Twang vs. Slang: The Common Misconception

I have not really thought of writing an article about this until my cousin (I do not know if he considers me as his cousin, but I do; it’s not that I have been disowned, but just because) asked me, “What is a twangy accent?” Well, here in the Philippines, people consider slang as kind of accent or particular intonation rather than a specific class of vocabulary. This misconception is very rampant and, somehow, unchangeable. I must also admit that I was once a partaker of this misconception, and I haven’t really done anything to change this misconception to others after I have been “converted”—and I doubt that I can ever change that. So I have come up with this article to at least educate whoever reads this.

Slang, when referred to here in the Philippines, is people speak in an accent that only native speakers of English (American, to be precise) have. Mainly, they mean to say that one has the accent that Americans refer to as the valley accent (click here for a sample video of the valley accent). Another instance where people tell you that you speak in slang is when you omit /t/ in words like water, waiter, mountain, and kind of pronounce them as /wɒ’ər/, /we’ər/, and /maʊ̯n’ən/. There are other several instances where people refer to as slang, but definitely, it all comes down to one’s speaking in a non-Filipino standard English accent. However, that is awfully wrong. Why? Because the correct word for this is actually twang.

Merriam-Webster defines twang as “the characteristic speech or a region, locality, or group of people” while slang  is defined as “a language to particular group : as argot or jargon” and “an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinage, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech.” So there you go, twang has something to do with the accent, and slang has something to do with words.

Example of (American) English slang would be bucks to mean money, pussy to mean vagina,  and many others (a good website for this would be UrbanDictionary.com). Now, with this definition, slang is definitely not how we pronounce the word, but the words we use. Not too many Filipinos are aware of this.

Most people have not even heard of the word twang, maybe except those who taught and teach English. But just to make it clear and correct the misconception, that which you call slang is actually twang (addressed directly to Filipinos). I mean no offense with this, but this is time that we correct this misconception since we are considered as one of the best English-speaking countries in Asia. This is just a simple change of word usage. A correct simple change. I do not think that I still need to explain what twang is any further.

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On a different note, I also want to clarify that “twangy accent” is somehow redundant since twang is already a kind of accent. But that is the question, so I have to quote it as is.

8 thoughts on “Twang vs. Slang: The Common Misconception

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