Slash: a new conjunction

"Slash" has emerged as a new conjunction, which is a rarity in slang. I love the fact that people spell out "slash" and then hyphenate it, and find it hard to believe that they're not doing this for the sheer delightful absurdity of it all:

...But for at least a good number of students, the conjunctive use of slash has extended to link a second related thought or clause to the first with a meaning that is often not quite “and” or “and/or” or “as well as.” It means something more like “following up.” Here are some real examples from students:

7. I really love that hot dog place on Liberty Street. Slash can we go there tomorrow?
8. Has anyone seen my moccasins anywhere? Slash were they given to someone to wear home ever?
9. I’ll let you know though. Slash I don’t know when I’m going to be home tonight
10. so what’ve you been up to? slash should we be skyping?
11. finishing them right now. slash if i don’t finish them now they’ll be done in first hour tomorrow

The student who searched her Facebook chat records found instances of this use of slash as far back as 2010. (When I shared a draft of this post with the students in the class to make sure I have my facts straight, several noted that in examples like (7) and (9), they would be more likely to use a comma in between the clauses and a lower-case “slash.”)

The innovative uses of slash don’t stop there either: some students are also using slash to introduce an afterthought that is also a topic shift, captured in this sample text from a student:

12. JUST SAW ALEX! Slash I just chubbed on oatmeal raisin cookies at north quad and i miss you

Slash: Not Just a Punctuation Mark Anymore [Anne Curzan/Chronicle of Higher Education]

(via Making Light)



        1. I wonder what forms of slash fiction existed before the rise of the Internet made it all so accessible?  Sanford/Son?  Ishmael/Ahab?  David/Goliath?  All the way back to Adam/Serpent?

  1. Sounds like a modern attempt to replace the semicolon, though I’m probably wrong.  Perhaps one of the more pedantic grammar nerds around here can let us know exactly why this is not quite accurate.

      1. I think that’s exactly it. You’ll recall a couple months ago a linguist described text-speak as “fingered speech” – a speech dialect, not a written dialect.  In speech, saying ‘slash’ makes sense.

    1. In the 12th example a semicolon would not be appropriate because of the topic change.  However, since it is an isolated example it may be that the originator was bending the rules of the “slash” construction.  It does seem to be used as a verbal semicolon in the other examples.

      I am not really a grammar nerd, though, so I defer to anyone who identifies as such.

      Edit: Actually, looking back at the examples “slash” seems to mean something more like “please respond to whichever of these two utterances you find more relevant”.

      1. That makes it a lot more comprehensible, yes. We now live in a dystopia and speak awful future-lingo. Well, fuck.

    2. My theory, FWIW, is that the slash is a sign of that some folks are discovering the need for a semicolon without recognising the tool already exists.

  2. I just chubbed on oatmeal raisin cookies at north quad and i miss you

    Do not eat the cookies at North Quad.

    1. Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?
      Conjunction Junction, how’s that function?
      I got three favorite cars
      That get most of my job done.
      Conjunction Junction, what’s their function?
      I got “and”, “but”, and “or”,
      They’ll get you pretty far.

      That’s an additive, like “this and that”.
      That’s sort of the opposite,
      “Not this *but* that”.
      And then there’s “or”:
      O-R, when you have a choice like
      “This or that”.
      “And”, “but”, and “or”,
      Get you pretty far.

  3. Saying the slash aloud doesn’t seem like a really big deal. The explicit typing is obviously because most mobile devices are constrained or fiddly when handling punctuation, but don’t generally interfere with grammar as much.

    I dunno, I’m all for language evolving in line with technology, but this idea grates on me and I hope it doesn’t find traction.

    1.  I think what’s more egregious is how it’s used where there ought to be a period or a comma.

      *period or *comma is going to be the new *you’re.

      1.  The worst thing, is when you end up doing it yourself. God help me, I’ve caught myself on the wrong end of ‘loose/lose’. more than once. I really do, unreservedly, blame the internet itself.

    2.  That makes sense. Could easily be less keypresses or maybe less fiddly to be worth typing out on most things, aye.

    1. I have soccer kids always asking me now, “Who are we versing tomorrow?” I realized they’d invented a new word, yay sports.

      1.  Let’s all have a moment of silence for those who selflessly gave their lives in the Air Quotes Wars.

  4. I gamble slash won’t make the cut long-term.  Too many letters – laziness will triumph.

  5. Unless I have been using this wrong all these years, the use of slash is
    used when two equally true statements could be used but one could be
    unsaid, but is then said for emphases.


    That cupcake looks delicious/ Why don’t you give me a bite.

