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Blog > April Writing Prompt: Slang

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The writing prompts invite postcrossers to write about a different topic on their postcards’ messages every month. These are just suggestions though — if you already know what you want to write about, or the recipient gives you some pointers, that’s great too!

I know quite a few people for whom English isn’t a first language—in Postcrossing, in the massively multiplayer online game I play, from various forums I’ve been part of over the years, and of course my wife and in-laws. My language skills are sorely lacking, though I can read French quite well, so I always speak and write in English with them. Every so often, we run into a communication barrier, and it’s usually because I’ve dropped some kind of slang into the conversation (often without even realising). Which got me curious about everyone else’s local slang!

In April, write about local slang words or phrases, and their meaning.

I know I usually talk a lot about being Welsh, but I grew up in Yorkshire, and most of the time that’s the kind of slang that comes most naturally. So I offer two slang/dialect words for you: “maungy” and “chuffed”. They’re pretty much opposites, which makes them a nice pair to share.

To be “maungy” is to be whiny or sulky. I really wasn’t sure how to spell it, so I had to guess and look it up. You can hear the pronounciation on the Collins Dictionary site! “Maungy” is often used of a fretful child, old enough to be expected to behave themselves, moping around and dragging their feet and making a whole excursion into a painful ordeal. The word sounds so expressive to me, and I definitely feel a bit maungy sometimes myself… especially about having work in the morning.

“Chuffed” is a much more positive word, and one I use a bit more often (and I think is a bit less specifically Yorkshire?). You can hear how it’s pronounced from the dictionary. It means pleased, so you might be “chuffed” about good exam results or winning a competition, or finding just what you wanted in the shop. You might say you’re “dead chuffed” if you got top marks or won something really good. You’re definitely not going to be chuffed about someone being maungy, though…

How about you? Do you use slang a lot? Do you know any good local words? It’s a fun thing to share on the postcards you send this month—but we’d love to hear about it the comments here as well!

31 comments so far

DinoMino, Netherlands

Oh wow, a writing prompt about one of my favourite topics! As a 26 year old with some kind of forever young syndrome and a fraternity membership, I'm fairly well versed in both street slang and fraternity slang.

Dutch street slang really reflects the many different cultures that have come into the Netherlands in the past decades. For example, the street slang term for white person is "tatta", which stems from Sranantongo, a Surinamese creole language. The Surinamese diaspora brought it here. And "wahed", meaning "very", comes from Arabic. What I like about this development is that modern Dutch street slang sounds very exotic! You can even see it in the slang names for cities:
Amsterdam = Damsko
Rotterdam = Roffa
Utrecht = Utca
The Hague = Agga

Dutch fraternity slang, on the other hand, stems way more from native Dutch vocabulary, but it can still be very cryptic. The words are a mix of terms for fraternity customs, "studentikoze" (highly frat-style) abbreviations and less "studentikoze" young adult slang. An example of fraternity customs is "brassen". The exact meaning varies from city to city, but in my city it means a ludicrous way of stealing, sabotaging or kidnapping stuff or people from other fraternities. And the word "studentikoos", being formed of the Latin word "student" while the suffix "-ikoos" stems from Greek, reflects a typical aspect of some frat slang where classic academic languages get intermixed and poorly grammatised.
Examples of abbreviations are:
"esma" = Espresso Martini
"HDP" = "Heerlie de Peerlie" an "Anne-Fleur/Marie-Claire" way of writing "Heerlijk" (lovely). "Anne-Fleur" and "Marie-Claire" are names given to the stereotype of 18 - 25 year old high class girls who use this kind of language a lot
"sumogegigo" = "supermooi gezopen gisteren gozer" (boozed super nicely yesterday dude)
Even the word "abbreviation" got abbreviated in a "stuko" ("studentikoze") fashion: "afkorting" becomes "afko" There's even a dictionary on all the "afko's", and it's called the "afkowobo" (abbreviation of "afkortingenwoordenboek" (abbreviation dictionary)

Looking forward to writing all these funny terms on my postcards!

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mrm99, Russia

As a teacher, I constantly egg my students to compose dictionaries of slang. That way they do their first language researches and find something fun. The topic is of much pleasure for me. Looking forward to receiving a card with an example of local slang, as in the article.

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jjmedusa, United States of America

Hmm, I rarely use slang, but I do like the word chuffed! Maybe I will start using that! :)

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Demmi, Romania

“Chuffed” sounds close to "ciufut" in the Romanian language but has a different meaning :)
So "ciufut" in Engl · greedy; moody; capricious; whimsical;
Great idea for April's prompt!
And Happy Easter for Catholics Postcrossers!
xoxo

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beesknees, United States of America

In Nursing we say " it's a code brown" - im sure you can imagine what that means!

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jeffbh, United States of America

In the U.S., a person described as being "A few fries short of a Happy Meal," is, presumably, not very bright. Similarly, "not playing with a full box of toys,"

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heidiblooms, United States of America

I live in Texas, and always open my postcards with a classic southern greeting: Howdy!

