Slang, youth subcultures and rock music (дипломна робота)

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Дипломна робота

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I. Introduction

II. Slang

1. Definition

2. Origins

3. Development of slang

4. Creators of slang

5. Sources

6. Linguistic processes forming slang

7. Characteristics of slang

8. Diffusion of slang

9. Uses of slang

10. Attitudes toward slang

11. Formation

12. Position in the Language

III. Youth Subcultures

1. The Concept of Youth Subcultures

2. The Formation of Youth Subcultures

3. The Increase of Youth Subculture

4. The Features of Youth Subcultures

5. The Types of Youth Subcultures

6. The Variety of Youth Subcultures

IV. Rock Music

1. What is rock?

2. Rock in the 1950s

3. Rock in the 1960s

4. Rock in the 1970s

5. Rock in the 1980s and ’90s

V. Rock subcultures








Straight Edge




VI. Dictionary

Dictionary of youth slang during 1960-70’s

Dictionary of modern British slang

VII. Bibliography


My graduation paper is devoted to the study of the topic “Slang, youth
subcultures and rock music.” This work consists of 5 parts. The first
part is about slang. What is it?


Slang, informal, nonstandard words and phrases, generally shorter lived
than the expressions of ordinary colloquial speech, and typically formed
by creative, often witty juxtapositions of words or images. Slang can be
contrasted with jargon (technical language of occupational or other
groups) and with argot or cant (secret vocabulary of underworld groups),
but the borderlines separating these categories from slang are greatly
blurred, and some writers use the terms cant,argot, and jargon in a
general way to include all the foregoing meanings.

PRIVATE “TYPE=PICT;ALT= ” Origins of slang

originate in subcultures within a society. Occupational groups (for
example, loggers, police, medical professionals, and computer
specialists) are prominent originators of both jargon and slang; other
groups creating slang include the armed forces, teenagers, racial
minorities, ghetto residents, labor unions, citizens-band
radiobroadcasters, sports groups, drug addicts, criminals, and even
religious denominations (Episcopalians, for example, produced spike, a
High Church Anglican). Slang expressions often embody attitudes and
values of group members. They may thus contribute to a sense of group
identity and may convey to the listener information about the speaker’s
background. Before an apt expression becomes slang, however, it must be
widely adopted by members of the subculture. At this point slang and
jargon overlap greatly. If the subculture has enough contact with the
mainstream culture, its figures of speech become slang expressions known
to the whole society. For example, cat (a sport), cool (aloof, stylish),
Mr. Charley (a white man), The Man (the law), and Uncle Tom (a meek
black) all originated in the predominantly black Harlem district of New
York City and have traveled far since their inception. Slang is thus
generally not tied to any geographic region within a country.

A slang expression may suddenly become widely used and as quickly dated
(23-skiddoo). It may become accepted as standard speech, either in its
original slang meaning (bus, from omnibus) or with an altered, possibly
tamed meaning (jazz, which originally had sexual connotations). Some
expressions have persisted for centuries as slang (booze for alcoholic
beverage). In the 20th century, mass media and rapid travel have speeded
up both the circulation and the demise of slang terms. Television and
novels have turned criminal cant into slang (five grand for $5000).
Changing social circumstances may stimulate the spread of slang.
Drug-related expressions (such as pot and marijuana) were virtually a
secret jargon in the 1940s; in the 1960s they were adopted by rebellious
youth; and in the 1970s and ’80s they were widely known.

PRIVATE “TYPE=PICT;ALT= ” Uses of slang

slang may provide a needed name for an object or action (walkie-talkie,
a portable two-way radio; tailgating, driving too close behind another
vehicle), or it may offer an emotional outlet (buzz off! for go away!)
or a satirical or patronizing reference (smokey, state highway trooper).
It may provide euphemisms (john,head,can, and in Britain, loo, all for
toilet, itself originally a euphemism), and it may allow its user to
create a shock effect by using a pungent slang expression in an
unexpected context. Slang has provided myriad synonyms for parts of the
body (bean, head; schnozzle, nose), for money (moola,bread,scratch), for
food (grub,slop,garbage), and for drunkenness (soused,stewed,plastered).

PRIVATE “TYPE=PICT;ALT= ” Formation of slang

PRIVATE “TYPE=PICT;ALT= ” Slang expressions are created by the same
processes that affect ordinary speech. Expressions may take form as
metaphors, similes, and other figures of speech (dead as a doornail).
Words may acquire new meanings (cool,cat). A narrow meaning may become
generalized (fink, originally a strikebreaker, later a betrayer or
disappointer) or vice-versa (heap, a run-down car). Words may be
clipped, or abbreviated (mike, microphone), and acronyms may gain
currency (VIP,AWOL,snafu). A foreign suffix may be added (the Yiddish
and Russian -nik in beatnik) and foreign words adopted (baloney, from
Bologna). A change in meaning may make a vulgar word acceptable (jazz)
or an acceptable word vulgar (raspberry, a sound imitating flatus; from
raspberry tart in the rhyming slang of Australia and Cockney London;
Sometimes words are newly coined (oomph, sex appeal, and later, energy
or impact).

PRIVATE “TYPE=PICT;ALT= ” Position in the Language

PRIVATE “TYPE=PICT;ALT= ” Slang is one of the vehicles through which
languages change and become renewed, and its vigor and color enrich
daily speech. Although it has gained respectability in the 20th century,
in the past it was often loudly condemned as vulgar. Nevertheless,
Shakespeare brought into acceptable usage such slang terms as hubbub,to
bump, and to dwindle, and 20th-century writers have used slang
brilliantly to convey character and ambience. Slang appears at all times
and in all languages. A person’s head was kapala (dish) in Sanskrit,
testa (pot) in Latin; testa later became the standard Latin word for
head. Among Western languages, English, French, Spanish, Italian,
German, Yiddish, Romanian, and Romani (Gypsy) are particularly rich in

PRIVATE “TYPE=PICT;ALT= ” The second part of my graduation paper is
about youth subcultures.

“Subcultures are meaning systems, modes of expression or life styles
developed by groups in subordinate structural positions in response to
dominant meaning systems, and which reflect their attempt to solve
structural contradictions rising from the wider societal context”

The PRIVATE “TYPE=PICT;ALT= ” next part is about rock music in the
1950s – ‘90s. What is rock?


Rock Music, group of related music styles that have dominated popular
music in the West since about 1955. Rock music began in the United
States, but it has influenced and in turn been shaped by a broad field
of cultures and musical traditions, including gospel music, the blues,
country-and-western music, classical music, folk music, electronic
music, and the popular music of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In
addition to its use as a broad designation, the term rock music commonly
refers to music styles after 1959 predominantly influenced by white
musicians. Other major rock music styles include rock and roll the
first genre of the music; and rhythm-and-blues music, influenced mainly
by black American musicians. Each of these major genres encompasses a
variety of substyles, such as heavy metal, punk, alternative, and
grunge. While innovations in rock music have often occurred in regional
centers—such as New York City, Kingston, Jamaica, and Liverpool,
England—the influence of rock music is now felt worldwide.

PRIVATE “TYPE=PICT;ALT= ” The fourth part is about different rock
subcultures such as hippie, punk, skinhead, goth, hardcore, grunge,
heavy metal and others. I discribed their fashion, style, bands, music,
lyrics, political views.

And the last part contains two dictionaries. The first dictionary is
about youth slang during 1960 –70’s and the second dictionary consists
of modern British slang.

Slang … an attempt of common humanity to escape from bald literalism,
and express itself illimitably … the wholesome fermentation or
eductation of those processes eternally active in language, by which
froth and specks are thrown up, mostly to pass away, though occasionally
to settle and permanently crystallise.

Walt Whitman, 1885


1. Definition

Main Entry: 1slang

Pronunciation: ‘sla[ng]

Function: noun

Etymology: origin unknown

Date: 1756

1 : language peculiar to a particular group: as a : ARGOT b : JARGON 2

2 : an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages,
arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures
of speech

– slang adjective

– slang·i·ly /’sla[ng]-&-lE/ adverb

– slang·i·ness /’sla[ng]-E-n&s/ noun

– slangy /’sla[ng]-E/ adjective

Main Entry: 2slang

Date: 1828

intransitive senses : to use slang or vulgar abuse

transitive senses : to abuse with harsh or coarse language

Main Entry: rhyming slang

Function: noun

Date: 1859

: slang in which the word intended is replaced by a word or phrase that
rhymes with it (as loaf of bread for head) or the first part of the
phrase (as loaf for head)

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary


nonstandard vocabulary composed of words or senses characterized
primarily by connotations of extreme informality and usually by a
currency not limited to a particular region. It is composed typically of
coinages or arbitrarily changed words, clipped or shortened forms,
extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech, or verbal

Slang consists of the words and expressions that have escaped from the
cant, jargon and argot (and to a lesser extent from dialectal,
nonstandard, and taboo speech) of specific subgroups of society so that
they are known and used by an appreciable percentage of the general
population, even though the words and expressions often retain some
associations with the subgroups that originally used and popularized
them. Thus, slang is a middle ground for words and expressions that have
become too popular to be any longer considered as part of the more
restricted categories, but that are not yet (and may never become)
acceptable or popular enough to be considered informal or standard.
(Compare the slang “hooker” and the standard “prostitute.”)

Under the terms of such a definition, “cant” comprises the restricted,
non-technical words and expressions of any particular group, as an
occupational, age, ethnic, hobby, or special-interest group. (Cool,
uptight, do your thing were youth cant of the late 1960s before they
became slang.) “Jargon” is defined as the restricted, technical, or
shoptalk words and expressions of any particular group, as an
occupational, trade, scientific, artistic, criminal, or other group.
(Finals used by printers and by students, Fannie May by money men,
preemie by obstetricians were jargon before they became slang.) “Argot”
is merely the combined cant and jargon of thieves, criminals, or any
other underworld group. (Hit used by armed robbers; scam by corporate
confidence men.)

Slang fills a necessary niche in all languages, occupying a middle
ground between the standard and informal words accepted by the general
public and the special words and expressions known only to comparatively
small social subgroups. It can serve as a bridge or a barrier, either
helping both old and new words that have been used as “insiders’ ” terms
by a specific group of people to enter the language of the general
public or, on the other hand, preventing them from doing so. Thus, for
many words, slang is a testing ground that finally proves them to be
generally useful, appealing, and acceptable enough to become standard or
informal. For many other words, slang is a testing ground that shows
them to be too restricted in use, not as appealing as standard synonyms,
or unnecessary, frivolous, faddish, or unacceptable for standard or
informal speech. For still a third group of words and expressions, slang
becomes not a final testing ground that either accepts or rejects them
for general use but becomes a vast limbo, a permanent holding ground, an
area of speech that a word never leaves. Thus, during various times in
history, American slang has provided cowboy, blizzard, okay, racketeer,
phone, gas, and movie for standard or informal speech. It has tried and
finally rejected conbobberation (disturbance), krib (room or apartment),
lucifer (match), tomato (girl), and fab (fabulous) from standard or
informal speech. It has held other words such as bones (dice), used
since the 14th century, and beat it (go away), used since the 16th
century, in a permanent grasp, neither passing them on to standard or
informal speech nor rejecting them from popular, long-term use.

Slang words cannot be distinguished from other words by sound or
meaning. Indeed, all slang words were once cant, jargon, argot, dialect,
nonstandard, or taboo. For example, the American slang to neck (to kiss
and caress) was originally student cant; flattop (an aircraft carrier)
was originally navy jargon; and pineapple (a bomb or hand grenade) was
originally criminal argot. Such words did not, of course, change their
sound or meaning when they became slang. Many slang words, such as
blizzard, mob, movie, phone, gas, and others, have become informal or
standard and, of course, did not change in sound or meaning when they
did so. In fact, most slang words are homonyms of standard words,
spelled and pronounced just like their standard counterparts, as for
example (American slang), cabbage (money), cool (relaxed), and pot
(marijuana). Of course, the words cabbage, cool, and pot sound alike in
their ordinary standard use and in their slang use. Each word sounds
just as appealing or unappealing, dull or colourful in its standard as
in its slang use. Also, the meanings of cabbage and money, cool and
relaxed, pot and marijuana are the same, so it cannot be said that the
connotations of slang words are any more colourful or racy than the
meanings of standard words.

All languages, countries, and periods of history have slang. This is
true because they all have had words with varying degrees of social
acceptance and popularity.

All segments of society use some slang, including the most educated,
cultivated speakers and writers. In fact, this is part of the definition
of slang. For example, George Washington used redcoat (British soldier);
Winston Churchill used booze (liquor); and Lyndon B. Johnson used cool
it (calm down, shut up).

The same linguistic processes are used to create and popularize slang as
are used to create and popularize all other words. That is, all words
are created and popularized in the same general ways; they are labeled
slang only according to their current social acceptance, long after
creation and popularization.

Slang is not the language of the underworld, nor does most of it
necessarily come from the underworld. The main sources of slang change
from period to period. Thus, in one period of American slang,
frontiersmen, cowboys, hunters, and trappers may have been the main
source; during some parts of the 1920s and ’30s the speech of baseball
players and criminals may have been the main source; at other times, the
vocabulary of jazz musicians, soldiers, or college students may have
been the main source.

To fully understand slang, one must remember that a word’s use,
popularity, and acceptability can change. Words can change in social
level, moving in any direction. Thus, some standard words of William
Shakespeare’s day are found only in certain modern-day British dialects
or in the dialect of the southern United States. Words that are taboo in
one era (e.g., stomach, thigh) can become accepted, standard words in a
later era. Language is dynamic, and at any given time hundreds, and
perhaps thousands, of words and expressions are in the process of
changing from one level to another, of becoming more acceptable or less
acceptable, of becoming more popular or less popular.

2. Origins

Slang tends to originate in subcultures within a society. Occupational
groups (for example, loggers, police, medical professionals, and
computer specialists) are prominent originators of both jargon and
slang; other groups creating slang include the armed forces, teenagers,
racial minorities, ghetto residents, labor unions, citizens-band
radiobroadcasters, sports groups, drug addicts, criminals, and even
religious denominations (Episcopalians, for example, produced spike, a
High Church Anglican). Slang expressions often embody attitudes and
values of group members. They may thus contribute to a sense of group
identity and may convey to the listener information about the speaker’s
background. Before an apt expression becomes slang, however, it must be
widely adopted by members of the subculture. At this point slang and
jargon overlap greatly. If the subculture has enough contact with the
mainstream culture, its figures of speech become slang expressions known
to the whole society. For example, cat (a sport), cool (aloof, stylish),
Mr. Charley (a white man), The Man (the law), and Uncle Tom (a meek
black) all originated in the predominantly black Harlem district of New
York City and have traveled far since their inception. Slang is thus
generally not tied to any geographic region within a country.

A slang expression may suddenly become widely used and as quickly date
(23-skiddoo). It may become accepted as standard speech, either in its
original slang meaning (bus, from omnibus) or with an altered, possibly
tamed meaning (jazz, which originally had sexual connotations). Some
expressions have persisted for centuries as slang (booze for alcoholic
beverage). In the 20th century, mass media and rapid travel have speeded
up both the circulation and the demise of slang terms. Television and
novels have turned criminal cant into slang (five grand for $5000).
Changing social circumstances may stimulate the spread of slang.
Drug-related expressions (such as pot and marijuana) were virtually a
secret jargon in the 1940s; in the 1960s they were adopted by rebellious
youth; and in the 1970s and ’80s they were widely known.

3. Development of slang

Slang emanates from conflicts in values, sometimes superficial, often
fundamental. When an individual applies language in a new way to express
hostility, ridicule, or contempt, often with sharp wit, he may be
creating slang, but the new expression will perish unless it is picked
up by others. If the speaker is a member of a group that finds that his
creation projects the emotional reaction of its members toward an idea,
person, or social institution, the expression will gain currency
according to the unanimity of attitude within the group. A new slang
term is usually widely used in a subculture before it appears in the
dominant culture. Thus slang–e.g., “sucker,” “honkey,” “shave-tail,”
“jerk”–expresses the attitudes, not always derogatory, of one group or
class toward the values of another. Slang sometimes stems from within
the group, satirizing or burlesquing its own values, behaviour, and
attitudes; e.g., “shotgun wedding,” “cake eater,” “greasy spoon.” Slang,
then, is produced largely by social forces rather than by an individual
speaker or writer who, single-handed (like Horace Walpole, who coined
“serendipity” more than 200 years ago), creates and establishes a word
in the language. This is one reason why it is difficult to determine the
origin of slang terms.

