The same goes for slang’s other chart-toppers: we find myriad entries in such categories as drugs, criminals, police officers, the genitals, money, and so on. Which brings us to why slang words replace themselves so regularly.
If one person has a secret, another will betray it.
So while the slang of the 16th century has mainly vanished, its descendants march on. In an era of surveillance and social media, of confessionalism and dwindling taboos, why bother generating secret new words for old preoccupations?We lose wap and get bumbaste, lose that and get trounce, lose that and get strum. And yet take a look at the latest batch of slang I’ve compiled.as the first glossaries of English slang—they were actually collections of criminal jargon—appeared in the 1500s.Looking back, some of the details may be blurred, but the themes that would characterize slang for the next half a millennium are already evident.It is touted as speech’s cutting edge, yet its preoccupations are unchanging. Slang is not about word count, but about in crowds and outsiders, and self-definition.
The jury may be out on whether slang is a language—it’s got no grammar, which means it isn’t; it’s an undeniable form of communication (perhaps the liveliest), which means it is—but either way, it is an unrivaled repository of synonyms. Enough, surely, should be enough, even for the most obsessively foulmouthed. We are we because we know the words; you are you because you don’t.