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at61, Italy

A very interesting topic, that of slang or idiomatic expressions.
In the Italian language there are - as in many other languages - characteristic idiomatic expressions, in addition to the unmistakable gestural expressions (sometimes I even catch myself gesticulating lively when we talk among friends).
What may be surprising compared to other languages is the derivation of some of these lexical expressions: as an example I give the phrase "postpone to the Greek calends", which dates back to over two thousand years ago, when in the calendar of ancient Rome the months began with first day which was called - precisely - "kalendas", which instead did not exist in the calendar of the contemporary peoples of ancient Greece.
Saying "on the Greek calendars", therefore, means a date that - in fact - does not exist, and is therefore indefinite.
Another expression used in the Italian language is "the die is cast", to define an irrevocable decision, from which there is no going back.
According to historical sources, it was pronounced by none other than the emperor and leader Julius Caesar on 10 January 49 BC, before crossing the Rubicon river at the head of his army, openly violating the law that prohibited armed entry within the borders of Italy and giving the start of the civil war against Pompey.
This expression can be traced back to the game of dice (very popular in ancient Rome), according to which once the dice have been thrown it is no longer possible to intervene in any way.
Greetings to all "Postcrossers" from Rome, Italy

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jeffbh, United States of America

There's an entertaining book called "The Dictionary of Playground Slang," by Chris Lewis. The book is a British publication, and most of the slang is from British playgrounds.

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inkandmolasses, United States of America

This seems like a fun idea...just curious though...at the end of the article, it says to ask if they also use slang, but are we meant to ask questions if they can't respond back to us? I'm pretty new at this, and am trying to understand the system as a whole.

Thanks in advance for any with any insight. :)

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DarciNZ, New Zealand

To inkandmolasses, I think it means if you ask a question on your postcard, hopefully when the Postcrosser thanks you (in the "hurray" message), they will reply to your question when they have thanked you for your postcard! :)

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melilot, France

I don't remember all the slang used at the post, but this one :
"faire un frigo" : litteraly : to make a fridge.
That's when a mail carrier does not dispatch the mail, but instead keep it (often at home). It's not necessarily to steal it, but sometimes because he felt unable to do his job, hopelessly this can happen (I'm not authorized to tell more!).
To make a fridge (a very old expression, I'm not sure if it's still used) is to keep the mail instead of dispatching it. No need to say there are consequences, for the mail carrier and the clients (and the post). Very bad situation.
There was a dictionnary of postal words in french, because it's very specific. I've lost mine and I regret it a lot.

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melilot, France

I meant : does not DELIVER the mail (and not DISPATCH), sorry.

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Kewl, Philippines

"Use your coconut!" is a favorite phrase/ sentence to prod someone to think deeply/ use their head (=coconut)/ not to play dumb. You get the drift if you use your coconut. :-)

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Mirfi, Australia

This is a card I love to send, as it's a map card and an Aussie slang card in one.
https://www.postcrossing.com/postcards/AU-928673

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MAKA, Spain

Jerga: "jolgorio" "ambiente juvenil". Hace tiempo que está en desuso esa palabra en España. Me encantan los diccionarios.

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KeeksWanderer, United States of America

I would say my currently, most used slang term from the US is "Salty". It does not qualify if the level of salt in a food source but a mood that someone is feeling. Oh dear, almost used, someone's vibe! HAH! Another slang term is "Vibe"!

Salty - It's often used to describe someone who is being overly sensitive, defensive, or angry, particularly in response to criticism or perceived slights.
Vibe - it meant to describe good feelings but often is used to describe the way something is felt whether it be good or bad. If you don't like the vibe of a cafe or person, if it seems a bit "off", then just leave.

Ok, hopefully the information was fun.

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dianna62, United States of America

Whomperjawed. When I moved to the North from the south no one knew what it meant.😊

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letterlass, United Kingdom

I'm chuffed to hear Yorkshire slang on here! ♥️

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luciaintokyo, Japan

I've been living in Tokyo for seven years, and I've always found the Japanese language to be really fun (and complicated)!

Slang here is particularly interesting. For example, "ヤバい" (yabai) originally meant "dangerous," but now it can be used to describe anything from "amazing" to "terrible." Another word, "渋い" (shibui), used to describe an old-fashioned style, has evolved to mean "cool."

Tokyo's neighborhoods have their own slang too. Shibuya, famous for its fashion, is sometimes called "シブヤン" (Shibuyan), and Akihabara, known for electronics and otaku culture, is affectionately known as "アキバ" (Akiba).

There are also fun abbreviations, like "乙" (otsu), which is a shorthand way to say "thanks for your hard work," and "wktk," from "ワクワクテカテカ" (wakuwaku tekateka), used to express excitement online.

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PHILATELY07, United States of America

Idioms too are fascinating. I amused my German medical students with this: "I ran into Jim, we shot the breeze, and then I gave him a lift." No, I didn't crash into Jim, we didn't have pistols, and I didn't try to pick him up. In reality: "I met Jim by happenstance, we talked about this and that, and then I gave him a ride home." I have a dictionary of American slang which gives the history of the first written use of a slang word or expression, which often goes back many years, even centuries. The "Urban Dictionary" helps me keep up with emerging slang, some of which is very ephemeral.

