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Linguistics Program

Cocky Topics

Learn more about the ways slang is used by different groups at USC, including background about UofSC; greek and dorm slang, regional slang, and slang over time.


College slang in particular is something that defines a generation and is a subject that has been studied and researched extensively. The way college students use slang comments on the culture, their personal identity and how they want to be perceived by others. Different groups and social clubs have their own small collection of terms that are unique to them. Slang is especially interesting because of how it's used. You don’t necessarily have to make a conscious decision to use a slang word, and you could be doing it for a reason of which you are unaware—perhaps to be cool, funny, or rebellious, or a combination of all three. No college student wants to be the only person at a party who doesn’t understand the slang used.

Slang words or phrases are typically not standard in one’s language, but are accepted in certain social settings, even slang that is taboo. Words like shit, fuck, goddamnit, bitch, and fugly (just to name a few) are all considered vulgar, taboo, or profane. We all know that these words are seen this way, but have we ever really stopped to wonder why? Turns out there are many different reasons for this. First, a word can gradually become degraded, necessitating another euphemism to take its place. Second, it depends on the context of the word or phrase and who you use it around. Some of these words might be okay to use with close friends or a significant other, but not in front of a parent or a boss. Why then, do we use them if they are inappropriate or vulgar? One reason we might use profanity is because it frees us of the feeling being angry or frustrated.

Another reason we might use profanity is to express our social identity. According to Tony Grice, these vulgarities can be used to ascribe an identity to someone or establish a social identity within a group especially in dorms and campus life where slang use promotes informal sociability. Perhaps we use swear words, vulgarities, and curses because they can color things in ways which their genteel synonyms cannot, and deliver a punch which only a fist can match (Tony Grice). Or perhaps we say them because their stigma makes them more appealing. 

Keep this information in mind while you read the words that are used around USC’s campus. You may find some offensive, but they reflect the reality of slang use and college life.

Where Does Slang Come From? College slang, or any slang really, comes about just like formal language. There are processes that are shared by both, such as blends (sleazy and skanky to skeezy) or acronyms (you only live once to YOLO), but it all comes down the same basic principle: recycling words and giving them whole new meanings.

College students are creative in their language processes, even though they may not be aware of it. Who knew you could call something unfortunate “balls” or some characteristic of a fraternity member “frat-tastic”? The list of unexpected and ridiculous words goes on and on and the origins of words are continually building as language transforms with each generation of college students.

- Katherine Hancock

The University of South Carolina is home to Cocky, NCAA national champions, competitive academics, one of the top international business schools in the nation, and a top ranked Honors College.

UofSC is comprised of over ten dormitories stuffed with students ranging from all male, co-ed, all female, and family housing and is HOME TO THE BEST. UofSC consists of over 30,000 enrolled students and tops other universities in South Carolina in activities such as sports, volunteer work, and blood drives. Set in the capital city of South Carolina, UofSC is centered around the historic Horseshoe, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Walking through the Horseshoe seeing people lying out on their towels soaking up the sun, playing with their pets, or just socializing is relaxing after having a stressful day or week. Students are involved in a wide range of activities including Greek life, competitive academics, international affairs, and religious, military, and service organizations. This refreshing atmosphere and the enthusiastic students from all over the world are some of the best parts of student life at UofSC.

Have you ever viewed demographics for a place and then visited the place to find out that the numbers seemed wrong? Here at the University of South Carolina demographics are a very big deal because this is a very diverse place, a melting pot inside of a melting pot. If you look at UofSC’s demographics, it looks like the majority of people are undergraduate Caucasian arts and science majors. However, the people you run into taking a walk through campus might not reflect those findings. At such a large university, different groups of students hang out in different parts of campus. For example, the south side of campus contains a lot of sporting and engineering majors with students that are a mixture of all races. The north side of campus consists of lots of seniors or graduate students. Reading about UofSC is not enough to give a potential visitor all the information about what they are going to find on campus. UofSC is a place where you must come, see, and experience to get the southern hospitality that we all have to offer.

