Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Complete Self Educator - On Slang

Taken from The Complete Self Educator, published 1946

Should we, or should we not, use slang?
Slang is a word or a phrase recently coined in common conversation, which by its sheer pity effectiveness has achieved popularity. A Slang word may become an accepted part of the language. It may enter the dictionaries and acquire "respectability". But a very large proportion of slang words have a career as brief as last years millinery or last winters snow. Who now talks of a pretty girl as being "Monstrous handsome"? Or, to come a little nearer to our day, as "stunning"? or her hat as "fetching"? Who nowadays calls a stupid person a "Dummy"? Or threatens to "pop"(smack) a naughty child?

Be sparing, then, in your use of slang, and reject it altogether in the writing which you have pretensions to seriousness. Beware even of using slangy, commonplace idioms. They don't matter in the family circle, but they ruin any thought which demands grace or dignity of expression.

One last word: Do not fly to the other extreme and imagine that good writing is "High falutin". The good writer can get the effect of naturalness and simplicity without pedantry and without recourse to the language of the moment.


A dead shot, a black-hearted scoundrel, the fair sex, the net result, a miserable blighter, a mean skunk, a tough consumer, a perfect day, a confounded nuisance, a forlorn hope, great expectations, double cunning, a fair cop.

Each of the above hackneyed expressions consists of a noun with its almost "inevitable" Adjective. Replace them by Nouns and Adjective conveying similar meanings.

The complete self educator, in its own words;"This book is itself an opportunity. It is an instrument with which to turn yourself into a more efficient being". Published in 1946, the book has eleven sections, including world history, biology and economics. I will be posting snippets up on my blog, under the tag TCSE

1 comment:

  1. "a confounded nuisance" should never be allowed to leave the current vernacular, IMO



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