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Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon

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In its seven years on television, Buffy the Vampire Slayer earned critical acclaim and a massive cult following among teen viewers. One of the most distinguishing features of the show is the innovative way its writers play with language--fabricating new words, morphing existing ones, and throwing usage on its head. The result has been a strikingly resonant lexicon that ref In its seven years on television, Buffy the Vampire Slayer earned critical acclaim and a massive cult following among teen viewers. One of the most distinguishing features of the show is the innovative way its writers play with language--fabricating new words, morphing existing ones, and throwing usage on its head. The result has been a strikingly resonant lexicon that reflects the power of both youth culture and television in the evolution of American slang. Using the show to illustrate how new slang is formed, transformed, and transmitted, Slayer Slang is one of those rare books that combines a serious explanation of a pop culture phenomenon with an engrossing read for Buffy fans, language mavens, and pop culture critics. Noted linguist Michael Adams offers a synopsis of the program's history, an essay on the nature and evolution of the show's language, and a detailed glossary of slayer slang, annotated with actual dialogue. Introduced by Jane Espenson, one of the show's most inventive writers (and herself a linguist), Slayer Slang offers a quintessential example of contemporary youth culture serving as a vehicle for slang.


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In its seven years on television, Buffy the Vampire Slayer earned critical acclaim and a massive cult following among teen viewers. One of the most distinguishing features of the show is the innovative way its writers play with language--fabricating new words, morphing existing ones, and throwing usage on its head. The result has been a strikingly resonant lexicon that ref In its seven years on television, Buffy the Vampire Slayer earned critical acclaim and a massive cult following among teen viewers. One of the most distinguishing features of the show is the innovative way its writers play with language--fabricating new words, morphing existing ones, and throwing usage on its head. The result has been a strikingly resonant lexicon that reflects the power of both youth culture and television in the evolution of American slang. Using the show to illustrate how new slang is formed, transformed, and transmitted, Slayer Slang is one of those rare books that combines a serious explanation of a pop culture phenomenon with an engrossing read for Buffy fans, language mavens, and pop culture critics. Noted linguist Michael Adams offers a synopsis of the program's history, an essay on the nature and evolution of the show's language, and a detailed glossary of slayer slang, annotated with actual dialogue. Introduced by Jane Espenson, one of the show's most inventive writers (and herself a linguist), Slayer Slang offers a quintessential example of contemporary youth culture serving as a vehicle for slang.

30 review for Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I kind of love the insane fanboy care he took attesting usages, but while the local linguistic descriptions are really laudably precise I think the overall approach was wrong in a couple of ways. However, there are some striking insights, such as the role that Bram Stoker's coinage of "undead"(which violates several rules about how to use "un-") has in licensing the derivational-affix free-for-all that is BtVS dialogue. And did you know Jane Espenson was a PhD student in linguistics at Berkeley I kind of love the insane fanboy care he took attesting usages, but while the local linguistic descriptions are really laudably precise I think the overall approach was wrong in a couple of ways. However, there are some striking insights, such as the role that Bram Stoker's coinage of "undead"(which violates several rules about how to use "un-") has in licensing the derivational-affix free-for-all that is BtVS dialogue. And did you know Jane Espenson was a PhD student in linguistics at Berkeley before running away to join the television? Do you care in even the slightest degree who the hell Jane Espenson is?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily Gray

    Essential for any big geek like me who likes to know innane facts about TV shows they love. Actually not an innane book but a really well put together lexicon of Buffyslang, which is like totally un-boring in a interestingish type way.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mariel

    The connections could be too thin, and often based on non-canon Buffy material such as the teenybopper novels (I've recently seen they are publishing these again), and worse still, the bbs (unthreaded) forum on the official Buffy website. I worry about myself that I remembered (on my 2005 read) those posts from the '90s. I cannot remember things I've really needed to remember. (I only bought this 'cause it was ten cent day at the friends of the library book sale. And I see the name "Buffy" and I The connections could be too thin, and often based on non-canon Buffy material such as the teenybopper novels (I've recently seen they are publishing these again), and worse still, the bbs (unthreaded) forum on the official Buffy website. I worry about myself that I remembered (on my 2005 read) those posts from the '90s. I cannot remember things I've really needed to remember. (I only bought this 'cause it was ten cent day at the friends of the library book sale. And I see the name "Buffy" and I buy.) On a related note, I blame Buffy speak for a lot. I've been accused of flirting when I was just watching too much Buffy on dvd. (They DO all sound flirty, now I think about it. Especially Oz.) It also doesn't take a rocket linguist to figure that they added -ness, -y and uber to words. Or that Whedon loved the film Heathers. (There was a us vs. them on those two Buffy forums. I preferred the threaded, anyway 'cause the dial-up was too slow to load everything every damned time. Guess I'm not prestigious. Wonder what they said when that book came out that quoted them constantly. Noooo, that means they won the war!)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Donna Parker

