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December 24, 2000 - Slangman: Top Ten Slang for 2000 - 2002-02-01


Music: "Phatt Move"/Basstone

AA: I'm Avi Arditti, with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on Wordmaster we present, from Los Angeles, "Slangman" David Burke with his list of the top ten slang words for 2000.

RS: David points out that some of these words had been around for years before they entered the popular mainstream. We start at the bottom of the list with number ten . . . the noun "homey."

TAPE: CUT ONE -- BURKE

"Either h-o-m-e-y or h-o-m-i-e is a friend, a close pal, and it's usually a male person, like we'll say, 'hey homey, what's up?"

AA: "Homey" comes from "homeboy," a black American English expression meaning a friend from one's home town or neighborhood, but like so much of slang, it was shortened over time.

RS: Next on Slangman's list at number nine is "kick it," short for "kick back," meaning to relax, to kick back in your chair. "Oh, I've had such a hard week. Tonight I'm just going to kick it."

AA: Let's move on to number eight, the adjective "tight":

TAPE: CUT TWO -- BURKE

BURKE: "'Tight' means fantastic, really good, excellent. For example, you would say, 'ooh, that car is tight,' or' that sweater is tight!'"

AA: "(laughing) These pants are tight!"

BURKE: "Yes -- you see, you never know if you're being kind of insulted or complimented with the word tight. OK, number seven, is the verb 'to dis,' D-I-S. Which comes from?"

AA: "Disrespect."

BURKE: "Of course, disrespect. Instead of saying, 'You have such disrespect for me,' we would say, 'Are you dissing me? Are you showing me disrespect?' To dis, we hear that all the time. OK, number six: 'sweet.' 'Ooh, that is a sweet bicycle!"

RS: "David, you know I find myself using that. Isn't that awful?"

BURKE: "You use sweet also? See. Now we also have the word, which is number five, 'dude.' Now that's been around for a long time. It's still around. It's a replacement for a guy, a man. But now girls are using this a lot. It's really common for a group of girls to call each other dude. And dude also not only means a guy or even a girl -- like, 'hi dude,' a girl would say that to another girl -- it also means 'wow!' For example you'd say, 'duuude!' That just means 'wow' and it's really popular. OK, moving right on down, oh here's one -- number four is 'da bomb,' meaning the best, the most excellent. And here is where it gets a little confusing because originally if something is 'a bomb' it's really bad. But if someone says it is 'THE bomb,' well that's the best, you can't really get better than 'the bomb.' But teen-agers don't really pronounce it 'the bomb.'"

RS: "Da bomb."

BURKE: "Da bomb. D-A. OK, number three, here's a word I think we talked about before: 'wack.' W-A-C-K. It's an adjective meaning unfair, bad. For example, 'The teacher failed you, oh that is so wack!'"

RS: "OK, drum roll, drum roll."

BURKE: "No this [next term] is number two. I love this one -- phat. Now that's not F-A-T. It's P-H-A-T, to be really confusing. So if someone says 'oh, you are fat,' now should you slap that person in the face for insulting you or should you say thank you? It depends on the context. Fat, F-A-T, of course, is overweight. But P-H-A-T is great, fantastic. It couldn't be better. If someone were to say to you, for example, 'that girl in our science class, ooh she is phat!' that's good. But if someone says, 'that girl in our science class is fat,' that's bad."

AA: Bad because it's not nice to talk about people that way!

RS: Now, the moment you've been waiting for -- again, Slangman David Burke

TAPE: CUT THREE -- BURKE

BURKE: "The number one slang term for the year 2000 is 'cool.' Yes, cool, the word that has not left us since I think the '40s or '50s."

AA: "Still at the top of the charts."

BURKE: "That is still at the top of the charts. I've asked a lot of teen-agers, and not just teen-agers but people in their twenties and thirties, what word do you use the most..."

AA: You guessed it, that word was "cool." Cool has a number of different meanings, but generally it's used much the same way "sweet," for instance, is used -- to express approval.

RS: Maybe our listeners can suggest a new contender for 2001. Write to us at VOA Wordmaster, Washington, DC, 20237 USA. Our e-mail address is word@voanews.com. You can also visit David Burke on the Internet and learn about his teaching books on American slang. His address is www.slangman.com.

RS: With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.

MUSIC: "Ain't She Sweet"/Eddie Cantor

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