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Afroman

The secret world of gang slang

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I cant be the only one that was cringing at this article in the Evening standard yesterday...

Bit of a long read.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/lifestyle/article-23893176-the-secret-world-of-gang-slang.do

The murder of teenager Marvin Henry in a gang brawl last week elicited an outpouring of emotion in his Mill Hill community. Flowers were heaped against a fence near the crime scene but the R.I.P notes stood out for another reason: they were peppered with words such as “liccle” and “peak” — street slang terms in common usage among London's gang culture.

Coming soon after Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson spoke out about her dislike of slang words such as “innit' and “like”, urging teenagers to “reinvest in the idea of articulacy as a form of personal freedom and power”, slang is firmly back on our cultural radar, seemingly for all the wrong reasons.

Often impenetrable and indecipherable to all but those in the know, street slang has become a separatist form of communication. Almost akin to a whole new language, with its own vocabulary and grammatical structure, it has permeated outside the inner-city neighbourhoods synonymous with gang culture.

The roots of London's modern street slang are hard to pinpoint, as the city is a linguistic melting pot of the many races that have left their mark on the capital's language. Traditional “Bow Bells” Cockney English, West Indian patois, Indian and Bangladeshi have all gone to produce Multicultural London English, the academic term for the modern street slang which is spoken from Harlesden to Hackney and from Streatham to Stoke Newington.

A hybrid of the various patois spoken by immigrants who have come to London over the past few decades, contemporary street slang has its etymological roots firmly in Jamaican patois, so much so, in fact, that it has become known in certain circles as “Jafaican” — and is the slang of choice for many black British hip-hoppers, grime MCs such as Dizzee Rascal (from Bow), wannabe gangsters or even white middle-class suburban kids. It is hard not to admire the verbal pyrotechnics of London hip-hopper Akala or Brooklyn rapper Big Daddy Kane, wordsmiths of the highest order.

Yet today street slang is by no means confined to one ethnic group. With the increase in popularity in the past 20 years of American hip-hop and Jamaican ragga music across all racial demographics, together with the proliferation of MTV Base culture, from Snoop Dogg to Fifty Cent and Beenieman to Vybz Kartel, white middle-class and Indian kids often sound “black” when they talk.

It is often hard to distinguish without looking between the black, brown and white boys and girls sat behind you on the bus.

Deborah Sathe is a producer of E20, EastEnders' youth offshoot, which is partly written by the young actors in order to assure authenticity. She is decidedly in favour of slang, preferring to see it as “both beautiful and joyous”. In her former role as a producer at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, she found herself enjoying the way young people spoke to each other in their own code. “I'm full of admiration for the way young people are creative in owning the English language. Young people's slang is poetic.”

However, she hates the way street slang has become associated with crime. “I think the media are at fault for lumping the two together,” she says. “Not all kids who use slang are criminals.”

Ray Lewis, CEO of Eastside Academy, a scheme that works with black boys in east London to raise their academic achievement (and formerly the Mayor's youth adviser) concurs, rejecting the link between slang and criminality. “To argue that there is a direct connection between slang and street violence is untrue.”

What is undeniable is that street slang is linked to identity and a sense of belonging. Idris Alasi, 17, from Peckham, agrees that slang is central to the assertion of teenage identity. “I feel slang is a tool used by us as young people to give us a greater sense of self and belonging.” For Lewis, the use of street slang by teenagers can be empowering, and is more about a desire to fit in. “As a young black man growing up in inner-city London, slang made me feel part of something. It fostered a sense of belonging.”

At his academy, Lewis admits that when boys are speaking among themselves in slang, he often has to ask for translations. But he is equally unequivocal about the right time and place for street slang. “When it comes to relating to adults and people in public life, slang is not acceptable or to be encouraged. For those circumstances, we need the Queen's English.”

Linguistic changes often start in black neighbourhoods like Tottenham, then spread around the country, via TV, radio and the internet. Street slang was brought into the mainstream by the likes of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's Ali G and Radio 1 hip-hop DJ Tim Westwood. Both used slang to appear cool and “down with the brothers” — itself confirmation, if it were needed, that black street culture is still seen by white middle-class kids as the epitome of cool.

