What’s up with college slang words (huh, huh)

By Michael McVey

“Don’t let dirty heads give you a headache.”

This ad, posted on the main floor of DuSable Hall, is not a request to “blow off” (ignore) people with a perverted mindset, but a solicitation for a VCR-cleaning service.

It also is one way to view college slang.

Don’t let the slang throw you off (distract you). Some words you hear on campus may be wild (radical). Others will be cool (trendy, nice). A few may even be dopey-headed (stupid). But after scrounging (sorting) through them, you will catch yourself using them.

The word “cool” may not appeal to Southerners who are constantly psyched (bewildered) at the way many NIU students enjoy cold. One might say, “Shorts in this weather? What’s up with that?” (What’s the deal, here?) However, “cool” has nothing to do with weather. It is an expression of approval.

Gary Burns, associate professor of communication studies, said MTV and popular comedy shows like Beavis and Butthead often are a source of slang. “Slang serves a social function in separating people who are in tune with popular TV shows. It is used more often to identify with people than to exchange information,” Burns said.

Uh, could you repeat that again? Well, if you’re the Toronto Blue Jays or the Chicago Bulls you could three-peat, or even four-peat. But hang tight (wait) until next season. And if Jimmy the Greek picks the Florida Marlins to win the next world series, call him a fruit.

Fruit, you say? This is no reference to Florida’s citrus industry, says Tim Hagaman, a senior in visual communications. “A fruit is someone who’s not quite all there. Their elevator doesn’t quite reach the top floor,” Hagaman said. Go figure.

How do you criticize someone who toes the party line on the national health care plan so much he completely renounces logic? Well, you have several hip (sophisticated) options. You can say, “Uh, hello … ?” (Is there a brain in your head?) Or, simply “Duh … “(I’m not sure you’ve got your facts straight.) You can also call him “stoned” (strongly under the influence of drugs; very dense).

You might learn this in a communications or a psychology class, but not in statistics or organic chemistry. Monosyllabic words are down (quite the “in” thing), but don’t let them screw (deceive) you. Students find it easier to say “frat” than “fraternity house” when asked where to get wasted or tripped out (sick from too much alcohol or drugs). And so it is with many commonly used words. Students lay it on with (indulge in) shortened forms of long words.

As TV programs and popular music go in and out, so does slang, Burns said. For example CB radio jargon, a fad in the mid-1970s, is seldom heard today. Also, slang is seldom used by students talking to professors or bosses. “A student is more likely to watch The Simpsons or MTV than a 50-year-old, so an older person probably won’t understand their slang,” Burns said.

Burns is involved in research on popular culture and has published several articles. One of his works, “Music, Television, and Video: Historical and Aesthetic Considerations,” appeared in a 1987 edition of Popular Music and Society.