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Literary Stratum of Words. Colloquial Words
The word-stock of any given language can be roughly divided into three uneven groups, differing from each other by the sphere of its possible use. The biggest division is made up of neutral words, possessing no stylistic connotation and suitable for any communicative situation, two smaller ones are literary and colloquial strata respectively.
Literary words serve to satisfy communicative demands of official, scientific, poetic messages, while the_colloquial ones are employed in non-official everyday communication. Though there is no immediate correlation between the written and the oral forms of speech on the one hand, and the literary and colloquial words, on the other, yet, forthe most part, the first ones are mainly observed in the written form, as most literary messages appear in writing. And vice versa: though there are many examples of colloquialisms in writing (informal letters, diaries, certain passages of memoirs, etc.), their usage is associated with the oral form of communication.
Consequently, taking for analysis printed materials we shall find literary words in authorial speech, descriptions, considerations, while colloquialisms will be observed in the types of discourse, simulating (copying) everyday oral communication - i.e., in the dialogue (or interior monologue) of a prose work.
When we classify some speech (text) fragment as literary or colloquial it does not mean that all the words constituting it have a corresponding stylistic meaning. More than that: words with a pronounced stylistic connotation are few in any type of discourse, the overwhelming majority of its lexis being neutral. As our famous philologist L.V. Shcherba once said- a stylistically coloured word is like a drop of paint added to a glass of pure water and colouring the whole of it.
Each of the two named groups of words, possessing a styl-istic meaning, is not homogeneous as to the quality of the meaning, frequency of use, sphere of application, or the number and character of potential users. This is why each one is further divided into the general, i.e. known to and used by most native speakers in generalized literary (formal) or colloquial (informal) communication, and special bulks. The latter ones, in their turn, are subdivided into subgroups, each one serving a rather narrow, specified communicative purpose.
So, among special literary words, as a rule, at least two major subgroups are mentioned. They are:
1. Terms, i. e. words denoting objects, processes, phenomena
2. Archaisms, i. e. words, a) denoting historical phenomena
b) used in poetry in the XVII-XIX cc. (such as "steed" for
c) in the course of language history ousted by newer syn-
Literary words, both general (also called learned, bookish, high-flown) and special, contribute to the message the tone of solemnity, sophistication, seriousness, gravity, learnedness. They are used in official papers and documents, in scientific communication, in high poetry, in authorial speech of creative prose.
Colloquial words, on the contrary, mark the message as in-formal, non-official, conversational. Apart from general collo-quial words, widely used by all speakers of the language in their everyday communication (e. g. "dad", "kid", "crony", "fan", "to pop", "folks"), such special subgroups may be mentioned:
1. Slang forms the biggest one. Slang words, used by most speakers in very informal communication, are highly emotive and expressive and as such, lose their originality rather fast and are replaced bу newer formations. This tendency to syno-nymic expansion results in long chains of synonyms of various degrees of expressiveness, denoting one and the same concept. So, the idea of a "pretty girl" is worded by more than one hundred ways in slang.
In only one novel by S. Lewis there are close to a dozen synonyms used by Babbitt, the central character, in reference to a girl: "cookie", "tomato", "Jane", "sugar", "bird", "cutie", etc.
The substandard status of slang words and phrases, through universal usage, can be raised to the standard colloquial: "pal", "chum," "crony" for "friend"; "heavies", "woolies" for "thick panties"; "booze" for "liquor"; "dough" for "money"; "how's tricks" for "how's life"; "beat it" for "go away" and many many more - are examples of such a transition.
2. Jargonisms stand close to slang, also being substandard, expressive and emotive, but, unlike slang they are used by limited groups of people, united either professionally (in this
case we deal with professional jargonisms, or professionalisms), or socially (here we deal with jargonisms proper). In distinction from slang, jargonisms of both types cover a narrow semantic field: in the first case it is that, connected with the technical side of some profession. So, in oil industry, e. g., for the terminological "driller" (буровик) there exist "borer", "digger", "wrencher", "hogger", "brake weight"; for "pipeliner" (тpyбonpoводчик) - "swabber", "bender", "cat", "old cat", "collar-pecker", "hammerman"; for "geologist"-"smeller", "pebble pup", "rock hound", "witcher", etc From all the examples at least two points are evident: professionalisms are formed according to the existing word-building patterns or present existing words in new meanings, and, covering the field of special professional knowledge, which is semantically limited, they offer a vast variety of synonymic choices for naming one and the same professional item
Jargonisms proper are characterized by similar linguistic features, but differ in function and sphere of application. They originated from the thieves' jargon (l'argo, cant) and served to conceal the actual significance of the utterance from the uninitiated. Their major function thus was to be cryptic, secretive. This is why among them there are cases of conscious deformation of the existing words. The so-called back jargon (or back slang) can serve as an example: in their effort to conceal the machinations of dishonest card-playing, gamblers used numerals in their reversed form: "ano" for "one", "owt" for "two", "erth" for "three".
