Connie Eble

On defining slang

Slang is part of a continuum of words and expressions that serve the social and interpersonal functions of language more than its ideational function. Slang is not distinctive in form, reference, or grammar. It must be identified by its social consequences, by the effects its use has on the relationship between speaker and audience. The major stumbling block to a workable definition of slang comes from the assumption that slang is a quirk of language rather than a frequent and sometimes important component of ordinary language use.

I offer this definition from Slang and Sociability: In-Group Language Among College Students: “Slang is an ever changing set of colloquial words and phrases that speakers use to establish or reinforce social identity or cohesiveness within a group or with a trend or fashion in society at large” (1996: 11).