December 12, 2007:
Interview with Tom Dalzell, author of the book The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang & Unconventional English

Mike Carruthers:
You certainly know slang when you hear it but what is it that makes a word or phrase slang?

Tom Dalzell:
Slang in general is informal language and language that lowers the formality of a conversation and establishes tribe or membership. We are members of the same subculture.

Tom Dalzell editor of The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang & Unconventional English says probably the most durable slang word is "cool".

It's such an easy word yet has really lasted on its face longer than just about anything. I mean we're now sixty years into "cool". Another word that really interests me is the word "hip" In the first decade of the twentieth century one heard the word "hip" and "hep" a lot. And then you turned to the "hip cat" then came the "hipster". Then there was a first generation of "hippies", which were jazz lovers in the 1950's. Then came "the hippies" the flower children of the 1960's and then came "hip hop". So this one base word "hip" has worked though the entire twenty-first century.

Slang comes from all types of sources and sometimes it's deliberately created.

In the late 1920's an East Coast newspaper created a contest - come up with the best word to describe somebody who ignores prohibition laws. And two different people won the prize for coming up with the same word, which was "scofflaw". We still use it now mostly with parking violators.

Tomorrow, how awesome went from conventional English to slang - I'm Mike Carruthers and that' s Something You Should Know.

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