4. Creators of slang

Civilized society tends to divide into a dominant culture and various
subcultures that flourish within the dominant framework. The subcultures
show specialized linguistic phenomena, varying widely in form and
content, that depend on the nature of the groups and their relation to
each other and to the dominant culture. The shock value of slang stems
largely from the verbal transfer of the values of a subculture to
diametrically opposed values in the dominant culture. Names such as
fuzz, pig, fink, bull, and dick for policemen were not created by
officers of the law. (The humorous “dickless tracy,” however, meaning a
policewoman, was coined by male policemen.)

Occupational groups are legion, and while in most respects they identify
with the dominant culture, there is just enough social and linguistic
hostility to maintain group solidarity. Terms such as scab,
strike-breaker, company-man, and goon were highly charged words in the
era in which labour began to organize in the United States; they are not
used lightly even today, though they have been taken into the standard

In addition to occupational and professional groups, there are many
other types of subcultures that supply slang. These include sexual
deviants, narcotic addicts, ghetto groups, institutional populations,
agricultural subsocieties, political organizations, the armed forces,
Gypsies, and sports groups of many varieties. Some of the most fruitful
sources of slang are the subcultures of professional criminals who have
migrated to the New World since the 16th century. Old-time thieves still
humorously refer to themselves as FFV–First Families of Virginia.

In criminal subcultures, pressure applied by the dominant culture
intensifies the internal forces already at work, and the argot forming
there emphasizes the values, attitudes, and techniques of the
subculture. Criminal groups seem to evolve about this specialized argot,
and both the subculture and its slang expressions proliferate in
response to internal and external pressures.

5. Sources

Most subcultures tend to draw words and phrases from the contiguous
language (rather than creating many new words) and to give these
established terms new and special meanings; some borrowings from foreign
languages, including the American Indian tongues, are traditional. The
more learned occupations or professions like medicine, law, psychology,
sociology, engineering, and electronics tend to create true neologisms,
often based on Greek or Latin roots, but these are not major sources for
slang, though nurses and medical students adapt some medical terminology
to their slang, and air force personnel and some other branches of the
armed services borrow freely from engineering and electronics.

6. Linguistic processes forming slang

The processes by which words become slang are the same as those by which
other words in the language change their form or meaning or both. Some
of these are the employment of metaphor, simile, folk etymology,
distortion of sounds in words, generalization, specialization, clipping,
the use of acronyms, elevation and degeneration, metonymy, synecdoche,
hyperbole, borrowings from foreign languages, and the play of euphemism
against taboo. The English word trip is an example of a term that has
undergone both specialization and generalization. It first became
specialized to mean a psychedelic experience resulting from the drug
LSD. Subsequently, it generalized again to mean any experience on any
drug, and beyond that to any type of “kicks” from anything. Clipping is
exemplified by the use of “grass” from “laughing grass,” a term for
marijuana. “Funky,” once a very low term for body odour, has undergone
elevation among jazz buffs to signify “the best”; “fanny,” on the other
hand, once simply a girl’s name, is currently a degenerated term that
refers to the buttocks (in England, it has further degenerated into a
taboo word for the female genitalia). There is also some actual coinage
of slang terms.

7. Characteristics of slang

Psychologically, most good slang harks back to the stage in human
culture when animism was a worldwide religion. At that time, it was
believed that all objects had two aspects, one external and objective
that could be perceived by the senses, the other imperceptible (except
to gifted individuals) but identical with what we today would call the
“real” object. Human survival depended upon the manipulation of all
“real” aspects of life–hunting, reproduction, warfare, weapons, design
of habitations, nature of clothing or decoration, etc.–through control
or influence upon the animus, or imperceptible phase of reality. This
influence was exerted through many aspects of sympathetic magic, one of
the most potent being the use of language. Words, therefore, had great
power, because they evoked the things to which they referred.

Civilized cultures and their languages retain many remnants of animism,
largely on the unconscious level. In Western languages, the metaphor
owes its power to echoes of sympathetic magic, and slang utilizes
certain attributes of the metaphor to evoke images too close for comfort
to “reality.” For example, to refer to a woman as a “broad” is
automatically to increase her girth in an area in which she may fancy
herself as being thin. Her reaction may, thus, be one of anger and
resentment, if she happens to live in a society in which slim hips are
considered essential to feminine beauty. Slang, then, owes much of its
power to shock to the superimposition of images that are incongruous
with images (or values) of others, usually members of the dominant
culture. Slang is most popular when its imagery develops incongruity
bordering on social satire. Every slang word, however, has its own
history and reasons for popularity. When conditions change, the term may
change in meaning, be adopted into the standard language, or continue to
be used as slang within certain enclaves of the population. Nothing is
flatter than dead slang. In 1910, for instance, “Oh you kid” and
“23-skiddoo” were quite stylish phrases in the U.S. but they have gone
with the hobble skirt. Children, however, unaware of anachronisms, often
revive old slang under a barrage of older movies rerun on television.

Some slang becomes respectable when it loses its edge; “spunk,”
“fizzle,” “spent,” “hit the spot,” “jazz,” “funky,” and “p.o.’d,” once
thought to be too indecent for feminine ears, are now family words.
Other slang survives for centuries, like “bones” for dice (Chaucer),
“beat it” for run away (Shakespeare), “duds” for clothes, and “booze”
for liquor (Dekker). These words must have been uttered as slang long
before appearing in print, and they have remained slang ever since.
Normally, slang has both a high birth and death rate in the dominant
culture, and excessive use tends to dull the lustre of even the most
colourful and descriptive words and phrases. The rate of turnover in
slang words is undoubtedly encouraged by the mass media, and a term must
be increasingly effective to survive.

While many slang words introduce new concepts, some of the most
effective slang provides new expressions–fresh, satirical,
shocking–for established concepts, often very respectable ones. Sound
is sometimes used as a basis for this type of slang, as, for example, in
various phonetic distortions (e.g., pig Latin terms). It is also used in
rhyming slang, which employs a fortunate combination of both sound and
imagery. Thus, gloves are “turtledoves” (the gloved hands suggesting a
pair of billing doves), a girl is a “twist and twirl” (the movement
suggesting a girl walking), and an insulting imitation of flatus,
produced by blowing air between the tip of the protruded tongue and the
upper lip, is the “raspberry,” cut back from “raspberry tart.” Most
slang, however, depends upon incongruity of imagery, conveyed by the
lively connotations of a novel term applied to an established concept.
Slang is not all of equal quality, a considerable body of it reflecting
a simple need to find new terms for common ones, such as the hands,
feet, head, and other parts of the body. Food, drink, and sex also
involve extensive slang vocabulary. Strained or synthetically invented
slang lacks verve, as can be seen in the desperate efforts of some
sportswriters to avoid mentioning the word baseball–e.g., a batter does
not hit a baseball but rather “swats the horsehide,” “plasters the
pill,” “hefts the old apple over the fence,” and so on.

The most effective slang operates on a more sophisticated level and
often tells something about the thing named, the person using the term,
and the social matrix against which it is used. Pungency may increase
when full understanding of the term depends on a little inside
information or knowledge of a term already in use, often on the slang
side itself. For example, the term Vatican roulette (for the rhythm
system of birth control) would have little impact if the expression
Russian roulette were not already in wide usage.

8. Diffusion of slang

Slang invades the dominant culture as it seeps out of various
subcultures. Some words fall dead or lie dormant in the dominant culture
for long periods. Others vividly express an idea already latent in the
dominant culture and these are immediately picked up and used. Before
the advent of mass media, such terms invaded the dominant culture slowly
and were transmitted largely by word of mouth. Thus a term like snafu,
its shocking power softened with the explanation “situation normal, all
fouled up,” worked its way gradually from the military in World War II
by word of mouth (because the media largely shunned it) into respectable
circles. Today, however, a sportscaster, news reporter, or comedian may
introduce a lively new word already used by an in-group into millions of
homes simultaneously, giving it almost instant currency. For example,
the term uptight was first used largely by criminal narcotic addicts to
indicate the onset of withdrawal distress when drugs are denied. Later,
because of intense journalistic interest in the drug scene, it became
widely used in the dominant culture to mean anxiety or tension unrelated
to drug use. It kept its form but changed its meaning slightly.

Other terms may change their form or both form and meaning, like “one
for the book” (anything unusual or unbelievable). Sportswriters in the
U.S. borrowed this term around 1920 from the occupational language of
then legal bookmakers, who lined up at racetracks in the morning (“the
morning line” is still figuratively used on every sports page) to take
bets on the afternoon races. Newly arrived bookmakers went to the end of
the line, and any bettor requesting unusually long odds was motioned
down the line with the phrase, “That’s one for the end book.” The
general public dropped the “end” as meaningless, but old-time gamblers
still retain it. Slang spreads through many other channels, such as
popular songs, which, for the initiate, are often rich in double

When subcultures are structurally tight, little of their language leaks
out. Thus the Mafia, in more than a half-century of powerful criminal
activity in America, has contributed little slang. When subcultures
weaken, contacts with the dominant culture multiply, diffusion occurs,
and their language appears widely as slang. Criminal narcotic addicts,
for example, had a tight subculture and a highly secret argot in the
1940s; now their terms are used freely by middle-class teenagers, even
those with no real knowledge of drugs.

9. Uses of slang

In some cases slang may provide a needed name for an object or action
(walkie-talkie, a portable two-way radio; tailgating, driving too close
behind another vehicle), or it may offer an emotional outlet (buzz off!
for go away!) or a satirical or patronizing reference (smokey, state
highway trooper). It may provide euphemisms (john, head, can, and in
Britain, loo, all for toilet, itself originally a euphemism), and it may
allow its user to create a shock effect by using a pungent slang
expression in an unexpected context. Slang has provided myriad synonyms
for parts of the body (bean, head; schnozzle, nose), for money (moola,
bread, scratch), for food (grub, slop, garbage), and for drunkenness
(soused, stewed, plastered).

Slang is used for many purposes, but generally it expresses a certain
emotional attitude; the same term may express diametrically opposed
attitudes when used by different people. Many slang terms are primarily
derogatory, though they may also be ambivalent when used in intimacy or
affection. Some crystallize or bolster the self-image or promote
identification with a class or in-group. Others flatter objects,
institutions, or persons but may be used by different people for the
opposite effect. “Jesus freak,” originally used as ridicule, was adopted
as a title by certain street evangelists. Slang sometimes insults or
shocks when used directly; some terms euphemize a sensitive concept,
though obvious or excessive euphemism may break the taboo more
effectively than a less decorous term. Some slang words are essential
because there are no words in the standard language expressing exactly
the same meaning; e.g., “freak-out,” “barn-storm,” “rubberneck,” and the
noun “creep.” At the other extreme, multitudes of words, vague in
meaning, are used simply as fads.

There are many other uses to which slang is put, according to the
individual and his place in society. Since most slang is used on the
spoken level, by persons who probably are unaware that it is slang, the
choice of terms naturally follows a multiplicity of unconscious thought
patterns. When used by writers, slang is much more consciously and
carefully chosen to achieve a specific effect. Writers, however, seldom
invent slang.

It has been claimed that slang is created by ingenious individuals to
freshen the language, to vitalize it, to make the language more pungent
and picturesque, to increase the store of terse and striking words, or
to provide a vocabulary for new shades of meaning. Most of the
originators and purveyors of slang, however, are probably not conscious
of these noble purposes and do not seem overly concerned about what
happens to their language.

10. Attitudes toward slang

With the rise of naturalistic writing demanding realism, slang began to
creep into English literature even though the schools waged warfare
against it, the pulpit thundered against it, and many women who aspired
to gentility and refinement banished it from the home. It flourished
underground, however, in such male sanctuaries as lodges, poolrooms,
barbershops, and saloons.

By 1925 a whole new generation of U.S. and European naturalistic writers
was in revolt against the Victorian restraints that had caused even Mark
Twain to complain, and today any writer may use slang freely, especially
in fiction and drama. It has become an indispensable tool in the hands
of master satirists, humorists, and journalists. Slang is now socially
acceptable, not just because it is slang but because, when used with
skill and discrimination, it adds a new and exciting dimension to
language. At the same time, it is being seriously studied by linguists
and other social scientists as a revealing index to the culture that
produces and uses it.

11. Formation

Slang expressions are created by the same processes that affect ordinary
speech. Expressions may take form as metaphors, similes, and other
figures of speech (dead as a doornail). Words may acquire new meanings
(cool, cat). A narrow meaning may become generalized (fink, originally a
strikebreaker, later a betrayer or disappointer) or vice-versa (heap, a
run-down car). Words may be clipped, or abbreviated (mike, microphone),
and acronyms may gain currency (VIP, awol, snafu). A foreign suffix may
be added (the Yiddish and Russian -nik in beatnik) and foreign words
adopted (baloney, from Bologna). A change in meaning may make a vulgar
word acceptable (jazz) or an acceptable word vulgar (raspberry, a sound
imitating flatus; from raspberry tart in the rhyming slang of Australia
and Cockney London; Sometimes words are newly coined (oomph, sex appeal,
and later, energy or impact).

12. Position in the Language

Slang is one of the vehicles through which languages change and become
renewed, and its vigor and color enrich daily speech. Although it has
gained respectability in the 20th century, in the past it was often
loudly condemned as vulgar. Nevertheless, Shakespeare brought into
acceptable usage such slang terms as hubbub, to bump, and to dwindle,
and 20th-century writers have used slang brilliantly to convey character
and ambience. Slang appears at all times and in all languages. A
person’s head was kapala (dish) in Sanskrit, testa (pot) in Latin; testa
later became the standard Latin word for head. Among Western languages,
English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Yiddish, Romanian, and Romany
(Gypsy) are particularly rich in slang.


Main Entry: sub·cul·ture

Pronunciation: ‘s&b-“k&l-ch&r

Function: noun

Date: 1886

1 a : a culture (as of bacteria) derived from another culture b : an act
or instance of producing a subculture

2 : an ethnic, regional, economic, or social group exhibiting
characteristic patterns of behavior sufficient to distinguish it from
others within an embracing culture or society

– sub·cul·tur·al /-‘k&lch-r&l, -‘k&l-ch&-/ adjective

– sub·cul·tur·al·ly adverb

– subculture transitive verb

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

1. The Concept of Youth Subcultures

The word ‘culture’ suggests that there is a separate entity within the
larger society with which the larger society must contend. A subculture
group is a social-cultural formation that exists as a sort of island or
enclave within the larger society. One definition of subculture is:
“subcultures are meaning systems, modes of expression or life styles
developed by groups in subordinate structural positions in response to
dominant meaning systems, and which reflect their attempt to solve
structural contradictions rising from the wider societal context”
(Michael Brake). For Brake membership of a subculture necessarily
involves membership of a class culture and the subculture may be an
extension of, or in opposition to, the class culture. The significance
of subcultures for their participants is that they offer a solution to
structural dislocations through the establishment of an achieved
identity – the selection of certain elements of style outside of those
associated with the ascribed identity offered by work, home, or school.
He suggests that the majority of youth pass through life without
significant involvement in deviant subcultures. He says that the role of
youth culture involves offering symbolic elements that are used by youth
to construct an identity outside the restraints of class and education.

Snejina Michailova, in Exploring Subcultural Specificity in Socialist
and Postsocialist Organisations, presents the following definitions of
subculture: (1) Subcultures are distinct clusters of understandings,
behaviors, and cultural forms that identify groups of people in the
organization. They differ noticeably from the common organizational
culture in which they are embedded, either intensifying its
understandings and practices or deviating from them” (Trice and Beyer).
(2) Subculture are a “…compromise solution between two contradictory
needs: the need to create and express autonomy and difference and the
need to maintain identifications to the culture within whose boundaries
the subculture develops” (Cohen).” Snejina adds: “Subcultures posses
their own meanings, their own way of coping with rules, accepted to be
valid for the organization, their own values structured in specific
hierarchies, they develop their own categorical language for classifying
events around them, they create their own symbolic order.” A key element
in subcultures is sharedness – the sharing of a common set of

The common elements of a subculture include: (1) relatively unique
values and norms, (2) a special slang not shared with society, (3)
separate channels of communication, (4) unique styles and fads, (5) a
sense of primary group belonging seen in the use of ‘us’ and ‘them’, (6)
a hierarchy of social patterns that clarify the criteria for prestige
and leadership, (7) receptivity to the charisma of leaders and (8)
gratification of special unmet needs.

To suggest that there is a youth subculture requires proof that they are
a distinct group with their own set of characteristic. This is true in
terms of (1) aesthetics: youth have a distinct style and taste that is
expressed in their personal appearance and an artistic flair expressed
in spontaneity and creativity. Their values include an emphasis on
community, a sense of belonging and on collectively shared ecstasy.
Youth culture also exists as shown in their distinct (2) morality: there
is a strong emphasis on liberation from all restraints and on a
guiltless pursuit of pleasure. In the area of sexuality we find an
aspect of life where the individual is to experience themselves and
others with complete freedom and honesty. There is a combination of both
individualism (youth culture affirms the autonomy of each individual who
has the ‘right’ to do their own thing) and collectivism (many
individuals are fused into a common experience). The search for identity
is at the core.

2. The Formation of Youth Subcultures

A subculture group forms when the larger culture fails to meet the needs
of a particular group of people. They offer different patterns of living
values and behaviour norms, but there is dependence on the larger
culture for general goals and direction (unlike counter-cultures which
seek to destroy or change the larger culture). Subcultures try to
compensate for the failure of the larger culture to provide adequate
status, acceptance and identity. In the youth subculture, youth find
their age-related needs met. It is a way-station in the life of the
individual – it is as if society permits the individual to ‘drop out’
for a period of years and is even willing to subsidise the phase.
However, for some people the way-station becomes the place of permanent
settlement. This is when a group moves towards becoming a

Industrialisation and the related social-psychological factors of modern
industrial societies caused the phenomenon of youth subcultures for the
following reasons: (1) The deepening of the division of labour separated
the family from the processes of modern production and administration.
Youth is a further extension of the same process of institutional
separation or differentiation. With the industrial revolution there
arose an institutional structure that ‘allowed room’ for youth. (2) With
this division of labour there came an increasing specialisation which
led to a lengthening of the period of time that the individual needed to
spend in the educational system. Youth were separated from the process
of production by child labour laws. (3) The rise of modern medicine and
nutrition led to the sheer numbers of youth increasing. (4) The sheer
complexity of modern society has meant that different individuals lead
vastly different lives. When adults disappear into a strange world,
reappearing for limited contact with youth, a degree of estrangement
results. This trend has caused youth to become autonomous, establishing
norms and patterns of their own that are independent from the adult
world. (5) Socialisation in modern societies is characterised by high
degrees of discontinuity and inconsistency. This produces individuals
who are not well integrated and a period of time is needed where they
can complete the process of socialisation – a time to find themselves,
hence adolescence.

A number of different theories have been suggested for the formation of
youth subcultures:

A. A Natural Part of the Journey from Childhood to Adulthood

As discussed under the youth culture section, there is a journey from
childhood to adulthood. Youth ban together for support into groups that
function as half-way houses between the world of being a child and the
world of being an adult. Here youth subcultures are about survival in an
otherwise hostile world.

B. A Class Struggle Expressed Through The Use of Style

In the resistance through rituals understanding of culture the members
are always striving against dominant classes; older generations and
against those who conform. They are always trying to find ways to
disrupt the ideological and generational oppression in order to crease
spaces for themselves. The resistance through personal expression is
often contrasted against the conformity of the ‘normals’. In many
writings youth are counterposed against adults – they hate and avoid
adults and oppose them because they represent authority. A dichotomy was
created between, for example: Goths and Normals where Goths avoid and
hate adults, oppose adults who represent authority and are deemed to
resist; while Normals relate well to adults, consult adults with
problems and are deemed to conform. Linda Forrester in a web article
speaks of youth generated culture where visual communication is
predominant and language is subservient to visual means of
communications. Visual cultures include: skateboarders; graffiti
artists; street dancers and street machiners which communicate through
movement or gesture. These are periphery groups empowered by the space
that they have created through visual representation. Their cultural
production is recognised by mainstream culture and in that recognition
they are given power to speak. The process empowers them and provides
identity. Group control is managed through the visual display of
creative talent, ie, skaters out-skate each other, graffiti artists
out-image each other; street machines out-car each other; street dancers
fight each other through art. In mainstream culture discourse is
primarily verbal but in youth generated culture discourse is primarily
visual. It is through style that criticism of performance and image
occurs and it is through criticism that higher forms of visual
representation occur.

C. A Rebellion Against the Dominant Culture Using Shock Tactics

Young people in creating subcultures are setting out to shock. One of
the key ways in which they shock is through the clothes they wear.
Oppositional subcultures (ie. Punk and Hip-hop subcultures) are
movements dedicated to rebellion against the dominant culture.

D. A Construction of New Identities Based on Individualisation

The new ideas in youth culture suggest a more positive view of the role
of youth in society. Youth is viewed as an active category – a
sociocultural view of youth is introduced where youth are involved in
the development of society through their creations. Youth must be
allowed to exercise the power to bring change – they do so in their
cultural expressions all the time. Youth culture is about individualism
– an expanding degree of separation of individuals from their
traditional ties and restrictions. As people have ‘broken free’ they
feel a need to look for fixing points – material with which to form a
new social and cultural identity. The motivation behind participating in
the activities of a subculture involves coping with suffering (the sense
of loss at being cut off from the past and hence one’s identity), ie.
alienation, loneliness, meaningless, etc. The motive is to be reinstated
into responsive and responsible relationships. The individualisation has
produced post-traditional communities – because they are focussed on the
individual they are looser and more fluid than traditional communities
but they are still settings in which youth find self-expression and
identity. The subculture is an identity-related substitute for the lost
collective world of modernism but with the disintegration of tradition,
subcultures has lost their identity-creating potential. There is a now a
pluralisation of needs and interests that result from the process of
individualisation and culturalisation – so culture ruptures are normal.
Not only do these ruptures affect all social classes, but the
traditional generational gap is also blurred. Alongside
individualisation there is a tendency towards self-organisation –
probably the new communities will be organised around the needs of the
individuals and their interests. Douglas Rushkoff, in Playing the
Future, suggests that as the world has become increasingly complex the
children have adapted to its demands, and they have the ability to
navigate it’s terrain – adults must learn from them!

A whole new approach to the field of subculture theory is emerging. It
is an approach that is critical of the subculture theory approach
popular since the seventies.

3. The Increase of Youth Subcultures

A number of factors account for the increase in the number of subculture
groups in society:

A. The Size of the Society

Charles Kraft in Anthropology for Christian Witness says: “larger
societies will also develop more subgroupings. These subgroupings are
usually referred to as subcultures.”

B. The Rate of Change in the Society

In societies with slow pace of social change the transition to adulthood
goes smoothly and youth are similar to their parents. There is a unity
and a solidarity between the coming generation and the generation of
parents. In societies undergoing rapid social change a smooth transition
to adulthood is no longer possible and there is a strong dissimilarity
with parent generations. Here an individual cannot reply on their
parents identity patterns as they no longer fit into the social context.
Because youth realise that they cannot learn from past experiences, they
search for new identities that are relevant. In fact, the greater the
change in a society the more intense and stronger the subcultures as
people identify more with their subculture in order to find identity and

C. The Globalisation of the Society

The rate at which cultural objects and ideas are transmitted in large
parts of the world today is a significant factor in the number of youth
subculture groups that are identified. Where a society is connected to
the global village through communication technology, they experience
simultaneous pressures to unity and fragmentation.

D. The Position of Youth in the Society

People who are marginalised or deprived make their sense of loss known
as they resist to the dominant culture. Where youth are connected to the
center of the dominant culture they do not need to rebel or form
counter-cultural groups.

E. The Generational Size in the Society

The size of a generation impacts on youth subcultures because the
overall age structure within a society influences the social, economical
and political make up of age groups. When the number of youth entering
the market place drops, then youth as a portion of the total labour
force also falls. This decline in youth as a market force, both as
consumers and producers will significantly alter the social and
political visibility of youth.

4. The Features of Youth Subcultures

Looking at various writings on youth culture the following features are
noted (some of which may well overlap): style; language, music, class,
rebellion, gender, art, rebellion, relationship to the dominant culture,
degree of openness to outsiders, urban/rural living, etc. The following
insights were gained from class interaction on youth subculture groups:

A. Class and Youth Subcultures

It was found that within different socio-economic groups subculture
groups take on different characteristics and are based on different
factors. Within the working class communities youth tend to have more
interaction with parents and therefore don’t seem to rebel as much
against their parents as youth in middle to upper classes. Youth
subcultures in working class communities will show a greater among of
gang activity, with subculture groups being defined around gangs in some
areas. In middle class areas youth seem to form their subcultures around
interests, such as sports.

B. Music and Youth Subcultures

Most subculture groups could be identified with a specific music genre
and in some instances music was the defining characteristic around which
the group was formed (such as with the following subcultures: Ravers,
Metalheads, Homeboys, Ethno-hippies, Goths, Technos, Rastas and Punks).
In other communities music is a key feature, but another factor would be
the key characteristic, such as with Bladers, Bikers, Skaters, Surfers,

C. Family and Youth Subcultures

In working class families, we noted that families tend to have closer
interaction and youth do not seem so intent on being different to their
parents, whereas in other communities youth may deliberately choose a
certain subculture group to reinforce their independence and even
opposition to their parents. In upper-class communities (or among youth
from upper-class homes) youth are given a lot more disposable income
with which to engage in sports, computers, entertainment, etc. So they
are able to engage in a greater diversity of pursuits – so there are
possibly more subculture groups in middle to upper-class communities.

D. Fashion and Youth Subcultures

It was noted that fashion plays a role in all subculture groups and that
some are more strongly defined by their fashion, while others take the
clothing that relates to the music or sport to define the subculture
group. Working class youth tend to place greater emphasis on fashion as
it is the one way in which they can show off what they own, whereas
middle class youth have other things to show off, such as homes, smart
cars, fancy sound systems, etc.

5. The Types of Youth Subcultures

Snejina Michailova, in Exploring Subcultural Specificity in Socialist
and Postsocialist Organisations, presents the following understanding of
the types of subcultures based on their internal logic of development:
(a) Stable Subcultures – these are functional and hierarchical and
age-based. (b) Developing Subcultures – here there are two types, those
that are (i) climbing – their role is becoming more important, and those
that are (ii) climbing-down – their significance is being reduced. (c)
Counter Cultures – those that confront and contradict the official
culture, also called oppositional subcultures.

6. The Variety of Youth Subcultures

Youth workers should, through research and observation, seek to identify
the various subculture groups within the community in which the youth
group operates, to ensure that the group is able to help to meet the
needs of the different groups. In Britain in the 1980s the following
groups of youth were identified: Casuals, Rastas, Sloans, Goths, Punks
and Straights. In South Africa in the 1990s the following youth
subculture groups were identified: Socialite, Striver, Traditionalist,
Independent, Uninvolved, Careful and Acceptor. In 1995 a market research
project discovered that within the Black youth culture there are three
main subcultures: the Rappers, Pantsulas and the Italians. While within
the White youth subculture only thirty percent of youth identify with a
subculture and the subcultures are far more numerous: alternatives,
Punks, Goths, Technoids, Metalheads, Homeboys, Yuppies, Hippies and

The following subculture groups were identified by students studying at
the Baptist Theological College in South Africa: Achievers;
Intellectuals; Belongers; Image-Conscious; Very Poor; Models; Heavy
Metal Dudes; Rugby Boys; Metalheads; Hippies; Mainstream; Average
Teenager; Fashion Fanatic; Intellectuals; Physical; Clubers; Family
Centered; Workaholics; Pleasure Seekers; Hobby Fanatics; Religious
Freaks; Head Banger; Punk; Home Boys; Skater; Gothics; Yuppies; Trendys;
Rappers; Club-Hoppers; Metal Heads; Socialites; Independents;
Uninvolved; Carefuls; Socialites – Pantsulas; Mapanga (Punks);
Mapantsula; Strivers; Comrades; Preppy; Outrageous; Sexy; Sporty;
Gothic/Satanists; Nerds; Intellectual Strivers; Socialites; Jokers;
Gangsters; Independents; Traditionalists; Teenyboppers; Trendy Group;
Arty Type; Alternative Group; Drug Culture; Gay Culture;
Squatters/Vagrants Culture.

In the movie, The Breakfast Club, five teenagers are sent to detention
for eight hours on a Saturday at their school (Shermer High School,
Illinois). They are:

* Brian Johnson, a nerdy computer type, an intellectual who belongs to
the Maths club

* Clair Standish, a ‘princess’ – wealthy kid who is a popular type

* Andrew Clark – a sporty type who is in the school wrestling team

* Carl – a ‘criminal’ type who has had a hard upbringing, a kid with an

* Alison Reynolds – a strange girl, who is secretive, uncommunicative
and dresses in black

The teacher, Richard Vernon, says that they have to write an essay that
explains who they are. During the day in detention, these five young
people who would otherwise never together socially begin to find out
about each other. They share about their home, their parents, the things
that they are able to do, and why they are in detention (they even end
up sharing a dagga joint). Very soon they are bonding together. Someone
asks the questions about whether they will still be friends when they
see each other on Monday. Some admit that they would be ashamed to greet
the other person if they are with their friends.

They get Brian to write the essay for the teacher. This is what he
writes: Dear Mr Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a
whole Saturday in detention, what we did was wrong, but we think you’re
crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see
us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient
definitions. But what we found is that each one of us is a brain, and an
athlete, and a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Does that answer
your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.

The movie starts and ends with this letter being read. During the
opening sequence the following quote by David Bowie is written across
the screen, while the song by Simple Minds, Don’t You Forget About Me,
plays in the background: “And these children that you spit on as they
try to change their world are immune to your consultations. They’re
quite aware of what they’re going through.”

In the opening scene where the letter is narrated by Brian, the reading
ends with: “That’s how we saw ourselves at 7 o’clock this morning. We
were brainwashed.”

When social workers start to research a subculture group they often find
that the members of the subculture group are less that helpful. Consider
the following quotes:

“It is highly unlikely that the members of any of the subcultures
described in this book (Reggae, Hipsters, Beats, Teddy Boys, Mods, Skin
Heads and Punks) would recognize themselves here. They are still less
likely to welcome any efforts on our part to understand them. After all,
we the sociologists and interested straights, threaten to kill with
kindness the forms which we seek to elucidate…we should hardly be
surprised to find our ‘sympathetic’ readings of subordinate culture are
regarded by members of a subculture with just as much indifference and
contempt as the hostile labels imposed by the courts and the press.”
From: Subculture: The Meaning of Style by Dick Hebdige, Routledge, 1967.

A 16-year-old mod from South London said: “You’d really hate an adult to
understand you. That’s the only thing you’ve got over them – the fact
that you can mystify and worry them.” From: Generation X by Hamblett and
Deverson, Tandem, 1964.


Main Entry: 1rock

Pronunciation: ‘raek

Function: verb

Etymology: Middle English rokken, from Old English roccian; akin to Old
High German rucken to cause to move

Date: 12th century

transitive senses

1 a : to move back and forth in or as if in a cradle b : to wash (placer
gravel) in a cradle

2 a : to cause to sway back and forth b (1)
: to cause to shake violently (2) : to daze with or as if with a
vigorous blow
(3) : to astonish or
disturb greatly

intransitive senses

1 : to become moved backward and forward under often violent impact;
also : to move gently back and forth

2 : to move forward at a steady pace; also : to move forward at a high

3 : to sing, dance to, or play rock music

synonym SHAKE

– rock the boat : to do something that disturbs the equilibrium of a

Main Entry: 2rock

Function: noun

Usage: often attributive

Date: 1823

1 : a rocking movement

2 : popular music usually played on electronically amplified instruments
and characterized by a persistent heavily accented beat, much repetition
of simple phrases, and often country, folk, and blues elements

Main Entry: rock and roll

Function: noun

Date: 1954

: 2ROCK 2

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

ROCK, also called ROCK AND ROLL, ROCK ROLL, or ROCK ‘N’ ROLL form of
popular music that emerged in the 1950s.

It is certainly arguable that by the end of the 20th century rock was
the world’s dominant form of popular music. Originating in the United
States in the 1950s, it spread to English-speaking countries and across
Europe in the ’60s, and by the ’90s its impact was obvious globally (if
in many different local guises). Rock’s commercial importance was by
then reflected in the organization of the multinational recording
industry, in the sales racks of international record retailers, and in
the playlist policies of music radio and television. If other kinds of
music–classical, jazz, easy listening, country, folk, etc.–are
marketed as minority interests, rock defines the musical mainstream. And
so over the last half of the 20th century it became the most inclusive
of musical labels–everything can be “rocked”–and in consequence the
hardest to define. To answer the question What is rock? one first has to
understand where it came from and what made it possible. And to
understand rock’s cultural significance one has to understand how it
works socially as well as musically.

1. What is rock?

The difficulty of definition

Dictionary definitions of rock are problematic, not least because the
term has different resonance in its British and American usages (the
latter is broader in compass). There is basic agreement that rock “is a
form of music with a strong beat,” but it is difficult to be much more
explicit. The Collins Cobuild English Dictionary, based on a vast
database of British usage, suggests that “rock is a kind of music with
simple tunes and a very strong beat that is played and sung, usually
loudly, by a small group of people with electric guitars and drums,” but
there are so many exceptions to this description that it is practically

Legislators seeking to define rock for regulatory purposes have not done
much better. The Canadian government defined “rock and rock-oriented
music” as “characterized by a strong beat, the use of blues forms and
the presence of rock instruments such as electric guitar, electric bass,
electric organ or electric piano.” This assumes that rock can be marked
off from other sorts of music formally, according to its sounds. In
practice, though, the distinctions that matter for rock fans and
musicians have been ideological. Rock was developed as a term to
distinguish certain music-making and listening practices from those
associated with pop; what was at issue was less a sound than an
attitude. In 1990 British legislators defined pop music as “all kinds of
music characterized by a strong rhythmic element and a reliance on
electronic amplification for their performance.” This led to strong
objections from the music industry that such a definition failed to
appreciate the clear sociological difference between pop (“instant
singles-based music aimed at teenagers”) and rock (“album-based music
for adults”). In pursuit of definitional clarity, the lawmakers
misunderstood what made rock music matter.

Crucial rock musicians

For lexicographers and legislators alike, the purpose of definition is
to grasp a meaning, to hold it in place, so that people can use a word
correctly–for example, to assign a track to its proper radio outlet
(rock, pop, country, jazz). The trouble is that the term rock describes
an evolving musical practice informed by a variety of nonmusical
arguments (about creativity, sincerity, commerce, and popularity). It
makes more sense, then, to approach the definition of rock historically,
with examples. The following musicians were crucial to rock’s history.
What do they have in common?

Elvis Presley, from Memphis, Tennessee, personified a new form of
American popular music in the mid-1950s. Rock and roll was a
guitar-based sound with a strong (if loose) beat that drew equally on
African-American and white traditions from the southern United States,
on blues, church music, and country music. Presley’s rapid rise to
national stardom revealed the new cultural and economic power of both
teenagers and teen-aimed media–records, radio, television, and motion

The Beatles, from Liverpool, England (via Hamburg, Germany), personified
a new form of British popular music in the 1960s. Merseybeat was a
British take on the black and white musical mix of rock and roll: a
basic lineup of lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, and drums (with
shared vocals) provided local live versions of American hit records of
all sorts. The Beatles added to this an artistic self-consciousness,
soon writing their own songs and using the recording studio to develop
their own–rather than a commercial producer’s–musical ideas. The
group’s unprecedented success in the United States ensured that rock
would be an Anglo-American phenomenon.

Bob Dylan, from Hibbing, Minnesota (via New York City), personified a
new form of American music in the mid-1960s. Dylan brought together the
amplified beat of rock and roll, the star imagery of pop, the historical
and political sensibility of folk, and–through the wit, ambition, and
obscurity of his lyrics–the arrogance of urban bohemia. He gave the
emerging rock scene artistic weight (his was album, not Top 40, music)
and a new account of youth as an ideological rather than a demographic

Jimi Hendrix, from Seattle, Washington (via London), personified the
emergence of rock as a specific musical genre in the late 1960s.
Learning his trade as a guitarist in rhythm-and-blues bands and
possessing a jazzman’s commitment to collective improvisation, he came
to fame leading a trio in London and exploring the possibilities of the
amplifier as a musical instrument in the recording studio and on the
concert stage. Hendrix established versatility and technical skill as a
norm for rock musicianship and gave shape to a new kind of event: the
outdoor festival and stadium concert, in which the noise of the audience
became part of the logic of the music.

Bob Marley from Kingston, Jamaica (via London), personified a new kind
of global popular music in the 1970s. Marley and his group, the Wailers,
combined sweet soul vocals inspired by Chicago groups such as the
Impressions with rock guitar, a reggae beat, and Rastafarian mysticism.
Marley’s commercial success established Jamaica as a major source of
international talent, leaving a reggae imprint not just on Western rock
but also on local music makers in Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Madonna, from suburban Detroit, Michigan (via New York City),
personified a new sort of global teen idol in the 1980s. She combined
the sounds and technical devices of the New York City disco-club
sceneNew York City disco-club scene with the new sales and image-making
opportunities offered by video promotion–primarily by Music Television
(MTV), the music-based cable television service. As a star Madonna had
it both ways: she was at once a knowing American feminist artist and a
global sales icon for the likes of Pepsi-Cola.

Public Enemy, from New York City, personified a new sort of
African-American music in the late 1980s. Rap, the competitive use of
rhyming lines spoken over an ever-more-challenging rhythmic base, had a
long history in African-American culture; however, it came to musical
prominence as part of the hip-hop movement. Public Enemy used new
digital technology to sample (use excerpts from other recordings) and
recast the urban soundscape from the perspective of African-American
youth. This was music that was at once sharply attuned to local
political conditions and resonant internationally. By the mid-1990s rap
had become an expressive medium for minority social groups around the

What does this version of rock’s history–from Presley to Public
Enemy–reveal? First, that rock is so broad a musical category that in
practice people organize their tastes around more focused genre labels:
the young Presley was a rockabilly, the Beatles a pop group, Dylan a
folkie, Madonna a disco diva, Marley and the Wailers a reggae act, and
Public Enemy rappers. Even Hendrix, the most straightforward rock star
on this list, also has a place in the histories of rhythm and blues and
jazz. In short, while all these musicians played a significant part in
the development of rock, they did so by using different musical
instruments and textures, different melodic and rhythmic principles,
different approaches to song words and performing conventions.

Musical eclecticism and the use of technology

Even from a musicological point of view, any account of rock has to
start with its eclecticism. Beginning with the mix of country and blues
that comprised rock and roll (rock’s first incarnation), rock has been
essentially a hybrid form. African-American musics were at the centre of
this mix, but rock resulted from what white musicians, with their own
folk histories and pop conventions, did with African-American music–and
with issues of race and race relations.

Rock’s musical eclecticism reflects (and is reflected in) the geographic
mobility of rock musicians, back and forth across the United States,
over the Atlantic Ocean, and throughout Europe. Presley was unique as a
rock star who did not move away from his roots; Hendrix was more typical
in his restlessness. And if rock and roll had rural origins, the rock
audience was from the start urban, an anonymous crowd seeking an
idealized sense of community and sociability in dance halls and clubs,
on radio stations, and in headphones. Rock’s central appeal as a popular
music has been its ability to provide globally an intense experience of
belonging, whether to a local scene or a subculture. Rock history can
thus be organized around both the sound of cities (Philadelphia and
Detroit, New York City and San Francisco, Liverpool and Manchester) and
the spread of youth cults (rock and roll, heavy metal, punk, and

Rock is better defined, then, by its eclecticism than by reference to
some musical essence, and it is better understood in terms of its
general use of technology rather than by its use of particular
instruments (such as the guitar). Early rock-and-roll stars such as
Presley and Buddy Holly depended for their sound on engineers’ trickery
in the recording studio as much as they did on their own vocal skills,
and the guitar became the central rock instrument because of its
amplified rather than acoustic qualities. Rock’s history is tied up with
technological shifts in the storage, retrieval, and transmission of
sounds: multitrack tape recording made possible an experimental
composition process that turned the recording studio into an artist’s
studio; digital recording made possible a manipulation of sound that
shifted the boundaries between music and noise. Rock musicians pushed
against the technical limits of sound amplification and inspired the
development of new electronic instruments, such as the drum machine.
Even relatively primitive technologies, such as the double-deck
turntable, were tools for new sorts of music making in the hands of the
“scratch” deejay, and one way rock marked itself off from other popular
musical forms was in its constant pursuit of new sounds and new sound

Rock and youth culture

This pursuit of the new can be linked to rock’s central sociological
characteristic, its association with youth. In the 1950s and early 1960s
this was a simple market equation: rock and roll was played by young
musicians for young audiences and addressed young people’s interests
(quick sex and puppy love). It was therefore dismissed by many in the
music industry as a passing novelty, “bubblegum,” akin to the yo-yo or
the hula hoop. But by the mid-1960s youth had become an ideological
category that referred to a particular kind of hedonism, individualism,
and modernism. Whereas youth once referred to high-school students, it
came to include college students. Moreover, rock became
multifunctional–dance and party music on the one hand, a matter of
serious attention and intimate expression on the other. As rock spread
globally this had different implications in different countries, but in
general it allowed rock to continue to define itself as youthful even as
its performers and listeners grew up and settled down. And it meant that
rock’s radical claim–the suggestion that the music remained somehow
against the establishment even as it became part of it–was sustained by
an adolescent irresponsibility, a commitment to the immediate thrills of
sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ outrage and never mind the consequences. The politics
of rock fun has its own power structure, and it is not, perhaps,
surprising that Madonna was the first woman to make a significant splash
in rock history. And she did so by focusing precisely on rock’s sexual

Authenticity and commercialism

Madonna can be described as a rock star (and not just a disco performer
or teen idol) because she articulated rock culture’s defining paradox:
the belief that this music–produced, promoted, and sold by extremely
successful and sophisticated multinational corporations–is nonetheless
somehow noncommercial. It is noncommercial not in its processes of
production but in the motivations of its makers and listeners, in terms
of what, in rock, makes a piece of music or a musician valuable. The
defining term in rock ideology is authenticity. Rock is distinguished
from pop as the authentic expression of a performer’s or composer’s
feelings and the authentic representation of a social situation. Rock is
at once the mainstream of commercial music and a romantic art form, a
voice from the social margins. Presley’s first album for RCA in 1956 was
just as carefully packaged to present him as an authentic,
street-credible musician (plucking an acoustic guitar on the album
cover) as was Public Enemy’s classic It Takes a Nation of Millions to
Hold Us Back, issued by the CBS-backed Def JamDef Jam in 1988; Madonna
was every bit as concerned with revealing her artifice as art in the
1980s as Dylan was in the ’60s.

Rock, in summary, is not just an eclectic form musically but also a
contradictory form ideologically. In making sense of its contradictions,
two terms are critical. The first is presence. The effect of rock’s
musical promiscuity, its use of technology, and its emphasis on the
individual voice is a unique sonic presence. Rock has the remarkable
power both to dominate the soundscape and to entice the listener into
the performers’ emotional lives. The second is do-it-yourself (DIY). The
credibility of this commercial music’s claim to be noncommercial depends
on the belief that rock is pushed up from the bottom rather than imposed
from the top–hence the importance in rock mythology of independent
record companies, local hustlers, managers, and deejays, fanzines, and
pirate radiopirate radio broadcasters. Even as a multimillion-dollar
industry, rock is believed to be a music and a culture that people make
for themselves. The historical question becomes, What were the
circumstances that made such a belief possible?

2. Rock in the 1950s

The development of the new vocal pop star

If rock music evolved from 1950s rock and roll, then rock and roll
itself–which at the time seemed to spring from nowhere–evolved from
developments in American popular music that followed the marketing of
the new technologies of records, radio, motion pictures, and the
electric microphone. By the 1930s their combined effect was an
increasing demand for vocal rather than instrumental records and for
singing stars such as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Increasingly, pop
songs were written to display a singer’s personality rather than a
composer’s skill; they had to work emotionally through the singer’s
expressiveness rather than formally as a result of the score (it was
Sinatra’s feelings that were heard in the songs he sang rather than
their writers’). By the early 1950s it was clear that this new kind of
vocal pop star needed simpler, more directly emotional songs than those
provided by jazz or theatre-based composers, and the big publishers
began to take note of the blues and country numbers issued on small
record labels in the American South. While the major record companies
tried to meet the needs of Hollywood, the national radio networks, and
television, a system of independent record companiesindependent record
companies (such as AtlanticAtlantic, SunSun, and ChessChess), local
radio stations, and traveling deejayslocal radio stations, and traveling
deejays emerged to serve the music markets the majors ignored:
African-Americans, Southern whites, and, eventually, youth.

Rural music in urban settings

Selling rural American musics (blues, folk, country, and gospel) had
always been the business of small rather than corporate entrepreneurs,
but World War II changed the markets for them–partly because of the
hundreds of thousands of Southerners who migrated north for work,
bringing their music with them, and partly because of the broadening
cultural horizons that resulted from military service. Rural music in
urban settings became, necessarily, louder and more aggressive (the same
thing had happened to jazz in the early 1920s). Instruments, notably the
guitar, had to be amplified to cut through the noise, and, as black
dance bands got smaller (for straightforward economic reasons), guitar,
bass, and miked-up voice replaced brass and wind sections, while
keyboards and saxophone became rhythm instruments used to swell the beat
punched out by the drums. Country dance bands, emerging from 1940s
jazz-influenced western swing, made similar changes, amplifying guitars
and bass, giving the piano a rhythmic role, and playing up the
personality of the singer.

Such music–rhythm and blues and honky tonk–was developed in live
performance by traveling musicians who made their living by attracting
dancers to bars, clubs, and halls. By the late 1940s it was being
recorded by independent record companies, always on the lookout for
cheap repertoire and aware of these musicians’ local pulling power. As
the records were played on local radio stations, the appeal of this
music–its energy, humour, and suggestiveness–reached white suburban
teenagers who otherwise knew nothing about it. Rhythm-and-blues record
retailers, radio stations, and deejays (most famously Alan Freed) became
aware of a new market–partying teenagers–while the relevant recording
studios began to be visited by young white musicians who wanted to make
such music for themselves. The result was rock and roll, the adoption of
these rural-urban, black and white sounds by an emergent teenage culture
that came to international attention with the success of the film
Blackboard Jungle in 1956.

Marketing rock and roll

Rock and roll’s impact in the 1950s reflected the spending power of
young people who, as a result of the ’50s economic boom (and in contrast
to the prewar Great Depression), had unprecedented disposable income.
That income was of interest not just to record companies but to an
ever-increasing range of advertisers keen to pay for time on
teen-oriented, Top 40 radio stations and for the development of
teen-aimed television showsteen-aimed television shows such as American
BandstandAmerican Bandstand. For the major record companies, Presley’s
success marked less the appeal of do-it-yourself musical hybrids than
the potential of teenage idols: singers with musical material and visual
images that could be marketed on radio and television and in motion
pictures and magazines. The appeal of live rock and roll (and its
predominantly black performers) was subordinated to the manufacture of
teenage pop stars (who were almost exclusively white). Creative
attention thus swung from the performers to the record makers–that is,
to the songwriters (such as those gathered in the Brill BuildingBrill
Building in New York City) and producers (such as Phil Spector) who
could guarantee the teen appeal of a record and ensure that it would
stand out on a car radio.

