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2 corrections, most recently by peter-macinnis - Show corrections

CURRENT SLANG. GAINS IN VOLUME IT IS RATHER BEWILDERING. A FEW EXAMPLES.   Is the use of slang becoming more common,-we do not mean merely among that class of the community which habitually uses argot as its means of expression, but among people of edu- cated and refined tastes, and especially among public speakers? The question is really one of greater importance than would perhaps appear at first sight, for if our platform speakers, and our poli- tical orators, drop into the habit of using slang phrases, or incorrect idioms, it means that the philological currency of the English tongue will be debased by the admission of any amount of spurious words. Already we have developed a curious talent for rapidly incorporating all sorts of doubtful ex- presslons in our speech-indeed, the English language seems to have charac- teristic aptitude for thils species of an- nexation. What is slang to-day may be recognised by the dictionaries tomorrow, and though some of these bor- rowed or coined phrases are singularly expressive, there are not a few of them which would be far better omitted. Thus a day or so since we find no less, able and highly educated a man as a leading delegate at the Federal Con- vention assuring his brother delegates that the smaller States wanted "the lion's share of .the boodle." "Boodle," of course, is Auierican, and the use of the expression is perhaps justified by the frequency with which it is men- tioned in Yankee politics. But "the lion's share of the spoil" would be a far "neater expression," although perhaps it does not convey the same fine and subtle aroma of political and municipal corruption as the slang term. But the incident is typical of the increasing tendency of the language to lose its original purity, and become corrupted. Of course we should not expect hon. members to descend to the slang of the streets, although we do remember to have heard one hon. gentleman refer to another as a "shycer," and Mr Han- cock has at times got off some very happy- things in this line. We must admit the newspapers are by no means free from the same fault. They seem to assume that the general public understand the meaning of all sorts of slang terms, and to whip them into their columns as often as possible with out deeming the slightest explanation. A great contemporary the other day de- voted a news paragraph to the doings of certain "scalpers" in the Railway Department. Now, we venture to say that there are thousands of people in the country who are in blissful ignorance of the fact that tickets sold without authority by passengers, who, for some reason, cannot use the return half, are called '"scalps," and that the "scalper" is the agent who deals in this kind of mer- chandise. But as there was no explan- ation offered the paragraph must have been absolute Greek to a good few of its readers. In the majority of cases slang words fortunately die out after a time, to be succeeded by later and more novel terms, but in a good many Instances slang words come to stay. For ins- tance, the word "cove," or "covey," has pretty well died out, but the average user of slang clings to "bloke," or "blokey," with affectionate enthusiasm. "Chap," too, may be said to have been tacitly received into the. language. There are curious variations in the ar- got of different classes: Thus quite important city merchants will tell you nonchalantly that they "blued their stuff" in such and such a venture; while the partizan of the paddock on the racecourse prefers to express himself" as having "blued his good greed." "It takes the bun," in its amended and more modern form of"It embezzles the pastry," is still popular with all classes of society. But as a model of the way in which the public will cling to a slang term, and cuddle it, as it were, to their bosoms, commend me to the objection able word "bike,".or the still more dreadful "trike." "Jigger'' is another very popular term-in fact, most people seem to devote a tremendous amount of time and energy to avoid by any chance using the word "bicycle." We still say that a man is "off his onion," or "gone balmy," or "off his nut," but the still newer expression, "off his napper," seems to have met with no more than a temporary acceptance. The man who used to "cut his stick" now "hooks it," or "clears out." The "donah" has developed into the "tart." A horse, by a curious reversion to the language of the nursery, is technically referred to as a "gee-gee." People no longer get into trouble. They simply "go a mucker." No one is ever ill only "a trifle off color," or, in more se- vere cases, "feel cronk," or "crook!' or even "shicker." In a word, whatever things people do in the course of their daily existence they seem determined on one salient fact, and that is that they shan't do them in English.