May 10, 2011

70s Lingo

by Terri Wagner

How important is lingo in a book? I remember about a million years (or so it seems) when some "enlightened" professor of English decided all of us needed to read ghetto lingo. I couldn't understand much past the first line. When rap became popular I changed from rock to well anything else because I didn't get the lingo. I had no idea if it was "dirty" or not. I just plain couldn't understand it.

I've read books where the main characters are from another country. However, the author isn't. So I wonder then how much of that lingo is correct. Or when we write about our founding fathers and don't substitute "f" for "s."

What brought all that up? Well, I follow a Starsky and Hutch site out of England. And half the time I don't get what "they" are saying. Which can be hysterical because I just ask. I think I'm the token American on the site.

So yesterday, on that site, I mentioned a bit of 70s lingo since the show itself was n the 70s. The response was hysterical. How many of you guys remember things like "far out," "oh man," "cool" when it was just "cool" and not "kewel." I'm reminded of the song by Tim McGraw, back when a Coke was a Coke, etc.

How do you all feel about lingo? See that's a southerner way of talking. Does it enhance a book or just irritate the reader who's completely unfamiliar with the wording?


  1. I like lingo as long as it's not excessive. I HATE reading a book where the author obviously has a favorite phrase (like "chit") and uses it at least 10 times on each page. I want to stab my eyes out with a pencil! I want to shake the author and say, "Why do you keep using that word? I do not think it means what you think it means." :)

  2. I'm kind of a fence-straddler on this one. I think lingo can be effective in defining a character, but used excessively I'm with Kami--give me a pencil!

  3. I think too much lingo would weigh the narrative down, but a good balance between lingo and "traditional" narrative is enough to draw the reader into the scene. I'll bet the discussions on the English site are great! I had to learn a lot of British lingo when I started watching Doctor Who.

  4. Some books use it effectively if it is just lightly sprinkled. But other wise I loose interest in the book. I am not going to take up Kami's pencils I will just drop the book.

  5. I will make it unanimous...a little goes a long way, and I enjoy it, but overdone is far too distracting.
    great post. thanks!

  6. The use of lingo can be like the use of salt. The right sprinkling can make something sing; too much and you've just ruined the whole thing.


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