Simon Heffer, author of Strictly English, is not against slang in informal settings such as the pub but is opposed to it in formal speech or writing. “I'm not sure our education system differentiates sufficiently between what is or is not satisfactory, which puts young people at a disadvantage when they go for a job or a higher education interview and say with a straight face that something is well wicked'. Trendy Leftist linguists think this is fine. They already have jobs and degrees, however.”

Heffer is convinced that slang encourages social inequality. “If we want to create a divide between the educated and the uneducated, allowing the proliferation of slang usages in formal speech and writing is a superb way of doing it.”

For Heffer, slang breeds laziness and an over-reliance on cliché.

So is street slang to be taken lightly and enjoyed or is it more serious and sinister — a tool which will handicap and render unemployable those who use it, without the ability to correctly code-switch at the given time?

Henry Bonsu, co-founder of digital radio station Colourful, who was once axed as a BBC presenter for being “too intellectual”, thinks it is crucial to use language to expand minds, not restrict them. “Whether you are talking French, German or Twi (Ghanaian dialect), distinct social or cultural groups always use words or phrases outsiders won't understand. Just spend a day at the races or on a market stall. The key is whether these linguistic formations are enabling or disabling. I think the danger for too many children, black and white, is that what may liberate them in their social or cultural group can cripple them as soon as they move outside it because that is all they know.”

Micheal Williams, 19, and a native Jamaican who is reading politics at Sussex University, now sees the dangers inherent in using slang.

“It is clear with hindsight that speaking in slang only makes it difficult for you when you then need to speak in a more appropriate manner, like in a university or job interview. It would only make sense to speak in slang if everyone else in society at large did, but they don't, so we should speak proper English.”

THE WORDS ON OUR STREETS

Irrespective of who uses it and for what purpose, street slang is constantly evolving. Words in common parlance five years ago like “buff” (good-looking) are now deemed antediluvian, replaced by newer terms such as “chug”, “peak” and “wavey”. “Skadoosh”, a personal favourite, is a relative newcomer.

Bang — punch

Bare — a lot

Bate — obvious

Blud — friend

Booky — suspicious

Butters — ugly

Chug — good-looking

Dutty — nasty

Fam — friends

Gallis — womaniser

Gased — talking nonsense

Gem — fool

Ghost — to be frequently absent

Greezy — bad

Junge — whore

Liccle — small

Marga — extremely skinny

Moist — no ratings, silly, naff

Murk — attack

Nang — good

Peak — used to highlight an eventful situation

Peng — good-looking

Shank — stab

Shower — cool, good

Skadoosh — goodbye

Skettel — loose woman

Slipping — to be caught off-guard

Swag — crap

Tekkers — technique

Wallad — idiot

Wavey — high or drunk

Thoughts.

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E20, EastEnders' youth offshoot, which is partly written by the young actors in order to assure authenticity

srsly?

/

think this is a pretty positive article actually, theres no demonisation

none of the translations are particular wrong or cringe

thumbs up

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jammy what is happening in your sig is absolutely wild

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lol max b's a beast, got the whole world WAVEY

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LMAO @ tekkers being there.

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Lol that's what I was thinking. Swear I've never heard it outside of this forum...

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There seems to be a common trend in all Lindsay Johns articles.

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There seems to be a common trend in all Lindsay Johns articles.

Yeah, blackness.

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Creasing @ Tekkers.

Lol @ me at work today saying every single one of these words in random scenarios. Customers, management everything.

Aslo Chug?? Looool.

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d

fs

dfsddfg

dsfg

ge

rger

dsfg

f

@ skadoosh

kung fu pandas gone far

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my sister used to say gem intensively couple years ago

made me feel :angry:

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Good to see Wavey in there. The wave goes on. Free Bigavel.

/

LOL @ this part:

"It is hard not to admire the verbal pyrotechnics of London hip-hopper Akala or Brooklyn rapper Big Daddy Kane, wordsmiths of the highest order."

Some non-sequitur.

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Good to see Wavey in there. The wave goes on. Free Bigavel.

/

LOL @ this part:

"It is hard not to admire the verbal pyrotechnics of London hip-hopper Akala or Brooklyn rapper Big Daddy Kane, wordsmiths of the highest order."

Some non-sequitur.

lolol

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