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  1. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Thoughts about made up slang words

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by doggiedude, Mar 26, 2016.

    In part of my WIP there are teenage characters that I want to infuse some made up slang words for them to use.
    After reading back through the section I wrote a few weeks ago I decided it was overdone so I trimmed it back.

    Is there any guidelines for when there's too much of this sort of thing going on?
    I ended up only using two of them in the conversation in mind but I do have a variety of made up words throughout the story.

    slimer -- A girl's description for a boy she doesn't like
    When she meets someone she is interested in she tells her friend that she "would like to wave all over him."
    I also have an allusion to psychiatrists (or something like them) as psychbenders.
     
  2. Sileas
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    Sileas Member

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    Well, speaking as one who has used a bit of made-up slang herself....

    I think if there's a subtle definition slipped in, I personally wouldn't mind. It would be acceptable. Might want to ask the "grown ups" around here though.
     
  3. TheRealStegblob
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    TheRealStegblob Active Member

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    I think that for the sake of simplicity on all fronts (for both writer and reader) it's best to keep it a little lower if they're just "normal" teenagers. Unless this is taking place sometime far in the future where a whole new dictionary of slang would evolve or you're writing some kind of 'fall of civilization' story where entire new terms and words would evolve.

    Slang (especially made up slang) is a great way to 'date' a story. Right now in our world, slang is evolving to pretty much be a bunch of retired ebonic/street words dumbass kids on the internet saw on Twitter/Facebook and then blindly parrot (words like salty, bae, yolo, etc) where as a few years before, outdated internet culture defined slang with words like "epic", "fail", "ftw", etc. You either want to use it sparingly so as to not crowd the reader, or base speech heavily upon it. I dunno if there's much of a comfortable middle ground, but then, maybe there is.

    For the most part, slang of any kind typically comes from outdated terms that make it 'main stream' and earn widespread, ingrained use.
     
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  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My 2p...

    Slang has purpose. It's meant to identify the users as part of a group. What defines this group can be anything. All that matter is that the group sees itself as a group seperate from others in whatever way is important to said group. The words the group invents as slang can have almost any genesis, from a particular bit of vernacular that one person in the group uses that catches on, to something that identifies the nature of the group. Typically, where slang in fiction goes wrong is when the writer fails to understand how slang words come into being within a group, and also the fact that once a bit of slang catches on with people outside the group and no longer serves to identify the original users, it gets dropped and becomes "played", at which point the use of the word is no longer seen as in-group and cool, but instead as a sign of being out of the group and glomming. This factor is what guarantees that slang is almost always ephemeral and has a very short shelf life. Few words (relative to all the slang that may be in play at any given time) ever stand the test of time.

    So, be sparing. Know that overdoing it is seen as being overeager and a poser. There won't be that many words in play at any given time within a group.
     
  5. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I thought Maze Runner did it well. If you haven't read it, I'd suggest you do so.
     
  6. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I tried Maze Runner on three occasions and got annoyed enough to quit each time. To me the made up words in that story was waaaaaay overdone.
    That's actually the novel I was thinking about when I decided I had gone overboard.
     
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  7. Levelskid
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    Levelskid New Member

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    If you can explain it, or at least indicate what it means, then it's okay.
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Maze Runner got shredded by Honest Trailers for the heavy amount of nonsensical slang. It's a prime example, in my opinion, of where slang goes bad. There's no reason for them to make up those words, and contrary to typical adult thinking, slang words don't get made up randomly "just to be cool". It genuinely doesn't work that way. It only serves for the writer to add a layer of "this is not now, this is not us" to the story and it invariably comes off as feeling... off.

     
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  9. RahnyJae
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    RahnyJae Member

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    On top of growing up in culture that basically has its own dialect of English, I'm also a conlanger and a total linguistics nerd, so any time made up language comes into play from a small scale like slang to a large scale like something out of Tolkien, I'm 100% all for it. Of course, not everyone always uses it in a most natural and authentic feeling way, which is unfortunate, but don't let that turn you off the idea as a whole, because it can be really satisfying if you're into it.

    I find created lang/slang so fun and like...flavorful. Weird word choice, but that's what immediately jumps to my mind. It adds color to the world for me, especially with alternate universes. I just get such a kick out of that stuff as a reader/viewer. I added viewer because my favorite langs right now are Trigedasleng in the tv show The 100 and Belter Creole from The Expanse (never read the books for either series.) Both are so good and Trigedasleng was created by my conlang idol David J. Peterson, so I'm all hearts over it.