    I love the language of Buffy. It is both modern, irreverent, but also poetic, lyrical, and memorable. If you're a fan read this, you'll like it. 5 by 5.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brierly

    This book presented a fascinating argument for the acceptance of slang within the American English language, all framed within the context of BTVS. It was written by a linguist (and professor) so do not be surprised if you are a bit bored. The text is accurate and the glossary invaluable. In many ways, more appealing to the linguist in me than the Buffy fan.

  6. 4 out of 5

    SamWinchester'sGirl

    All I have to say to the writer is: For a guy obsessed with words, he sure does a bad job of putting them together in an interesting way. This book reads like a textbook, and I often found myself absorbing no information whatsoever and reading the same sentence over and over and reading the same sentence over and over and reading the same sentence over and over... and, well, you get the point. The beauty of "Buffy-speak" is that it doesn't need to be over-analyzed and dissected, it just is. It's i All I have to say to the writer is: For a guy obsessed with words, he sure does a bad job of putting them together in an interesting way. This book reads like a textbook, and I often found myself absorbing no information whatsoever and reading the same sentence over and over and reading the same sentence over and over and reading the same sentence over and over... and, well, you get the point. The beauty of "Buffy-speak" is that it doesn't need to be over-analyzed and dissected, it just is. It's in the moment. It's clumsy. It's quirky. It's flexible. I remember watching a featurette on the writers' process when coming up with dialogue and the point basically was: they're teenagers, if they don't know a word, they'll find a way around it, make a new one, make new use of old ones, change the language to their convenience, often in a way that's pretty easily understandable. Half the words in this book are simply ones that end in 'Y,' or 'age' or are things that need no explanation or deeper thought. "Dusty," "Vamp-y," "skulky," "stripy," "gladness", "glib-free," there's not anything particularly Slayeresque to these words, or really interesting in general. It's like how I might say something that's not quite purple is "purple-y," it shouldn't take 300 pages to analyze why I decided to say that or how that type of word changing-ness might catch on in society. Yet almost an entire chapter is spent on "Y", and another on solely the word "much," about 5 pages on the spelling of "smoochies" and in the span of 2 pages, we read "wiggins" 30 times. I'm disappointed because this book started out promising, I enjoyed it up to about page 60 until it devolved into a sea of "morphologicals" and "lexicals" and eye roll-age. Plus, I think including situations present only in the early 2000s Buffy Forum "The Bronze Beta" make it a cluttered mess of internet speak and parody, because obviously in a space dedicated to a single fandom, slang pertaining to said fandom will reach a state of humorous exaggeration between peers. It doesn't necessarily prove influence in other "sitches" So, would not recommend, not even really to die hard Buffy-Fans, unless you are an English major who thinks a single sentence rife with the words "suffixation," "actuation," "syntactical," "ephemeral," "morphological," and ""unlexicalized" sounds like the embodiment of excitement. Otherwise? This was boring as all Hell (mouth).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Is it dated? It's carbon-dated! Yahoo Message Boards. Wow. That took me back. I'm a big fan of linguistics. And I definitely was into this for awhile. My inner historical linguist appreciated the use of asterisks for unattested terms. Though I question use of internet boards as attestation for Slayer slang. It feels like you're unnecessarily (and unscrupulously) widening your corpus. All in all, it did get pretty tedious. I was definitely reading a text book, and, when over half the book is literal Is it dated? It's carbon-dated! Yahoo Message Boards. Wow. That took me back. I'm a big fan of linguistics. And I definitely was into this for awhile. My inner historical linguist appreciated the use of asterisks for unattested terms. Though I question use of internet boards as attestation for Slayer slang. It feels like you're unnecessarily (and unscrupulously) widening your corpus. All in all, it did get pretty tedious. I was definitely reading a text book, and, when over half the book is literally the glossary. I'm not sure I'm quite here for it as a readable book. But, hey. I was here for the nostalgia, here for the linguistics, and here for the ephemeral language.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Riann

