Sun, Nov 28, 2004 - Page 9 News List

Hella and uber, and some of the latest whippersnapper slang

From filthy, junky and janky, and saying `dropping the kids off at the pool' for defecation, today's kids have managed to create a new phrase for everything

By William Safire  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

"Fo'shizzle, I'm going to get hella crunk tonight." The first slang word is a variant of "for sure"; the second, hella, is an adjective meaning "very, a lot, really," perhaps a clip of "helluva."

But the word that's sweeping the high-school playgrounds and college campuses is crunk, a blend of "crazy" and "drunk," which has elbowed aside wasted, just as faded has replaced stoned. A hard drinker, loud but not yet a crunk, is a daunch. The main interests of high-school seniors and college students include not just drinking, but also sex, reverse peristalsis, superlatives for handsome and ugly, sex, derogations of the stupid, bodily waste, fast automobiles and sex.

Accordingly, they create words for these subjects that sometimes last up to three years before they are adopted by adults and then -- as the insider quality of the lingo is lost -- are hurriedly dropped by the originators.

Vehicles -- wheels, as they were once called -- are now whips. "Have you seen Joe's new whip? It's a stretch Hummer." An ordinary car is called a ride, while a large passenger car out of style or otherwise low on prestige is not a whip, but a scraper. "A vintage Buick -- or, as they call them in the Bay, a scraper -- pulls up, and all four doors pop open." What is the latest term for the old cool (including its emphasizer, too cool for school) and the more recent phat and rad? Try tight, which is making a comeback, as in "Did you see his pimped-out ride -- it was tight." The meaning is extended to innocent intimacy with someone: "Charlie's my boy. We're tight."

janky or jinky

The antonym to tight is not "loose" -- logic has no place in the coinage of neologisms -- but janky, also spelled and pronounced jinky or jainky. This slow developer (it started at least a decade ago) has picked up meanings ranging from "substandard" to "weird." An expurgated citation goes, "That janky camo boy got some stuff on the side of my ride." (Camo is fashion slang, short for "camouflage," used to describe outdoorsy wear that blends in with jungle greenery. On the gripping post-election cover of The New Republic, the editorial cartoonist Mark Alan Stamaty drew a crowd of recriminating Democrats blaming John Kerry for every possible campaign error, including "He shouldn't have worn camo.")What are the current derogations of what used to be dorks? They are now dillweeds and dipsticks, the latter an instrument to determine the amount of oil in the engine. An obnoxious male showoff seeking to attract females is derided as a floss or as engaged in flossing, which may have a dental origin. The old to hit on of unwelcome flirtation has morphed into to mack. Contrariwise, what used to be "a man's man" and is now "a guy's guy" is called a bloke, a borrowing from British slang.

blaze and bangin'

"Good-looking," male or female, is bangin'. At the top of the heap of desirability is the adjective blaze: "That guy is blaze!" means that he is exceptionally attractive. (In the canine world, a blaze is a stunning showing of white fur on the chest of a Bernese mountain dog. My own dog, Sebastian, has a magnificent blaze, much admired by my bitch, Geneva.) A cruel floss may derogate a young woman with an attractive figure but a less-than-appealing visage as a butterface, the term not a dairy derivative but from the phrase "but her face."

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