Idiots guide to ……..Colloquialisms;
Dr Samuel Johnson C18th – “Language is the dress of our thoughts”
Regional dialect – An empirical research analysis:2010
Definitions of colloquialism:
An informal expression which is more often used in casual conversation rather than formal speech or writing.
A colloquialism is a linguistic phrase that is characteristic of or only appropriate for casual, ordinary, familiar; generally spoken language.
Local or regional dialect expression.
Colloquialisms are the broad category of informal speech which includes slang. Slang is a sub-category of Colloquial expressions: pertaining to common/ordinary/everyday or familiar conversation, not formal, academic or literary.
It can be used to describe terms used in normal discourse between people of a particular language group. In many languages there are colloquial phrases and expressions, and many of these may not be listed in standard dictionaries. However, they are often used, and everyone knows what they mean. [Etymology: Colloquial is from colluquy, Latin colloquium, from con, with, + loquor, to speak]
Examples of colloquial language: ‘We must get someone in to help us balance the books. Do you know a good accountant?” “It’s no good leaving her a message to phone you back. You can wait until the cows come home and she’ll never call!”
Slang (noun) refers to words, phrases and uses of language that are
considered to be very informal and the usage is often restricted to
special contexts or is only used by a particular class, profession, social group, etc. e.g. prison slang, or in speech by people who know each other well. Some slang includes abusive, offensive or vulgar langauge and ‘taboo’ words. Most slang expressions are spoken, not written and would be considered inappropriate in formal types of communication.
Examples of typical generic slang: “We get smashed (drunk) every Friday night.” “We’ve all had this bug (illness) for a week.”
Popular observations and analysis:
Simeon Potter: Our Language – “Language is like a dress. We vary our dress to suit the occasion…..colloquial speech…is that of the spoken conversation, easy without being slovenly, conventional but not formal.”
On historical colloquialisms – SP: “In letters, as well as in diaries and autobiographies, we find recorded the colloquial language of bygone ages. As long ago as 1785, Francis Grose compiled a ‘Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue’, the first ever large serious collection of slang expressions”.
In the present day we regard slang as a series or group of speech forms which has its own right to exist and which is the most productive of all the sources of new expressions. It may be ephemeral, living on the lips of people for a day, month, year or a decade – but no more. There is nothing more dead than yesteryears’ slang.
Some slang terms – to ‘’booze’’: for instance (Middle English’bousen’ from middle dutch) or to ‘rook’( late Tudor English from the substantive rook) in the sense of a cheater. Slang in bygone days.
Why should people not be content to ‘call a spade a spade’? Their motives for using slang can seldom be analysed convincingly, but in general they seek 3 things in various degrees and proportions: novelty, vivacity and intimacy. Slang proceeds from a new way of looking at things and it exercises every form of intellectual wit and verbal ingenuity. Good slang ‘hits the nail on the head’; bad slang “misses the mark”.
Slang is picturesque and livens up a dull theme and administers salutary jolts or socks to listeners. Slang increases intimacy because it allows the speaker to drop into a lower key to meet his fellow on even terms and to have a ‘word in his ear’.
Again, because slang is intimate it is sometimes confined to a particular geographical community and thus acquires features which are local and regional. This is where the concept of colloquialisms come into their own as a sub-category of slang; the more clearly defined regional variants.
Some linguists make a distinction between colloquialisms and slangisms (slang words). According to linguist Ghil’ad Zuckermann, “slang refers to informal (and often transient) lexical items used by a specific social group, for instance teenagers, soldiers, prisoners, or surfers. Slang is not considered the same as colloquial (speech), which is informal, relaxed speech used on occasion by any speaker; this might include contractions such as you’re, as well as colloquialisms. A colloquialism is a lexical item used in informal speech; whilst the broadest sense of the term ‘colloquialism’ might include slangism, its narrow sense does not.
Slangisms are often used in colloquial speech but not all colloquialisms are slangisms. One method of distinguishing between a slangism and a colloquialism is to ask whether most native speakers know the word (and use it); if they do, it is a colloquialism. However, the problem is that this is not a discrete, quantized system but a continuum. Although the majority of slangisms are ephemeral and often supplanted by new ones, some gain non-slang colloquial status (e.g. English silly – cf. German selig ‘blessed’, Middle High German sælde ‘bliss, luck’ and Zelda, a Middle Eastern female first name) and even formal status (e.g. English mob).”
Colloquial, by definition is…belonging to ordinary or familiar conversation.