-Trenton O'Banner

Many of the buildings at USC, both academic and residential, are known by nicknames that you probably won't find on campus maps. Here are a few:

BA: Nickname for the Close/Hipp building, home of the business school
Example: I'm in class in the BA all day.

Billy Brice: nickname for Williams-Brice Stadium,  USC's football stadium located 2miles off of campus
Related words: Williams-Brice
Example: Those Cocks showed out at Billy Brice last Saturday

Cappy: nickname for Capstone
Related words: Crackstone, the Lighthouse
Example: We were at Cappy for a while yesterday.

Coker: Referring to the Coker Life Sciences building on the USC Campus
Related words: CSC
Example: I need to start heading toward Coker for my lab.

Cola Hall: nickname for Columbia Hall, a co-ed dorm
Example: I know a lot of people at Cola Hall.

Crackstone: nickname for Capstone, located beside Cola Hall, is also a dorm for honor students
Related words: Cappy, the Lighthouse
Example: My friend wants to eat at Crackstone tonight.

frat castle: a fraternity house
Example: Party at the frat castle later!

HoCo: nickname for Honors College Residence Hall
Pronunciation: hoh-koh
Related words: Honors
Example: Let's eat at HoCo tonight.

Hoodlands: Referring to the The Woodlands apartment complexes being “hood”
Example: I'm living at the Hoodlands next year.

Jones: Jones Physical Science Center on the USC Campus
Related words: PSC
Example: I've got a class in Jones at 9:05.

Maxcy Pad: nickname for Maxcy College; an internationally themed dormitory at the Universtiy of South Carolina
Example: We hung out at the Maxcy Pad for hours last night.

McProjects: nickname for McBryde, an all-male dorm at the University of South Carolina
Example: Come over, I live in McProjects.

Patty Shack: nickname for Patterson hall, an all-female dormitory
Example: I'm going to the Patty Shack tonight.

PSC: nickname for the Physical Sciences building
Related words: Jones
Example: My final is in PSC at 9.

RuHo: nickname for Russell House, the student union
Related words: Russell
Example: Meet you at RuHo.

SoTo: nickname for South Tower, a dorm housing over 400 students that was all-female until 2012 when it was changed to co-ed
Example: All my friends live in SoTo.

Strom: the newer gym facility on campus, the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center
Example: I ran into him yesterday at Strom.

T-Coop: a nickname for the main library on campus, the Thomas Cooper Library
Alternate spelling: T.Coop, TCoop; Pronunciation: tee-coop
Example: We studied at T-Coop all night.

The Castle: nickname for Columbia Hall
Example: Let's meet up at The Castle later.

The Colloq: nickname for the Colloqium Café, a small café located on the northern side of campus
Example: I'll meet you in the Colloq after class.

The Drow: nickname for Woodrow College, suite style dormitory located in front of the Russell House
Pronunciation: dro
Example: We all came over to the Drow to pregame

The Lighthouse: nickname for Capstone, a dorm on the north side of campus
Example: Let's eat at the Lighthouse tonight.

The Mezz: the Mezzanine floor of Thomas Cooper Library
Example: Let's meet on the Mezz.

WaHa: nickname for Wade Hampton, a dorm near the Horseshoe on campus.
Pronunciation: wah-hah
Example: She told me to meet her at WaHa.

- author unknown

20% of the overall student body at UofSC participates in Greek life (Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life). The Fraternity and Sorority Council currently represents 39 Greek Organizations from National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), National  Panhellenic Conference (NPC), National Latin American Organizations (NALFO), and the National Multicultural Greek Council. This diverse selection of councils ensures that there is an organization suitable to every individual’s ideals, morals, and beliefs. 

Each Greek organization has its own rituals, traditions, and philanthropies, thus making each incredibly unique. Since Greek life is an extensive part of life at UofSC, it is vital to dedicate a portion of Cocky Talk to Greek-related slang. Slang used by students in a fraternity or sorority can be heard all around campus and it is important to help keep others informed of the terms they may not be aware of. Ever heard a group of guys refer to someone as a frat rat or a sorostitute? These words, as well as a few others unique to Greek Life, can be found in Cocky Talk.

