Q From Elisabeth Okasha in Ireland: Yesterday a student asked me the etymology of the word slang, suggesting it might be derived from two words, the second being language. I admitted that I had no idea of the word’s history but said I would look it up for her. However my Shorter Oxford (new edition) admits ignorance too.
A That’s true of all the sources I’ve consulted, as well. Nobody seems to know where the word comes from (though everyone is sure it is not a compound of any word with language). It appeared in the eighteenth century, itself as what we would now call a slang term, with various meanings, of which our modern sense is the only one that has survived. Some have tried to trace it back to a Norwegian form sleng-, implying offensive language (found only in compounds) but others deny that connection on the grounds that the dates don’t support a link. There is a modern facetious formation slanguage, but that’s an obvious blend of slang and language.
Search World Wide Words
Support this website!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.