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PAGE 4

Slang
by [?]

The slang of the “London season” is terrible and painful. A gloriously beautiful lady is a “rather good-looking woman–looks fairly well to-night;” a great entertainment is a “function;” a splendid ball is a “nice little dance;” high-bred, refined, and exclusive ladies and gentlemen are “smart people;” a tasteful dress is a “swagger frock;” a new craze is “the swagger thing to do.” Imbecile, useless, contemptible beings, male and female, use all these verbal monstrosities under the impression that they make themselves look distinguished. A microcephalous youth whose chief intellectual relaxation consists in sucking the head of a stick thinks that his conversational style is brilliant when he calls a man a “Johnnie,” a battle “a blooming slog,” his lodgings his “show,” a hero “a game sort of a chappie,” and so on. Girls catch the infection of slang; and thus, while sweet young ladies are leading beautiful lives at Girton and Newnham, their sisters of society are learning to use a language which is a frail copy of the robust language of the drinking-bar and the racecourse. Under this blight lofty thought perishes, noble language also dies away, real wit is cankered and withered into a mere ghastly crackle of wordplay, humour is regarded as the sign of the savage, and generous emotion, manly love, womanly tenderness are reckoned as the folly of people whom the smart young lady of the period would describe as “Jugginses.”

As to the slang of the juniors of the middle class, it is well-nigh past description and past bearing. The dog-collared, tight-coated, horsey youth learns all the cant phrases from cheap sporting prints, and he has an idea that to call a man a “bally bounder” is quite a ducal thing to do. His hideous cackle sounds in railway-carriages, or on breezy piers by the pure sea, or in suburban roads. From the time when he gabbles over his game of Nap in the train until his last villainous howl pollutes the night, he lives, moves, and has his being in slang; and he is incapable of understanding truth, beauty, grandeur, or refinement. He is apt to label any one who does not wear a dog-collar and stableman’s trousers as a cad; but, ah, what a cad he himself is! In what a vast profound gulf of vulgarity his being wallows; and his tongue, his slang, is enough to make the spirits of the pure and just return to earth and smite him! Better by far the cunning gipsy with his glib chatter, the rough tramp with his incoherent hoarseness! All who wish to save our grand language from deterioration, all who wish to retain some savour of sincerity and manhood among us, should set themselves resolutely to talk on all occasions, great or trivial, in simple, direct, refined English. There is no need to be bookish; there is much need for being natural and sincere–and nature and sincerity are assassinated by slang.

September, 1888.