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CampievanBears, United Kingdom

Ooh we have a few from the North East of England.
Plodging - paddling in sea etc.
Spoaching - hunting in bottom of bag etc for small item.
Hacky - very very dirty and muddy.

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Tynesha, United States of America

I use a mix of casual expressions, plain (only certain written situations) or local-based English, sometimes specific idioms and phrases, internet jargon to certain people, and rarely, text talk when I talk to someone.

Casual speech sprinkled with slang is my go-to in most conversations. The words and jargon I use commonly are not limited to generation, site (YouTube, Twitch, Kick, or the like), hobby/niche, interest, locale, and social groups I'm associated with, but there are certain expressions I like using every day.

Urban Dictionary is my favorite slang resource by far. Niche, unconventional, and unhinged for most terms and examples, ud is my resource of choice when I make sure I use, let's say, a Gen Z/Alpha slang or phrase, like what @PHILATELY07 is suggesting, get used to encountering a short-lasting slang, or learn a new term not found in any ordinary dictionary 🙃

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denarose, Australia

Living in Australia we have quite a few slang words and phrases. There is actually a postcard that has some of the slang words on it.
I usually greet the person I am sending the postcard to with the greeting phrase of:
"G'day mate howyergoin?
Other phrases I think off hand is "Flat out as a Lizard drinking" or 'As busy as a centipede learning to skip!!" :-) usually means one is very busy.
"Have a coldie' have a beer.
Arvo : afternoon.
Light up the Barbie and put the Snags on." Having a BBQ and cooking the sausages.
There's so many more.
Cheers and 'ave a gud one!

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Sunflowerrrf, United States of America

One of my favorites that I say around home all the time, "Six of one, half a dozen of the other." This means, essentially it is the same thing.

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avi, United States of America

This is so fun! Here's my favorite Utah slang word: "to biff it."

It means to wipe out, or trip and fall. It's an embarassing thing.
e.g., "I was coming down the mountain on my snowboard, and then I totally biffed it! I didn't get hurt, but I got fresh powder all up on the inside of my boots."

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Flippie, Canada

I don't use slang at all. English is my second language, it's hard to learn slang. But thank you for this topic, I learn every day.

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TeaCakesAndBooks, United Kingdom

I used “chuffed” in a postcard to a chap in the USA, then wondered if I should have done? I left it in - I didn’t get asked about it! Either he knew what it meant, or didn’t care, or it might have been clear enough to work out! 🤷🏼‍♀️😄

I used to work with a girl who was Greek but spoke excellent English. However, she would immediately asked us to explain the meaning if we used any slang words. She was fascinated and it was hilarious trying to explain what we meant. Her favourite slang word at the time was “flibbertigibbet”! (Not commonly used in my area - she had travelled a lot and picked it up from another part of the U.K. 😄 Means flighty, gossipy, ungrounded type of person). 😁

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clbrown, United States of America

I found this on Facebook, so "take it with a grain of salt." :)

They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot & then once a day it was taken & sold to the tannery. If you had to do this to survive you were “piss poor.”

But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot; they “didn’t have a pot to piss in” & were the lowest of the low.
The next time you are washing your hands & complain because the water temperature isn’t just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the 1500s.

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June. Since they were starting to smell, however, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.
Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women, and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it … hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the Bath water!”

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof, resulting in the idiom, “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed, therefore, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, leading folks to coin the phrase “dirt poor.”

The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way, subsequently creating a “thresh hold.”

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire.. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while, and thus the rhyme, “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.”

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, “bring home the bacon.” They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and “chew the fat.”

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the “upper crust.”
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up, creating the custom of holding a wake.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive, so they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, saved by the bell or was considered a dead ringer.

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riledup, United States of America

Here in Pittsburgh, I don't know that I'd necessarily call it slang but we definitely have our own unique words for things....for instance, what's the plural of "you"? Well. "Yinz" of course!!

Hmm....what else....
Nebby = Nosy
Slippy = Slippery
Read Up (say Read like Red) = Clean up
N'At = 'and that', usually added on to a sentence, sort of like a "you know?"
Jagoff = Jerk
Spicket = spigot
GumBan = Rubber Band
Kennywood's Open = Your zipper is down. (Kennywood is a local amusement park"

We won't even get into our crazy accent that makes "South Side" sound like Sahside :)

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its_sboon, United States of America

I'd like to make you all aware of a micro-slang, which I firat heard at college a few years ago. Outside of my college, I have never heard it used, and I make it my mission to proliferate it's usage.
Its called "a dub"
Short for the phonetic "double U" (W), it is the foil to the slang "L" (as in taking an L/taking a loss) and is used with the same language (I'm taking the dub, it's been dubs all day my guy)
In short, it's the 'taking a win' comparable to 'taking a loss'

This slang seems localized to my Georgia college, because I haven't hear anyone else saying 'dub' and where else.

My friends from school and I have even slang-ified it further to 'tubs'

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