How Quickly does obsolete/Archaic Slang Exit the language?

I find language fascinating. I also read a lot of mark Twain, and I am familiar with 19th-century American slang terms…sadly, most of these expressions are no loger in common use. When was the last time you herad of “blatherskite”? or “plugugly”? I’ve noticed that as the WWII population passes on, a lot of the expressions of the 1940’s are dying off as well.
have any linguists studied how words eveolve and die off? certainly, one would expect technical terms to change-we have transistors and integrated circuits today-so “valve” or "tube’ are words that will disappea from the language.
I’m trying to revive some old words-but it seems hard to do! :confused:

This topic is the Cat’s Pajamas. I saw this thread and I said 23 Skidoo and had to post to it. I suppose I could even say it is the Bee’s Knees.

Maybe it lasts until the last person who knew the words dies?

I think it’s groovy in a far-out kind of way, myself. Not to mention boss, gear, fab, and bitchin’. :smiley:

I’ll add a condition to TV time’s guess–maybe it lasts until the last person who knew and used the words regularly dies. I don’t hear much, if any, 1940s or 50s slang from my father. He must have used those expressions in those days, but he seems to have outlived them.

Some slang does enter into the language. Bitchin’ is a good example, and I think bling will have a long life. It describes perfectly something that we had no name for.

Groovy on the other hand disappeared very quickly.

“Cool” died out temporarily and then came back as “kewl.”

It’s a crapshoot. Some terms die out in a few months, others in a few years, others never. It all depends if people find the world useful.

I have used both Plug Ugly and Pug Ugly and I have heard both used.
“Plug Ugly” appears to still be reasonably common. 26,000 hits on google. “Pug Ugly” has 13,100.

I do not have an answer to the main question, I will refrain from my wags.

Dude, I hope that is cool and groovy by you,

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for these words to disappear. There are a lot of valves and tubes that have nothing to do with electronics.

My 70-something mother still says “hep”, in all seriousness, in a way to validate that she can relate to us young folks. Doesn’t work.

Just based on my experience, it seems like a slang term can peak in popularity for a timespan anywhere from a few months (“so money”, “grody”, “deck”, etc) to a couple of years (“fresh”, “go postal”, “cool beans”) to several years (“awesome”, “da bomb”) to a few decades (“cool”, “dude”, and likely “chill” and “hot” into the future).

Well most descriptive linguists would probably tell you that words exit the language in pretty much the opposite way they enter it – people stop using them.

Though some would like to say that a word enters the language once a dictionary formally records it, it’s pretty obvious that that doesn’t really capture the whole story. If I make up a word right now (cablorting), it has now just entered my personal lexicon. If it can be used to convey meaning, either through context or explicit definition, to someone else, then its presence in the language begins to grow. The more people use it, the stronger its foothold becomes. At some point, we might consider it now part of the English language when some critical mass of people either use it or understand it. Having the word published or used in the mass media can help this process. Exactly what that magic number is, is not well defined, in part due to the regional nature of vernacular.

For words leaving the language, you can basically reverse the process. The point at which it is no longer used enough to convey any meaning (23 skidoo?) one might consider it to be gone. The complicating factor on this end is that since, for the last several hundred years, language and knowledge has been archived, one could always go look up the meaning of a word and, one might argue, keep it alive.

Well, that’s one cablorting interpretation of it at least.

There are still a lot of tubes used in electronics, most notably those on the Internet.

‘Pig ugly’ here, and I’m sure I’ve used it in the past week.

It did? I missed that one…

Don’t assume that words won’t take on a meaning derived from their original use while the object they described falls into obselescence. (There’s a menu at the top of my screen called ‘bookmarks’. ‘Albums’ are used to group songs on iPods. A telephone still ‘rings’. And so on.)

“Bebop” disappeared in the 1960’s and came back in the 1990’s, much to my amazement.

]‘Pig ugly’ here, and I’m sure I’ve used it in the past week.
Different meanings. Pig Ugly is an adjective meaning very ugly, whereas Pug Ugly or Plug Ugly are nouns meaning a thug.

Actually check the Urban dictionary, Pug Ugly, which appears to be a play on the older Plug Ugly, is usually used to indicated that someone got beat by the “Ugly Stick”.

See Pugly too.


So far, four examples given by others in this thread of archaic slang are used by me all the time. I’m not that old.

When was the last time you talked about your experiences at a Happening?

There’s a lot of old/archaic slang in use in Australia and NZ- it’s not at all uncommon to hear of something that’s really good as being “The bee’s knees” or “The Dog’s Bollocks”. Similarly, “Pig Ugly”, “Claytons”, and “Swell” are also terms I’ve heard recently (although “Swell” tends to be used in a kind of post-modern sense, rather than as it was in the '50s).

Australian slang is pretty colourful in its own right, though…

Not sure if I’ve used that expression ever.

This whole idea is farm out man, it’s right arm…huh? it wrong again? Damn!

As long as Abe Simpson and Monty Burns are on TV, there’ll be Archaic slang in currency.