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COLLOQUIAL, FAMILIAR, AND SLANG LANGUAGE

Let's sort a few things out. ALL language, whether


colloquial or formal, follows grammar rules - the very
fact that nobody simply scrambles the word order
shows that.
Secondly, written language can be formal or informal,
and spoken language can be formal or informal.
A few characteristics of colloquial language are:
- use of contractions (isn't, can't rather than is not,
cannot)
- fewer subordinate clauses
- use of 'you' to mean 'people in general' (you can't get
too much of a good thing)
- use of slang and swearwords (e.g., 'guy' or 'bloke' for
'man')
- in spoken language, quite a lot of repetition and
pauses, and 'broken thoughts' where speakers change
plan part way through a sentence
- omission of pronouns where this will not cause
ambiguity ('went to town this morning' - leaving out 'I')
- in speech, using intonation for questions instead of
inversion of subject and auxiliary ('You got a light?'
instead of 'have you got...')
- use of phrasal verbs instead of Latin-based
equivalent, e.g., 'go up' and 'go in' rather than 'ascend'
and 'enter'.
Colloquial English is the casual way of saying and you
use it to talk informally for example "Howzit my friend"
is colloquial english.
Formal English is the formal way of saying something
and it is mostly used in letters, essays, reports and
when speaking to someone with higher authority for
example "good evening " is formal english.

This is quite close to informal.


It is mostly used with speech rather than
writing, though not necessarily so.

The word is also slightly stronger on average


than informal (i.e. more informal).
It suggests a yesno qualification: saying more
colloquial is not so common.
It is usually neither positive nor negative, nor
felt to be lower class.

However, the euphemism "colloquial at best" is


often used to mean that it is bad style, referring to
a colloquialism used in the wrong setting.

Slang:

Slang can be a noun or an


adjective; slangy means "resembling or
constituting slang".

It is more often negative than positivebut it


can still easily be positive.

In the formalmiddleinformal spectrum, it is


more informal than colloquial or informal.
The word slang itself is a bit informal, while the
other words on this page are not.
Oxford English Dictionary: 1. a. The special
vocabulary used by any set of persons of a low or
disreputable character; language of a low and
vulgar type. [notice vulgar used ambiguously]
1.

2.

3.

Originally, slang was language


associated with low socio-economic class or
character, and it is still used with that
connotation, though by no means always.
A secondary sense has developed, that
of general "group talk" in a mildly
disapproving or mocking wayeven if this
group isn't lower class. This sense is now
arguably more common than the first. It is
often used ironically, as in lawyer slang.
A tertiary, entirely neutral sense, "any
kind of non-standard group talk", is now
commonly used in academia.

Vulgar:

This means literally "of the people".The Oxford


English Dictionary describes its development
through the ages:
I. 3. Commonly or customarily used by the people of a
1 There is some truth here, but much confusion. Yes, informal country; ordinary, vernacular. In common use c 1525
1650;
now arch.
majority of a culture knows and uses; but specifically it means
expressions
which are not used in formal
II. 9. Belonging
to the ordinary
common class in the
contexts. A colloquialism is not regional but conversational, typically
with an informal
contextor("colloquy"
community;
not
distinguished
or
marked
off from this
means "conversation"). Slang does not mean from a time period; it means a very informal expression often
in any
way;
plebeian
known only to a specific group of people. Slang terms often have
short
lifetimes
and so can
II. 13.
Having a common and offensively mean
associated in our minds with time periods. MEd Oct 15 '12
at 3:36
character; coarsely commonplace; lacking in
[Edited, with examples:] There is some overlap
refinement or good taste; uncultured, ill-bred.
between these terms. People will often even disagree

It can now be used to describe language in two


whether a certain expression is best
ways:
considered informal, or rather colloquial, etc. This is
merely an attempt at cataloguing possible
1.
The old-fashioned sense is as (II. 9.)
associations. If you have suggestions for improvement
above. It is still in use in dictionaries, but less
or refinement, do not hesitate.
frequent elsewhere.
Informal:

This is the broadest, most neutral word. It just


2.
The modern sense is close to (II. 13.),
means that speech or writing is on the lower side
"obscene" or "filthy" to a greater or lesser
of the formalmiddleinformal spectrum. In
degree; the lower classes were supposed to
informal situations, when your conduct is relaxed
be liable to such language, and this subin all respects and etiquette matters less, you will
sense of (1.) came to dominate the word. So
use informal language accordingly.
this is obviously even less formal
than slang in its lower-class sense. In

Apart from that, it is neither negative nor


dictionaries, vulgar could be (1.) or (2.).
positive; that's why it is the best term if you don't
I will give a few examples, best description first:
want to sound disapproving (and if colloquial is
not an option).
That ain't right.

There are various degrees of (in)formality: it is

slang
usually not a yesno distinction.

informal
Colloquial:

vulgar (1. of the common people), oldOxford English Dictionary: 2. spec. Of words, phrases,
fashioned label
etc.: Belonging to common speech; characteristic of or

perhaps colloquial
proper to ordinary conversation, as distinguished from
I will try and convince her.
formal or elevated language. (The usual sense.)

slightly informal
colloquial
some might call this slang or vulgar (1.), but it
isn't felt to be connected with lower class by most
people, nor with certain specific groups
That sucks.