3. Rock in the 1960s

A black and white hybrid

Whatever the commercial forces at play (and despite the continuing
industry belief that this was pop music as transitory novelty), it
became clear that the most successful writers and producers of teenage
music were themselves young and intrigued by musical hybridity and the
technological possibilities of the recording studiotechnological
possibilities of the recording studio. In the early 1960s teenage pop
ceased to sound like young adult pop. Youthful crooners such as Frankie
Avalon and Fabian were replaced in the charts by vocal groups such as
the Shirelles. A new rock-and-roll hybrid of black and white music
appeared: Spector derived the mini-dramas of girl groups such as the
Crystals and the Ronettes from the vocal rhythm-and-blues style of
doo-wop, the Beach Boys rearranged Chuck Berry for barbershop-style
close harmonies, and in Detroit Berry Gordy’s Motown label drew on
gospel music (first secularized for the teenage market by Sam Cooke) for
the more rhythmically complex but equally commercial sounds of the
Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas. For the new generation of record
producer, whether Spector, the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, or Motown’s
Smokey Robinson and the team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, the commercial
challenge–to make a record that would be heard through all the other
noises in teenage lives–was also an artistic challenge. Even in this
most commercial of scenes (thanks in part to its emphasis on fashion),
success depended on a creative approach to technological DIY.

The British reaction

Rock historians tend to arrange rock’s past into a recurring pattern of
emergence, appropriation, and decline. Thus, rock and roll emerged in
the mid-1950s only to be appropriated by big business (for example,
Presley’s move from the Memphis label Sun to the national corporation
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410699,00.html” RCA ) and to
decline into teen pop; the Beatles then emerged in the mid-1960s at the
front of a HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410700,00.html”
British Invasion that led young Americans back to rock and roll’s
roots. But this notion is misleading. One reason for the Beatles’
astonishing popularity by the end of the 1960s was precisely that they
did not distinguish between the “authenticity” of, say, Chuck Berry and
the “artifice” of the Marvelettes.

In Britain, as in the rest of Europe, rock and roll had an immediate
youth appeal–each country soon had its own Elvis Presley–but it made
little impact on national music media, as broadcasting was still largely
under state control. Local rock and rollers had to make the music
onstage rather than on record. In the United Kingdom musicians followed
the HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667518,00.html” skiffle
group model of the folk, jazz, and blues scenes, the only local sources
of American music making. The Beatles were only one of many provincial
British groups who from the late 1950s played American music for their
friends, imitating all kinds of hit sounds–from Berry to the Shirelles,
from HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410702,00.html” Carl
Perkins to the HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410703,00.html”
Isley Brothers –while using the basic skiffle format of rhythm section,
guitar, and shouting to be heard in cheap, claustrophobic pubs and youth

In this context a group’s most important instruments were their
voices–on the one hand, individual singers (such as John Lennon and
Paul McCartney) developed a new harshness and attack; on the other hand,
group voices (vocal harmonies) had to do the decorative work provided on
the original records by producers in the studio. Either way, it was
through their voices that British beat groups, covering the same songs
with the same lineup of instruments, marked themselves off from each
other, and it was through this emphasis on voice that vocal HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667363,00.html” rhythm and blues made
its mark on the tastes of “mod” culture (the “modernist” style-obsessed,
consumption-driven youth culture that developed in Britain in the
1960s). HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410704,00.html” Soul
singers such as HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410705,00.html”
Ray Charles and Sam Cooke were the model for beat group vocals and by
the mid-1960s were joined in the British charts by more intense
African-American singers such as HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410706,00.html” Aretha Franklin and
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410707,00.html” Otis Redding .
British guitarists were equally influenced by this expressive ideal, and
the loose rhythm guitar playing of rock and roll and skiffle was
gradually replaced by more ornate lead playing on electric guitar as
local musicians such as HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667519,00.html” Eric Clapton sought
to emulate blues artists such as HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410709,00.html” B.B. King . Clapton took
the ideal of authentic performance from the British jazz scene, but his
pursuit of originality–his homage to the blues originals and his search
for his own guitar voice–also reflected his art-school education
(Clapton was one of many British rock stars who engaged in music
seriously while in art school). By the end of the 1960s, it was assumed
that British rock groups wrote their own songs. What had once been a
matter of necessity–there was a limit to the success of bands that
played strictly cover versions, and Britain’s professional songwriters
had little understanding of these new forms of music–was now a matter
of principle: self-expression onstage and in the studio was what
distinguished these “rock” acts from pop “puppets” like HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667520,00.html” Cliff Richard .
(Groomed as Britain’s Elvis Presley in the 1950s–moving with his band,
the HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410711,00.html” Shadows ,
from skiffle clubsskiffle clubs to television teen variety
shows–Richard was by the end of the 1960s a family entertainer, his
performing style and material hardly even marked by rock and roll.)

HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667371,00.html” Folk rock ,
the hippie movement, and “the rock paradox”

The peculiarity of Britain’s beat boom–in which would-be pop stars such
as the Beatles turned arty while would-be blues musicians such as the
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410712,00.html” Rolling Stones
turned pop–had a dramatic effect in the United States, not only on
consumers but also on musicians, on the generation who had grown up on
rock and roll but grown out of it and into more serious sounds, such as
urban folk. The Beatles’ success suggested that it was possible to enjoy
the commercial, mass-cultural power of rock and roll while remaining an
artist. The immediate consequence was HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410713,00.html” folk rock . Folk
musicians, led by HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667521,00.html” Bob Dylan , went
electric, amplified their instruments, and sharpened their beat. Dylan
in particular showed that a pop song could be both a means of social
commentary (protest) and a form of self-expression (poetry). On both the
East and West coasts, bohemia started to take an interest in youth music
again. In San Francisco, for example, folk and blues musicians, artists,
and poets came together in loose collectives (most prominently the
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410714,00.html” Grateful Dead
and the HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410715,00.html”
Jefferson Airplane ) to make acid rock as an unfolding HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667522,00.html” psychedelic
experience, and rock became the musical soundtrack for a new youth
culture, the HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667523,00.html” hippies .

The hippie movement of the late 1960s in the United States–tied up with
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410716,00.html” Vietnam War
service and anti-Vietnam War protests, the HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410717,00.html” Civil Rights Movement ,
and sexual liberation–fed back into the British rock scene. British
beat groups also defined their music as art, not commerce, and felt
themselves to be constrained by technology rather than markets. The
Beatles made the move from pop to rock on their 1967 album, Sgt.
Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, symbolically identifying with the new
hippie era, while bands such as HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410718,00.html” Pink Floyd and Cream
(Clapton’s band) set new standards of musical skill and technical
imagination. This was the setting in which HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667524,00.html” Hendrix became the
rock musician’s rock musician. He was a model not just in his virtuosity
and inventiveness as a musician but also in his stardom and his
commercial charisma. By the end of the 1960s the great paradox of rock
had become apparent: rock musicians’ commitment to artistic
integrity–their disdain for chart popularity–was bringing them
unprecedented wealth. Sales of rock albums and concert tickets reached
levels never before seen in popular music. And, as the new musical
ideology was being articulated in magazinesnew musical ideology was
being articulated in magazines such as Rolling Stone, so it was being
commercially packaged by emergent record companies such as Warner
BrothersWarner Brothers in the United States and IslandIsland in
Britain. Rock fed both off and into hippie rebellion (as celebrated by
the Woodstock festival of 1969), and it fed both off and into a buoyant
new music business (also celebrated by Woodstock). This music and
audience were now where the money lay; the Woodstock musicians seemed to
have tapped into an insatiable demand, whether for HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410719,00.html” “progressive” rock and
formal experiment, heavy metal and a bass-driven blast of high-volume
blues, or HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410720,00.html”
singer-songwriters and sensitive self-exploration.

4. Rock in the 1970s

Corporate rock

The 1970s began as the decade of the rock superstar. Excess became the
norm for bands such as the Rolling Stones, not just in terms of their
private wealth and well-publicized decadence but also in terms of stage
and studio effects and costs. The sheer scale of rock album sales gave
musicians–and their ever-growing entourage of managers, lawyers, and
accountants–the upper hand in negotiations with record companies, and
for a moment it seemed that the greater the artistic self-indulgence the
bigger the financial return. By the end of the decade, though, the
25-year growth in record sales had come to a halt, and a combination of
economic recession and increasing competition for young people’s leisure
spending (notably from the makers of video games) brought the music
industry, by this point based on rock, its first real crisis. The
Anglo-American music market was consolidated into a shape that has not
changed much since, while new sales opportunities beyond the established
transatlantic route began to be pursued more intently.

Challenges to mainstream rock

The 1970s, in short, was the decade in which a pattern of rock formats
and functions was settled. The excesses of rock superstardom elicited
both a return to HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667543,00.html” DIY rock and roll (in
the roots sounds of performers such as HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410721,00.html” Bruce Springsteen and in
the HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410722,00.html” punk
movement of British youth) and a self-consciously camp take on rock
stardom itself (in the HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410723,00.html” glam rock of the likes of
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410724,00.html” Roxy Music ,
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410725,00.html” David Bowie ,
and HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410726,00.html” Queen ).
The continuing needs of dancers were met by the HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667526,00.html” disco movement
(originally shaped by the twist phenomenon in the 1960s), which was
briefly seized by the music industry as a new pop mainstream following
the success of the film Saturday Night Fever in 1977. By the early
1980s, however, disco settled back into its own world of clubs, deejays,
and recording studios and its own crosscurrents from African-American,
Latin-American, and gay subcultures. African-American music developed in
parallel to rock, drawing on rock technology sometimes to bridge black
and white markets (as with HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410728,00.html” Stevie Wonder ) and
sometimes to sharpen their differences (as in the case of HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410729,00.html” funk ).

Rock, in other words, was routinized, as both a moneymaking and a
music-making practice. This had two consequences that were to become
clearer in the 1980s. First, the musical tension between the mainstream
and the margins, which had originally given rock and roll its cultural
dynamism, was now contained within rock itself. The new mainstream was
personified by HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667527,00.html” Elton John , who
developed a style of HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410731,00.html” soul -inflected rock
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410732,00.html” ballad that
over the next two decades became the dominant sound of global pop music.
But the 1970s also gave rise to a clearly “alternative” rock ideology
(most militantly articulated by British HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667368,00.html” punk musicians), a
music scene self-consciously developed on independent labels using
“underground” media and committed to protecting the “essence” of rock
and roll from commercial degradation. The alternative-mainstream,
authentic-fake distinction crossed all rock genres and indicated how
rock culture had come to be defined by its own contradictions.

Second, sounds from outside the Anglo-American rock nexus began to make
their mark on it (and in unexpected ways). In the 1970s, for example,
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667528,00.html” Europop
began to have an impact on the New York City dance scene via the clean,
catchy Swedish sound of Abba, the electronic machine music of HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410734,00.html” Kraftwerk , and the
American-Italian collaboration (primarily in West Germany) of HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410735,00.html” Donna Summer and Giorgio
MoroderGiorgio Moroder. At the same time, Marley’s success in applying a
Jamaican sensibility to rock conventions meant that HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667529,00.html” reggae became a new
tool for rock musicians, whether established stars such as Clapton and
the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards or young punks like the HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410736,00.html” Clash , and played a
significant role (via New York City’s Jamaican sound-system deejays) in
the emergence of HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410737,00.html” hip-hop .

5. Rock in the 1980s and ’90s

Digital technology and alternatives to adult-oriented rock

The music industry was rescued from its economic crisis by the
development in the 1980s of a new technology, digital recording. Vinyl
records were replaced by the HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667530,00.html” compact disc (CD), a
technological revolution that immediately had a conservative effect. By
this point the most affluent record buyers had grown up on rock; they
were encouraged to replace their records, to listen to the same music on
a superior sound system. Rock became adult music; youthful fads
continued to appear and disappear, but these were no longer seen as
central to the rock process, and, if rock’s 1970s superstars could no
longer match the sales of their old records with their new releases,
they continued to sell out stadium concerts that became nostalgic
rituals (most unexpectedly for the Grateful Dead). For new white acts
the industry had to turn to HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667531,00.html” alternative rock . A
new pattern emerged–most successfully in the 1980s for HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410739,00.html” R.E.M. and in the ’90s
for HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410740,00.html” Nirvana
–in which independent labels, college radio stationscollege radio
stations, and local retailers developed a cult audience for acts that
were then signed and mass-marketed by a major label. Local record
companies became, in effect, research and development divisions of the

The radical development of digital technology occurred elsewhere, in the
new devices for sampling and manipulating sound, used by dance music
engineers who had already been exploring the rhythmic and sonic
possibilities of electronic instruments and blurring the distinctions
between live and recorded music. Over the next decade the uses of
digital equipment pioneered on the dance scene fed into all forms of
rock music making. For a HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667533,00.html” rap act such as
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667532,00.html” Public Enemy
, what mattered was not just a new palette of “pure” sound but also a
means of putting reality–the actual voices of the powerful and
powerless–into the music. Rap, as was quickly understood by young
disaffected groups around the world, made it possible to talk back to
the media.

The global market and fragmentation

The regeneration of HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667544,00.html” DIY paralleled the
development of new means of global music marketing. The 1985 Live Aid
event, in which live television broadcasts of charity concerts taking
place on both sides of the Atlantic were shown worldwide, not only put
on public display the rock establishment and its variety of sounds but
also made clear television’s potential as a marketing tool. HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667535,00.html” MTV , the American
cable company that had adopted the Top 40 radio format and made
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667536,00.html” video clips
as vital a promotional tool as singles, looked to satellite technology
to spread its message: “One world, one music.” And the most successful
acts of the 1980s, HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667538,00.html” Madonna and
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667537,00.html” Michael
Jackson (whose 1982 album, Thriller, became the best-selling album of
all time by crossing rock’s internal divides), were the first video
acts, using MTV brilliantly to sell themselves as stars while being
used, in turn, as global icons in the advertising strategies of
companies such as Pepsi-Cola.

The problem with this pursuit of a single market for a single music was
that rock culture was fragmenting. The 1990s had no unifying stars (the
biggest sensation, the Spice Girls, were never really taken seriously).
The attempt to market a global music was met by the rise of HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667539,00.html” world music , an
ever-increasing number of voices drawing on local traditions and local
concerns to absorb rock rather than be absorbed by it. Tellingly, the
biggest corporate star of the 1990s, the Quebecois HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410745,00.html” Celine Dion , started out
in the French-language market. By the end of the 20th century, hybridity
meant musicians playing up divisions within rock rather than forging new
alliances. In Britain the rave scene (fueled by dance music such as
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410746,00.html” house and
HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,410747,00.html” techno , which
arrived from Chicago and Detroit via Ibiza, Spainvia Ibiza, Spain)
converged with “indie” guitar rock in a nostalgic pursuit of the rock
community past that ultimately was a fantasy. Although groups like
Primal Scream and the Prodigy seemed to contain, in themselves, 30 years
of rock history, they remained on the fringes of most people’s
listening. Rock had come to describe too broad a range of sounds and
expectations to be unified by anyone.

Rock as a reflection of cultural change

How, then, should rock’s contribution to music history be judged? One
way to answer this is to trace rock’s influences on other musics;
another is to attempt a kind of cultural audit (What is the ratio of
rock masterworks to rock dross?). But such approaches come up against
the problem of definition. Rock does not so much influence other musics
as colonize them, blurring musical boundaries. Any attempt to establish
an objective rock canon is equally doomed to failure–rock is not this
sort of autonomous, rule-bound aesthetic form.

Its cultural value must be approached from a different perspective. The
question is not How has rock influenced society? but rather How has it
reflected society? From the musician’s point of view, for example, the
most important change since the 1950s has been in the division of
music-making labour. When Elvis Presley became a star, there were clear
distinctions between the work of the performer, writer, arranger,
session musician, record producer, and sound engineer. By the time
Public Enemy was HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/idxref/9/0,5716,667540,00.html” recording , such
distinctions had broken down from both ends: performers wrote, arranged,
and produced their own material; engineers made as significant a musical
contribution as anyone else to the creation of a recorded sound.
Technological developments–multitrack tape recorders, amplifiers,
synthesizers, and digital equipment–had changed the meaning of musical
instruments; there was no longer a clear distinction between producing a
sound and reproducing it.

