How has slang changed over time? Take the quiz!


Slang has been around for centuries and regularly changes. What words were considered slang in previous eras? Do countries have their own distinct forms of slang? What is the etymology of some slang words? Find out by taking the quiz!

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Question 1 of 20

In 1737, who compiled a list of more than 200 slang terms for "drunk"?

Jane Austen
Benjamin Franklin
Jonathan Swift

... Benjamin Franklin developed a long list of words to describe inebriation, among them bewitch'd, crack'd, frozen and moon ey'd.


Question 2 of 20

Back slang, which developed in the British marketplace, let vendors talk freely with their employees in front of customers. For instance, the word "yenork" meant _______.


... In back slang, words were said backwards, sounds were rearranged and extra letters were sometimes inserted to make a word more pronounceable. "Yenork" meant the payment of a "crown."


Question 3 of 20

In which decade did the term "cool" first come into use as a way to say something was excellent?


... During the 1940s, "cool" started being used to indicate something outstanding.


Question 4 of 20

It is speculated that the word "dude" derived during the late 19th century from the word ______.


... During the 1800s, "duds" meant clothes, especially ones that were worn out. Back then, the sarcastic use of "dude" may have referred to the precise and expensive clothing of some young men of the era.


Question 5 of 20

The phrase "steal one's thunder" appears to be connected to a performance of Shakespeare's _______.

"Much Ado about Nothing"
"The Tempest"

... In the early 18th century in London, a machine was invented to produce the sound of thunder, and it was used during the performance of a very poorly received play. The play was quickly replaced by "Macbeth," and the original play's author was incensed when his machine was co-opted, his "thunder" stolen, and used for the Shakespearean production.


Question 6 of 20

The insult "fink" likely came from the German word for ________.


... During the 19th century, German college students used the word "fink" (derived from the bird "finch") to identify people who did not join fraternities. Such students were considered a bit wild.


Question 7 of 20

In the slang of Boston, Massachusetts, what is "hell"?

Harvard University
the Massachusetts State House
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Metropolitan Transit Authority

... MIT is referred to as "hell," particularly by its students.


Question 8 of 20

The pejorative phrase "goody two-shoes" came from a _______.

piece of advertising copy
children's story
newspaper article
nursery rhyme

... In 1765, the children's story, "The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes" was published in London. Originally, "Goody" was a form of address for a woman. By the 1930s, the phrase was used to refer to someone who was obnoxiously moral.


Question 9 of 20

Do Twitter users use regional slang terminology?

There is no regional slang on Twitter; language and abbreviations are consistent across the country.
There is some regional slang; words can appear in different forms in various sections of the country.
Twitter is full of regional slang; it can be very difficult to understand someone from another part of the country.

... According to a study from Carnegie Mellon University, there is some identifiable Twitter slang used throughout the country. For instance, the word "cool" is often "coo" in San Francisco, while it is "koo" in Los Angeles.


Question 10 of 20

In an Internet chat group, it would be rude to hijack, because you would be _______.

getting a large number of people to sign on at once
going off-topic
monopolizing the discussion
sending an undeserved complaint message to the moderator

... In Internet chat and forums, someone who won't stay on topic and tries to drag the discussion into new territory is a "highjacker."


Question 11 of 20

The phrase "kick the bucket" probably derived from which activity?

milking cows
mining coal
slaughtering pigs
using lye to make soap

... In the 16th century, the French "buque" was a wooden beam from which a pig was hung in preparation for slaughter. The unhappy pig likely thrashed about and kicked.


Question 12 of 20

In rhyming Cockney slang, "apples and pears" means ________.


... The Cockney dialect was developed by working-class Londoners. In rhyming slang, a phrase is used instead of an intended word, such as "apples and pears" for stairs or "Scotch eggs" for legs.


Question 13 of 20

During the Great Depression in the U.S., a "blat" was a _______.

government official
poor person seeking employment

... People read the "blat," or newspaper, to see what was happening in the world.


Question 14 of 20

When you are mountain biking, if you dab, you ______.

drip sweat onto the bike frame
hop over an obstacle on your back wheel
put your foot down to catch your balance
wipe your nose with your bike glove

... When biking, it's better to dab (put your foot down) than biff (crash), but you'd rather avoid doing either.


Question 15 of 20

In a prison, the "fish tank" is the ________.

inmate processing center
watchtower in the yard

... New prisoners, "fish," come into the prison through the processing center, or "fish tank."


Question 16 of 20

The phrase, "mind your own beeswax" means the same thing as the old New Zealand phrase, "mind your own _____."


... "Mind your own pigeon" is also identical to the outdated Australian phrase, "mind your own fish." Both expressions call for privacy.


Question 17 of 20

In the phrase "hurt like the Dickens," Dickens refers to ________.

a dictator
Charles Dickens
Fagin from "Oliver Twist"
the devil

... In the 1500s, or perhaps earlier, "Dickens" was a euphemism for the devil, and pain inflicted by the devil would, of course, be excruciating.


Question 18 of 20

In military slang of the 1960s, "comics" referred to ________.

the Army manual
camouflage uniforms
topographical maps
written orders

... The multiple colors of topographical maps suggested the slang term "comics."


Question 19 of 20

Today, a high-grossing movie is called a blockbuster, but the term originally meant a ______.

naval aircraft

... Block busters were British bombs used during World War II, so called because they could take out an entire block (meaning a large building) at once.


Question 20 of 20

During the 1920s, someone described as "a flat tire" might also be called a _____.

fall guy
Mrs. Grundy

... You'd be very unhappy to be on a date with a flat tire or a pickle; you'd find it very boring and disappointing to be with such a person.


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