    Anyway, as far as how much to use in your story, you basically just got to go with what feels natural. Kinda basic advice, I know, but it really does just boil down to a gut feeling on what feels forced/excessive and since that's a concern of yours, your radar for that will be heightened, which is good. The biggest guideline or protip that comes to mind when creating slang, regardless of how much of it you use, is design (or at least have an idea of) the make up the society first. Then look at the kind of characters you have, which are the type to use slang period, which aren't. Then for the ones who are prone to use slang, what kind of opinion of the thing being slang-ified does either these characters as individuals or the society as a whole have? Good, bad, neutral? That can help with determining whether the slang will be a reference to something insulting, complimentary, or just observational. Also, keep in mind that some slang doesn't actually have to be a slew of made up words, but just funny phrasing or shortened versions of words/phrases that we in the real world are already familiar with.

    For instance, in one of my WIPs when Person B is talking about Person A having a crush on Person C, he might say "she had pretty thoughts about him for months, spittin' daises every other word." --Translation: Person A was caught up in romantic day dreams about a guy (Person C) and every time she'd talk about him, flowers would fall out of her mouth (figuratively), meaning she'd gush about him non-stop. I took the 'flowers falling out of the mouth' thing from our real world slang of how to spot a femmy gay dude, e.g. "he opened his mouth and a purse fell out." So this fictional world's version of that is 'how to spot if someone's in love.'

    And when my protag talks to another character about clearing up a problem with a third character, she says "Don't worry, all's A-O with us now." No translation really needed since all I did there was shorten A-Okay to first two letters. So even little simple stuff like that can become a part of a made up vernacular that creates the world's or individual character's own unique personality that sets it apart from the real world while also keeping it close to home, so it's easy and fun to pick up on.

    I do hope you have a good time making slang. Maybe post some sample conversations one day, I'd love to read 'em. As they say in Korea, fighting! :D
     
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  10. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    Not gonna lie; I would interpret that as "Adults Only."

    Personally, I don't grok the lingo. I just use different real-life words and speech styles to set apart different groups.
     
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  11. croak3r
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    croak3r Member

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    I think it's usually incredibly confusing for the reader and is quite pointless when there are words that already say the same thing.
    It's also quite unrealistic too, unless your talking about slang that perhaps a large group of people use. The only people who make up slang words in the real world are teenage girls.
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, but that's not true. All groups make up internal lingo that serves as identifiers. It's a known and understood phenomenon within the field of linguistics.
     
  13. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    LOL .. considering my characters are teenage girls I guess it makes sense.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I love Honest Trailers. :agreed:
     
  15. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Maze Runner sucks. :p But I won't debate that.
    I will say that I agree with @Wreybies that slang sometimes can be very specific, and that affects it's existence. And I think he is a good source on this as an expert in language. So, yeah.
     
  16. RahnyJae
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    RahnyJae Member

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    That interpretation would create a ship out of left field. I might not be mad at it though... lol

    Yeah, that's a good method, as well.
     
  17. The Triarii
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    The Triarii Member

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    Read a clockwork orange, great use of slang words. It has a few examples. Slang words can be understood through context and don't always require an explanation.

    -I tolcked him in the face-

    You might already know what this is depending on if the two people were arguing or having a nice dinner date. It's all based on the context of the setting. If context is not clear enough, provide more details.

    - I tolcked him in the face. blood splattered into the air-

    Must have been a fight. You can always add more detail such as "with my fist" to the first sentence to show it was a punch and not a kick. But that is a great way to include slang without over explaining or breaking flow.

    Just keep in mind that people who use slang, use slang, always. It's not something they say it's literally how they talk, like an accent. The key to not over using slang is to chose words that will not be in every sentence or paragraph. if they say tolcked one page and punched on the next that can be weird too. So if fighting is a common theme maybe not use slang for punched. Although using slang can provide either an emersive experience or room to distance yourself from a character you or your reader do not wish to be associated with, depending on how you write it
     
  18. A man called Valance
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    A man called Valance Active Member

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    I think you've got it just right, doggiedude. Use slang like you'd use salt on a meal; sparingly. While a little can enhance the flavor, too much will ruin it.
     
  19. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Made up slang is fine, but use it sparingly. Also provide a definition so the reader can understand it. :p
     
  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Oh don't write like Maze Runner. I mean, it had a pretty cool concept and tremendous potential but my word was the writing bland. It was also in dire need of some editing.

    By the way, "I'd like to wave all over him" gave me this image:

    [​IMG]

    I have a feeling that's not what you're going for :-D

    Anyway it should be fine if you've already established the meaning - but make sure it's been established before you drop a term like that in, or you're gonna get readers with my reaction!!
     
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  21. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Can be done well (Firefly, Buffy, Hitch-Hiker's Guide), but can also make you want to ball up the book and ram in down the author's throat while chanting their own made-up slang at them as they choke to death (Uglies, Maze Runner).

    I reckon, if you are going to use it, use it sparingly.
     
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