- Chelsea A. Gorski

College slang can often become associated with specific locations and groups of people around campus, such as dorms like McBryde at USC. McBryde is an all-male dorm consisting of about 250 students and located behind the Thomas Cooper Library. Among the words associated with life at McBryde are McBro, the McProjects, McBrotherhood, dude, bro, as well as LAWL, McPride, McLife, McBreezy, and ways the residents refer to one another, such as legends or the Bretherin.

-Layton Wicker

American slang and they share a lot of the same features.  The roots of hip hop slang can be traced as far back as the jazz era.  One of its defining features is the fact that it is “street language,” meaning that it is a language that was developed and used by groups of individuals who occupy densely urbanized areas.  Cities such as New York, Philadelphia, and Compton have a rich history of hip hop culture.  Its users historically come from a low income background and traditionally for one to be a legitimate native speaker they have to have been raised in a similar environment.  

However, due to the rise in popularity and exposure of hip hop music through the media, hip hop language has now reached a wider audience and it has impacted the speech of many different groups of people.  College students commonly use hip hop slang in their everyday speech, although they might not realize it.  The words dude and cuz are used frequently amongst students to signify relationships to one another and have been identified as deriving from hip hop language.  The group of friends one typically spends time with may be referred to as the crew.  College is a time when many young adults party and experiment with drug use, and many of the slang words used within those cultures come from hip hop language as well.  When a person becomes intoxicated they could be described as bent and users of marijuana smoke bud.  Rather than demonstrating an identity with the streets, when students use hip hop language they may simply be signifying rebelliousness against establishment and identity with the subcultures they are immersed in as young adults.

- author unknown

It’s an impossible topic to avoid in today’s day and age: marijuana. From Reefer Madness to Cheech and Chong to Harold and Kumar, pot culture has been constantly evolving and redefining itself, all the while remaining a permanent part of American subculture. Whether you like it or not, marijuana use and the inevitable pot culture that follows aren’t going anywhere. That said, we might as well be familiar with it. What terms or phrases are associated with marijuana use? Does marijuana-specific slang help more to hide or to reveal the fact that one smokes? And in what social context(s) is it acceptable or unacceptable to use marijuana-related slang? The answers to these questions are necessary for a better understanding of pot culture from an outside perspective and also for the ability to participate effectively in a social environment that accepts casual marijuana use as a norm.

A survey given to 38 members of the USC community reveals some of the common names for marijuana, including weed, pot, tree(s), and bud. Because a majority of people taking the survey say they don’t smoke, these answers reflect the most generic and widely-used words referring to marijuana.

Although different slang terms can refer to the same thing, like the many words for marijuana, they may do so in different ways. Words often have social connotations, and the context in which they are spoken matters greatly. There is also a direct correlation between the diversity of an individual’s marijuana-related vocabulary and his/her average use of marijuana. Marijuana-related slang can be used to hide the fact that one smokes, by using words that non-smokers won’t understand. However, in more cases, such words are used in specific social settings to convey a particular insider attitude toward smoking marijuana.

- author unknown

Northerners believe that the North is superior to the South. All things are said to be first seen or heard in the North, leaving the South only with the sloppy seconds. There have been many comparisons of the two regions in the US and most of the time the Northern states have the Southern states beat out. Based on linguistic research at USC, all who enter this website should know that Southerners may be second to Northerners in a lot of things, but creating their own informal language (slang) is not one of those.

There have been battles amongst these two regions in music to show who is the dominant, and a lot of slang comes from the music that is played most frequently in each region. While people in both regions use different slang, these different slang terms often have the same general meanings.

Slang from the North

  • Son- address term for a male friend, meaning bro
  • Brick-very cold
  • Wavy- state of feeling or expression

Slang from the South

  • Bo- address term for a male friend
  • Shawty- referring to a girl
  • Boi stop that fool- please shut up you sound stupid

- