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Slang Case Study Essay

Words are a part of our daily lives. With words we can communicate with others and evoke our feelings. But not every word has the same meaning in various regions of the world. Words just like humans are shaped by the location and culture that they are introduced to. This is what makes slang words interesting. Depending on where you live, a slang word can have a completely different meaning. For this assignment I will define the slang word “swag.” I’ll be discussing the modern meaning, etymology, and correct usage. Swag is a common noun used today, mostly among teenagers. The word is used to describe a certain type of clothing that teenagers wear. The clothing resembles the style of modern hip-hop artists such as Lil Wayne, Big Sean, and Drake. The word can also be used to show off cool acts that teenagers perform. Like after jumping of a building, I cool kid would say something like “Bro, you can’t touch my swag!”

According to urban dictionary “swag” is the “most used word in the world and is a word used to represent yourself based on the way you dress.” Swag has different meanings throughout the world. In Australia the term “swag” is used to refer to the dangling luggage that a homeless man carries. “Swag” is also used to describe home items such as “swag lamps” and “swag curtains”, which are basically dangling versions of the original lamp and curtains (Snopes). In America, many relate the word “swag” to “sway” which describes a certain motion of a bold, arrogant, and conceited person. So I think based on this information it’s easy to say that the word “swag” was introduced through old hip-hop, where loose clothing and sagging was the fashion and now has evolved through modern hip-hop to accommodate the newer fashion. The most common misconception about the word “swag” is that it’s often misunderstood as an acronym.

Many people think that “swag” is an acronym for “Secretly We Are Gay”. The exact origin of the word “swag” is still a mystery. Some believe the first written usage of the word “swag” was first written by a Gilbertine Monk named Robert Mannyng in 1303. Mannyng in his poem says “there was a wycche, and made a bagge, A bely of lepyr, a grete swagge”. In this poem Mannyng refers to “swagge” as a bag. According to Oxford dictionary, “swag” is a verb derives from the Scandinavian word “svagga” which means to rock unsteadily or lurch. This idea is widely accepted due to the fact that “swag” sounds like it originated from the word “swagger”, which also means to sway. The word is said to have entered the English language around the 13th century meaning “hanging loosely” (Snopes). Other meanings of “swag” also include a sinkhole used to collect water, a shop that sold stolen goods, or stolen loots by either pirates or criminals.

Some also say that “swag” was used in old English movies to describe criminal loots, leading to false accusations of acronyms such as “Stolen Without A Gun”, “Sold Without A Guarantee”, and “Souvenirs Wearable’s And Gifts”. Based on this it’s easy to connect “swag” to older or underground hip-hop where loose clothes and stealing was a common motto. The correct usage of the word “swag” is hard to define just because it’s a slang word and there is no exact definition. According to our culture and society, I would say “swag” is a term used to describe a person’s clothing and a part of his personality. It’s easy to infer a person’s personality by looking at his clothing. Different people have different personalities and some of it is shown through their dressing. This freedom of expression can show a person’s values, beliefs, and culture.

So, in a sense a person’s “swag” can portray his character. “Swag” usually has a negative connotation due to the over usage of the word in the rap industry, but in my opinion “swag” is a general term that can be used by anyone. Just like the words “Boom, Whack, Blop, and Kaboom”, swag can be used at the end of a sentence to add emphasis and humor. In conclusion, “swag” is an old word that has its own history but has evolved through human influence to have a completely different meaning throughout different parts of the world. Even though the overuse of the word has completely dried its value, “swag” still has an interesting origin and is fun to use. Just like other words, slang words are interesting because they are influenced by human culture and society and change accordingly as time moves on. Today “swag” has a different meaning than what it originally was used for. So we can only imagine what “swag” would mean in the future.

Work Cited
“Swag.” Snopes.com: Etymology of Swag. N.p., 26 Sept. 2012. Web. 31 Jan.
2013. Geyer, Jessica. “Swag: An Etymology.” YouTube. 03 May 2012. Web. 31 Jan. 2013. “Urban Dictionary: Swag.” Urban Dictionary. N.p., July 2012. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.


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