Thursday, October 30, 2008

Return of the Slang Sling: Sweaty, Stinky Edition

Often in the past, I've used this blog to indulge my inner-armchair-linguist, focusing in particular on the vernacular underbelly of our glorious ever-percolating mother tongue. Well, my new Mr.-O-incarnation gives me up close access to a particularly rich microcosm of slang. So let's revive our Slang Sling series. First up, "musty":
sweaty (and possibly also stinky)
I love how this very specific vernacular usage orbits around the standard version (Webster's offers us, "smelling of damp and decay"). And middle-schoolers, obsessed as they are with the newly emergent demands of personal hygiene, spend a great deal of time discussing the mustiness of their neighbors and acquaintances. In particular, my girls' classes* like to complain that my room is "musty" after it's been occupied by a boys' class. (As it undeniably is. Many of my early-middle-school gentlemen have yet to master the finer points of deodorant usage.)

* Did I mention that our middle-school classes are gender-segregated, a nouveau-retro trend in urban education. At one time, I would have been highly suspicious of such an initiative, but now I find I quite like it. It eliminates a layer of hormone-frenzied complications from the classroom dynamic and allows the boys and girls to operate in their very distinct styles. (Are gender differences ever more acute than during middle-school?)


  1. Anonymous2:09 PM

    I taught eigth grade once. Would that the girls and boys had been separated. They distract each other much, much too much. Hard to keep their attention on the blackboard. (now you know how old I am :-)

  2. If it's any consolation, I still use a blackboard—well, greenboard actually, but you know what I mean.

  3. Anonymous4:44 PM

    I like that. Musty.
    See if you can pass fusty off on them. Very underused. I say it's time to bring fusty into the pop vernacular.

    This post struck up a long-ago buried memory. In middle school a couple of friends of mine and I started to refer to gym class as "Stinky-time". We had a demanding P.E. teacher, who insisted we work up to a malodorous sweat, and yet - no shower stalls. We weren't even being hyperbolic: it was, for real for real, a stinky time.

    (And (by the way) I am so gonna steal that footnotes within footnotes thing. Loved it.)

  4. Anonymous1:30 PM

    I think of musty in the sense of a house that has been closed up and smells kind of "moldy",dank,etc!