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Essay #2: The Social Life of Slang

Part I. Ethnographic Observation

Language is constantly changing. Think about the slang expressions that your friends and acquaintances have been using lately. Catch someone you know in the act of uttering some nice bit of slang. Then -- the first second you get a chance -- try to write down exactly what was said and the context in which it was said (who was there, what was the activity, what was the location, the time etc.). Describe the scene as thoroughlyand vividlyas you can. Include some of the actual dialogue if you are able. You may need to change names or small details in order to protect people’s privacy.

If you end up choosing a slang expression that gets used constantly, you might want to describe a couple of separate scenes. However, please don’t get carried away -- it’s better to go deep anddetailed with one or two scenes of slang use than to produce a shallow list of a bunch of differentoccasions of use.

This component of the essay should take about two pages.

Part II. Follow-up Interviews

Go back and interview one or more of your slang users (and perhaps one or two other people inthe same social circle, and perhaps someone outside the circle) about the expression – what it means, why they use it, where they first picked it up, how they feel about it, etc.

Tell us what you learned in two pages or so – the actual balance between Parts I and II will vary quite a bit from project to project. Use lots of actual quotes here!

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Part III. Etymology

Employ whatever other means are at your disposal to trace the history of the expression even further. Questions to consider: how widely is your slang expression used? What sorts of people use it? Where did it originate? To what extent has it spread into the verbal repertoires of other people and via what forms of media? Summarize your findings - aim for about a page.

The following electronic sources often contain useful information:

The Oxford English Dictionary, Wikipedia,, The Online Etymology Dictionary (, Urban Dictionary (

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. What other sources of information have you discovered that track slang expressions, jargon, etc.?

Be sure to cite all of the materials (films, websites, books, articles) to which you refer in a professional, scholarly manner. Please ask me if you have any questions about how to do this.

When you interview people, be sure to let them know that you are doing this for a class project (no secret spy recording!).


Title: Slang
Length: 4 pages (1100 Words)
Style: MLA



Part I: Ethnographic Observation

Slang refers to those words that do not form part of the standard language (Green 56). As such, its use is in an informal manner. In most cases, the application of slang in speech as opposed to writing is outstanding. There are many types of slang according to where or who uses them in most cases. For instance, country slang, which is popular in the rural areas. There is also urban slang that people in the city, mostly African-Americans, use. Equally, there is the gay slang used by homosexuals. Lastly, common slang that ever person uses. Therefore, cultures and regions in the world have a slang language that it identifies with naturally.


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