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

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: (Slang—are you surprised?) 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 stumble around. There is no question of its origin: it is another comical gift of 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 slangwhang, naturally, 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 so-called political talk shows on TV." Slangwhangers generally turn every issue into a political one: "The town meeting to discuss the placement of the new school water fountains was disrupted 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 goes back to 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.

Dr. Goodword,

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