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In Slang, More to a 'Buck' and Less to a 'Bromance' Than Meets the Eye

AA: I'm Avi Arditti and this week on WORDMASTER: we talk with Pam Munro, a linguistics professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, about the latest slang on campus. It's in U.C.L.A. Slang, a dictionary that she and her students have published every four years for the last two decades.

The first entry in the new sixth edition -- well, the first one we can say on the radio -- is a buck. A buck is usually the term for one dollar, but here it means one hundred dollars.

PAM MUNRO: "Yeah, that one is really strange but it does illustrate a common process about slang, that slang tends toward hyperbole on things like that. And so there are a hundred cents in a dollar, and so why not use the term 'a buck' for a hundred dollars rather than a hundred cents?"

AA: "Well, the -- "

PAM MUNRO: "But that one is a completely new word."

AA: "If I hear someone saying a buck I'll have to make sure they don't mean a hundred dollars. But you know there are a few terms that I notice seem to come from hip-hop."


AA: "Why don't you give me some examples of those."

PAM MUNRO: "There are some words from African-American English that are kind of well known as African-American English, words like homeboy and homegirl -- "

AA: "Meaning friend."

PAM MUNRO: "Meaning a friend. And it used to mean a fellow member of your gang. But now people, students with no connections to the black community, use this as just a word that means friend."

AA: "And then, well like cheddar, which is a term meaning money also, right?"

PAM MUNRO: "Cheddar means money."

AA: "It's not just cheese."

PAM MUNRO: "Well, it derived from cheese. So cheese is an earlier term meaning money that's been around for quite some time. And shortly after people were saying cheese, there were people who thought that it would be sort of cute to replace this by cheddar. I first recorded cheese in two thousand two, and cheddar a year later, so it is a later term. Cheddar is another type of cheese, so you might as well say cheddar for money too."

AA: "Tell me what an awkward turtle is?"

PAM MUNRO: "Awkward turtle is a comment that you make during an awkward pause or an awkward moment in the conversation. So if somebody says something embarrassing or that reveals that they're giving out information that they shouldn't, or they ask about something that is very taboo sort of to talk about, you can say awkward turtle -- maybe in an undertone to your friends.

"And you can also make an awkward turtle gesture, which consists of putting the palm of one hand on the top of the back of the other hand, and so this leaves your thumb and little finger able to stick out on both sides, and you wiggle them, sort of like turtle feet. The way it's been explained to me is that people think of this as a turtle upside down. I mean, that is an awkward turtle."

AA: "Well, you know, lately there've been a lot of terms -- in fact, there's even a dictionary devoted to this now, to this idea of bro terms."

PAM MUNRO: "Right. The most widely used one that is current in a lot of media these days is bromance. A bromance is a very close platonic friendship, totally non-sexual, between two heterosexual male friends. But we do have other ones. So one that I had not heard before is brolition. So a brolition -- which is a combination of bro and coalition -- is a big group of guys."

AA: "I'd never heard that one."

PAM MUNRO: "Well, that was new to me this year also. Then we have various other words that sort of go into this. So a brother from another mother is a close male friend who isn't your own brother but you sort of think of him as a brother. And then there's a term for women who feel a close friendship with a girl who's not their sister. They can call her a sister from another mister."

AA: Next week, we'll talk again with linguistics professor Pam Munro from the University of California, Los Angeles. She's the editor of U.C.L.A. Slang 6, the latest edition of a dictionary compiled by a team of students from terms used on campus. And that's WORDMASTER for this week. Archives are at I'm Avi Arditti.