    A fascinating lexicon that shows the development of slayer slang through Buffy: The Vampire Slayer as well as in popular media. Highly informative and entertaining for anyone who is fascinated with language!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Andrew Higgins

    I really enjoyed this cogently written book that explores and takes a serious and linguistic approach to the slang words and phrases that were created by Joss Whedon and writers for the landmark television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In creating the Buffyverse the writers used a combination of slang drawn from popular culture and the free-play of language (such as the use of adding suffixes like / -y/ and /-age/ to create an association and collective for nouns - e.g. Slayage, bookwormy). Ada I really enjoyed this cogently written book that explores and takes a serious and linguistic approach to the slang words and phrases that were created by Joss Whedon and writers for the landmark television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In creating the Buffyverse the writers used a combination of slang drawn from popular culture and the free-play of language (such as the use of adding suffixes like / -y/ and /-age/ to create an association and collective for nouns - e.g. Slayage, bookwormy). Adams, who also edited and contributed to an excellent volume on language invention - From Elvish to Klingon:Exploring Invented Language (OUP: 2011 (see my Goodreads review here https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...) takes the reader through how 'Slayer-Slang' was developed using a linguistic approach that focuses on how words and phrases come about in popular dialogue and discourse. For example, Adams does a brilliant job of analysing the origin and structure of the phrase Much+Noun, Adj?/ as Cordelia says on the pilot episode - 'Morbid Much?' which is drawn partially from the 'Valley Girl' talk of 1990's LA and movies like 'Heathers' and demonstrates how this has come into popular talk thru its used on Buffy. The Slayer Slang glossary in the back of the books lists and analyses all the words in the Buffyverse; including those invented for the show and the ones fans invented on user site like Buffynet and TheBronzeNet, and that then were used in episodes of the show; such as 'Christian Beleage' to lust for the American Psycho actor Christian Bale. i applaud Adams work on this text which shows the importance, emphasised by J.R.R. Tolkien, of inventing a form of language that fits and works in a secondary world - in this case the Buffyverse where phrases like 'cuddle-monkey', 'Scully', 'Carbon Dated', 'Scooby Gang (the Buffyverse's version of Bram Stoker's Circle of Light Group) and 'do a William Burroughs on' all have this relevance (well perhaps not to Giles the Librarian) and enrich the Buffyverse and make us want to visit it (armed with Mr Pointy of course!). coolness highly revealy!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Shea

    This is a fascinating academic look at how a popular television show can have an impact on spoken American English. The author, Michael Adams, is a professor and lexicographer with an illustrious resume. http://www.iub.edu/~engweb/faculty/pr... He is also a self proclaimed "buffiatric buffyholic." The introduction of the book is written by Jane Espenson, a linguist herself, and one of the main writers for Buffy the Vampire Slayer Joss Whedon is known for cleverly creating his own words and forms This is a fascinating academic look at how a popular television show can have an impact on spoken American English. The author, Michael Adams, is a professor and lexicographer with an illustrious resume. http://www.iub.edu/~engweb/faculty/pr... He is also a self proclaimed "buffiatric buffyholic." The introduction of the book is written by Jane Espenson, a linguist herself, and one of the main writers for Buffy the Vampire Slayer Joss Whedon is known for cleverly creating his own words and forms of words that stretch the rules of the English language. His writing on Buffy, his influences over the other writers, and the tremendous online following of the show have brought "Buffyisms" into mainstream language. I learned a lot about language development and was entertained in the process. The beginning part of the book could have been better organized. Sometimes I felt as if points were repeated or the explanations were going in circles. The second part of the book is an extensive and thorough glossary of terms that I don't believe is meant for a straight readthrough. I would recommend this book to any Buffy fan, anyone who is fascinated by language development and especially someone who is both. It is good timey readage!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Evans

