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Slang through the ages

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A new book, The Life of Slang, aims to provide a comprehensive international history of slang, highlighting a surprising continuity in attitudes and usage through the years.

Author Professor Julie Coleman said it is surprising how long some slang has been around.

She described how the phrase "hang out" has been around since 1811 while "chav" comes from a Romany word for child and has been used since about 1886.

Professor Coleman said the use of slang "emerges when people are put in a position where they are bottom of a hierarchy" but have a strong sense of group identity - using it as an "outlet of aggression".

Kathy August, deputy chief executive of the United Learning Trust which sponsors 19 academies, told the Today programme's Evan Davis that they believed using slang was not going to prepare young people for employment.

She said that they take a "pragmatic approach" to differentiating between using slang in a work

context and a home context.


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