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January 31, 1999 - Slangman: Slang Update - 2002-02-12

INTRO: What's hot and what's not in American slang. Here with an update -- and another call for entries in the Wordmaster Name the Next Decade Contest -- are VOA's Avi Arditti and Rosanne Skirble.

MUSIC: "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)"/The Offspring

AA: "Pretty fly" is slang for "pretty impressive." I'm Avi Arditti, and this song and the album it's from, "Americana" by The Offspring, have been soaring high on the Billboard charts.

RS: Which I'd say is pretty fly. I'm Rosanne Skirble, and today we look at a few terms in American slang.

AA: We can thank teen-agers, those incubators of popular culture, for most of our new expressions. But it's hard to keep up, since let's not forget that teens invent slang to stay one step ahead of adults.

RS: Fortunately we have Slangman, David Burke, an author who makes his living writing about this stuff.

AA: And he says one word he's hearing a lot lately is the word "so."


"'So' is usually before an adjective, like 'I'm so tired,' 'I'm so happy,' 'you are so nice.' But the way teens are using it now, is using it in front of an expression, or verb. For example, if you are my employee and you do something really wrong, I might say, 'Rosanne, you are so fired.' Or I might say, "Avi, you are so not funny.' "

RS: Or, to put it another way:


"Let's say we're at a party together, and this party is so not fun, I might say to you, 'Avi, Rosanne, I am so out of here.'"

AA: David Burke also reports that while "so" is so in, the word "not" is not these days.


"One of the words that was very popular maybe last year and a few years before, the word 'not.' Now, 'not' was added to a positive expression to kind of mislead the other person so they think you're going to say something very nice, and suddenly you turn it around. For example, 'that is a beautiful dress you're wearing ... not!' That is now gone."

RS: How sad ... not! But 'not' is not the only word that's gone.

AA: David Burke says teens were using the adjectives "dope" and "fresh" to mean "fantastic." But that was last year.


"Now, teens are saying 'tight.' So if a teenager says to you, 'ooh, that is a tight shirt,' they're not talking about the size or the fit, they're talking about the coolness of it. And by the way, 'cool' and 'tight' are two of the most popular adjectives right now, I think the most popular of this decade. The reason cool has lasted so long I think is because there are so many different ways to pronounce it. That's what teenagers are telling me. In the fifties, people would say, 'that's cool,' and they'd stretch out that 'ooo' sound.

"And then teens were pronouncing cool as 'cool,' kind of like q-u-e-l. And rappers pronounce it 'coo.' So I think that's why it's staying with us, there are so many different ways to pronounce it, and who knows, maybe there will be another way to pronounce it next year."

AA: David Burke, who comes to us from Los Angeles.

RS: If you'd like to check out Slangman David Burke's books on slang and idioms, and for a list of the slang words and expressions you just heard on today's show, visit the Web site. That's slangman, one word, dot com.

RS: Now here's a reminder of our Wordmaster Name the Next Decade Contest.

AA: In other words, what comes after the nineties? Send us a suggestion and you'll receive a VOA souvenir.

RS: But the cooler the idea, the cooler the souvenir. The deadline for entries is March second.

AA: A final note: This past week, the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington played its first concert in China. The program of American classics included the music by Leonard Bernstein from "West Side Story."

RS: We leave you with one of the songs, called "Cool," as recorded by the original Broadway cast in the 1950s -- back when "cool" was "coooool." With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.

MUSIC: "Cool"/West Side Story