What is Slang?
… I have christened slang — and I am sure, quite consciously, that this is to do with that world of the ’60s, which was known as the ‘counter-culture’ — for me, I call it ‘the counter-language’.
— Jonathon Green, slang specialist and lexicographer
Oxford Languages, the world’s leading dictionary publisher and provider of Google’s English dictionary, defines slang as:
… a type of language that consists of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, are more common in speech than writing, and are typically restricted to a particular context or group of people.
“grass is slang for marijuana”
Just about every hobby, interest, field of work or study, and profession has its own slang and jargon.
Slang vs. Jargon
Slang and jargon are two different types of language. Jargon is specialized terminology that is used by professional or avocational groups, and only understood by those in these groups.
To illustrate, here’s a bit of baseball jargon that any serious fan would know, but a casual fan might not:
Uncle Charlie was really working for him today.
Uncle Charlie is a nickname for a curve ball. The sentence above means that the pitcher’s curveball is effective at getting batters to strike out on this particular day.
Slang would be,
His curveball was lit today.
Lit, a slang term that means really great, doesn’t require knowledge of baseball to understand.
Slang is available to all and, according to Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips blog,
Slang is made of informal words and phrases that originate in speech, and often includes substitutions for formal words …
If you go to a conference, you’ll hear a lot of jargon, but probably not as much slang. Professional jargon is often a shortcut to making your message understood.
If you’ve ever heard two physicians talking about work, you’ve hard professional jargon. Rather than explaining that the patient had dizziness that was inner-ear related, one might say to the other…