Why I like slang

I love language, I love words and I love etymology…not in the pedantic  academic way but in way words, and speech and language evolves. Slang and profanity are perhaps the most fun and finally I have found a decent explanation for why:

I see slang as the counter-language. At its heart it’s down, it’s dirty, it’s grubby, it’s tart, it’s essentially subversive. It questions and deals with themes like sex, drugs, violence, rudeness, abuse, racism and so on and so forth. Slang is primarily concrete, but the one abstract that underpins it is that of doubt. It seems to me that slang is always doubting. It’s always questioning, it’s always cynical, it’s always undermining and it’s always been negative. It’s very thematic, which means it’s basically a lexicon of synonyms. There are 1,500 synonyms for having sex, 1,000 penises, 1,000 vaginas and 2,000 drunkards and drink-related words… and so on.

I see slang as Freud would see the Id. In other words, the unrestrained side of ourselves. Slang is the pleasure principle. It evokes it in language, lets us get it out there. It has no morals, it has no party, it has no religion, it’s just in it for the kicks. What I love most about it is that it is ourselves at our most human – not at our best, but at our most real. There’s a nice line in Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds about someone moving from conventional speech to rough, truthful language. That’s what I think slang is – rough, truthful language.


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • trisha

    rough, truthful language…..
    that’s why we love to read WOBH 8-)
    as youngsters growing up our parents spoke a language at xmas and birthdays we couldn’t understand, so they could discuss what pressy’s to buy. we cracked the code finally it was slang with letters missing we had many long nights lying in bed trying figure out wtf our parents were saying.

    • Travis Poulson

      Now youngsters have their own language that we don’t understand ;)