USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘slang’
Folk speech

British Slang: “Berk”

For presentations in one of my classes, we had panels grouped by subject. Our instructor titled the panels, and tried his best to make them clever. One title is “Becoming Berk-men in The Squid in the Whale,” which is playing upon the fact that the characters’ last name in The Squid and the Whale is Berkman. The informant is NB, and the following exchange happened on a classwide basis. It was afterward that I asked the informant’s permission to put this in the folklore database.

NB: So now, we have “Becoming Berk-men in The Squid in the Whale” [He emphasized the word “Berk”]

Everyone in the class exchanged confused glances and made confused noises, such as “huh?”

NB: What? You don’t get it? I thought it was quite clever. Do you guys not know what a berk is?

Various people responded no, asked him to explain

NB: Ohh, it must be a British thing! Really? You don’t use “berk”? Huh, wow. You know, it’s someone annoying or rude or… Like you might say, “That guy’s such a twat–”

Student: Like “jerk”? (Other classmates agreed)

NB: Oh, yeah sure, whatever.

At a later date, the following exchange occurred.

PH: Oh, for my folklore project I need to know where you’re originally from!

NB: I’m from southwest Exeter, but the things I’ve said haven’t necessarily been specific to that area
It was interesting that the informant was not aware it was a solely British slang word, and that when trying to explain it, he once again used a distinctly British slang word, as opposed to an American one. It is also interesting to me that students’ attempt to relate it to an American word chose a word that rhymed, as if there might be a connection. Based off of the informant’s synonym of twat, the word jerk isn’t an accurate synonym, but I think he just wanted to move on with the class. The informant does not know the origins of this slang word, but it is documented on various websites.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Mexican Slang – El Huevon Trabaja Doble

Do you have, umm… like a saying, or a riddle, from when you were growing up?

 

“One of the popular ones there that came, comes to mind right now is, uhh… Whenever you use, somebody entrances you to do something, uhh… umm… almost of any kind, any kind of task, and uhh… you just, uhh, careful, you’re careless, you just want to finish something like right away, you just say, uhh, you just do it, you know, really fast, kinda shoddy, so… they send you back to do that kind of thing again, they say, ‘El huevon trabaja doble.’

 

Which is, uhh, pretty much like, lazy people have to do double the amount of work, because they don’t do it carefully in the first place.

 

So it’s an old saying that everybody knows this, it was applied so frequently when I was growing up, and you know, so, it was in a way it was a message for you to do things right the first time.”

 

So it’s kind of like the English saying ‘measure twice, cut once’?

 

“There you go! Very, very similar to that.”

 

Analysis: This is a very straightforward proverb relating to laziness. It essentially proclaims that laziness doesn’t pay dividends, as the lazy man will inevitably need to do more work anyway to make up for being lazy. Proverbs like this, and their equivalents in English, are very common in more rural areas like that which the informant hails from, and it seemed very well-known to the informant years later, implying its frequent use. It is also worth noting that the Spanish word ‘Huevon’ is a very derogatory term for someone who is so lazy that they are incapable of holding their testes above the ground.

Folk speech

Taiwanese Idiom– Eating Tofu

“I’ve never heard a mainlander say it. And the phrase is, ‘Sou doufu.’ Literally translated that is, ‘eat tofu.’ And then, umm, this is something said when… if you say ‘I’m gonna go eat tofu,’ that means ‘I’m gonna go out and try to find some girls.’ ”

 

So that’s like, uhh, hunting, uhh not hunting tail, uhh, ‘chasing tail’ in the United States.

 

“Yeah, it’s like chasing tail. But it also, but if you say someone ‘eats tofu,’ that could also mean he’s very promiscuous, so, but it, it’s not, its definitely not like positively connotated. It’s more negative, cuz’ promiscuity is negatively connotated. Yeah.

