Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Slang (2).

Slang (2). Today: More Reactions. Although prescriptive linguists are often depicted as stern opponents of slang, the most prescriptive of them all saw its place: "A little racy slang may well be used in the course of one's daily talk; it sometimes expresses that which otherwise would be difficult, if not impossible, of expression." Richard Grant White, Words and Their Uses, Past and Present 42 (1870). A decade later, in another book, White wrote a little more expansively: "Slang has, in many cases, a pith and pungency which make it not only pardonable, but tolerable. It often expresses a feeling, if not a thought, of the passing day, which could not be so forcibly expressed — for the day — in any other phraseology." Every-Day English 484 (1880). Other commentators, though, have described slang much less flatteringly: o "Slang is to a people's language what an epidemic disease is to their bodily constitution; just as catching and just as inevitable in its run. . . . Like a disease, too, it is severest where the sanitary conditions are most neglected, where there is least culture and thought to counteract it." John F. Genung, Outlines of Rhetoric 32 (1893). o "Slang words belong to a generally unauthorized vocabulary, which every speaker of English should be able to do without." H.N. MacCracken & Helen E. Sandison, Manual of Good English 3 (1917). o "The man and the woman who interlard their speech with colloquialisms and slang are like the individual who picks up weeds when he might gather flowers." Frank H. Vizetelly, How to Use English 21 (1933). o "[Slang is] the sluggard's way of avoiding the search for the exact, meaningful word." John C. Hodges, Harcourt College Handbook 197 (1967). Next: The Middle Road. For information about the Language-Change Index, click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: "Once an opinion is accepted, whatever be the cause of its acceptance, it has a strong tendency to persist. Every time we think along a particular thought-pattern, makes it easier for us to think the same way again." A.E. Mander, "Groundless Beliefs" (1947), in Think Before You Write 4, 9 (William G. Leary & James Steel Smith eds., 1951).
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