Subcultural English

Welcome to our subcultural English page.

During the month of October, we’ll be discussing the topics of subcultures and sublanguages in English.

On this page you will find a growing list of resources regarding the topic of subcultural English.

If you would like to contribute with a link or links, or a guest post on the topic, please contact us, or leave a comment.

Subcultural English – our blog posts

What’s your English: subcultures
There’s a useful distinction … between the ‘core’ vocabulary and the countless ‘sublanguages’ which together make up English (or any other language).  …  individual subject-fields, hobbies, and occupations all have their own sublanguages too, and these are, roughly speaking, words that are in common use within that community but more or less unknown outside it.

Street slang – the dodgy-looking geezer
What makes slang such a fascinating field is that it’s often the language of the margins, of people on the fringes of society who have less economic clout than those in the mainstream. But interestingly, when it comes to language, these people – the originators of slang – often have much more influence socially than they do economically.

Slang keeps on swinging
Traditionally, lexicographers have been cautious about including new slang, because so much of it is ephemeral. Slang dictionaries are different, of course, and nowadays some dictionaries have websites that allow more flexibility in what can be recorded.

Pinch a phrase from thieves’ cant
Cant has been more spoken than written, and its precise origins are, unsurprisingly, shrouded in uncertainty. But it was once a vibrant vocabulary that served not only to identify someone as part of the subculture but to prevent those outside it from understanding the speaker.

Peace and love, man: confessions of an ex-hippie
But not all of the hippie lexicon has survived so well. It’s a long time since I heard anyone say let’s split (=let’s go) or refer to money as bread. If you sold out (that one is still around) and embraced the materialist lifestyle, you would be derided as a breadhead, the worst possible insult. To express approval, however, two of the most popular formulae were far out! and too much!, usually followed by man, an all-purpose term of address.

All artistic pursuits have their jargon. … Yet I can think of few creative disciplines with as rich and all-encompassing a language as the language of theatre.

Acting up – and down
Many theatrical terms relate to direction, and I don’t mean the kind that a director gives. I’m talking up, down, right, left, that kind of direction.

Weirdest subcultural English word
As we did last month, we’ve asked our wonderful guest bloggers to answer a question on the topic and have put their answers in a single post for your enjoyment. The question was: ‘What’s the weirdest subcultural English word you’ve heard and what makes it interesting?’ Some wrote in with their weirdest word and some with their favourite, either way, it’s a good read.

I dig your rap
Perhaps no variety of English generates more enthusiasm among English learners in the world today than the English they hear in rap – and perhaps no variety of English is more opaque to the learner, especially to the learner who is studying standard English in a classroom.

2 steps to knowing your house from your garage
In a lot of ways, the names applied to genres of music are pretty useless – one person’s dubstep is another’s garage. To someone else garage means a kind of rock or raw r&b … and so on. Every scene or sound or subculture has its own peculiar names.

Other pages

Romantic English
Sporting English
Metaphorical English

Business English
Green English
Small talk in English
Gender English
Online English

Class English
Plain English
International English

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