Slang vs. Jargon

Difference Between Slang And Jargon


Slang words are words that are widely used in informal speech and writing but are not accepted for formal use. They may be new words or old ones used with a new meaning. The desire to say old things in a new way leads to slang. When something becomes very common in our daily life, we are likely to make up new words for it. Slang is a part of every profession, trade, sport, school, and social group.

Sometimes slang is used in a way that seems to be cruel or unkind, as when a person is called a jerk. Most slang is limited to certain areas. But some words, such as “okay,” are carried around the world by newspapers, radio, television, motion pictures, and tourists. Slang is popular because it is catchy and timely. Most slang has a very short life. It meets a momentary need or expresses a temporary opinion. Yet some words now considered standard began as slang. These include words such as taxi, flapjack, hoax, bogus, skyscraper, and fan (from fanatic).

Slang is invented the same way formal language is. Its basis is usually metaphor. A metaphor is a word or phrase that ordinarily means one thing but is used for another thing to suggest a likeness between the two. Money, for example, is called bacon, loot, dough, bucks, and bread. One’s home is referred to as a pad, shack, dump, diggings, or hole in the wall. Failure is referred to as blowing it, hitting a foul ball, flunking, or running into a stone wall. To be discharged from a job is to be sacked, bounced, fired, or axed.

People often object to slang. They feel it is impolite or weakens a person’s vocabulary. Yet slang can enliven speech and writing when used appropriately. A command over language involves the power to make up new expressions or use old expressions for new purposes.


Jargon, the terminology of a science, technology, art, profession, trade, or craft. The term has also come to mean the “officialese” of government. (Jargon is originally an Old French word meaning “warbling of birds.”) Both kinds of jargon belong to Standard English, but whereas jargon in the sense of technical terminology is, in its own contexts, acceptable and necessary, jargon in the sense of “officialese” is clumsy, pompous, long-winded, and unnecessary in any context (see also Dialect).

In Britain, government jargon is called “Whitehallese”; in the United States, “Federal prose” or “gobbledygook” (from the gobbling noise of the turkey cock). It occurs in single words, as communicate for “say” or “write” and disincentive for “deterrent”; in phrases, as leave out of consideration for “omit”; and in general verbiage, as the position with regard to food consumption exhibits a maximum of nonavailability for “food is very scarce.”


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