Computing Magazine

Punctuation as Words (Slash Slang)

Posted on the 07 May 2013 by Expectlabs @ExpectLabs


Anne Curzan of the University of Michigan recently wrote about a nearly unheard of linguistic development: A new English conjunction, which only happens a handful of times per century. The “/” as a punctuation mark is being spelled out and used as a conjunctive word in the slang world. Here are a few usage examples from the author’s undergraduate English class:

  • “So what’ve you been up to? Slash should we be skyping?”
  • “Has anyone seen my moccasins anywhere? Slash were they given to someone to wear home ever?”

In these examples, “slash” is used as a conjunction, meaning “and,” “and/or,” and “as well as,” linking a second related thought to the initial first thought. 

Curzan writes: 

The emergence of a new conjunction/conjunctive adverb (let alone one stemming from a punctuation mark) is like a rare-bird sighting in the world of linguistics: an innovation in the slang of young people embedding itself as a function word in the language.

For a complete overview of the “slash,” read Curzan’s piece here. Pair with an overview of the word’s part-of-speech debate from Penn’s Language Log and you’ll be in language heaven (slash nirvana).

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