Where does the “slang” come from in the English language?

British Slang
Spoken English language is influenced by many factors such as fast changing technology and ‘identity’ language used by younger people. These influences help create colloquial and slang language. While this can be challenging for new speakers of English, an understanding of slang helps to localise their speech.

Students from all around the world are currently using SpeechSchool.TV’s online English Accent learning program that employs video training to neutralise accents in spoken English.  Many of these students have come to English as a second language.  In order to reach their goal of gaining a neutral and natural form of English, understanding slang and where it comes from can really help.

Languages of course are not static, they are forever changing with use.  English is one of the fastest changing languages due to it being the world’s global language and the basis for a large proportion of modern science and technology.

So where does slang come from?  As a language is used in different communities and is influenced by changing technology, new words start to enter the lexicon.  Younger people and technology are among the most powerful influencers.  Teenagers and young adults seek to create their own identity and in Western cultures play the most significant influence on fashions.

In the 1960s, the sexual revolution in Britain led to many slang words entering normal usage which would have previously been considered obscene.  For example ‘tosser’ and ‘wanker’ are now common slang simply used to denote an idiot.  These words entered the language as slang when first used by younger people pushing linguistic and social boundaries.

In the same way, technology is influencing the English language.  For example words like ‘spam’ and ‘bandwidth’ were originally tech terms but have now become common slang.  Bandwidth for instance was originally a technical term from internet hosting but is now used to describe a number of situations where something is limited by space or capacity.  When a person says “I don’t have the bandwidth for this right now” that means they don’t have the room in their mind to consider it.

English is a global and dynamic language, introducing new slang words from the sub cultures of youth and high-tech.  Understanding slang and where it comes from can help speakers use and avoid it appropriately as different situations require.