I'm an advocate for the responsible use of slang.
Recently I was presenting a Powerpoint to new managers and told them that one of the first things that they needed to do was take time to develop some swag. Someone in the audience asked me to explain what swag meant. So I did.
I described swag as the perfect combination of poise, confidence, charisma and charm. I told them how swag makes problem solving seem effortless and that when they see great leaders and think "wow...I hope that's me one day"--it's because of their swag.
By no means is swagger a new word, nor was my concept, but lo and behold by the end of my presentation people wanted some. And they wanted it from me. Swag. Not poise, not confidence, not charisma, but SWAG. Same ingredients, just packaged differently.
Right there is the power of slang.
If used correctly, slang not only can get you a few chuckles but it can also break the ice to ease tense situations. Governor Palin has recently employed this tactic using terms like "Joe Six Pack American". Of course, the Republicans and the media will call it "folksy" but, really, it ain't nothing but some slang.
Yeah I said ain't...
Because slang inevitably sets you apart from the rest of the crowd. It brings attention to you and your cause. It breaks up the monotony of common words and business acumen that plague our day to day lives. When words become too common, their definitions get watered down and it becomes harder to incite emotion and action. That's the beauty of slang. Slang makes people stop and listen.
Powerful brands understand this--personal brands should too.
Below are some tips:
Use it sparingly--Interjecting too many slang words into dialogue turns the conversation into something different. It puts the listener into a position where they have to translate instead of really engaging in the conversation. A simple word every now and then is okay, an email that could easily be substituted as a rap lyric is not. You just look like a poser.
Stay in the loop--I pity the fool who still types "hahahaha" via text when a simple "lol" will do. It's important that you know what's in and what's out. There are a few ways to ensure this happens, but since we're in an economic crisis I'll talk about the one that's free: listening. Listen to everything from pop culture to the nightly news. And if you find you don't know things like who said "I pity the fool," go back and start again...
Give contextual meaning--If you're going to use a slang word as a substitute for a noun, it's important that the rest of your sentence, or your body language, lends the listener some context so that they are able to determine meaning. For instance, if I was going to talk about the increasing size of my badonkadonk to a crowd of bankers, I would need to point, make a face, or use a tone that indicates a badonkadonk is not slang for 401K. Which leads me to my next point
Know what the word means before you say it. Offensive people are swaggerless.
Timing is everything when it comes to slang--Usually the aforementioned definition of the word will determine your timing (and audience) for you. So while badonkadonk is completely appropriate for a Subway commercial, in reality I would think twice before using it in a crowd of bankers. For them I may use something a little closer to home like "the benjamins"...
Listen to hip-hop--Most trendsetters will tell you first hand that a lot of the fresh styles start off in
poverty stricken areasthe hood. Creativity oozes from the disenfranchised, usually out of necessity.
And there you have it. Up your swag. Use some slang today, yo.