Rubberneck, flim-flam, blah

August 18, 2010

Quotation of the Day: “Everyone including even the metaphysician in his study and the eremite in his cell, has a large vocabulary of slang, but the vocabulary of the vulgar is likely to be larger than that of the cultured, and it is harder worked. Its content may be divided into two categories: (a) old words, whether used singly or in combination, that have been put to new uses, usually metaphorical, and (b) new words that have not yet been admitted to the standard vocabulary. Examples of this first type are ‘rubberneck,’ for a gaping and prying person, and ‘iceberg,’ for a cold woman; examples of the second are ‘hoosegow,’ ‘flim-flam,’ ‘blurb,’ ‘bazoo’ and ‘blah.’ There is a constant movement of slang terms into accepted usage.” H.L. Mencken, “The Nature of Slang” (1919), in A Language Reader for Writers 150, 151 (James R. Gaskin & Jack Suberman eds., 1966).

Courtesy of Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day for August 18

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