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The Outsiders Slang Words & Vocab

The Outsiders Slang Words & Vocab
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  • 0:04 'The Outsiders' by S.E. Hinton
  • 1:50 Slang in 'The Outsiders'
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

Do you ever feel that when you're reading a good book, it not only tells you about a time and place but actually brings you there? That is what S.E. Hinton does through her use of slang in the novel 'The Outsiders.'

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is set in the early 1960s in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It follows fourteen-year-old Ponyboy Curtis as he deals with life on the dangerous streets of Tulsa. Ponyboy is a Greaser, or a poor kid from the East side of the city. The Greasers are known for their long hair and their habits of getting into trouble. As Ponyboy himself admits, the Greasers feel too much emotion.

Making things dangerous for the Greasers are the Socs, or kids from the rich West side who drive fancy cars and like to beat up on the Greasers. Both Cherry Valance and Randy Adderson, Soc characters who play large parts in the novel, admit that the Socs don't feel anything, that they are numb to their environment. The language used in the novel highlights the differences between the groups, as well as the violence inherent in the setting of the book.

Briefly, the rundown of the book is this: Ponyboy and his good friend Johnny Cade end up killing a Soc during a fight. Though the killing is in self-defense, Ponyboy and Johnny run away rather than face the police. On the advice of a Greaser friend named Dally, Ponyboy and Johnny hide in an abandoned church. But a carelessly dropped cigarette causes a fire that traps some kids inside the church on a school trip. Ponyboy and Johnny manage to save the kids, but Johnny is fatally injured in the blaze. Dally, unhinged by Johnny's death, robs a grocery store and is shot by the police.

Back in Tulsa, Ponyboy has to go to court for his role in the fight that killed Bob. Though Ponyboy is cleared of all charges, he suffers from lingering emotional problems after losing his friends. His grades slip in school, and to save him from failing, his teacher asks him to write a paper about something important to him. He decides to write the story of boys like Johnny, dying too young.

Slang in The Outsiders

S.E. Hinton wrote in the vernacular, or in the informal language of the people in a particular time and area. Through Ponyboy, the first-person narrator, the speech patterns and the vocabulary of these Greasers and Socs comes to life. You'll notice that many of the words have to do with weapons, fighting, or cigarettes and alcohol. This highlights the world Ponyboy and his friends inhabit.

Here's a list of many of the slang words in the novel:

Beer blast: or a party with lots of underage drinking

Bop-action: a rumble

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