    This lexicon provides an interesting discussion on the language used in the _Buffy_ series and how the slang shifts and evolves through the show. The second half of the book gives a detailed glossary of terms used in the show as well as a section explaining the glossary itself. I found the discussions intriguing mainly because I'm a fan of the show. Obviously, non-fans wouldn't necessarily be interested in the book but some of the linguistic discussions were worthwhile regardless. My biggest com This lexicon provides an interesting discussion on the language used in the _Buffy_ series and how the slang shifts and evolves through the show. The second half of the book gives a detailed glossary of terms used in the show as well as a section explaining the glossary itself. I found the discussions intriguing mainly because I'm a fan of the show. Obviously, non-fans wouldn't necessarily be interested in the book but some of the linguistic discussions were worthwhile regardless. My biggest complaint is that the book is now nearly 10 years old, so a lot of the points are lost or no longer apply nowadays. For me, it felt like many of the points covered were unnecessary mainly because they were so obvious to me. This observation could however solidify Adams's point when he says that he's interested to see how many of the slang terms will become mainstream. It would indeed appear that many did.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lida

    This book is not for the faint of heart-- meaning you could be a die-hard Buffy fan but still not find it interesting. It's written for an academic audience by a linguist-- and linguistics can be a fairly dry discipline. Then again, it's still fine if you don't have a linguistics background-- I just took an intro course in college, and this book doesn't use a lot of jargon or reference advanced semantics or morphology. I personally found it fascinating because Buffy + Language = 2 of my favorite This book is not for the faint of heart-- meaning you could be a die-hard Buffy fan but still not find it interesting. It's written for an academic audience by a linguist-- and linguistics can be a fairly dry discipline. Then again, it's still fine if you don't have a linguistics background-- I just took an intro course in college, and this book doesn't use a lot of jargon or reference advanced semantics or morphology. I personally found it fascinating because Buffy + Language = 2 of my favorite things. But everything Michael Adams argues in the body of the text can be found in his incredible glossary (seriously, this dude must have spend YEARS on this), so feel free to skip to that. Some of my favorite quotes: "Buffy's not exactly on the cover of Sanity Fair." Giles: Punishing yourself like this is pointless. Buffy: It's entirely pointy!

  13. 4 out of 5

    benxander

    The first half of the book has essays on the language of Buffy, and the second half is a glossary of the show's lexicon. Both sections cover the language and how it has dissipated from the show and in its wider publication universe, to the media and (quite interestingly), amongst its fans on messaging boards. Really interesting sociolinguistic look at how a con-lang (or con-variety?) develops and then interacts with its users/fans. Highly recommended for linguists who happen to be Buffy fans. I'd The first half of the book has essays on the language of Buffy, and the second half is a glossary of the show's lexicon. Both sections cover the language and how it has dissipated from the show and in its wider publication universe, to the media and (quite interestingly), amongst its fans on messaging boards. Really interesting sociolinguistic look at how a con-lang (or con-variety?) develops and then interacts with its users/fans. Highly recommended for linguists who happen to be Buffy fans. I'd wager it might be a little more difficult to get through if you're a Buffy fan interested in language usage in the show, however, if you are such a consumer of Buffyage and want an intro into linguistics: this is the book to sink your fangs into!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    As a past English major I quite enjoyed the first sections of essays on the development of the language, with the writer interviews and the in-depth look at the etymology of the language. As I read into the lexicon itself it is an amazing what Josh Whedon and the other scriptwriters did with the language to make it distinct, present, and fun.

  15. 4 out of 5

    B

    What can I say? A dictionary of sorts which discusses the use of language in my all-time favorite show. To say I'm biased would be an understatement. Needless to say, if you didn't watch or don't love the show, this book is probably lost on you.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Skoorb

    I just revisited this book, and was reminded of how much Whedonism (hehe) has influenced not only my speech patterns, but I think a lot of television dialogue as well as young adult fiction. and Really, that makes me less than stabby! ;)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    a must for a buffy fan or a linguist!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    One of the best parts of Buffy was the language.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Karen-Leigh

    Anyone who loves Buffy and loves language will adore this one.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cara

    this book was a let down. it was full of jargon that only an English major would know, and as an English major, I thought the book was very dry and dull.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bunny

    Buffy book gift package from my beautiful friend Kay.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elly

    I read as much Buffy material as possible; I liked this but it was just a bit of a rehash of the good quotes of the series; it didn't bring anything new.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Fire Door

  24. 5 out of 5

    Krista Holtz

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dannielle Yeprem

  26. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mike Junior

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Monge

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