 

And the reason is it’s ‘eat tofu,’ is because tofu’s like, white, silky smooth, very nice, fragile, gentle, and in Chinese culture, girls are often viewed in this way, traditionally, like pale skin is a very idealized thing and girls are very fragile. Like they weren’t allowed to have their own opinions and all that stuff back in the day. So I think that’s why it is ‘eat tofu.’ Because girls are basically tofu. [laughs]”

 

Where’d you learn that from?

 

“Umm… This was like… you just hang out with your friends and they say these things. Yeah, I have Taiwanese friends, and then like, cuz all, in Chinese school, all my friends had Taiwanese parents too, so, like, they had Taiwanese friends and it just like, propagates. I dunno when I picked it up, but I did. Culture. [laughs]”

Analysis: This idiom is quite interesting, despite its brevity, because of the cultural values that it exposes. The informant implied that this was a phrase used only to refer to the activities of men. Therefore, at once, Taiwanese culture is revealed to somewhat objectify women, but also to commodify them. As the informant notes, the idiom harkens back to a time when women were expected to be docile and pretty to look at rather than the equality present in modern society. It is interesting to note that this phrase is being spread amongst Taiwanese youth in the United States, despite its applicability to Taiwan and Taiwanese values.

Folk speech
general

Ecuadorian Slang

Estrampandose, which I just learned from my mother, is an um Ecuadorian term that I heard my family say before. It has two meanings, either like it’s like you’re falling apart and you’re like collapsed. Like, you fall and you collapse, and it’s like, ‘Se estrampó.’ She like almost died when she fell, type thing. What I do all the time. Or it can mean, like, hardcore making out, like, to the point that it hurts. So, it depends on the context, but that’s a word. Estrampandose.”

It seems this word is similar to the English slang of “She ate it,” which people use in reference to someone falling. As in, “She ate the floor.” But the second meaning is what’s very interesting. When you take the word estrampandose, it sounds like the Spanish word trampar, which means “to step.” So how does this connect at all to making out? It totally makes sense in the case of falling because when you fall, sometimes it’s because of a misstep. In the context of the  making out, it seems the word has totally been turned into slang.

But also, why wouldn’t Ecuadorians just use the regular word for falling? To fall, in Spanish, is caer. I guess it’s because estrampandose has more flair to it? Like the source said, they use it to describe a nasty fall, not just any fall. It’s applied in situations like she described, when someone basically almost dies from how hard they fell. Of course, that was probably an exaggeration, but estrampandose captures the exaggeration better than caer does. The word is far more grandiose, which I guess might be why it developed in the first place. The people felt they needed a bigger word to describe falling, so they came up with that. And then, somewhere along the line, it also came to describe making out. Curious evolution, indeed.

Folk speech

“No T, No Shade” – Gay Slang

About the Interviewed: Davey is a student at the George Washington University double-majoring in English and LGBT Studies. His ethnic background hails from Spain. At the time of this interview, he was currently on leave at his home in Southern California. He is biologically male, but he identifies as gender-queer. Nonetheless, he prefers male pronouns. He is 20 years old.

I just asked Davey about slang terms used in the LGBT community.

Davey: “No T, No Shade. That’s a good one.”

There’s a bit of a pause here in the recording.

Davey: “It means like, ‘No offense, but…’ – only gayer. It’s like the Gay version of that. (Laughs)”

I ask Davey to use it in a sentence for me.

Davey: “Well, it is a sentence. You say it when you don’t wanna hurt somebody’s feelings. Like – ‘No T, No Shade gurl, but… you’re fat. (laughs)”

I ask him if he knows where the phrase originates from.

Davey: “Well, I don’t know where it’s from, but it has two parts: No T, and No Shade. ‘No T’ means no “Talk”, like you’re not holding anything back. And ‘No Shade’ means you don’t want to hurt their feelings. So the whole thing means, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, BUT-”

Now I’m laughing. I ask him to elaborate more on “The T” and “Shade”.

