Printable Version
Pronunciation: slæng-whæng-gêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: We have no difficulty in remembering that slangwhanger is a slang word since it begins with a reminder. A slangwhanger is a loud, abusive speaker or an obnoxiously offensive writer.

Notes: This funny word is one I accidentally stumbled across in the Oxford English Dictionary, a lovely place for word-lovers to prowl. There is no question of its origin: it is another comical gift from the US frontier. Its absence from US dictionaries indicates that it has faded from our collective memory just when we need it the most. What do slangwhangers do? Why whang slang, of course, since they are defined by their slangwhang.

In Play: Slangwhangers are usually vituperative people who take delight in affronting those they dislike: "I love to listen to the slangwhangers on the political talk shows on TV." Slangwhangers generally turn every issue into a political one: "The town meeting called to discuss the placement of the new school water fountains was taken over by slangwhangers, who apparently don't drink anything as soft as water themselves."

Word History: Although this funny word sounds like a nonsense word, it does have a history. It is, just as it appears to be, a compound made up of slang and whang. Slang now refers to substandard or 'low' speech, but it originally referred to the vulgar speech of disreputable characters. Whang comes from Old English thwong, which split into thong and whang somewhere between Old and Modern English. Thong originally referred to a lash and in Scotland this meaning continued in whang "to lash with a thong". (Scotland was a major source of early US settlers.) So the original meaning of this silly word was "someone who lashes out with vulgar speech"—very close to what it means today. (This is yet another word included in The 100 Funniest Words in English, but was neglected in the Good Word series. By the way, the book makes a swell gift for word-lovers.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!