Broadcast on COAST TO COAST: February 19, 2004
AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on Wordmaster -- a new way to learn slang.
RS: It's a pack of sixty cards with slang terms on one side. Definitions and synonyms are on the back, plus a humorous illustration.
AA: Jen Bilik says her company in California has sold twenty-thousand sets of Slang Flashcards since their release in September. They're meant for fun, but they seem like they could be a useful teaching tool.
RS: We'd read about them, but not actually seen all the cards. So we asked Jen Bilik to come down to VOA's Los Angeles studio and quiz us on some of the words.
BILIK: "OK, well tell me if you know the meaning of 'sick.'"
RS: "Sick. Sick could be very positive."
AA: "That's right."
RS: "Like 'that's a sick joke,' meaning gee that's really funny."
AA: "Really good."
RS: "It's a really good joke."
BILIK: "Exactly, exactly, and that's of course a frequent slang process, is to take something that's negative and make it positive, like 'bad.'"
AA: "OK, what's another term?"
BILIK: "Another term is 'off the hook.'"
AA: "Meaning other than in, 'let someone off the hook,' meaning absolve them of responsibility."
BILIK: "Exactly. Other than that."
RS: "Off the hook ... like better than better?"
BILIK: "Exact -- you're good!"
AA: "Huh. How did you know that?"
RS: "Well, I have a teen-age son."
BILIK: "Ah, that'll do it!" [laughter]
AA: "My daughter doesn't use that. I haven't heard that."
BILIK: "It's 'off the hook' or an alternate pronunciation is 'off da hook,' off da hook. And it primarily means fun or enjoyable, as in 'that charades game was off the hook.' And in this particular card, two women are having a very lovely dinner with a white linen tablecloth, and one says to the other: 'You liked the ballet? Well, the symphony was off the hook.'" [laughter]
RS: "Better than better."
AA: "OK, keep going here. This is starting to bother me."
RS: "Let's see if we can do three-for-three here."
BILIK: "Well, here's one that I think might stump you: 'grip.'"
RS: "Oh, get a grip!"
AA: "No, that'd be too easy."
BILIK: "That's too easy."
AA: "And not a suitcase."
RS: "And not a handle on something."
AA: "Wait, a grip, get a grip ... "
BILIK: "Suitcase is the closest so far."
AA: "OK, because that's an old term for a suitcase."
RS: "To carry something from one place to another?"
BILIK: "No, it's a noun."
RS: "It's a noun."
AA: "Can you give us a hint?"
BILIK: "It's an indication of quantity."
RS: "Like a lot of something."
BILIK: "Yes ... "
BILIK: " ... exactly."
BILIK: "For example, 'she got a grip of cash in her fanny pack.'"
AA: "Huh. OK, another one."
BILIK: "Uh, 'crib' -- this is an easy one."
AA: "Well, yeah, it's a home."
RS: "Now see, I didn't know that. And the picture?"
BILIK: "The picture is of a group of tourists standing in front of a castle, pointing to what seems to be the next castle, and saying to her friends, 'How much cheddar do you think it takes to heat a crib like that?' And 'cheddar' is another of the slang vocabulary words."
RS: "A lot of money."
AA: "Not cheese."
AA: "I'll have to remember that. And, uh, keep going. "
RS: " ... when we're looking at our next castle."
BILIK: "Actually the synonyms for cheddar are cheese, ends, bones, dough, flow, bank and cha-ching."
AA: "And any last one that you want to stump us with --assuming we don't do this, you know, for the next two or three months and go through all sixty of these!"
BILIK: "OK, how about 'biter.'"
AA: "I haven't heard that. Biter ... "
RS: "Kind of like a tease?"
RS: "Ummm ... "
AA: "Come on, you can do it. ... Come on, Rosanne."
RS: "Sounds like ... looks like ... little word ... big word! [laughter]"
AA: "A biter. Is it -- what context is it used in?"
BILIK: "It's something that you would call somebody. It's negative. For doing something."
RS: "Abusive verbally?"
BILIK: "No. Actually it means somebody who's kind of a copycat."
AA: "A biter?"
BILIK: "Somebody who steals others' ideas or imitates others. The picture on this card is of a boy and a girl in the computer lab, and the boy has made a very beautiful graph on his screen, and the boy is saying to the girl: 'You're such a biter. Go calculate your own pi chart.' And then bite, the verb,' is to copy, as in 'he bit off my lyrics.'"
AA: "Now, one thing, some of this slang I'm imaging is maybe more regional than others. I mean, people coming to the United States could travel many states and maybe not hear some of these? Or ... "
BILIK: "Oh, absolutely, absolutely. And we tried -- you know, I'm sure it's probably weighted toward the Southern California. But we tried to -- you know, we all have cousins and friends and friend's kids all over the country, so we tried not only to get terms from them, but also we vetted the actual list through them, so that they could check off the ones that they did use, the ones that they didn't use, how frequently they used or heard them, or if a word was totally dead."
RS: Jen Bilik spoke to us from the VOA bureau in Los Angeles. She's the founder of Knock Knock, a design company in Venice, California. If you're on the Internet, you can learn more about these Slang Flashcards at knockknock-dot-biz.
AA: We'll post a link at voanews.com/wordmaster. That's our Web site. And don't forget our e-mail address -- it's email@example.com. With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.