If I

slang
vulgar (2. obscene), old-fashioned label,
because suck has lost its sexual connotation for
many people
vulgar (1. of the common people)
informal (a bit too general)
colloquial is possible, but not the best choice
was rich, I'd go to London.
informal
colloquial, but many people "would never
say was", in neither speech nor writing
slang or vulgar (1. of the common people):
probably not

Informal - This is directly related to register. It is


mostly dictated by social status. One would use formal
language in formal setting, such as business functions
or any time when you are speaking with members of
high/higher society.
Colloquial - This is geographical. There is only one
language in England: English. However, two people
from different cities might have quite notable difficulty
understanding each other in conversation due to
colloquialisms. They are often related to the history of
the given place and can be influenced by things such
as prevalent industry, local surroundings and historical
events.
Slang - This tends to be more social. The
understanding of slang is usually restricted to a group
of peers. This could be a small group or a large group.
They could be from very different places and
backgrounds. Slang is formed more through mutual
understanding and often to intentionally create an
element of exclusivity. Because of all these factors,
slang tends to change constantly and often does not
last long enough to enter into common usage. Though
it's a slightly lazy example, consider how teenagers
speak. Each generation tends to have it's own slang. It
is not constant. It exists for that group of people at that
time. It is essentially a type of jargon.
Vulgar - This is a little different to the other terms.
Each of the others refers to a style of speaking that an
individual might adopt and would affect all elements of
speech. This term however, is restricted really to
vocabulary. Linguistically speaking, if a person is
vulgar, it means that they tend to use obscenities. It
might also refer to their selection of crass or crude
conversation topics.
Hope that helps.
There are slight differences between these four terms:
Informal has to do with speech or writing that is not
strictly formal, or strictly standard. Colloquialism refers
to informal speech or writing. Slang is a form of
colloquialism, but slang isn't necessarily vulgari.e. 'dog
and bone' for 'telephone', or 'bouncer' for soomething
really good.

Never did get any second source to verify, but these


have been good discussion points in my classroom for
teaching about this topic. What do you all think?
In literature, colloquialism is the use of informal words,
phrases or even slang in a piece of writing.
Colloquial expressions tend to sneak in as writers,
being part of a society, are influenced by the way
people speak in that society. Naturally, they are bound
to add colloquial expressions in their vocabulary.
However, writers use such expressions intentionally too
as it gives their works a sense of realism. For instance,
in a fiction story depicting American society, a greeting
whats up? between friends will seem more real and
appropriate than the formal How are you? and How
do you do?
Colloquialism Examples in Everyday Life
Colloquial expressions vary from region to region.
Below is a list of some colloquialism examples of
American origin:

a bunch of numpties a group of idiots

to bamboozle to deceive

go bananas go insane or be very angry

wanna want to

gonna going to

yall you all

go nuts go insane or be very angry

look blue -look sad

buzz off go away


10 Colloquial Terms and Their Meanings
By Mark Nichol
Why is there a taint surrounding aint? Why do editors
get ornery or riled, or have conniptions or raise a
ruckus, if writers try to use these and other words?
The ebb and flow of the English languages vocabulary
is caused by competing crosscurrents. Neologisms
come in with each tide, some of them washing ashore
and others drifting back out to sea. But
pronouncements from self-appointed experts and tacit
disapproval by the self-selected better classes can also
result in the relegation of certain terms and idioms to
the realm of substandard or nonstandard usage. Here
are ten words that, at least in terms of one sense, have
been demoted by an association with rural dialect.
1. Aint: Once a fully legitimate contraction of am
not employed at least in familiar conversation by
speakers of all social classes, aint came to be
identified with less well-educated people, and in the
United States specifically with poor rural dwellers. Its
unfortunate that in writing, its use is restricted to
humorous emphasis or idiomatic expressions (Say it

Vulgar is anything that is offensive, in formal, or


informal speech. It could include slang that refers to
indecent subjects i.e. 'frigging', or formal speech that
refers to indecent subjects i.e.'incest'

informal what the majority of a culture uses


for writing/speaking;

colloquial words from a specific region


(y'all for American South, *yinz for Pittsburgh);
slang words from a time period (groovy for
60's, rad for 80's).

aint so!).
2. Allow: The sense of allow meaning concede or
recognize has been relegated to obscurity; seldom is
this usage employed except in faux-rural contexts.
3. Conniption: This word for an emotional fit, usually
appearing in plural form (having conniptions), is still
employed occasionally in a jocular sense. It was first

attested almost two hundred years ago, but its origin is

high-profile examples of stereotypical rural dialect, but

obscure, though its possibly a corruption of corruption,

its absent from formal usage.

which once had a connotation of anger, or might be


derived from a dialectal form of captious (fallacious).

7. Rile: This dialectal variant of roil, in the sense of


stir up, is used informally to describe irritation or

4. Fetch: Fetch has a colloquial air about it, and its

anger.

unfortunate that the word lacks respectability, because


it is more vivid and thorough a term than get (Could

8. Ruckus: Ruckus, probably a mash-up

you fetch that for me?), and more compact than, for

of ruction (disturbance) and rumpus (boisterous

example, Could you go over there and bring that back

activity) themselves both dialectal terms is now

for me? It survives in one formal sense, however:far-

used only light-heartedly.

fetched (originally, brought from afar, but used


figuratively for most of its centuries-long life span).

9. Spell: The sense of spell that means an indefinite


period of time, related to the use of the word to mean

5. Ornery: This contraction of ordinary, influenced by

substitute, is confined to rural dialect or affectation

the latter words less common senses of coarse and

of such usage.

ugly, developed a connotation of cantankerous or


mean behavior. Today, its used only in a humorous or

10. Yonder: This formerly standard term meaning

scornful sense.

over there is now known only in rural dialect (or


spoofing of it) or in a poetic sense.

6. Reckon: The sense of reckon that means suppose


(I reckon I ought to get home) is one of the most