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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A study of slang and informal usage in the newspaper Kenwood, Christopher Michael


[Cartoon panels omitted] Yes, we do have a lot of "in" expressions; they are, in fact, the motive for this thesis, which discusses slang and informal usage in the major Vancouver newspapers (The Vancouver Sun and The Vancouver Province). The creation of these non-standard usage groups in language arose through the concept of standardization. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries lexicographers and grammarians, especially men like Dr. Samuel Johnson proposed that the English language should be purified and “fixed"; that, in fact, it should be standardized for all time. But only dead languages remain lifeless; live languages branch infinitely in all directions. Thus, these Renaissance pursuers of standardization in language ironically created, through their efforts, the substandard - the slang, informal and other areas not relegated to the "cleansed" version. lt was hoped that these vulgarities would thereby drop from use and cease to infiltrate the standard level of language. However, they did not, and they remain to add much to the life of the English language today. It was felt that any examination of how effectively intertwined "slanguage" was with that body of English called standard, would be best realized through the study of newspapers. Newspapers occupy a special place in the realm of the written word, a place not far, I believe, from the spoken word. They reveal the daily story of a community in action and interaction, presenting the discontinuous variety and incongruity of ordinary life. Newspapers reflect on a rapid, daily basis the multiplicity of social sub-groups, the mark of immediacy in transmission, and the permissive quality in our approach to language today. For purposes of examination the newspapers were arranged into categories following the pattern in which the papers are usually presented. Thus, the General category, the Editorial section, the entertainment pages, the Sports page, the Comics and the Financial areas. Slang and informal samples were culled and made up the lexicon contained within the body of this thesis. Examination of this corpus of words indicates that the newspaper is very much what Marshall McLuhan terms a group confessional form or communal mosaic. Through their slang and informal language numerous sub-groups are clearly in evidence. lt is also clear that their productive vocabulary changes continuously and rapidly, rarely remaining "fixed" as the eighteenth century authoritarians would have wished. Like the authoritarians in their age, we in ours are experiencing a marked increase in the awareness of language. We now seem to know enough to enjoy observing how the language of a sub-culture may enrich the mainstream of language and by observation "slanguage" gains daily on standard language. Yes, Snoopy, we do have a lot of "in" expressions.

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