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October 2, 2003

Slang of the Week: shark (verb)
take advantage (of someone)

Mark thought $1000 for a Cadillac was a great deal, but when he found the body in the trunk, he realized that the used car salesman had sharked him.

Celebrity quote:
"We're quite sharp about being a band known on what's going on business wise, but that's just because otherwise you get ripped off. That's just a question of looking after ourselves and making sure we don't get sharked by somebody."
- Nigel Powell of Unbelievable Truth

In slang, sharks have been associated with pickpockets, cheating card players, dishonest businessmen and other shady characters. One of the most notable types is the loan shark, who privately gives loans to desperate customers at high interest rates.

Later, if you can’t get the cash together, declaring bankruptcy isn’t an option. A team of leg-breakers or goons (those who beat up strangers professionally) will be sent to convince you of the importance of making prompt payments. But you know that loan sharks aren’t the only ones out to shark you if you’ve ever heard this joke:

Q: Why didn’t the sharks eat the lawyer who fell overboard from the cruise ship?
A: Professional courtesy.

On another note altogether, the phrase jump the shark is used to define the turning point of a television show when it changes from good to bad. It comes from the 1970s hit series Happy Days, when Fonzie, the show’s tough guy, jumped over a shark on water-skis. To many, that was the beginning of the end. When did your favorite show jump the shark? Or is it sharkproof? You can find out at

What’s new at Slang City?
In ASK AC, we look at two different bad words. One reader asks What's a queef? Another wants to know about the background of You suck!

Slang City Bookstore
Our bookstore has many great slang and ESL references. Please visit and take a look. October's book of the month is Dangerous English! The updated classic for ESL students explains what to say about "dangerous" topics such as sex, religion and going to the bathroom, how to pronounce words that can sound "bad" and more. Includes true stories of verbal danger!! Buy one today and avoid embarrassment in the future!