You slag! [BE]

susanna76

Senior Member
Romanian
Hi,

I was watching a British film, and took down these sentences: "You slag! You cunt!"

I knew of slag as "contemptible person," a meaning related to its primary meaning of "stony waste matter separated from metals during the smelting or refining of ore,"
I presume.

Now I checked and I see slag can actually mean "promiscuous woman" in BrE. My question is, can it also mean "contemptible person," as the dictionary says? Sometimes it's hard to know what a person means if the word has two meanings like that, that can confuse the listener as to which was intended. I know that is what context is for, but I only wish to know if you would call a man slag for instance.

Thanks!
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    If a woman is being called "slag" in a contemporary setting, the most likely meaning by far is that of "promiscuous woman" or the like. Set along with the other insult, this is even likelier. (Note that I'm an AE speaker.)
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    So you mean slag has this meaning even in AmE?

    What about BrE? Can it mean "contemptible" without meaning "promiscuous" when used about a woman, and can it be used about men as well? I hope some British speakers will help.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    It's interesting - I see that the big OED has several examples of its generic use to mean 'contemptible'.

    Personally, as far as I can recall, I've only ever heard "slag" used of a woman, with the meaning 'prostitute' or 'promiscuous'.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    "Slag" can convey a general lack of respect and not necessarily literal promiscuity. As this insult is almost invariably reserved for a woman, the connotation of promiscuity is usually present, even if, again, not literally.

    You might hear it on rare occasions in AE.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I knew of slag as "contemptible person," a meaning related to its primary meaning of "stony waste matter separated from metals during the smelting or refining of ore,"
    The idea of a "contemptible person" died out around the 1960s and it then became related and applicable only to women of few or no morals and the lowest standards of behaviour. It is not confined to prostitutes but also to "keen/over-enthusiastic amateurs".

    Here is a picture of a slagheap/slaghill http://aipetcher.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/aberfan_disaster.jpg
     

    slej

    Senior Member
    Ireland / England English
    Slag is also used as an insult for men, I'm sure you would come across it in a Guy Ritchie movie or something of that ilk.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I have not heard it said of men in a long time; it was then used where we would now use "bastard!" Perhaps I don't move in the right circles... :) or read too much "Viz" which stars Sandra and Tracey, the eponymous "The Fat Slags"
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The Chambers Dictionary (2010, UK) says: a slovenly or dissolute woman (or, more recently, man)
    Not sure I've heard "slag" applied to a man. I can just about imagine it in the mouth of a real twenty-something. I can't imagine anyone of my age indulging in this usage - unless they were a fictional police officer (or someone like that) desperate to sound cool.
     
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    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I think the generalised meaning of slag might have been encouraged by the verb to slag (off) someone ​which just means to abuse someone verbally.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Well, our dictionary group both the noun and the verb under the same headword and provide a single etymological entry, so I assume that they are cognate (related).
     

    cando

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The use of "slagging off" as slang for verbally trashing something or somebody is relatively common in BE. "Slag" as a noun for a woman considered to have made herself easily sexually available and possibly doesn't care for herself on other levels has a clearly crude and rather brutal impact. It is used humorously and ironically in a derivative way too.

    Just to note: the other word used in the initial quote is considered the strongest swear word in current BE. While the 'F' word has become fairly ubiquitous in colloquial speech, the 'C' word is still pretty much taboo, so it still has shock value.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The two nouns in the quoted text are obviously intended as strong insults. It's true that we have the verb "to slag off", but if somebody slags me off, that doesn't make me "a slag": I think the phrasal verb and the noun express different concepts.
    the verb to slag (off) someone ​which just means to abuse someone verbally.
    If you mean 'abuse a person to his/her face', I think it's too restrictive, Nat: in my experience, most slagging off takes place when the subject is not present.
     

    cando

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The two nouns in the quoted text are obviously intended as strong insults. It's true that we have the verb "to slag off", but if somebody slags me off, that doesn't make me "a slag": I think the phrasal verb and the noun express different concepts.If you mean 'abuse a person to his/her face', I think it's too restrictive, Nat: in my experience, most slagging off takes place when the subject is not present.
    I agree with you that slagging off implies speaking ill of someone when they are not present. I agree too that the usages of the noun "slag" and the verb "to slag (off)" are different in meaning and context, but I suspect the phrasal verb is a derivative in some way from the insulting use of the noun. "Slagging off" certainly implies a general trashing of someone's reputation and social standing, although with no necessary connection to sexual behaviour implied.

