June 13, 2008

Wired’s Threat Level is reporting on a list of street gang slang compiled by law enforcement officers. I am reminded of that one part of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where dude is at the drug conference. Hilarity all around.

Before I get to my main point, here are some [verbatim] entries I’ll comment on:

ACETISM…..(Satanists)…..Sacrifice of self comforts, finances and personal effects for the “Cause”
BEES KNEE’s…..(Latin Kings)…..An extraordinary person, thing, idea, The ultimate
CATS MEOW…..(Latin Kings)…..Something splendid or stylish.
CAT’s PAJAMAS…..(Latin Kings)…..Same as “Cat’s Meow).

Not only can’t the makers of this list spell or use apostrophes correctly, they evidently can’t recognize regular English words and idiomatic phrases. Webster’s defines ascetism as “asceticism; the condition or practice of self-denial.” It would appear the Satanists are using a word according to its standard dictionary definition; does that really count as slang?

The bee’s knees, on the other hand, is slang: “the bee’s knees, Older Slang. (esp. in the 1920s) a person or thing that is wonderful, great, or marvelous: Her new roadster is simply the bee’s knees.” However, this is also a standard usage, and certainly antedates the Latin Kings. Wikipedia says the gang was founded in 1940; but the bee’s knees dates from 1923. There was “a fad around this year for slang terms denoting ‘excellence’ and based on animal anatomy” that was also responsible for such phrases as the cat’s pajamas and the cat’s meow. Wait, where have I seen those before?

Anyway, the main reason I bring this up is to note that the Aryan Brotherhood apparently uses Cockney-style rhyming slang. Here are a couple examples:

APPLES and PEARS…..(Aryan Brotherhood)…..Stairs; Tiers also.
BARKLEY HUNT…..(Aryan Brotherhood)…..Vagina; cunt
BURT and ERNIE…..(Aryan Brotherhood of Texas)…..A lawyer.
CANDY WRAPPERS…..(Aryan Brotherhood of Texas)…..The Crapper (bathroom).
DAPPER DAN…..(Aryan Brotherhood)…..Can
EAGLES NEST…..(Aryan Brotherhood of Texas)…..One’s chest.
FIELDS of WHEAT…..(Aryan Brotherhood of Texas))…..Streets/outside.
GAG and CHOKE…..(Aryan Brotherhood of Texas)…..To smoke.

You get the idea. Some of those are hilariously appropriate (GAG and CHOKE, in particular), but it’s interesting to note that the Aryan Brotherhood allegedly uses a slang term based on the name of a region in Gloucestershire, England. No way that one wasn’t borrowed from some Cockney. Do they have prisoner exchange programs between the US and the UK, to allow for the cultural growth of convicted felons? Why should university students get all the fun and opportunities for self-improvement? If not, how did this spread?

Anyway, I can’t get enough of rhyming slang. Once I learned that a famous anti-apartheid activist was code for an awesome beer, I was hooked. So it’s kind of heartening, I suppose, to see it in use in the States.

1 Comment

  • Anonymous says:

    I enjoyed the “occult” slang, especially…

    FSBAT – (Occult) – Monthly meeting of a coven, usually held at full moon. There are about 13 full moons each year. Some groups also meet at the dark of the moon.

    Fine, but I believe it’s called an “Esbat.” It could just be a typo, sure, but it’s listed under the Fs.

    I’m amused to see that paganism/neopaganism has the distinction of being not only a federally recognized religion, but also a street gang and/or security threat group.

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