Davey: “Like I said, the T is like, what’s going on. It’s like gossip. When you ask someone what the T is, you wanna know the truth. So like, if I see someone, and I ask you what the T on her is, I wanna know her deal. Shade is when you wanna be nasty. (laughs) When you throw shade, you’re being mean, you’re being a bitch. I’m a shady lady.”

We both laugh.

Summary:

Gay culture has a number of unique phrases and vocabulary. Davey broke down the term “No T, No Shade”, which roughly translates as a warning that the listener is about to hear something disparaging, yet truthful.

Davey couldn’t remember the first time he heard the phrase “No T, No Shade”, but I remember learning it from him a while back. LGBT culture is unique in that it contains it’s own vernacular and language, despite not pertaining to any particular ethnic background. Davey and I both come from different backgrounds ourselves, yet we’re both united by a culture that with a variety of folklore to share. 

Digital
Folk speech
Humor

Leauge of Legends – Slang Words and Memes

About the Interviewed: Jared is a sophomore at the University of Southern California, studying Finance. At the time of this interview, he is also my roommate. His ethnic background is distinctively Chinese, and his parents are first-generation American immigrants. He is 20 years old.

At this point of the interview, I highlighted upon my roommate’s love of League of Legends, a massively popular online computer game.

Jared: “League of Legends is an extremely popular game. People play it all over the world. You play it by choosing a hero and joining a team. You have to help your team defeat the other team. It’s pretty simple.”

I ask him about any slang words or unique vernacular he may have encountered while playing such a globally accessed game.

Jared: “Sure. There’s a ton of humor and inside jokes between people who play the game. Internet memes and things like that are pretty popular on there. Aside from basic things like, LOL and WTF, League has other things. A few of the more recent ones- one of them is like, BM, which stands for Bad-Mannered, it’s like when you do things out of line, or sabotage the team, that’s what BM means.”

I ask him if it came about as a result of cooperative play. 

Jared: “Yeah pretty much. Another one is ‘GG, no RE’, I don’t know if you’ve heard that, it means “Good Game, no Rematch”, if you want a rematch, you just type RE.”

I ask if he thinks that these phrases came from the community or the people who made the game.

Jared: “They’re probably from the community – thousands of people play the game everyday. There’s actually a meme going around right now – LOMO. There was a guy on one of the Chinese teams – Vasili – instead of typing L.M.A.O. [Laughing My Ass Off] he kept typing L.O.M.O, so people have been saying LOMO a lot lately.”

Here, I ask Jared if he thinks that League’s multi-regional nature contributes to the evolution of these slang terms and jokes.

Jared: “Totally, yeah, It’s always changing.”

Summary:

Players of the popular online game “League of Legends” has developed a number of slang terms and abbreviations as a response to the rapidly evolving culture of the game.

 Games like “League of Legends”, that have large, active global communities, are sources of evolving culture. In order to make the game more efficient, players invented terminology to keep things fluid – terminology that can be recognized almost universally, from players in America to players in Korea. The Internet is full of subcultures such as this, but League’s mass popularity ensures that its culture is always on the move.

Folk speech
Humor
Proverbs

Da Nile

When I was pressuring my dad to give me folklore, he told me a proverb completely unrelated to our discussion:

“Denial (da-nile) ain’t just a river in Egypt”

I can’t remember the exact context, but I was being obtuse about something and he was teasing me while also imparting wisdom.

The phrase itself utilizes the way the word “the” is pronounced phonetical like slang.  It is therefore interesting from a class point of view, since the speaker, whether they are educated or not is speaking the way an uneducated person would so there is a sense of playing with class when it is spoken by my dad.  From an African American perspective there may be a small issue of heritage in there since the nile is located in africa.  The reference is vague at best since few African Americans are descendent of Egyptians, but the issue of heritage may still play a role.  The wisdom is still being imparted either way.  This phrase is therefore a good example of how a lesson is being learned through humor

Folk speech
general
Humor

Surfer Slang

I had signed up for a surfing lesson while on Spring Break in Maui with my parents. When we were learning about how to stand on the surfboard – on the beach of course; we started on dry land learning how to get on the board and how to stand up once we were on it, as well as the proper stance when on the board – when the instructor noticed that I was in a stance for a lefty. He then called out and said something along the lines of, “You’re a goofy foot!”

