower
broken home dysfunctional family
bunking party sleepover (and...today they are co-ed)
burglary home invasion
butt fundament
chairman chairperson, or just chair
children's hospital (Conway, AR) human development center
Christmas (season/lights/etc.) holiday
city dump sanitation collection station
civilian deaths (military) collateral damage
clerk sales advisor
cloud seeding weather modification
criminal unsavory person
crippled/disabled/handicapped differently abled
criticism emotional abuse
customer patron
dead deceased
deaf hearing impaired
death penalty capital punishment
dildo marital aid
disabled differently abled
employees associates
execution the ultimate penalty
fake faux
family doctor primary care physician
fat plus sized/other sized
fire/lay off downsize
fired pink slipped
freshman first year student
funeral/burial final arrangements
gambling gaming
gambling joint gaming resort
garbage collection environmental services
garbage man environmental or sanitation worker
genocide ethnic cleansing
ghetto/slum low income housing
girdle body shaper/shapesuit/sports brief/body-briefer/bike pant
God higher power
graffiti street art
grease monkey lubrication technician
hairdresser (and barber) stylist
hot tempered has anger management problems
house trailer mobile home
housewife homemaker
in love emotionally involved
Indian Native American
insane asylum mental health facility
invasion (military/political) intervention
jail detention facility
janitor custodian
jock strap athletic supporter (so what are "fans"?)
jungle rain forest
junk mail direct marketing media
junkie user
lame limited mobility
land mines (military) area denial munitions
library learning resources center
loud outgoing
maid domestic assistant
mailman letter carrier
man-made synthetic
master/slave (computer terms) controller/controllee
meter maid parking enforcement officer
miscarriage pregnancy loss
mistake variance
mistress Extended family
mole beauty mark (but not to Uncle Buck)
more expensive new and improved
motor home recreational vehicle
nude beach clothing optional beach
office cube farm
old maid bachelorette
old people senior citizens (and don't you forget it)
old person golden-ager
overthrow (a government) regime change
porn star adult entertainer
private parts down there
programmer software engineer
put down (i.e., a pet) euthanized
race ethnicity
rape unconsensual sex (so is the perpetrator
  an unconsensual sexist?)
refugee displaced person
retarded mentally challenged (except for teenagers that
  skateboard off of rooftops - they are retarded)
retreat (military) disengagement
riot urban (or civil) disorder
room clerk guest service agent
salesman product specialist
scabs replacement workers
seasickness or carsickness motion discomfort
second class (on airplanes) coach
second hand or used pre-owned
secretary administrative assistant
sex gender
sex toys adult novelties
shacking up living together/partnering
shell shocked/battle fatigue (military)     post-traumatic stress disorder
shyness social anxiety disorder
skinny fashionably thin
sludge bio-solids
sneakers running shoes
soap opera daytime drama
soldier of fortune security contractor
speed bump traffic calming
spit expectorate
stewardess flight attendant
stripper exotic or erotic dancer
suspect person of interest
swamp wetland
tasteless or tacky unusual
toilet paper bathroom tissue
torture physical persuasion
truck stop travel plaza
undertaker funeral director
unemployed person displaced worker
uniforms career apparel
used books recycled books
used car pre-owned vehicle
used car salesman pre-owned vehicle consultant
used furniture period piece
used video previously viewed
VD or Venereal Disease STD or Sexually Transmitted Disease
waitress/waiter server
wife beater spouse abuser
wild free roaming