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January 9, 2000 - Slangman: Timely Slang - 2002-02-01

INTRO: Today our Wordmasters Avi Arditti and Rosanne Skirble take stock of American slang in this new millennium.

AA: Millennium, millennium -- why doesn't someone banish that word? A lot of people are getting really tired of hearing it!

RS: Here's some good news: Lake Superior State University in Michigan has announced its twenty-fifth annual "List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness." Guess which word is at the very top?

AA: "Millennium!"

RS: That's right! And it was followed by the term "24/7".

AA: ... which means that something is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. RS: A woman from California who nominated "24/7" says the expression is, in her words, "designed to make stressed people feel even more stressed."

AA: Slangman David Burke in Los Angeles agrees. He says its time may already be running out -- at least among the young trendsetters of cool slang.


"A lot of teen-agers are telling me that `24/7' really is kind of out, it's outdated. But if you're not a teen-ager, it's OK to use it. A lot of adults still use it. They'll say `we're open 24/7.' In fact, it's really become more popular in the adult world."

AA: And that's a sure death sentence, if adults find it cool.

RS: What is it about the word "cool"? In a world of here-today-gone-tomorrow slang, David Burke says cool is a living legend that remains hot on the streets.

TAPE: CUT 2 - BURKE (: 19)

"As long as something sounds funny or has many different ways to say it, it will probably stick around. And cool does have a few different ways to say it. Many teen-agers in the `80s were pronouncing it without the l: `That's coooo.' Or they'd say /kuhl/. And in black rap we would hear `coo.'"

RS: David Burke says another language trend among American teenagers that he expects to stick around is rhyming.


BURKE: "Because of music, and a lot of the rap music and the African American black music, a lot of white kids are adopting not only the rhyming they're using in rap slang, but they're actually adopting the accent. For example if I said to you, Avi, `Whew, she is tore up from the floor up.' Have you heard that one? AA: "No."

BURKE: "'She is tore up from the floor up.' This has become so popular, [meaning] really ugly, but kids also like to shorten: `She is really tore up.' But they're not saying that anymore. Now they're saying, `she's /toe/ up.'"

RS: Moving from the cool to the uncool... David Burke says `rad,' `groovy' and `heavy' are three slang words that it's no longer hip to let slip.


"Rad was really big in the late `80s, early `90s, meaning radical, fantastic, 'that's rad.' We don't hear that very much anymore. `Heavy' [as in]`ooh, that is heavy.' That was from the `70s, like the expression `heavy bummer' which means `what a big disappointment.' `Heavy' was used for awhile in the `90s - it's gone."

AA: And what about "groovy," that feel-good '70s term which recently made a comeback?


"Groovy is now gone. Nobody's using it."

RS: Bummer. But that's the nature of slang. There's no way to predict.

AA: And, says Slangman David Burke, if there's one thing you have to be careful of:


"Do not use old slang. That is really important. If you're going to use old slang, you're going to sound strange."

RS: If you want to learn more about current slang, check out David Burke's Internet Web site at

AA: You can send us e-mail at or write to us at VOA Wordmaster Washington DC 20237. That's VOA's new postal code, 20237.

RS: This week we featured Slangman, next week we meet Grammarlady! With Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.

MUSIC - "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)"/Simon & Garfunkel