      1.  Except that the slash means something different. With a semicolon, the second clause is neutral and adds to the first clause. With a slash, the second clause essentially replaces the first but with the replacement overt. In the example above, the speaker isn’t saying the cupcake is delicious; the speaker is saying “Can I have a bite?”.

        In western culture (certainly in the UK), traditional social norms would dictate simply asking for a bite is not done. The slash makes light of this by explicitly acknowledging such a conflict. It’s quite common nowadays to attack social awkwardness head-on, particularly among friends. This is just one more technique.

  6. This would definitely make me fell less ill if they were using a slash where it was appropriate, but spelling s-l-a-s-h is pretty ridiculous on it’s own.

  7. this was not what i thought the article was going to be about. i thought it was going to be about using a slash in typed conversations, for example

    to indicate emotion or descriptive tones to the preceding stuff.

    although having it crop up in spoken conversation is quite interesting.

  8. “Slash” has emerged as a new conjunction, which is a rarity in slang.

    I use “comma” in the same way, to adversarially modify someone else’s speech by adding an independent clause that changes the meaning.

    SPOUSE: “The sign says NO SOLICITORS. Look at it. Do they not teach you what that means in your precious Girl Scouts? So you can take your little box of cookies and shove it.”
    ME: “Comma but while we feel strongly about our privacy, you can put us down for two boxes of Thin Mints.”

    I adapted it from a friend who used “comma dammit!” as a means of adding emphasis to everything I said.

    ME: “It’s regular Coke. They were out of diet.”
    FRIEND: “Comma dammit!”

    1. Me and the same friend who does the ‘slash’ thing I think also do ellipsis – dot dot dot, or *tumbleweed* – as in actually say that out loud.

      Or sometimes ironic/pisstakes of stuff like !!!!1111 – ‘exclaimation mark exclaimation mark exclaimation mark’ for humorous effect. Seems obvious you take the online/text stuff and then put it into the conversational/speech world, it’s funnier.

      1. Thank you Semiotix and Tim* – these are brilliant uses of spoken punctuation. I’m going to make it my mission this year to use “comma”, “exclamation mark”, “ellipsis”, etc. more in speech. I feel inspired exclamation mark

        * sounds like a pair of cartoon animals.

  9. I absolutely DESPISE “and/or”. As a logician I believe that “or” should be interpreted as inclusive except in special circumstances, such as when you are choosing side dishes at a restaurant. “Or” is always inclusive, meaning “at least one” in descriptive language. We should not let a few cases in normative language make us think “or” means “exactly one”. De Morgan’s Law wouldn’t work if we bought into that BS.

      1.  “xor” is spoken as “or”, but it only comes up when we eat at fast food restaurants, listen to the “Conjunction Junction” song, or pay attention to our 6th grade English teachers. In almost all other cases “or” is inclusive. “And/or” is an abomination. I must do penance that I ever typed such filth.

        1. Sorry, in English as she is spoke, “or” is usually exclusive.

          “Do you walk to school or carry your lunch?” is nonsensical. “Do you walk to school or take the bus?” is a perfectly normal construction. The only examples of inclusive-or I can come up with have an implied “…or both?” at the end, or an implied “…which first?” e.g. “Do you want to have dinner or go to the movie?”

          (Tangent: Guy comes home to his wife all excited, tells her “Pack your holiday suitcase honey, I just won the lottery!” Wife says “That’s wonderful! But shall I pack for the mountains or the beach?” Guy says, “I don’t care, just get the fuck out!”)

  10. As I commented over there, this isn’t new to me…a friend of mine does this all the time, and for many years. He usually uses it in the either / or way, like ‘do you want to get alcohol
    slash crisps slash chocolate?’ – this is spoken, not written. I sometimes use it back to him.

    Funny thing is age wise and otherwise we are very far from US teen college kids…mentally, maybe ;-)

    Wouldn’t be the first time kids are ‘stealing our style’ though – long beards with baseball caps? Victoriana? Top hats? Bowlers? Navy coats? And most recently kilts and flatcaps. Yup, all mine or ours from years back. HIPSTERTEENS GET YR OWN STYLE!

  11. I think this is impatience and possibly evolved efficiency, as in “I don’t want to type one thought, send it, possibly wait for your response, then send a second one.  I’m just going to queue up two thoughts in one text message, maybe three, and send.  That way, we keep the communication pipes full between you and I, without all those delays” .

  12. Idiotic. 
    All standard conjunctions are single syllable to neatly and succinctly join statements.  With the spoken word why then insert a two syllable word?

  13. So, how new is this really?  I can’t reliably date when I started hearing it, but it was certainly several years ago.  Linguists?

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