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How Texting Is Changing English

Think texting is all about making things shorter? Think again! Texters have created a new English conjunction—”slash”—and they spell it out instead of using the punctuation mark.

By
Mignon Fogarty
Episode #366

“Slash” as a Conjunctive Adverb Is Still Uncommon

I don’t want to give you the impression that “slash” being used to mean “however,” or “oh, and another thing,” is widespread though. I’m torn because Curzan says her students reported that it’s common, but I searched a collection of more than 11,000 English text messages compiled between what looks like 2004 and 2011 by researchers at the National University of Singapore, and I didn’t find a single instance of “slash” being used this way. (1) I searched Twitter going back six weeks and didn’t find an example, and after searching Facebook public messages for hours, I found only one example:

WH: EPIC SING. More of the same. Slash get me a job.

It may be that it’s common in a small group of students or in a small region that contains the University of Michigan, or that it’s more common in places I can’t search such as in speech, private text messages, or protected Facebook and Twitter posts. At the very least, I can say that it’s at least a couple of years old, and you can find examples, but they aren’t widespread in publicly available sources.

It’s a Fun Slash Interesting Topic

On Facebook and Twitter, I did find a lot of posts about Slash (the guitarist), slashing tires, slashing government spending, slash fiction, and it’s worth pointing out, messages where people wrote out the word “slash” in phrases such as “He’s a model slash actor.”

In some stories, this use of the word “slash,” which closely mirrors the use of the punctuation mark, was lumped in with the newer transitional use of “slash,” but that use has actually been around a long time. Brett Reynolds mentioned on his blog English Jack that the earliest example he could find was in a Time magazine piece from 1992:

Meet urban planner Campbell Scott ("a realist slash dreamer ")

This punctuation-like use is also included in the American Heritage Dictionary.

Next: Texting Isn't Just About Making Things Shorter

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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