Anglo-American tradition, starting with E. Partridge, a famous English lexicographer, does not differentiate between slang and jargonisms regarding these groups as one extensive stratum of words divided into general slang, used by all, or most, speakers and special slang, limited by the professional or social standing of the speaker . This debate appears to concentrate more on terminology than on essence. Indeed slang (general slang) and jargonisms (special slang) have much in common, are emotive, expressive, unstable, fluctuating, tending to expanded synonymity within certain lexico-semantic groups and limited to a highly informal, substandard communication So it seems appropriate to use the indicated terms as synonyms.
3. Vulgarisms are coarse words with a strong emotive mean-ing, mostly derogatory, normally avoided in polite conversa-tion. History of vulgarisms reflects the history of social ethics. So, in Shakespearean times people were much more lin-guistically frank and disphemistic in their communication than in the age of Enligtenment, or the Victorian era, famous for
its prudish and reserved manners. Nowadays words which were labelled vulgar in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are considered such no more. In fact, at present we are faced with the reverse of the problem: there are practically no words banned from use by the modern permissive society. Such intensifiers as "bloody", "damned", "cursed", "hell of, formerly deleted from literature and not allowed in conversation, are not only welcomed in both written and oral speech, but, due to constant repetition, have lost much of their emotive impact and substandard quality. One of the best-known American editors and critics Maxwell Perkins, working with the serialized 1929 magazine edition of Hemingway's novel A. Farewell to Arms found that the publishers deleted close to a dozen words which they considered vulgar for their publication. Preparing the hard-cover edition Perkins allowed half of them back ("son of a bitch", "whore", "whorehound," etc.). Starting from the late 'fifties no publishing house objected to any coarse or obscene expressions. Consequently, in contemporary West European and American prose all words, formerly considered vulgar for public use (including the four-letter words), are even approved by the existing moral and ethical standards of society and censorship.
4. Dialectal words arenormative and devoid of any stylistic meaning in regional dialects, but used outside of them, carry a strong flavour of the locality where they belong. In Great Britain four major dialects are distinguished: Lowland Scotch, Northern, Midland (Central) and Southern. In the USA three major dialectal varieties are distinguished: New England, Southern and Midwestern (Central, Midland). These classifica-tions do not include many minor local variations. Dialects markedly differ on the phonemic level: one and the same pho-neme is differently pronounced in each of them. They differ also on the lexical level, having their own names for locally existing phenomena and also supplying locally circulating synonyms for the words, accepted by the language in general. Some of them have entered the general vocabulary and lost their dialectal status ("lad", "pet", "squash", "plaid").
Each of the above-mentioned four groups justifies its la-bel of special colloquial words as each one, due to varying reasons, has application limited to a certain group of people or to certain communicative situations.
Assignments for Self-Control
1. What can you say about the meaning of a word and its relation to the concept of an entity?
2. What types of lexical meaning do you know and what
3. What connotational meanings do you know? Dwell on
4. What is the role of the context in meaning actualization?
5. What registers of communication are reflected in the styl-
6. Speak about general literary words illustrating your
7. What are the main subgroups of special literary words?
8. What do you know of terms, their structure, meaning,
9. What are the fields of application of archaic words and
10. Can you recognize general colloquial words in a literary
11. What are the main characteristics of slang?
12. What do you know of professional and social jargonisms?
13. What connects the stock of vulgarisms and social
14. What is the place and the role of dialectal words in the
15. To provide answers to the above questions find words
a) in the dictionary, specifying its stylistic mark ("label"); b) in
your reading material, specifying the type of discourse, where you found it - authorial speech (dialogue, narration), description, etc
I. State the type and function of literary words in the following examples:
1. "I must decline to pursue this painful discussion. It
2. "I am not in favour of this modern mania for turning bad
let him reap." (O. W.)
3. Isolde the Slender had suitors in plenty to do her
Tо win her love suitors were willing to vow themselves to perdi-tion. But Isolde the Slender was heedless of the court thus paid to her. (L.)
4. "He of the iron garment," said Daigety, entering, "is
5. If manners maketh man, then manner and grooming
6. "Thou art the Man," cried Jabes, after a solemn pause,
7. At noon the hooter and everything died. First, the pulley
8. "They're real!" he murmured. "My God, they are abso-
9. Riding back I saw the Greeks lined up in column of
10. There wasn't a man-boy on this ground tonight did
11. Into the organpipes and steeples
Into the weathercocks' molten mouths Rippling in twelve-winded circles, Into the dead clock burning the hour Over the urn of sabbaths... Erupt, fountain, and enter to utter for ever Glory glory glory
The sundering ultimate kingdom of genesis' thunder.
