Slang City


Slang City went online in November, 2002, but it really started in 1996 with a half a dozen Brazilian busboys in an Intermediate English grammar class. Their constant requests for information on slang led to a course in American Slang for foreign students at The Cambridge Center for Adult Education in Harvard Square that ran for ten years.

The class used pop culture like Blind Date, Will & Grace, Friends, and the Jerry Springer Show to teach students about American slang and culture. (Students tended to find Jerry Springer particularly educational regarding American culture.) The class attracted not only restaurant workers, but also au pairs, high tech professionals, and PhD candidates from nearby Harvard University and MIT.

Initially created for these English as a Second Language students, the SlangCity.com website quickly became a clearinghouse for all kinds of slang, from hip-hop to prison slang and expressions of the roaring 20s. The site is updated weekly and readers can get even more slang from Slang City Mail, the site’s free newsletter.

back to top


Who comes to Slang City?

Slang City attracts thousands of visitors weekly from over 100 countries. The largest group of visitors live in the United States. The most frequent visitors from other countries come from Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, Brazil and Belgium.

Why do you define basic words like "guy" and "cuz"? Doesn't everybody know that already?

Actually, not everyone does. Slang City has a lot of foreign visitors (see question above), and while words like "cuz" are obvious to native speakers of English, understanding this kind of contraction is not necessarily intuitive to second language speakers. We try to explain anything that can't be found in a dictionary or grammar book as well as those words Americans would typically think of as slang.

English isn't my native language. Can I use all the slang I see at Slang City with my American friends and at work?

In English, as in every language, a person's vocabulary depends greatly on his or her age, sex, race, profession, geographical location and so on. Pay attention to what people say around you, especially how they use "bad" words. What is appropriate can change even from one department to another at the same company.

Slang changes all the time. Is the slang on Slang City current?

Old slang is generally marked as "old-fashioned." However, as noted above, slang usage varies greatly by group and except for really old terms, most of the slang is being used by someone. However, use special caution with anything labeled "hip-hop", as this kind of slang goes out of style faster than a J. Lo marriage.

Do people in Texas use the same slang as people in New York?

Yes and no. What you hear on TV or in movies is a kind of slang that most Americans use. However, there is a lot of regional slang as well. Most of what you can find on Slang City would fall into the first category, though we sometimes take a look at slang from different areas of the country.

How do you decide which Ask AC questions and song and movie requests to answer?

There are several factors. For songs and movies, it depends on how many people ask for them, whether they have a lot of slang, and how popular they are in general. Sometimes, we pick songs/movies that are not well known because the slang in them is unique to a certain era, region or profession. For the Ask AC column, it depends on how interesting the question is, and more importantly, how interesting the answer is.

Do you ever answer questions personally?

We get a lot of mail! Normally, we aren't able to answer questions individually and only post answers on the Ask AC page.

back to top

About A.C.

A. C. Kemp is a Lecturer in English Language Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her book The Perfect Insult for Every Occasion (Adams Media) came out in March, 2008.

To contact A. C. Kemp, write ackemp@slangcity.com.

back to top

About AC