An important word for any language learner to be aware of: no matter how well someone learns a language in an academic context, it’s crucial to be exposed to slang in order to get a sense of how a language is really used by native speakers.
So I was interested recently when I came across someone proudly proclaiming that they knew that the word slang was actually a kind of portmanteau, meaning Short Language. I had my doubts. It simply felt too modern. I was sure that the word had existed for quite a long time, and that forming a word in such a way wouldn’t have been done before recent times. In fact, we tend not to make words in that fashion very often in English: combining the opening letters of the words of a definition of a word. It just seems too neat, too self-consciously “clever.”
So I investigated and my doubts were proven to be well-founded. Like with a lot of words, the origin is unclear, and it’s derived form words with similar words which evolved gradually over time, probably from old Nordic words.
So the next time you hear sometime tell you about an English-language fact that seems too good to be true, it probably is so.
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[…] While this sounds cute, it’s really not the way words are formed at all. As I’ve pointed out before. […]