From a listener’s point of view, too, the distinction between music and
noise changed dramatically in the second half of the 20th century. Music
became ubiquitous, whether in public places (an accompaniment to every
sort of activity), in the home (with a radio, CD player, or cassette
player in every room), or in blurring the distinction between public and
private use of music (a Walkman, boom box, or karaoke machine). The
development of the compact disc only accelerated the process that makes
music from any place and any time permanently available. Listening to
music no longer refers to a special place or occasion but, rather, a
special attention–a decision to focus on a given sound at a given

Rock is the music that has directly addressed these new conditions and
kept faith with the belief that music is a form of human conversation,
even as it is mediated by television and radio and by filmmakers and
advertisers. The rock commitment to access–to doing mass music for
oneself–has survived despite the centralization of production and the
ever-increasing costs of manufacture, promotion, and distribution. Rock
remains the most democratic of mass media–the only one in which voices
from the margins of society can still be heard out loud.



Main Entry: hip·pie

Variant(s): or hip·py /’hi-pE/

Function: noun

Inflected Form(s): plural hippies

Etymology: 4hip + -ie

Date: 1965

: a usually young person who rejects the mores of established society
(as by dressing unconventionally or favoring communal living) and
advocates a nonviolent ethic; broadly : a long-haired unconventionally
dressed young person

– hip·pie·dom /-pE-d&m/ noun

– hip·pie·ness or hip·pi·ness /-pE-n&s/ noun

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

Hippie, member of a youth movement of the late 1960s that was
characterized by nonviolent anarchy, concern for the environment, and
rejection of Western materialism. Also known as flower power, the hippie
movement originated in San Francisco, California. The hippies formed a
politically outspoken, antiwar, artistically prolific counterculture in
North America and Europe. Their colorful psychedelic style was inspired
by drugs such as the hallucinogen Lysergic Acid Diethylamid (LSD). This
style emerged in fashion, graphic art, and music by bands such as Love,
the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and PinkFloyd.


Main Entry: 1punk

Pronunciation: ‘p&[ng]k

Function: noun

Etymology: origin unknown

Date: 1596

1 archaic : HYPERLINK “dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=prostitute”

2 [probably partly from 3punk] : HYPERLINK
“dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=nonsense” NONSENSE , HYPERLINK
“dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=foolishness” FOOLISHNESS

3 a : a young inexperienced person : HYPERLINK
“dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=beginner” BEGINNER , HYPERLINK
“dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=novice” NOVICE ; especially : a young man
b : a usually petty gangster, hoodlum, or ruffian c : a youth used as a
homosexual partner

4 a : HYPERLINK “dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=punk+rock” PUNK ROCK b
: a punk rock musician c : one who affects punk styles

Main Entry: 2punk

Function: adjective

Date: 1896

1 : very poor : HYPERLINK “dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=inferior”

2 : being in poor health

3 a : of or relating to punk rock b : relating to or being a style (as
of dress or hair) inspired by punk rock

– punk·ish /’p&[ng]-kish/ adjective

Main Entry: 3punk

Function: noun

Etymology: perhaps alteration of spunk

Date: 1687

1 : wood so decayed as to be dry, crumbly, and useful for tinder

2 : a dry spongy substance prepared from fungi (genus Fomes) and used to
ignite fuses especially of fireworks

Main Entry: punk rock

Function: noun

Date: 1971

: rock music marked by extreme and often deliberately offensive
expressions of alienation and social discontent

– punk rocker noun

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

PUNK also known as PUNK ROCK aggressive form of rock music that
coalesced into an international (though predominantly Anglo-American)
movement in 1975-80. Often politicized and full of vital energy beneath
a sarcastic, hostile facade, punk spread as an ideology and an aesthetic
approach, becoming an archetype of teen rebellion and alienation.

Black leather jackets adorned with shiny metal spikes and studs, combat
boots, spike multi-colored mohawks (mohawk – a strip of hair left on the
top of the head, running from front to back), slam dancing, and fast
3-chord rock and roll; all icons of the movement know as “punk”. These
are icons that defined the punk movement in the 70’s and 80’s, from the
earliest forms to the later forms. These are what many have seen when
they saw a “punk” walking down the street.

“Punk” is a word that was originally a term for a prostitute in England,
17 century (you can find it in W. Shakespeare’s play “Measure for
measure”), then it was a jailhouse term for a submissive homosexual, and
was slapped on as a label for a generation of miscreant mid-1960’s U.S.
Garage bands that were experimenting with post-Beatles British influence
and early psychedelics . The term later expanded to include the rest of
the “miscreants” that erupted in the mid 70’s.

The punk movement emerged in the mid 1970’s. Most people disagree to
just where the punk movement started. Some say that it developed in the
US in NYC, others say it was an effort for the British youth to rebel
against the current UK government. There are some who say that it was an
art form, then there are some who believe it was a unorganized, combined
effort between the US and the UK, that eventually developed into a sort
of a “punk race”. Despite the controversy about whether the punk
movement started in the US, the UK, or some other place in the world, it
is sure the entire world has felt its force in the emergence of
subcultures and its direct influence on the music styles of today.

If it is asked who the first punk band was, and the person answering
held true to the belief that punk was born in the UK, many persons would
answer that it was the Sex Pistols. SEX PISTOLS – rock group who created
the British punk movement of the late 1970s and who, with the song “God
Save the Queen,” became a symbol of the United Kingdom’s social and
political turmoil. By the summer of 1976 the Sex Pistols had attracted
an avid fan base and successfully updated the energies of the 1960s mods
for the malignant teenage mood of the ’70s. Heavily stylized in their
image and music, media-savvy, and ambitious in their use of lyrics, the
Sex Pistols became the leaders of a new teenage movement – called punk
by the British press – in the autumn of 1976. Their first single,
“Anarchy in the U.K.,” was both a call to arms and a state-of-the-nation
address. When they used profanity on live television in December 1976,
the group became a national sensation.

I am an anti-Christ

I am an anarchist,

don’t know what I want

but I know how to get it.

I wanna destroy the passers-by

‘cos I wanna be anarchy…

The Sex Pistols released their second single, “God Save the Queen,” in
June 1977 to coincide with HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,407776,00.html” Queen Elizabeth II ‘s
Silver Jubilee (the 25th anniversary of her accession to the throne).
Although banned by the British media, the single rose rapidly to number
two on the charts. As “public enemies number one,” the Sex Pistols were
subjected to physical violence and harassment.

God save the Queen

the fascist regime,

they made you a moron

a potential H-bomb.

God save the Queen

she ain’t no human being.

There is no future

in England’s dreaming

Don’t be told what you want

Don’t be told what you need.

There’s no future

there’s no future

there’s no future for you

God save the Queen

‘cos tourists are money

and our figurehead

is not what she seems

Oh God save history

God save your mad parade

Oh Lord God have mercy

all crimes are paid.

When there’s no future

how can there be sin

we’re the flowers

in the dustbin

we’re the poison

in your human machine

we’re the future

you’re future

God save the Queen

we mean it man

there is no future

in England’s dreaming

No future

no future for you

no fufure for me

Punks formed a style to disassociate themselves from society. They
refused to dress conservatively, wearing clothing such as ripped or torn
jeans, t-shirts or button-down shirts with odd and sometimes offensive
remarks labeled on them. This clothing was sometimes held together with
band patches or safety pins, and the clothing rarely matched; such
patterns as plaid and leopard skin was a commonplace. It was not unusual
to see a large amount of body piercing and oddly crafted haircuts. The
punks dressed (and still do) like this to separate themselves from
society norms.

Punks believed in separating themselves from society as much as
possible; thus the odd dress and/or rude style. Many times these punks
are associated with anarchy. Although most all punks were about anarchy,
They believed that government was evil, and that a government society
could never be perfect; the government was as far from Utopia as one
could get. By the early 1980’s, punk went underground and underwent many
changes. These changes were the formation of subcultures.


Main Entry: 2mod

Function: adjective

Etymology: short for modern

Date: 1964

1 : of, relating to, or being the characteristic style of 1960s British
youth culture

2 : HYPERLINK “dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=hip” HIP , HYPERLINK
“dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=trendy” TRENDY

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

The Mod was a product of working-class British youth of the mid-sixties.
The popular perception of the mod was this: “Mod” meant effeminate,
stuck up, emulating the middle classes, aspiring to be competitive,
snobbish. The old image was one of neatness, of ‘coolness’. The music of
the Mod was strictly black in inspiration: rhythm and blues, early soul
and Tamla, Jamaican ska. The closest thing to a Mod group was probably
the Who – the music neatly caught up the ‘pilled up’. London nightlife
of the mod mythology in a series of effective anthems: ‘My Generation,
‘Can’t Explain’, ‘Anyhow, Anywhere’. The drug use of Mods was of
amphetamines (‘purple hearts’, French blues’, Dexedrine) and pills,
uppers and downers, and sleepers. Brake explains why the Mods existed by
writing “for this group there was an attempt to fill a dreary life with
the memories of hedonistic consumption during the leisure hours…the
insignificance of the work day was made up for in the glamour and
fantasy of night life.” These were working class teenagers whose
white-collar office work was a drudgery that, for many, would exist for
the rest of their lives. The Mods had their “own” style of life, “own”
music and “own” bands. They were different from another fashion victims
not only with their clothes (suits, severe ties, long scarfs) but they
led a secluded life, they were on bad with the strangers. They spent
endless evenings in their “own” bars and had a great passion for


Main Entry: skin·head

Pronunciation: ‘skin-“hed

Function: noun

Date: circa 1953

1 : a person whose hair is cut very short

2 : a usually white male belonging to any of various sometimes violent
youth gangs whose members have close-shaven hair and often espouse
white-supremacist beliefs

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

Skinhead origins begin in Britain in the mid to late 1960’s. Out of a
youth cult known as the “Mods,” the rougher kids began cutting their
hair close, both to aid their fashion and prevent their hair from
hindering them in street fights. These working class kids adopted the
name “Skinheads” to separate themselves from the more dainty and less
violent Mods. Huge groups of these explosive youths would meet every
Saturday at the football grounds to support their local teams. The die
hard support for a group’s team often lead to skirmishes between
opposing supporters, leading to Britain’s legendary “football violence.”
When night swept the island, the skinheads would dress in the finest
clothes they could afford, and hit the dance halls. It was here they
danced to a new sound that was carried to Britain by Jamaican
immigrants. This music went by many names including: the ska, jamacian
blues, blue beat, rocksteady, and reggae. At these gatherings the
skinheads would dance, drink, and laugh with each other and the Jamaican
immigrants whom brought the music to Britian.

During the 1970’s, there were many changes in the “typical” skinhead.
For some fashion went from looking smooth in the best clothes you could
afford with a blue-collar job, to looking like you were at home, even
when you were out. For others the disco craze of the seventies hit hard,
resulting in feathered hair, frilly pants, and those ugly seventies
shoes. By the late 70’s the National Front, Britain’s National Socialist
party, had invaded the skinhead movement. Kids were recruited as street
soldiers for NF. Since skinheads were already a violent breed, the NF
decided that if their young recruits adopted the skinhead appearance,
the might benefit from the reputation. It was at this point that racism
permeated the skinhead cult without the consent of its members.

Also by the mid 70’s punk had put the rebellion back in rock-and-roll,
opening a new avenue for street kids to express their frustrations. The
shifting mindset brought kids into the skinhead movement as yet another
form of expression. By the late 70’s punk had been invaded by the
colleges, and record labels, letting down kids who truly believed in its
rebellion. From the streets came a new kind of punk rock, a type which
was meant to be true to the working class and the kids on the street.
This new music was called “Oi!” “Oi!” is short for “Hoi Palloi”, latin
for “Working Class”, and the name stuck. Oi! revived the breath of the
working class kids. Because of Oi! music’s working class roots, the
media scorned its messages unlike they had done with the first wave of
punk. With the change in music came a new kinds of skinheads, and the
gaps between the different types widened. Aside from the National
Front’s skinheads, the movement had been simply a working class
struggle, rather than a right-left political struggle. With skinheads
forming their own bands, political lines began to be drawn on the basis
of right-left and even non-political politics. Politically right groups
were often associated with the National Front and had distinct racial
messages. Leftist groups looked at the working class struggle through
labor politics. Non-political groups often shunned both sides simply
because they chose to be political. The Oi! movement consumed most of
the 1980’s and is still alive today.

Skinheads have spread to every part of the globe. Each country supports
an independent history of skinhead goals, values, and appearances. The
definition of “skinhead” varies from country to country, which doesn’t
say too much since it also varies from city to city.

Starting in the late 80’s, through present day, there has been a large
resurgence back to the “traditional” values and appearance of the 1960’s
skinhead. This has occurred in Britain, America, as well as most of
Europe. This has lead to even more tension, this time between
“traditional,” and “non-traditional” skins.

Influences of punk can be found in the skinhead culture. Skinheads were
in existence long before the punk movement came around, and they were in
healthy shape. The split in skinhead culture happened about the same
time that the skinheads accepted punk. On one side was the traditional
skinheads, known as “baldies”, and on the other was the racist
skinheads, known as “boneheads”. Even today there is the negative
connotation that skinhead stands for racism, which is hardly the case.
But there is also a group that calls itself SHARPs (SkinHeads Against
Racial Prejudice; militantly anti-racist skinheads). Skinheads went for
a clean-cut look, thus the shaved heads, jeans that fit, plain white
t-shirts (sometimes referred to as “wife beaters”), and work boots
(“shit kickers”). Tension between the two skinhead cultures exists still
today, and an ongoing war is still going on between the white
supremacist nazi punk skinheads and the working class anti-racial

The names of Oi! bands were sometimes cruel (Dead John Lennons, Millions
of Dead Cops).


Main Entry: Goth

Pronunciation: ‘gaeth

Function: noun

Etymology: Middle English Gothes, Gotes (plural), partly from Old
English Gotan (plural); partly from Late Latin Gothi (plural)

Date: 14th century

: a member of a Germanic people that overran the Roman Empire in the
early centuries of the Christian era

Main Entry: Goth

Function: abbreviation


Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

Goth emerged in the late 1970’s, branching off of the punk scene. A band
by the name of Siouxsie and the Banshees are accredited with the
starting of the Goths. Gothic music differs from punk to the effect that
it eliminated the chainsaw sound of punk and replaced it with a droning
sound of guitar, bass, and drums. The Goths also believed that society
was too conservative, but they also felt that no one accepted them, so
they viewed themselves as outcasts of society. Goths are preoccupied
with introspection and melancholia. They are inclined to speak
poetically of ‘beautiful deaths’ and vampiric sympathies. Theatrical as
they are, goths are not (or not only) play-acting and self-dramatizing.
The Goths wear almost nothing but black, perhaps with a little white or
even red. Goth girls have a penchant for nets and lace and complex
sinister jewelry; with their long black hair, black dresses and pasty
complexions, they look positively Victorian. Boys have long hair and
often wear black leather jackets and can at times be mistaken for
heshers. Goths dye their hair black and wear black eyeliner and even
black lipstick. They usually apply white makeup to the rest of their
faces. The music they listen to also carries the name “goth” and seems
to have descended from HYPERLINK “http://www.darkwave.org.uk/~dok/” Joy
Division , but typically the vocalist uses an especially cheesy
HYPERLINK \l “50” 50’s Count Dracula enunciation pattern.

