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Slang-age in the Buffyverse

By Andy Walton

The conversation on "Buffy" is a distinctive patois.

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(CNN) -- Most fans have their favorite "Buffyisms," and Buffy quote pages are legion on the Web.

But linguist Michael Adams wrote the book. "Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon," coming this month from Oxford University (as Buffy once said, "That's where they make Gileses!") Press.

A sample entry:

carbon-dated adj [fr. AHD4 carbondating + -ed] Very out of date 1997 Mar 10 Whedon Welcome to the Hellmouth "[Buffy:] 'Deal with that outfit for a moment.' [Giles:] 'It's dated?' [Buffy:] 'It's carbon-dated.' "

In a 1999 essay, Adams wrote that Buffy "coins slang terms and phrases in nearly every episode, many of them formed in the usual ways, some of them at the crest of new formative tendencies, and some of them interesting, not only lexically, but morphosyntactically."

As Buffy would say, whatever.

"I was eating a lonely dinner on my sofa, flipping through the channels one night, and I landed on the WB network, which I hadn't even known existed," Adams says in shorter words. "And at that exact moment, Buffy said the line, 'Love makes you do the wacky.' And, like any linguist, I thought, 'that's an interesting functional shift from adjective to noun.'

"There's just a lot more linguistic novelty on that show than there is on any other show of which I know," Adams says. "It's both innovative and reflective of what's going on in the slang culture at large."

The show likes attaching "-age" suffixes to words, such as "slayage" and "kickage," and Adams also notes such turns of phrase as "Having issues much?"

"When people are trying to affiliate with one another, when they belong to the same group but in the middle of defining that group by their activity on the [Internet message] board, they naturally speak in a way that says 'I'm part of this group, the group that knows that language,' " Adams says, describing a function of slang from hepcats to hippies to hip-hoppers to sk8rboyz.

"If you were a purist about language, you might think that this was a disease that people were contracting from contact with the show," Adams says. "If you are somebody who delights in that ephemeral novelty in language, then you realize that people are so impressed with what the show and that it's affected them so much, that at least mildly in their own language practices, they want to be a part of it, and I think that's interesting to see happen."

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