12. If any dispassionate spectator could have beheld the
leading feature of the title of this work, during the latter partof this conversation, he would have been almost induced to wonder that the indignant fire that flashed from his eyes, did not melt the glasses of his spectacles - so majestic was his wrath. His nostrils dilated, and his fists clenched involuntarily, as he heard himself addressed by the villain. But he restrained himself again - he did not pulverize him.
"Here," continued the hardened traitor, tossing the licence at Mr. Pickwick's feet; "get the name altered - take home the lady-do for Tuppy." (D.)
II. Think of the type of additional information about the speaker or communicative situation conveyed by the following general and special colloquial words:
1. "She's engaged. Nice guy, too. Though there's a slight
2. "You know Brooklyn?"
"No. I was never there. But I had a buddy at Myer was from Brooklyn." (J.)
3. I didn't really do anything this time. Just pulled the
4. "Here we are now," she cried, returning with the tray.
5. "What's the dif," he wanted to know. (Th. S.)
6. Going down the stairs he overheard one beamed freshman
7. "Don't you intend to get married?" asked Eugene curi-
8. "There we were... in the hell of a country-pardon me-
...It's like a man of sixty looking down his nose at a youth of thirty and there's no such God-darned - pardon me - mistake as that. (G.)
9. "All those medical bastards should go through the ops
10. "I thought of going to the flicks," she said. "Or we
11. "Let me warn you that the doc is a frisky bacheldore,
12. "Goddamn sonofabitching stool," Fishbelly screamed,
13. There was a fearful mess in the room, and piles of
14. "Of course I've spent nine years around the Twin
15. "How long did they cook you?" Dongeris stopped short
"Since eight this morning. Over twelve hours." "You didn't unbutton then? After twelve hours of it?" "Me? They got a lot of dancing to do before they'll get anything out of me." (Т. Н.)
16. "Nix on that," said Roy. "I don't need a shyster
17. "Go in there, you slob. I hope you get a hell of a lot of
18. Just then Taylor comes down. "Shut up and eat," my
"My God," my mother says wearily, "them under foot all day." (Sh. Gr.)
19. "Don't wanna sleep, Don't wanna die, just wanna go
20. "Never heard anything so bloody daft in all my life."
21. "You know. The mummies - them dead guys that get buried in them toons and all." (S.)
22. His expenses didn't go down...washing cost a packet,
23. "We'll show Levenford what my clever lass can do. I'm
24. Wee modest crimson tipped flow'r,
Thou's met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush amang the stoure Thy slender stem:
To spare thee now is past my pow'r
Thou bonnie gem. (R. B.)
25. "That's so, my lord. I remember having tae du much the same thing, mony years since, in an inquest upon a sailing ves-selthat ran aground in the estuary and got broken up by bumping herself to bits in a gale. The insurance folk thocht that the accident wasna a'tegither straightforward. We tuk it upon oorsels tae demonstrate that wi' the wind and tide setti' as they did, the boat should ha' been wellaway fra' the shore if they started at the hour they claimed tae ha' done. We lost the case, but I've never altered my opeenion." D. S.)
Ш. Compare the neutral and the colloquial (or literary) modes of expression:
1. "Also it will cost him a hundred bucks as a retainer."
the number of one hundred. Me no money, me no come. Savvy?" I began to count a hundred with both hands. (R. Ch.)
2. "...some thief in the night boosted my clothes whilst
"Pinched. Jobbed. Swiped. Stole," he says happily. (К. К.)
3. "Now take fried, crocked, squiffed, loaded, plastered,
"Yes," I said.
"That's the next set of words I am decreasing my vocabulary by," said Atherton. "Tossing them all out in favor of-"
"Intoxicated?" I supplied.
"I favor fried," said Atherton. "It's shorter and monosyl-labic, even though it may sounda little harsher to the squeamish-minded."
"But there are degrees of difference," I objected. "Just being tiddled isn't the same as being blotto, or-"
"When you get into the vocabulary-decreasing business," he interrupted, "you don't bother with technicalities. You throw out the whole kit and caboodle - I mean the whole bunch," he hastily corrected himself. (P. G. W.)
4. "Do you talk?" asked Bundle. "Or are you just strong
"Talk?" said Anthony. "I babble. I murmur. I burble-
like a running brook, you know. Sometimes I even ask questions." (Ch.)
5. "So you'll both come to dinner? Eight fifteen. Dinny,
"There's a house-party," said Dinny to the young man's elevated eyebrows. "She means tails and a white tie." "Oh! Ah! Best bib and tucker, Jean." (G.)
6. "What do you really contemplate doing?"
7. "Obviously an emissary of Mr. Bunyan had obtained clan-
8. "I say, old boy, where do you hang out?" Mr. Pickwick
9. "The only thing that counts in his eyes is solid achieve-
10. "The scheme I would suggest cannot fail of success,
"He means," I translated to Corky, "that he has a pippin of an idea but it's going to cost a bit." (P. G. W.)
11. Mrs. Sunbury never went to bed-she retired, but
12. "He tried those engineers. But no soap. No answer."
13. "You want to know what I think? I think you're nuts.
14. The famous Alderman objected to the phrase in
15. "I am Alpha and Omega - the first and the last," the solemn voice would announce. (D. du M.)
16. The tall man ahead of him half-turned saying "Gre't
17. It may sound to some like cold-blooded murder of the
Ask a teen-ager today what he thought of last night's rock show. If he liked it, it was "wicked" or "totally awesome". But if he didn't, it was "groady" or "harsh".
Young people punctuate their sentences with slang. They drop phrases that would make Professor Henry Higgins turn over in his grave. Twice.
"It's just like a dictionary that only teen-agers under-stand," said Michael Harris, 17, a high school student in Rich-mond, Va. "You go home and you have to spell it for your parents. They don't even know what you're talking about."
But this has been going on for years. Slang is as old as English itself, says Stuart Berg Flexner, editor-in-chief of the Random House Dictionary, author of the Dictionary of American Slang.
It offended puritan parents that their Pilgrim children look their traditional farewell-God be with you - and turned it into "good-bye", Flexner says.
Today's words are obsolete tomorrow.
"I may call somebody a jerk, but today they would call him a nerd," says Flexner, 54. "Each generation seems to want to have some of its own words."
"It's not so much to shut out adults - although that's a part of it. It gives them identity with their own age group. They sort of belong to their own club," he says.
There is valleytalk and preppyspeak, jocktalk and street language.
Take Moon Unit Zappa's Valley Talk. The daughter of famed rocker Frank Zappa was 14 years old when her dad sat her before a microphone and documented her language in a pop song.
"Gag me with a spoon," she says to show disgust. "Groady to the max."
Legions of youngsters across America picked it up. The song, and language, was a coast-to-coast hit. But that killed it.
"Valley Speak is out," reports Jane Segal, 16, a reformed Valley Girl at Santa Monica High School. "It went out after the song was played to death. It was really popular, and then eve-ryone got so sick of the stupid song they quit saying that stuff."
"No one ever says 'Gag me' anymore," she says. "'Totally' is still hanging on, and everyone uses 'like'. They say it everywhere, just sprinkle it in. I do it subconsciously, I use it like 'um."
Flexner considers slang a reflection of American pop culture. Words come and go like No. 1 hit songs. Once a word is widely known it may he dropped, relegated to the used-slang bin alongside "swell" from the '50s and "groovy" from the '60s.
Others stick around like golden oldies.
"There are classics. Once a good phrase comes along it's pretty hard to replace it," says Scott Wenger, 19, a New York University student. "'Flipped out' still means crazy and 'pulling an allnighter' still means to study hard until all hours of the morning for exams."
Teen-agers may dream up slang, but adults use it too. Julia Shields, 42, a high school English teacher in Charlottes-ville, Va., is an avowed user.
"I love slang, think it's colorful, wonderful, metaphoric. Some of it is quite clever," she says. "I hate it, but I call everything 'about It's such a horrible, vague, meaningless word. But I use it in every sentence."
Slang is not the talk of board rooms and diplomatic ses-sions. Because young people spend more time informally than adults, and slang is a product of relaxing the rules, high schools and college campuses are breeding grounds for it. (C. R.)
IV. Speak about the difference between the contextual and the dictionary meanings of italicized words:
1. Mr. James Duffy lived in Chapelizod because he wished
2. He does all our insurance examining and they say he's
3. He seemed prosperous, extremely married and unromantic.
4. "What do you think?" The question pops their heads up.
5. We tooled the car into the street and eased it into
6. He inched the car forward. (A. H.)
7. "Of course it was considered a great chance for me, as
"You may have drifted into it; but you will bounce out of it, my pettikins, if I am to have anything to do with it." (B. Sh.)
8. He sat with the strike committee for many hours in a
9. Betty loosed fresh tears. (Jn. B.)
10. When the food came, they wolfed it down rapidly. (A. M.)
11. He had seen many places and been many things:
12. Station platforms were such long, impersonal, dirty,
13. "Let me say, Virginia, that I consider your conduct
"Don't be an idiot, Bill. Things are happening." "What kind of things?" "Queer things." (Ch.)
14. I need young critical things like you to punch me
15. Oh! the way the women wear their prettiest every
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