Unlikely as it may seem, this movement, fostered at a London nightclub
called the Batcave in 1981, has become one of the longest-enduring
youth-culture tribes. The original Goths, named after the medieval
Gothic era, were pale-faced, black-swathed, hair-sprayed night dwellers,
who worshiped imagery religious and sacrilegious, consumptive poets, and
all things spooky. Their bands included Sex Gang Children, Specimen, and
Alien Sex Fiend, post-punk doom merchants who sang of horror-film
imagery and transgressive sex. When Goth returned to the underground in
Britain, it took root in the U.S., particularly in sunny California,
where the desired air of funereal gloom was often at odds with the
participants’ natural teen spirit. English bands like Bauhaus, Siouxsie
and the Banshees, and the Sisters of Mercy cast a powerful spell over
the imaginations of American night stalkers, and pop-Goth variants the
Cure and Depeche Mode filled stadiums. Further proof of the movement’s
mass appeal was the success of The Crow horror movies (1994, 1996), both
of which were suffused with Goth imagery.

Goth provides a highly stylized, almost glamorous, alternative to
HYPERLINK “/aentries/p/punk.html” punk fashion for suburban rebels, as
well as safe androgyny for boys. The massive popularity of such
industrial-Goth artists as HYPERLINK “/aentries/m/ministry.html”
Ministry , Nine Inch Nails, and HYPERLINK “/aentries/m/mansonm.html”
Marilyn Manson has somewhat validated the Goth crowd’s outre modus
vivendi, though as industrial rock replaces heavy metal as the sound of
Middle America, Goth’s dark appeal is blanched. Goth enjoyed a spate of
media coverage in late 1996 thanks to such peripherally related events
as the Florida ” HYPERLINK “/aentries/v/vampires.html” vampire murders”
of November 1996. To this day, the movement continues to replenish
itself with the fresh blood of new bands and fans.


Music genre that originated in London in 1976 when confrontational
noisemakers Throbbing Gristle founded the Industrial Records label.
Disappointed that HYPERLINK “/aentries/p/punk.html” punk rock had
joined the rock ‘n’ roll tradition instead of destroying it, British and
American fellow travelers like Leather Nun, Monte Cazzazza, and Cabaret
Voltaire aligned themselves with Industrial Records, creating a broad
church for (usually rhythmic) experiments with noise collage, found
sounds, and extreme lyrical themes. Believing that punk’s revolution
could be realized only by severing its roots in traditional rock,
industrial bands deployed noise, electronics, hypnotic machine rhythms,
and tape loops. Instead of rallying youth behind political slogans,
industrial artists preferred to “decondition” the individual listener by
confronting taboos. Key literary influences were HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/4/0,5716,2804+1+2792,00.html” J.G. Ballard ‘s
anatomies of aberrant sexuality and the paranoid visions and “cut-up”
collage techniques of HYPERLINK
“/bcom/eb/article/8/0,5716,18498+1+18225,00.html” William S. Burroughs
.The industrial subculture (touching on HYPERLINK
“/aentries/t/transgress.html” transgressive fiction (Contemporary
fiction-writing trend that prowls the psycho-narco-sexual frontiers and
“dysfunctional” relationships of the Marquis de Sade, HYPERLINK
“/aentries/b/burro.html” William Burroughs , and HYPERLINK
“/aentries/s/serialxkil.html” serial killers. ), HYPERLINK
“/aentries/s/sm.html” S/M (sadism and masochism), and HYPERLINK
“/aentries/p/piercing.html” piercing ) spread worldwide.


Main Entry: hard core

Function: noun

Date: 1936

1 : a central or fundamental and usually enduring group or part: as a :
a relatively small enduring core of society marked by apparent
resistance to change or inability to escape a persistent wretched
condition (as poverty or chronic unemployment) b : a militant or
fiercely loyal faction

2 usually hard·core /-“kOr, -“kor/ chiefly British : hard material in
pieces (as broken bricks or stone) used as a bottom (as in making roads
and in foundations)

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

Following the “death” of punk in the late 1970’s was a hard and heavy
form of punk known as Hardcore. Hardcore is faster, louder, and heavier
than the punk of the 1970’s, and it gained much popularity over the
early and mid 1980’s. Typically the vocals are screamed and
unintelligible, though they frequently give voice to strong political
sentiments, the bass is played with a pick and is clear and tonal while
the guitar forms a dynamic, often atonal, texture of sound. rock and
roll radio. Bands such as Black Flag, D.O.A., Circle Jerks, Fear, Bad
Brains, The Meatmen, Agent Orange and Minor Threat were the major
influences in Hardcore, and the idea of slam dancing was born in the
tradition of punks “pogo dancing”. This slam dancing, or moshing, was
done in a mosh pit and was accompanied by the occasional stage diving or
crowd surfing. The main message of Hardcore was “DIY”, or Do It

The DIY movement was purely in the tradition of punk; punk was a form of
music that almost anyone could play, it usually involved only 3-chords
and a band could be put together cheaply. It was a not-so-expensive way
for youth to put out their message.


The DIY style of Hardcore gave way to other subcultures of punk, one in
particular is known as sXe, or Straight Edge. Most of the sXe credit is
given to the band Minor Threat after they released their song “Straight
Edge”. The song was an outcry against the effects of drugs, and fans of
Minor Threat started to quit using non-pharmaceutical drugs like
nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana. These Straight Edgers felt that using
drugs was a sign of weakness, and they still dressed as normal punks
did, but wore anti drug messages on their shirts. The symbol of Straight
Edgers is a large X, originally a symbol that clubs would mark on hands
if the person was not old enough to (legally) drink. Eventually Straight
Edgers started to put the marks on by themselves, even if they were over
21, to signify that they were living drug-free. Other movements that
found their way into the Hardcore DIY scene were Green Peace, the Vegan
Movement, concerts raising money for the homeless, and the Hare
Krishnas, as well as other religious groups.


Main Entry: grunge

Pronunciation: ‘gr&nj

Function: noun

Etymology: back-formation from grungy

Date: 1965

1 : one that is grungy

2 : rock music incorporating elements of punk rock and heavy metal; also
: the untidy working-class fashions typical of fans of grunge.

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

Grunge, rock music style of the early 1990s, characterized by a thick,
abrasive, distorted guitar sound. Grunge evolved from punk in the
Seattle, Washington, area and came to prominence with the chart success
of the band Nirvana in 1991. Grunge is said to have originated as
marriage between HYPERLINK
“http://weber.u.washington.edu/~ten/undersea/index.html” Seattle ‘s
HYPERLINK “h-j.htm” \l “hesher” hesher and HYPERLINK “n-p.htm” \l
“punk” punk scenes. Characteristic of most of these bands is punk rock
drums and vocals, hesher hair and guitar, and working-class clothing
that is rarely washed. Lyrics frequently confront such uncomfortable
subjects as unpopularity, alienation from divorced parents, disease, the
hypocrisy and allure of religion, HYPERLINK “heroin.htm” heroin , and
raw HYPERLINK “k-m.htm” \l “lust” lust . Grunge may or may not be a
useful term to describe a segment of youth delinquency, but with
historical perspective, it is best used to describe a record company
phenomenon. Grunge was a revolution, the revolution where punk rock was
decisively injected into mainstream rock and roll.

Numerous culture makers embarrassed themselves in the rush to exploit
the most vital white youth culture in years. Grunge “fashion”–the
perennial flannel shirt/ HYPERLINK “/aentries/c/combatxboo.html” combat
boots /ripped jeans uniform of suburban burnouts everywhere–was
suddenly used as an exotic novelty by designers.


Main Entry: 1al·ter·na·tive

Pronunciation: ol-‘t&r-n&-tiv, al-

Function: adjective

Date: 1540

1 : HYPERLINK “dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=alternate+” ALTERNATE 1

2 : offering or expressing a choice

3 : different from the usual or conventional:as a : existing or
functioning outside the established cultural, social, or economic system
b : of, or relating to,
or being rock music that is regarded as an alternative to conventional
rock and is typically influenced by punk rock, hard rock, hip-hop, or
folk music

– al·ter·na·tive·ly adverb

– al·ter·na·tive·ness noun

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

Nineties term for counterculture, often of a non-oppositional nature.
Current use of “alternative” in the music and youth-culture world
originated in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when it described the strain
of post- HYPERLINK “/aentries/p/punk.html” punk music cultivated by a
growing, informal network of college radio stations. The word
“alternative” already had a meaning related to culture: commonly
associated with the independent, oppositional press of the late hippie
era, this counterculture label also came to denote any lifestyle outside
the mainstream. As college-rock favorites like HYPERLINK
“/aentries/r/rem.html” R.E.M. and HYPERLINK “/aentries/u/u2.html” U2
became chart and stadium fixtures in the second half of the ’80s,
successive waves of newer, rawer bands inherited the “alternative”
mantle. However, HYPERLINK “/aentries/n/nirvana.html” Nirvana’s
meteoric rise to the top of the charts in 1991-92 disrupted the
ecosystem: suddenly alternative was a musical category as lucrative as
HYPERLINK “/aentries/h/hipxhop.html” hip-hop or metal, as were its
country-associated fashions. Record companies, radio, and HYPERLINK
“/aentries/m/mtv.html” MTV embraced the “new” form, the HYPERLINK
“/aentries/l/lollapaloo.html” Lollapalooza tours enshrined it, and
marketers used it as youth bait to sell everything from cars to soft
drinks to movies. For those who wrangled with the question “what is
alternative?” there was no satisfactory answer-the term was now in the
public domain, and dissent from the mainstream was rewarded within a
fragmenting mass culture. Alternative – at obvious variance with the
mainstream, especially regarding music, lifestyle and clothing. Clothing
and the extent of facial piercings are usually the most apparent
manifestations of underlying alternative sentiments. But like every
other term that may have once had meaning, the term “alternative” has
been co-opted by mainstream commercial culture. It isn’t easy to
maintain a rebellion when you find yourself winning every battle. As the
name for a musical genre, alternative is reserved for a type of college
radio HYPERLINK “n-p.htm” \l “pop” pop that typically breaks free of
such rock and roll rules as the HYPERLINK
“” major / HYPERLINK
“” blues scales, the 4/4
rhythm, HYPERLINK “k-m.htm” \l “lofi” hi fidelity , and the need for
rhyming lyrics. There is, however, plenty of “alternative” that is hard
to distinguish from HYPERLINK “c-e.htm” \l “classic” classic rock .
These days much of the new rock and roll that mainstream rock stations
play is stuff that would have been considered alternative only a year or
two before.


Main Entry: heavy metal

Function: noun

Date: 1974

: energetic and highly amplified electronic rock music having a hard

Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

HEAVY METAL – a typically 80’s style of music that features most of the
characteristics of classic rock but with louder, more distorted guitars,
ominous and driving rhythm, and screaming vocals about subjects such as
drug use, war, religion, and problems with girlfriends. Most heavy metal
bands also write sappy love ballads that find their way into mainstream
radio play lists.

Heavy metal emerged in the late 60s mostly from bands such as Led
Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Such bands tended to be “hard”
in that they succeeded in torturing parents in ways that the Beatles
just couldn’t, but in most respects they were very different from one
another. Later, bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden added to the
genre as it expanded into and borrowed from pop. This culminated in the
late 80s diversification of heavy metal into several completely
different branches. There were the blues-based big haired glam metal
bands such as Great White and Motley Crew that sang exclusively about
babes, there were the attitude bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses who also sang
about babes (with an emphasis on how easy they are to get into bed),
there were the dark and mysterious alternative metal bands like Nirvana
and Soundgarden that avoided glamour and sang about angst and other
water sign issues, there were the bands like Living Colour, Fishbone and
Faith No More that were either black or borrowed from rap and soul
culture, and there were the fast bands like Slayer and Metallica that
sent many a parent in search of an exorcist.

Although the origin of the term heavy metal is widely attributed to
novelist HYPERLINK “/bcom/eb/article/xref/0,5716,409863,00.html”
William Burroughs , its use actually dates well back into the 19th
century, when it referred to cannon or to power more generally. It also
has been used to classify certain elements or compounds, as in the
phrase heavy metal poisoning. Heavy metal appeared in the lyrics of
Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” (1968), and by the early 1970s rock
critics were using it to refer to a specific style of music. Heavy metal
has historically required one thing of its performers: long hair. Heavy
metal musicians and fans came under severe criticism in the 1980s.
Political and academic groups sprang up to blame the genre and its fans
for causing everything from crime and violence to despondency and
suicide. But defenders of the music pointed out that there was no
evidence that heavy metal’s exploration of madness and horror caused,
rather than articulated, these social ills. The genre’s lyrics and
imagery have long addressed a wide range of topics, and its music has
always been more varied and virtuosic than critics like to admit.

Heavy metal fragmented into subgenres (such as lite metal, death metal,
and even Christian metal) in the 1980s.

SPEED METAL – a genre of music typified by a continuous double-bass drum
roll, high-speed distorted guitar rhythms, an almost silent bass, and
screeched or groaned vocals concerning war, death, fighting,
environmental abuse, brutality, and (in rare cases) HYPERLINK “k-m.htm”
\l “lust” lust . The main problem with most speed metal bands is that
they still see a need to put HYPERLINK “w-z.htm” \l “wailing” guitar
solos in their songs, and the guitar solos are always really bad and
last entirely too long. Speed metal seems to be a result of a marriage
between HYPERLINK “n-p.htm” \l “punk” punk rock and HYPERLINK
“h-j.htm” \l “metal” heavy metal .

. Examples of speed metal bands: HYPERLINK
“http://www.cs.uit.no/Music/View/kreator/” Kreator , HYPERLINK
“http://www-cse.ucsd.edu/users/bruss/Metal/groups/Exod.html” Exodus ,
Nuclear Assault , HYPERLINK
“http://www.dorsai.org/~jkeis/megadeth/megadeth.html” Megadeth ,
HYPERLINK “http://www.iac.net/~flips/Prong.html” Prong , HYPERLINK
“http://www.brad.ac.uk/%7eirpurdie/MusicPage/pantera.html” Pantera

THRASH METAL – HYPERLINK “r-s.htm” \l “speedmetal” speed metal with an
especially strong HYPERLINK “n-p.htm” \l “punk” punk influence. While
in general speed metal musicians pride themselves on their talent and
knowledge of music theory, thrash musicians laugh at such concepts or
else skillfully conceal their acquaintance with them. Examples of thrash
bands: HYPERLINK “http://alcor.concordia.ca/~angus_g/index.html” DRI ,
HYPERLINK “http://toolshed.down.net” Tool , some HYPERLINK
“http://www.estorm.com/~st/” Suicidal Tendencies , and even some
HYPERLINK “http://www.accessone.com/~jesuschrist/Media/Black_Flag.html”
Black Flag .


Dictionary of youth slang during 1960-70’s

acid (n) LSD, a narcotic drug popular among hippies. see psychedelic,
bad trip.

afro (n) haircut popular among African-americans during 1960’s and

aquarian (adj.) we’re not sure exactly what this means, but it has
something to do with the “Age of Aquarius” and the musical Hair.

bad scene (n) a bad situation. see scene.

bad trip (n) originally described a bad experience using drugs,
characterized by frightening hallucinations. Can be used to describe any
bad experience.

bag (n) one’s main interest or purpose in life.

black light (n) a decorative light, dark blue in color to the human eye,
which makes objects or artwork in flourescent colors appear to glow.

blow your mind (v) to have an enlightening or illuminating experience.

bread (n) money.

bummer (n) bad experience.

bust (v) to arrest someone, (n) an arrest.

cat (n) a person. derived from beatnik language of the 1950’s.

chick (n) a girl or woman.

commune (n) an community of people who share possessions, living
accomodations, and work (or lack thereof). Usually encompasses a farm
and other fashionable industries.

crash (v) to sleep, rest, or do nothing.

crash pad (n) a place where one sleeps, rests, or does nothing.

dig (v) like, enjoy, be interested in.

drag (n) an unfavorable situation or state of affairs.

dude (n) person, usually male.

establishment, the (n) traditional business and government institutions,
believed to stand in the way of human progress. see “system, the.”

HYPERLINK “../graphics/farout.gif” far out (adj) very interesting,
good. Also an exclamation.

free love (n) love without expectations or commitment.

fuzz (n) police.

get it on (n) successfully interact with others.

groove (v) enjoy, achieve proficiency at. see “groovy.”

groovy (adj) good, interesting, enjoyable.

hang out (v) to be some place, usually doing nothing, with no purpose.

hang-up (n) inhibition, usually due to morals, beliefs, or culture.

happening (adj) exciting, new, good.

heavy (adj) thought-provoking.

hippie (n) [still searching for a definition here]. hip (adj)
knowledgable of, or consistent with, the latest trends and ideas.

