Monday, July 15, 2024

Slang, the advertisement of mental poverty!

University campuses are fertile grounds for slang. The students are young and radical, given to perverting the language to the disgust of the conservative. Very few studies and documentations of slang have been attempted in an African context. Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker’s language or dialect. It is not just informal but it is also considered a lower register of the standard language, therefore becoming taboo with people of a higher social class. Slang is also common within a specific group, a clique or an in-group such as a gang or a student group. Because of its taboo nature, slang is usually missing in many African languages dictionaries which are largely prescriptive in their documentation of the language.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED, Online Edition) defines slang as a “language of a highly colloquial type, considered as below the level of standard educated speech, and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense.” Foerster and Steadman (1941: 290) have a hostile consideration of slang, characterising it as “a cheap substitute for good diction,” which demonstrates “laziness in thought and poverty of vocabulary” while Genung (1893: 32) argues that “slang is to a people’s language what an epidemic disease is to their bodily constitution; just as catching and just as inevitable in its run…. Like a disease, too, it is severest where the sanitary conditions are most neglected.” Fernald (1918: 248) falls within the same group that despises slang and points out that “slang … saves the troubleÔÇôand the gloryÔÇôof thinking. The same cheap word or phrase may be used for any one of a hundred ideas…. Slang is the advertisement of mental poverty.”
Those who have studied at the University of Botswana at some point have a story to tell about the slang of their time for indeed slang changes from generation to another. Other terms have tended to stay the same over a long period of time. I wish to share with you dear reader some of the slang terms from UB campus. ancestor n. an older student who has worked before joining the university for further studies. This word is also used for a student who has overstayed their time at the university, especially through retaking and repeating courses. This is a negative word. barracks n. old white single storey dormitories on campus that are disliked by students.
caravan n. a girl with a large behind. crack n. an intelligent student who enjoys his studies. dog n. a young guy; a lad; a chap drive v. to copy during an exam or test. Drive here has its roots in the computer drive and not driving a vehicle. To drive meaning to copy is here equated with one having access to information in a computer drive. drop hole n. a loose girl who sleeps around. dry v. to write an exam dry: to write an exam having not read or prepared for it dubbing v. copying from material brought into a test or an examination. Dubbing is one of the older terms used on campus. It has its roots in the copying of tapes using tape recorders. exile v. to ask a roommate to find alternative accommodation when your boyfriend/girlfriend is spending the night over in your shared room. To make another student leave the room they share and spend the night elsewhere is here compared to one being exiled from their own land. fax out of order v. this expression is used to mean a situation in which there is no room under the door through which an assignment could be slipped into a lecturer’s office. fax v. to slip an assignment under a lecturer’s door in their absence. This is usually done in the evening in the absence of the lecturer by students who submit their assignments late and avoid facing the lecturer when they submit. fish market n. female residences. Obviously female students here are compared to fish which has been caught. fish pond n. female residences. Obviously female students here are compared to fish to be caught. go ja mophato [idiom] to repeat: The word mophato is a noun that refers to a group of age mates, traditionally who join the initiation school together. Go ja mophato is therefore to drop out of a class of your own age mates. go thuba mmopa [idiom] to say nonsense or to fail a course terribly go tshela class metsi [idiom] to dodge or to miss a class. The expression literally means to pour water on a class. gold mine n. an older guy showering young women with gifts and money. high risk n. a married man or woman in a sexual relationship with a student. jesa v. to be poor in delivering a lecture. July conference n. a supplementary examination held in July at the end of the academic year. koko ya Setswana n. a rural girl or boy. The phrase means a free range local Setswana chicken. Las Vegas n. one of the best looking accommodation blocks on campus considered by students to be modern and of a high standard. le-year year n. a term reserved for third and fourth year students. It refers to one who has spent many years as a student. madoda score: this phrase is used to refer to the 50% mark in a test or an exam. The word madoda is Ndebele meaning men or gentlemen. Rumour has it that this term was coined by Dr Mtubane of the English Department. magosha n. female students who use sex to manipulate men to get money from them. majesa n. a lecturer who is poor in delivering lectures. many more n. blue movies. The origins of this expression are from the campus movie adverts from the 80s and 90s where one or two movies were advertised with the additional “& many more” as a euphemism for “& a blue movie”. mature n. an older student who has worked before joining the university for further studies. This word is also used for a student who has overstayed their time at the university, especially through retaking and repeating courses. While the word mature in English has positive connotations, it has negative connotations in university slang. microfiche n. a page which has been folded multiple times until it is tiny with notes sneaked into a test or an examination room mmamochachose n. a lady who sells food in the street just outside the university campus. The name comes from the name of a chicken outlet known as Mochachos. mopako n. material brought into the exam or test by a student from which they copy. others: a term used to refer to students who are not doing science based courses or law. phoko n. a young male who is considered a hero by others because of what he has done or what he does (such as sexual prowess or academic strength). The Setswana word phoko means a billy goat. sack man n. a male student without a girlfriend. sethubi: a studious student. The word sethubi in Setswana one who breaks, implying that a studious student breaks down complex ideas. sexually transmitted marks n. marks acquired as a result of having a sexual relationship with a lecturer. single n a room in which one stays alone, allocated only to completing students. squatter boy or girl n. an off campus student who sleeps on campus with another student in their room without the approval of university officials.veteran n one who has overstayed their time at university. zero grazing v. a situation in which a student who lives on campus does not take their meals from the refectory. This in particular applies to students who are receiving government sponsorship. Zero grazing is perceived by students as negative since a zero grazing student is one who is stingy and wishes not to spend money on food preferring to use it on other matters. It appears whether we like it or not, slang is here to stay in our campuses.


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