Should Your Next Speech Have More Slang In It?

Does slang belong in your next speech?
Does slang belong in your next speech?
Image Credit: duncan c

When we were in school and had to write a paper, I’m willing to bet that your teacher cautioned you about what words you should and should not use in your creation. You were probably urged to use “proper English” and to avoid using any slang words. Why was this? It was probably so that the paper that you created would have more of a “formal” air to it. That is all well and good for the papers that we used to write in school, but what about when we give a speech. Does slang have any role to play in your next speech?

Say Hello To Slang

So how would you go about describing slang? You could say that slang is righteous and slang is wicked. Depending your age, you might say that slang is the bee’s knees, the cat’s meow, the cat’s whiskers or the cat’s pajamas. I think that we can all agree that variety is the spice of life and slang is the spice of our language. When we are giving a speech, slang adds gusto to our feast of words, as long as both speakers and writers remember that too much spice can kill the taste of any dish. So just exactly what is slang? It has been defined as being as “the body of words and expressions frequently used by or intelligible to a rather large portion of the general American public, but not accepted as good, formal usage by the majority.”

So what does all of this mean? I think that most of us would agree that slang is a kind of outlaw language that prowls the outskirts of respectable speech, yet few of us can communicate without it. Nobody is quite sure where the word slang comes from. It is thought that slang developed in the 18th century, either from a mistaken past tense of sling (sling-slang-slung) or from the word language itself. The second theory of the origin of slang makes the point that both jargon and slang originate with, and are used by, a particular trade or class group, but slang words come to be used to some extent by a whole population.

I think that we can all agree that these days, the use of slang is almost universal. Slang is nearly as old as language itself. In all languages at all times some slang expressions have entered the mainstream of the vocabulary either to pollute or enrich, depending on one’s view. We find traces of slang in the Sanskrit of ancient India. The 14th-century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer used gab for “talk” and bones for “dice,” interestingly enough this is exactly as we use them today. William Shakespeare coined the word costard (a large apple) to mean “head” and claybrained and knotty were used to mean “slow of wit.” In his works we discover “laugh yourself into stitches” in Twelfth Night, “not so hot” in The Winter’s Tale, and “right on” in Julius Caesar.

The Power Of Slang

There are some very human reasons why slang runs through every language. One of them is that people like both novelty and variety in their lives and this spills over into their language. To satisfy this urge, they are continually coining new slang words and new expressions. Second, slang provides us with the ability to break the ice and shift into a more casual and friendly gear when communicating with others. Saying things such as “What’s cooking?” or “How’s it going?” sounds more easygoing and familiar than “How do you do?”

A third motive for using slang is sheer playfulness, which we see when we experience slang at play in the world of business. An example of this would be blamestorming (rather than brainstorming) which is defined as being “the act of meeting to discuss a failure and to find a scapegoat.” Another example would be a carbon Bigfoot whom is an anti-environmental type who has zero regard for the magnitude of their carbon footprint. Finally, using the phrase “bang for the buck” means that you are getting the most firepower for each dollar that you spend.

One way to think about slang is to view it as being a metaphor, and then to think of all metaphors as being poetry. From a speaker’s point-of-view, slang abounds in fresh figures of speech that evoke arresting word pictures in the mind’s eye. If we choose to use commercial slang in a speech we need to realize that it often employs comparisons with sports because both commerce and sports are competitive enterprises that require team efforts to succeed. When speaking to a business audience we can let them know that if their corporation is ahead of the count that means they’re ahead of the game because, like a baseball pitcher, they have more strikes than balls against the batter. They’ve been able to level the playing field and generate a ballpark figure. Their business plan could be a real gamechanger. Speakers need to realize that slang is a powerful stimulant that keeps language, and our speeches, alive and growing.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers, every time that we give a speech we are seeking ways to connect with our audience. We want the words that flow out of our mouths to capture the attention of our audience and cause them to respond to what we are trying to communicate to them. This is often easier to say than to do. However, it turns out that if we select our words wisely, we just might be able to make this happen. The use of slang in your next speech might be just what your audience has been looking for from you.

Slang is something that has always been hard to define. We generally agree that it consists of words that are considered to be “outside of the norm”. The use of slang in everyday conversations is almost universal. Slang has been with us for almost as long as we have had printed words. People like to use slang when they communicate because they like new things. Using slang in a speech can also interject a note of playfulness in the message that you are trying to deliver. Speakers should consider using slang in their next speech because slang words have the ability to create vivid images in an audience’s minds. Slang can be used in almost any speech including business speeches.

Speakers are on a never ending quest to make their next speech be better than all of the speeches that have come before it. In order to make this happen, we need to always be looking for new and novel ways that we can make our next speech better. One way that we can go about making this happen is by inserting slang in our speech. By doing this we can better connect with our audience. Consider how to add some slang to your next speech and you’ll be A#1 with your next audience!

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it’s possible to put too much slang into a speech?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Communicator Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Communicator Newsletter are now available. Subscribe now: Click Here!
Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When you are creating a speech, how quickly can you go from idea to having a speech that is ready to give? Does it take you an hour, a day, a week, or a month? If you are like most of us, this is not something that happens quickly. However, it turns out that you may be able to speed up the process. It turns out that in order to make this happen, it’s not what you have to start doing, but rather what you need to stop doing.