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Author Topic: Modern slang
Member # 9148

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Guess this is the place for this or close enough anyway.

I've been thinking about asking about this for months and since I seem to be in the middle of procrastinating even as I have a page open for one novel, I will ask now.

One of my MCs was in the rav life style for a while. I need some slang she might be using. So instead of saying "I drove home in a blue funk" what would she say? I can figure out some words to use but I know I'm missing out on a bunch of slang.

I know there are some web sites dealing with accents and such but is there one for various subcultures?

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Grayson Morris
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Urban Dictionary is good (though it won't always tell you which subculture the term belongs to). (urbandictionary.com)

I tend to poll my Facebook friends with teenage kids when I need U.S. teenage slang. :-)

[This message has been edited by Grayson Morris (edited April 11, 2011).]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Moving this to the Open Discussions on Writing, which is still the best place for general discussions on writing questions.

edited to add:

The Writing Class area is for writing exercises and writing assignments and writing lessons. The topic that was started there recently on the beginning of an idea was in response to the Writing Assignment #1 which is a topic in the Writing Class area.

This is the topic for writing questions and discussions.

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited April 11, 2011).]

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Member # 7977

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Interesting phrase - a fair number of youth today might wonder what company makes a "funk" automobile if you kept it that way, unless you intended the character to be a hipster who was "ironically" retro.

I was never a raver, but I do keep up quite well with the internets, so I know some nerd slang. Don't know if that will help.

My (perhaps sad) attempt at translating the phrase:

  1. I drove home still reeling from the epic buzzkill.
  2. I drove home through a storm of fail.
  3. The drive home was totally weak.
  4. I drove home in a haze of bleh.

If your character did much in the way of drugs, a slightly wordier phrase that comes to mind would be "like a teenager who finally figured out that the guy behind the gym only sold oregano."

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I don't know how it is for other Nerds, but I keep words like "epic" or "fail" out of my day to day vocabulary.

Could you tell us something more of the MC? that would help.

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Member # 9148

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Thanks for the suggestions, I need to save the urban dictionary

And sorry about that Kathleen. I wasn't sure if it really went here.

About my MC. She can do magic but calls it something else. She grew up and got into the rav lifestyle more because she liked the music than she liked what people. She has been drunk a few times only used drugs once. Drugs, and to a lesser extent alcohol, does not mix with Vibration energy. She quit the drinking after a while but still stayed in that type of life for a couple of years. She has changed from that even though she still dresses and dyes her hair. Right now it's short with bright red sides and a white center streak. She's a good guy after all. I have been debating what color to have her change it to. She likes to help people and even though not on purpose she tends to help young woman get away from abusive boyfriends even though she has taken on mythical beasts that aren't really mythical.

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Member # 5137

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We're writers, one part of the fun part is that we can invent things if it serves our purposes. You might want to invent something key for her/her crowd to use as slang. Have you ever watched the series Firefly? They use "shiny" as a slang term for neat, cool, nifty, great, etc. It's a perfect adaptation of a real word in a way that is understandable to the audience, yet really makes the imaginary world more tangible and real.

Scott Westerfeld, I feel, is one of the YA authors that really gets this aspect of writing for the younger audience. His series Uglies (first book in the series) is pretty great and a good example of young person slang that's invented but still real/not made-up words (necessarily. I am remembering the way they use "bubbly" but there might be some made-up words in there, too, I don't know.)

Good luck with this! When procrastinating something like this, a little bit of handwavium can always be helpful. "She drove home from the party in a <handwavium handwavium>" - later on you can search for it and replace it with something else, but at least you can keep moving. Handwavium comes in pellet and powdered form, so be careful. Too much and you'll end up in another dimension...

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New slang pops up all the time, and many of the words that become instant sensations can suddenly go out of fashion as quickly as they came in... so this leaves you with 3 options.

1. Use slang that would fit with any demographic.

For instance a world like "Cool" is timeless. It's been around since the late 40's and everyone from a grandma in Milwaukee to 6 year old kid in Tampa knows what it means. It's also universal, watch some foreign language films and you'll see it pop up every now and then. So a word like "cool" is a much better word to put into your work than a word like "epic." And no kid or teen is gonna think less of your story if you use "Cool" or another word that fits all demographics ("Awesome") instead of some newer slang term.

So it's better to stick with the timeless slang for the above reason and also if b/c if you should choose to use a word that goes out of fashion it will make your story seem dated.

And when I say timeless btw, I don't even mean slang that's been around for 5 years, the minimum should be a decade. Look back on the 90's for example and wonder about where "As if," "___'s so Fly," and "Wicked" went off too. All those were used for more than a few years but are nevertheless now extinct, and anytime you see/hear those words you know the book you're reading or film you're watching is old.

2. Forget about wide usage and just use what you want

On the other hand you can totally decide that you don't want timeless and universally used slang. Harry Potter for instance is full of British slang and euphemisms that aren't used in America and Canada, etc and people still read it anyways

you can see a list here http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/British_terms

That list doesn't even include some other words and phrases like "summat,"(something) and "innit" (isn't it) used by some of the side characters. Or phrases like "Taking the Mickey."

3. Make up your own slang

Another option would be is to completely make up you're own slang, which can go either way in terms of reception.

For example Diablo Cody wrote and won an Oscar for "Juno" in which she made up a lot witty lines and catch phrases/words that was supposed to be teen slang, and it was all well received, and many people even started quoting the film. She tried to repeat this in her second film "Jennifer's body," but what felt natural in "Juno" didn't feel natural in "Jennifer's Body" at all. In fact a lot of people in all age groups were annoyed by the made up teen slang.


Lastly, as far as words like "Funky" go, it has to be believable that the character you're writing that line for would say it. Just like we generally wouldn't expect an older character to say "Epic Fail," we wouldn't normally expect a younger character to say "Funk/Funky" either unless they were talking about something like a bad smell.

There are always exceptions however, you could have a younger character who's m.o. is to use different slang than other characters in his or her age group. (e.g. When I HS i had a friend who often used the words like "nifty," even though no one else did.)

And of course any character could use any slang word in a humorous way, a 45 year old man could make fun of a kid by imitating "EPIC" and a class clown teenager could use words like "bodacious"

[This message has been edited by revilo87 (edited April 27, 2011).]

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