    Of course both nouns are insults but I was just pointing out for information to non BE speakers that the two insults have different social strengths. One can be relatively mild depending on context, the other is always harsh.
     

    susanna76

    Senior Member
    Romanian
    Just to add something: dictionary.com actually has the meaning "an abusive woman" for slag (instead of "a promiscuous woman"). Strange, isn't it? It's from
    Dictionary.com Unabridged
    Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Slag is also used as an insult for men, I'm sure you would come across it in a Guy Ritchie movie or something of that ilk.
    :thumbsup: I wonder if its use by Guy Ritchie and other purveyors of Cockneyana faux or fictional* is an attempt to revive its original meaning:
    slag n.¹ 1 [18thC>] a worthless or insignificant person, frequently used a term of contempt, e.g. you slag! [...] 6 [1950s>] a prostitute, a promiscuous woman, a slattern
    ~The Cassell Dictionary of Slang
    or if, indeedy, its original meaning simply never went away in some quarters.

    *I'm pretty sure Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses used to address his brother as Rodney, you slag! Somebody on the telly certainly did.
     
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    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Slag is also used as an insult for men, I'm sure you would come across it in a Guy Ritchie movie or something of that ilk.
    I'm pretty sure it is current amongst some gay men. I've seen it used on TV that way*. I don't know if that context applies to the characters in the movie.

    _________________________________________________________________
    * The Graham Norton show for instance.
     
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    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    *I'm pretty sure Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses used to address his brother as Rodney, you slag! Somebody on the telly certainly did.
    I can neither confirm nor demolish that theory, E. Apparently, there was a (male) police officer known as DCI Roy "The Slag" Slater in that series. Don't slag me off for knowing that, folks: it's the result of selfless research (= quick excursion to Wikipedia), not of actually watching that rather naff programme.
     
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    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    :thumbsup: I wonder if its use by Guy Ritchie and other purveyors of Cockneyana faux or fictional* is an attempt to revive its original meaning:

    or if, indeedy, its original meaning simply never went away in some quarters.

    *I'm pretty sure Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses used to address his brother as Rodney, you slag! Somebody on the telly certainly did.
    I think you'll find that he variously said,

    Rodney, you tart!
    Rodney, you plonker!
    Rodney, you dipstick!

    Someone definitely does have the catchphrase "You slag!"; I can hear it in my head complete with accent. I can't think who it is though.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Might have been 'The Sweeney', back in the 70s, as noted here (source: bbc.co.uk - "Shut it, you slag") or from the Eastenders' local patois.
    Yes, that's true!

    For some reason Ray Winstone comes to mind, together with the phrase "Leave it you slag!!!" In fact I've found a reference to it as the caption to a photo Here. I can't seem to get any further with that line of enquiry.

    P.S.
    Well now I can! I didn't read far enough. Ray Winstone starred in the following movie.

    The Sweeney (2012 movie adaptation) as Detective Inspector Regan.
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Creator/RayWinstone?from=Main.RayWinstone
     
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    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Someone definitely does have the catchphrase "You slag!"; I can hear it in my head complete with accent. I can't think who it is though.
    Same here. I'm not much given to watching stuff in which diamond geezers say You slag! to one another.
     

    Mrs JJJ

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (British)
    *I'm pretty sure Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses used to address his brother as Rodney, you slag! Somebody on the telly certainly did.
    It's certainly possible. But nonetheless unusual. I think that the term "slag" is generally used to insult women.

    And I agree with the poster Sound Shift. The "c" word is extremely strong and still has the capacity to shock. I would suggest that it is one that non-native speakers should never use, even if they're trying to write authentic conversation in, for example, a play script. (Actually, I'd prefer it if no one used the word, whatever his/her native language!)
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    And I agree with the poster Sound Shift. The "c" word is extremely strong and still has the capacity to shock. I would suggest that it is one that non-native speakers should never use, even if they're trying to write authentic conversation in, for example, a play script. (Actually, I'd prefer it if no one used the word, whatever his/her native language!)
    That depends on where you are (I note that you are in the United States). The ''c'' word is very frequently used in some parts (Dublin, Glasgow etc.) and liberally applied to men, women and assorted others. Of course, it wouldn't be used in polite company.
     

    Mrs JJJ

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (British)
    That depends on where you are (I note that you are in the United States). The ''c'' word is very frequently used in some parts (Dublin, Glasgow etc.) and liberally applied to men, women and assorted others.

    Although I am indeed in the USA now, I'm English and have spent most of my life in England. Mostly in the south, though - and I'm considerably older than you are, which may also make a difference. I was merely relating my own, possibly unduly sheltered, language experience. So I shall defer to your superior knowledge of vulgar vocabulary. :)

    Of course, it wouldn't be used in polite company.
    Exactly. That was why I recommended that it not be used by non-native speakers. I think that many (most?) people would still find its use offensive (even in a play script, for example) and it's usually more difficult for non-native speakers to gauge the "shockability" of their audience. So in my opinion, it's always wise to err on the side of caution.
     
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