Leicester Student Slang Dictionary

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About This Dictionary

What is 'slang'?

Slang is very hard to define. However, one of the best definitions I found during my research was from the wonders that be at the Oxford English Dictionary H.Q: 

'Language of a highly colloquial type, considered as below the level of standard educated speech, and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense.'

From this and my research I would suggest therefore that, in its most basic sense, Slang is... 

  • A "subculture" of spoken language; colloquial ('Of words, phrases, etc.: Belonging to common speech' OED) and considered inappropriate for formal conversation.

  • A vocabulary often restricted to a specific group of users.

  • Ever changing in accordance with emerging trends and influences.

Why study slang?

One of the earliest known slang dictionaries was A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue written in 1785 by Francis Grose. Since then many slang lexicographers ('a writer or compiler of dictionaries' OED)  have been fascinated by slang. But why? In my view, by studying the language used by a specific group we can identify and attempt to understand the users themselves. It informs us of the culture shaping the language in use, whether influenced by geography, gender, politics, race, age, interests or sexuality. 

I chose to study the slang used by students aged 18-22 from varying parts of the United Kingdom but who attend the University of Leicester (MAP). Student life is unique and so the language produced within that environment is often as unique. Furthermore, I have attended the university for three years and in that time I have picked up a variety of terms from friends and fellow students. As I am already part of the social group I was therefore able to observe and monitor the slang being used without influencing the results. 

What did I find?

Whilst some of the terms collated during my study are specific to certain Leicester University students (e.g. 'spackarised') the majority of terms would, I suspect, be understood in many other universities nationwide. After all, the students at Leicester have gathered there, as at other universities, from all around the country. As a result university student slang is influenced by the slang of young people nationwide.

At first sight some of the words may not seem to be slang. They are common words, words many of us have heard before. But look at the definitions! The meanings of the words are not always those of the original or indeed that of previous generations. For example 'lose the plot' suggests being confused or muddled to most people. To some Leicester students however, it means to get angry or annoyed. But there lies the fascination of slang! In the use of slang you can see the true development of language.

Unfortunately, for my fellow students and I, the majority of the terms illustrate that we, on the whole, live up to the stereotype of being distracted from studying by conversations of alcohol, physical appearance, sex, sexuality and name calling. You may find it interesting to know that of the total 105 terms collected:

  • 81.9% related to the discussion of other people, including comments on appearance, sexuality and behaviour.

  • 18.3% were insulting to some extent. Of the total terms collected:

             --- 9.6% were completely derogatory (e.g. 'fugly').

             --- 11.5% were meant as friendly insults (e.g. 'pillock').

             --- 8.7% could be used as both derogatory and friendly insults (e.g. 'loser').

  • 13.5% of the total terms were disapproving comments compared to only 6.8% that were approvals.

  • 10.6% of the total terms were related to sexuality or sex (e.g. 'gay' or 'cop a feel').

  • 15.4% of the total terms related to food, alcohol, drugs or socialising.

  • 0% (not a single term!) related to work or academic study! Tut tut!