Iron Butterfly (n) a rock band which had one popular song, “Inna Gadda
Da Vida.”

lava lamp (n) a cylindrical glass container filled a semi-solid viscous
material which breaks apart and forms globules while floating in a clear

like (?) word used to fill up space in an utterance when the speaker is
unable to think of a suitable adjective to describe something. Use of
this word has also been adopted by adjective-challenged subcultures of
more recent generations.

love beads (n) colorful beads worn around the neck to symbolize love.

man (interjection) used as an exclamation to draw attention to one’s
utterance. related phrase: “hey, man.”

mood ring (n) a ring worn on the finger which contains a large stone,
the color of which is supposed to indicate the wearer’s emotional mood.
Mood rings were a fad in the mid-1970’s.

HYPERLINK “../graphics/ohwow.gif” oh wow (interjection) exclamation
uttered in response to new, thought-provoking, or exciting information.

out of sight (adj) excellent, outstanding. Often used as an exclamation.

pad (n) living accomodation–house or apartment.

peace (n) absence of war.

psychedelic (adj) of or related to a mental state characterized by a
profound sense of intensified sensory perception, sometimes accompanied
by severe perceptual distortion, hallucinations, or extreme feelings of
euphoria or despair. see acid.

rap (v,n) to talk, conversation. More recently used to name a category
of music where words are spoken, rather than sung.

San Francisco (n) worldwide center of hippie activity and general

scene (n) place, situation, or circumstances.

sock it to me (phrase) let me have it.

spaced out (adj) dazed, not alert.

split (v) to leave, depart.

square (adj) old-fashioned, not aware of new thinking and customs. (n)
one who is square.

system, the (n) the system of laws, governance, and justice. see
“establishment, the”.

tie dye (v) a method of coloring clothing where the article of clothing
is tied in knots, then dying it to produce an abstract pattern. (n) an
article of clothing dyed in this manner.

trip (n) an unusual experience. (v) to have an unusual experience.

turn on (v) to become enlightened to new ways of thinking or
experiencing reality.

uptight (adj) concerned about maintaining set ways of thinking and doing

Dictionary of modern British slang

These phrases are in everyday use around most of Britain.

Phrase Meaning


99 a popular style of ice cream, usually

ordered with a ‘flake’

‘A’ levels exams taken at age 18

abso-bloody-lutely a more definite form of ‘absolutely’

afters dessert

aggro trouble; violence

all broke up on holiday, usually from school

all of a twitter very nervous or apprehensive

aluminium aluminum

arse bottom, or ass

arse bandit a homosexual

arse over tit to fall head over heels

arse about playing around, being silly

e.g. “stop arsing about!”

artic an articulated lorry; a bick truck

Aussie an Australian

backhander a bribe

bag an unattractive or elderly woman

balderdash rubbish; nonsense

balls-up a mess; a confusion

banger (1) an old car; (2) a sausage

barking mad crazy

batty dotty; crazy

beak magistrate

beehive a tall hairstyle

bees knees something really good

beetle crusher a boot; a foot

behind bottom; buttocks

berk a stupid person

e.g. “you silly berk”

bevvy a drink

bit of fluff a pretty young single woman

bill, the police, sometimes called “the old bill”

binge a drinking bout

bin liner garbage bag

bin men garbage collectors

bint a rough girl

biro a ballpoint pen

bit of alright something highly satisfactory

black maria a police van

black pudding a sausage like food made from

– pigs blood

– oats

– fat

black sheep of the family a relative who gets into trouble with the


blag a robbery; to rob

blagger a robber

Blighty England

blimey ! an expression of surprise

blob a contraceptive

blotto drunk

blower telephone

blow your own trumpet to brag; to boast

blubber to cry

bobby dazzler a remarkable person or thing

bog a toilet, a washroom

bollock naked stark naked

bollocks testicles

bonce head

bonk to copulate

bonnet hood of a car

bookie betting shop owner

boot trunk of a car

boracic penniless

bosch a derogative term for germans

bovver trouble

bovver boot a heavy boot, possibly with a toe cap and

quite often worn by skinheads

bovver boy a hooligan; a troublemaker

brass monkey weather cold, taken from the phrase, “it’s cold

to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”

breakdown van a tow truck

brickie a bricklayer

brill ! short form of brilliant, meaning fantastic

brolly an umbrella

browned off bored; fed up

Brummy a native of Birmingham

bubble and squeak fried cabbage and potatoes

bubbly champagne

bugger all nothing; very little

bumf toilet paper

this led to ‘bumf’ being used for superfluous

papers, letters etc.

bumming a fag requesting a cigarette

e.g. “Can I bum a fag from you mate ?”

Note: This has a VERY different meaning

in the U.S.

bunch of fives a fist

“button it !” “be quiet !”

caff a cafe

cake hole a person’s mouth

cardy abbreviation of cardigan

champers champagne

char tea; a domestic worker

cheeky monkey a rude person

cheesed off bored; fed up

chin chin a drinking toast

chippy a fish and chip shop; a carpenter

chokey prison

chuffed very pleased or proud

clapped out worn out, broken

clappers to go very fast; to work hard

e.g. That car goes like the clappers !

e.g. I have to work like the clappers

to finish it by lunchtime !

clickety click 66 in bingo calling

clink prison

clinker somebody who is outstanding

clobber clothing

clodhopper a clumsy person

clogger a soccer player who tackles heavily

clot a fool

cloth-ears a person with a poor sense of hearing

cobblers testicles; rubbish

cock and bull a story with very little truth in it

cock up to ruin something

e.g. “it was a real cock-up”

e.g. “haved you cocked it up ?”

coffin nail a cigarette

conk nose

conkers a childrens game played with horse chestnuts

copper police man/woman

cough up to pay

crackers crazy

cracking great; fantastic

crackling a woman who is regarded as a sexual object

crate an old name for a very old plane

create to make a fuss or an angry scene

crown jewels male genitalia

crumbly an old or senile person

crumpet a desirable woman

dabs fingerprints

daft stupid

dark horse somebody who suprises others by their actions

des res Estate agents use this to describe a

“desirable residence”

dial face

dickie bow a bow tie

diddicoy a gipsy

dip a pickpocket

dishy good looking

do a runner to leave quickly avoiding punishment

doddle easy

dog’s bollocks something really good

dog’s breakfast a mess

donkey’s breakfast a straw hat

doodah to be in a state of excitement

e.g. “He was all in a doodah !”

doolally scatter-brained; crazy

doorstep a thick sandwich

dosh money

doss house a cheap lodging house

dosser a tramp

do the dirty on to play a mean trick on

dough money

droopy drawers an untidy or sloppy person

drop a sprog have a baby

drum a house or flat

duffer a stupid person

dummy a baby’s pacifier

earful to get a shouting

e.g. “My mum gave me a right earful !”

easy-peasy something very simple

earner a lucrative job or task

elevenses morning tea break

extracting the urine see “taking the piss”

fab fabulous; wonderful

face-ache a miserable looking person

fag cigarette

fag-end a cigarette butt

fairy a homosexual man

family jewels male genitalia

fanny female genitalia

fence a receiver of stolen goods

filth, the police

fishy about the gills looking the worse for drink

fizzog face

flake a stick that is made up of flaky

pieces of chocolate

flicks, the the cinema

flog to sell

footy football; soccer

fuzz, the police

gamboll a somersault done on the ground

gamp an umbrella

gentleman’s gentleman a valet

Geordie a native of Newcastle

gift of the gab being very free with speech

git an insult

e.g. “You stupid git !”

give it a whirl try it out

give someone the pip to get on someone’s nerves

gob mouth

gobsmacked speechless

goes like stink very fast

good nick very good condition

gooseberry a fifth wheel

goosegog a gooseberry

go to the dogs to go to ruin

grass, grasser an informant

hang about wait a moment

hell for leather very fast

hols holidays

home and dry to be safe

hush silence

inexpressibles trousers

in good fettle in good health

in the altogether nude

in the know to have inside information

in the noddy nude

jam packed very full

jar a drink, usually a pint of beer

jelly jello

jerry a chamber pot

jerry builder a builder of unsubstantial houses

Jock a scottish person

Jonah a bringer of bad luck

jumped up to be conceited

jumper sweater

keep you hair on please calm down

kick the bucket to die

kissed the Blarney Stone a person who tells tall stories

knackered tired, worn out

derived from horses being taken to the

‘knackers yard’

knockers breasts

leg it ! quick lets run !

legless drunk

like a rat out of a very fast


load of bollocks you’re talking crap

utter nonesense

loo a toilet; a washroom

Liverpudlian a native of Liverpool (also see Scouser)

lorry a truck

man in blue a policeman

marmite a spread for sandwiches

me old cock my old friend

meat and two veg. male genitalia

mind your P’s and Q’s to be careful; to be polite

moggy cat

mom`s the word it’s a secret between you and me

can be abbreviated to “Keep mom !”

money for jam an easy job

money for old rope an easy job

mother’s ruin gin

mucker mate, friend

mucky pup someone who has soiled themselves

e.g. “You mucky pup !”

mug face

mutton chops side whiskers

nancy boy an effeminate male

nark a police informer

nightie a nightdress

nick prison; to steal

e.g “Hey, my bike’s been nicked !”

nick, the prison

nincompoop a fool

nipper a young or small child

nippy (1) fast, or (2) cold

e.g. (1) “that car is nippy !”

e.g. (2) “it’s nippy out today”

nix nothing

none too easy very difficult

e.g. “that exam was none too easy !”

nosey parker somebody who is nosey

not bad very good

not so hot not very good, awful

old man father

old girl mother

old lady mother

one in the oven pregnant, also “a bun in the oven”,

“up the plum duff” and “in the pudding club”

on spec on chance

on the nod on credit

on the razzle dressed up and looking for sex

on the tap looking for sex

on your bike! go away!

out for a duck obtained a zero score

Paddy an Irishman

paralitic to be drunk

pavement sidewalk

pictures, the the cinema

pick-me-up a tonic

pie eyed to be drunk

pigs, the police

pigs breakfast a mess

pigs ear a mess

pig in muck somebody in their element

e.g. “he is as happy as a pig in muck”

pillock an insult

pinny apron

pissed drunk

pissed off to be annoyed

e.g. “I was pissed off !”

e.g. “He really pissed me off !”

The US replace “pissed off” with “pissed” alone.

piss head somebody who is drunk quite often

plastered drunk

e.g. “He’s plastered !”

play hookey to play truant

plimpsolls childrens non-laced sneakers

plod police man/woman

plonk cheap wine

e.g. “This plonk’s not bad !”

plonker (1) penis, (2) fool

e.g. “you silly plonker !”

plus fours trousers

ponce a homosexual

pong a bad smell

pooh pooh to reject an idea

e.g. “He pooh pooh’d my idea !”

pools, the a weekly betting game based on the outcome

of soccer matches; run by Vernons and

Littlewoods (and possibly others)

pratt an insult

e.g. “you stupid pratt !”

preggers pregnant

pudding dessert

pull a bird meet a woman; pick up a girl

quite often shortened to ‘pull’

e.g. “Did you pull ?”

pull a fast one to fool or swindle somebody

pull a pint hand pump beer into a glass

pull a stroke to outsmart

pull the other one I don’t believe you

short form of “pull the other one, it has

bells on”

pull your pud to masterbate

pumps running shoes

punter a customer

purse a ladies wallet

put a sock in it to be quiet

put the anchors on to apply the brakes; to slow down

put the boot in to beat somebody up

put the kibosh on to put a stop to something

put the wind up to scare

Queer Street where you are if you don’t have

any money

quiff a fancy hairstyle

randy horny

rave up a good party

readies cash

ropey flaky or dodgey

rozzer policeman

rug a wig; a toupee

rubbed the wrong way to upset somebody

salt a sailor

same to you with brass usually said in response to a derogatory

knobs on !! remark

sarnie a sandwich

scab a strike breaker

scallywag a mischevious person

scarper to run away fast, possibly avoiding


Scouser a native of Liverpool (see also Liverpudlian)

scrap a fight

scrubber a cheap or loose woman

shag to copulate

shake a leg to get a move on

shall I be mother ? shall I pour the tea ?

sheckels money

silly arse a foolish person

skivvy a domestic servant

slash to urinate

e.g. “I’m going for a slash.”

smalls underwear

smart alec a clever person

snifter a drink of spirit

snog to kiss

snuff it to die

sod derogatory remark, derived from sodomy

soldiers bread cut into thin strips for dipping into

a boiled egg

so stick that in your usually said after a derogatory remark

pipe and smoke it !

sozzled drunk

spam a rather tasteless form of tinned meat

spanner a wrench

sparky an electrician

splice the main-brace to drink

spread a good meal; a feast

sprog a young child or baby, could also

mean illegitimate

spud a potato

squiffed drunk

stewed drunk

strides trousers, pants

subway an underpass

a pedestrian walkway beneath a road

swag stolen money; a thief’s plunder

swing the lead a malingerer

swizz a swindle or cheat

swot somebody who studies

ta thankyou

Taffy a Welshman

ta muchly thankyou very much

Tandy Radio Shack

take French leave to leave without permission

taking the piss making fun of

tea leaf thief

terminus the end of the bus route

the smoke London

three sheets in the wind drunk

Tic Tac Man a bookmakers signaller

ticker the heart

tights pantyhose

“Time gentlemen please !” Usually said as the pub is closing,

so as to request that the patrons

finish their drinks.

tip a mess

e.g. “Your room is a tip !”

toff a posh person

tomato sauce ketchup

Tommy Rot nonsense

top sad extremely bad

torch flashlight

tosser see wanker

toss pot one who drinks too much

trainers running shoes

trollop not a nice girl

trousers pants

tube London Underground

tuck in schools it means cake, crisps,

sweets etc.

turf accountant betting shop owner

turn-ups trouser cuffs

turps turpentine

under the weather ill; sick

unmentionables underwear

vest a man’s undershirt

wag a joker

wagging it to play truant

wallflower a woman who does not dance

wanger penis

wanker infers that the subject masturbates

weed a weak person

welly wanging the art of throwing wellington boots

white elephant a valuable, but useless article

willies, the nerves

willow a cricket bat

willy penis

wings fenders of a car

Winkle Pickers shoes with pointed toes

wireless a radio

wishy washy feeble; stupid


Charlie Gillett, The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 2nd
ed., newly illustrated and expanded (1996),

Chapman, Robert L.  American Slang.  HarperPerennial, 1987.   Abridged
edition of the New Dictionary of American Slang (Harper, 1986).

PRIVATE The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, Third Edition Copyright ©
1994, Columbia University Press.

Dictionary of contemporary slang – Tony Thorne.

Published by Bloomsbury / London. 1997.

The Encarta World English Dictionary, published by St. Martin’s Press.

Flexner, Stuart Berg, and Anne H. Soukhanov.  Speaking Freely: A Guided
Tour of American English from Plymouth Rock to Silicon Valley.  Oxford
University Press, 1997.  

Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century

Jon Savage, England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock (1991)

Lighter, Jonathan E.; J. Ball; and J. O’Connor, eds.  Random House
Historical Dictionary of American Slang.  Random House, 1994 .  

Mark Hale, HeadBangers: The Worldwide Megabook of Heavy Metal Bands

Mark Slobin, Subcultural Sounds: Micromusics of the West (1993)

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th Edition © 1985, Britannica

The Oxford dictionary of modern slang – John Ayto / John
Simpson.Published by Oxford University Press. 1992.

Partridge, Eric.  Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. 
Macmillan, 1985.   A classic, with 7,500 entries; first published in

Peter van der Merwe, Origins of the Popular Style (1989, reissued 1992),

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc

Wentworth, Harold and Flexner, Stuart Berg. Dictionary of American
Slang. Crowell, 2d ed., 1975.

А. Кокарев “Панк-рок от А до Я”, Москва, “Музыка”, 1992

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