 

Of course, I asked them what the term meant. “Goofy foot” is a blason populaire term used by surfers for left-handed (-footed?) surfers. It is not all that surprising that surfers would have their own term for lefties, since lefties are much less common than right-handed/-footed people. Most of the human population is right-handed/-footed, and in the West at least (Europe, America) left-handedness was considered to be negative, unlucky, incompetent, socially wrong, etc. So, to a population that was 9/10ths right-handed, being among the 1/10th of the population that was left-handed/-footed would look awfully weird, and thus “goofy,” to the “normal,” right-handed/footed people. Furthermore, since handedness in surfing is shown through the stance, the let-handed surfing stance – meaning the feet – would be “goofy footed” to a right-handed surfer.

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

pakistani slang

Context: The informant is a 30 year old married Pakistani schoolteacher and mother. She jokingly asked her cousin, who was visiting America, to buy her a store’s entire stock of a certain makeup product (that had the number 420 in its name) when she came back, and the cousin replied, you are a 420. When questioned about the meaning of this phrase, the informant laughed and replied that it was slang for a thief or fraud. Questioned further, she revealed that the term comes from the Pakistani penal code, in which “302 is for murder criminals and 420 is for thieves–like they say in the movies, a 201 is going down or something.”

Analysis: This particular slang phrase is interesting in that the origin is a written piece of work–and not even something that is easily accessible to most laypeople, like a storybook or a children’s movie, but the very laws of the country, which are, no doubt, as convoluted and verbose as those of any in the US. However, these codes have made their way, either through the jargon of lawmakers and law enforcement officials, or through popular movies that use “authentic” police jargon in their police scenes, to the laypeople who now use it, not to actually accuse or apprehend anyone, but to jokingly call out each others’ social vices. The act of exaggerating a little social or moral error into something criminalizable by the national penal code may be a way of enforcing social norms while still maintaining social relationships.

Folk speech

Tweeters, Five-Holes, and Soft Goals

“He went tweeters!”

“He scored through the five-hole!”

If you understand this terminology, you are most likely a hockey player, or at least a hockey fan.  My informant, a hockey player and fan, explained this hockey slang to me during a Los Angeles Kings game, after he exclaimed: “Oh man, Kopi got lucky with that five-hole shot!”  With this statement, he was referring to Anze Kopitar – who plays either center or left wing for the Kings and is nicknamed “Kopi” – and his shot on goal.

The term “five-hole” derives from the five open areas that the goalie is responsible for covering.  When a goaltender stands in front of the net, he holds his stick with his dominant hand across his body, down to the ice.  Therefore, there is a “stick side” and a “glove side.”  My informant further explained the five areas: stick side, low; stick side, high; glove side, low; glove side, high; and finally the “five-hole,” which is the gap in between the goalie’s legs.  He also told me that you can use the expression “going tweeters” to refer to this shot.  Nevertheless, the five-hole is a relatively difficult shot to make since goalies guard this area with the blade of their stick and can easily close the gap by falling into the splits, or “butterfly position.”  So, for hockey goalies, flexibility is mandatory.

My informant also explained that there are 2 additional, but minor holes as well: on either side of the goalie between the arms and the body.  However, since these three holes are relatively easy to guard, it is rare for players to deliberately aim for these holes; rather, they can be “luck shots,” where the puck sneaks through due to lousy goaltending.  Consequently, the five, six and seven holes are considered “soft” goals.

Now that you know the slang, make sure you use it properly because if you misspeak, hockey fans will quickly know that you are an outsider!

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