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Lexical Leavings

by Tom Gally



On a visit to Berkeley, California, in December, I picked up a copy of the Berkeley High School Slang Dictionary at a local bookstore. Published by North Atlantic Books, the dictionary was compiled by students in the Communication Arts and Sciences program at Berkeley High School, one of the more ethnically diverse and politically progressive public high schools in the United States.Berkeley High School Slang Dictionary

Among the words that were new to me:
Bammer (BAM-ur) n., Marijuana that is weak, of low potency. "Hey, is all you have is bammer?" [Etym., Drug subculture]

Baseball (BASE-bal) n., v., adj., An answer to any question, having no relation to the question. "What is 2 x 2?" "Baseball." [Etym., '90s Berkeley]

Chalk (chalk) v., (past. part., chalked) Steal. "Someone chalked my boom box." [Etym., '90s youth culture]

Ese [ES-ay] pron., Literally, "that," but used as: You, brother, friend, comrade. "Wazzup, ese?" [Etym., Chicano/Spanish]

Fit (fit) adj., Also: fitted. Fashionably dressed, well dressed, wearing current styles. ("He is really fitted.") [Etym., African American]

Fo' Sheazy (fo SHEE-zee) adj., Also: fo' shizzel. For sure, emphatic positive expression, certainly, positive acknowledgement. "Do you want to go with her?"  "Fo' sheazy I do, bro'." Also: used as "Off the heazy, fo' sheazy." ("Off the hook, for sure.") Also: used as, "Fo' Shizzel, my nizzel." ("For sure, my friend.") [Etym., African American]

Hecka (HEK-ah) adv., Very, extremely. Grammar school variation of "hella." "That's a hecka fresh ride!" Also: hecksa. (Variation: Heck-city. "That's heck-city good!") [Etym., Berkeley]

Ras (ras), interj., An exclamation of surprise. "Ras, you scared me there!" [Etym., Rastafarian]

Skrill Also: skrilla (skrill, SKRIL-a) n., Money, cash. "I can't go out unless I get some skrill." [Etym., Berkeley High]

Twomp (twamp) n., Twenty. Also: twenty dollars, often referring to a quantity of marijuana. "Can I borrow a twomp?" "I got me a twomp sack." [Etym., Hip hop]

Womp (wahmp) v., To be negative, sometimes to smell bad. "This sucks, this really womps." [Etym., Berkeley High]
The pronunciation symbols seem seat-of-the-pants, some of the etymologies don't go back far enough ("punk," for example, is dated to the 1980s; the term is much older in the senses given), and there are a few minor inconsistencies. But overall this dictionary is a worthy work, and I look forward to future editions--especially if they include more terms that originated among Berkeley High students.
(February 15, 2004)