Since 1972, Connie Eble has asked students in her undergraduate English classes to keep track of the slang words they use or encounter regularly. And each semester, Eble compiles a master list. She was kind enough to share her most recent list with Endeavors, along with her thoughts about how and why slang works.
Slang is the kind of vocabulary that people create and use to serve their social selves. Its purpose is to establish or strengthen relationships, to show who is in as opposed to who is out. Slang is filled with words and phrases that evaluate, that judge, that say (sometimes in clever ways) that someone or something is acceptable or unacceptable, valued or not valued, trendy or out-of-date, relevant or irrelevant. This overwhelmingly social function of slang for college students has not changed over the decades. Students’ slang vocabularies live entirely apart from their academic pursuits. As a matter of fact, by reading through the list of slang that students are using in any given semester, an unsuspecting outsider may have a hard time recognizing that the main job of the users of these words is getting an education.
A few slang items hang on for decades (sweet, for example). But most slang words and expressions are like trial balloons and don’t last long. In general, the more colorful and clever terms do not have staying power (e.g., dangling modifier: a long earring; or use up all my letters: to show brilliance, an allusion to Scrabble).
Over the years, terms for sex and drunkenness have always loomed large. Specific drug terms have decreased, though this may simply mean that drugs have become ordinary and mainstream and not fodder for slang. Fraternities and sororities are still the targets that everyone loves to hate, and the image of sorority women in particular has gone from empty-headed husband seekers to promiscuous, calculating materialists. Gays and lesbians have a place in today’s college slang that they did not decades ago. College social life is pictured as more raw and focused on short-term, sexual, uncommitted relationships than in the 1970s and 80s. And certainly, terms of fear and suspicion (for example, random, creeper, and stalker) are more prominent than they have ever been. Despite the fact that Carolina has had more female undergraduates than males for thirty years and that today’s female students grew up with the benefits of Title IX and other legal advances for women, the image of females in college slang remains overwhelmingly degrading. Judged by their slang, students keep their intellectual and social lives in separate compartments. (Furthermore, faculty members and administrators do not exist and parents exist only to pay the rent.)
Our favorites from Eble’s list
If it’s been a while since you were in school, some of the words from Connie Eble’s list of college slang might have you totes confused. But stay pressed: here are a few of our favorite terms from Eble’s fall 2010 list.
Alltheist: all + atheist. Someone who purports to believe in elements of all religions.
A of all: first. “A of all, she has no right to keep her food on my shelf.” Not necessarily followed by B of all.
Barley pop: beer.
Basic: ordinary, uncreative, unworthy of attention. “Did you see her outfit? How basic.”
Bougie: bourgeois. Attempting to appear more high class than one is. “That pocket square is bougie.”
Cake on: flirt with. “Are you caking on Julie?”
Chalked: completely exhausted, drained. “I had two tests and a paper today. I’m chalked.”
Crustache: a thin, poorly groomed moustache.
D.T.R.: defining the relationship. Conversation between two people who have been keeping company to assess the future of the relationship. “I think we need to d.t.r..”
Faboosh: fabulous or very attractive, usually applied to clothing. “She knows what flatters her body shape, so she always looks faboosh.”
First pizza place, second pizza place, third pizza place: pizza restaurants on Franklin St. designated by their order in proximity to the courthouse on the corner of Henderson Street. “I’ll meet you after class at the second pizza place.”
Friend crush: desire to be the friend of someone admirable. “She’s the best. I have the biggest friend crush on her.”
I smell what you’re stepping in: I understand. “I smell what you’re stepping in, dude.”
Intexticated: intoxicated + text. Completely engrossed in texting and not paying attention to one’s surroundings. “She was driving while intexticated.”
Jeggings: jeans + leggings. Jeans that are skin-tight from hips to ankles. “Those jeggings look gross. She does not need to be wearing them.”
N.B.D.: no big deal. Often used sarcastically after reporting something very good or very bad. “I was late for work, missed my exam, and my boyfriend broke up with me. N.B.D.” or “I just got Roy Williams’ autograph. N.B.D.”
Obvi: obvious(ly). “Pizza is my favorite food, obvi.”
Penalty box: the back of a car where there are no seats. “Seven people squeezed into the car, and Josh and Jack were forced to sit in the penalty box.”
Shut the front door: I’m shocked. “When I told Katie I had gotten a tattoo over the weekend, she shouted, ‘Shut the front door!’”
Skittle: a small colorful car, especially a Plymouth Neon.
Slash: spoken version of the written forward slash symbol (/). “I don’t like Julie. Slash. I want to rip her hair out.”
Snatch wigs: perform better than rivals. “Nintendo continues to snatch wigs—Sony and Microsoft aren’t ready.”
Stay pressed: pay close attention.
Totes: totally entirely, completely. “I am totes ready to graduate.”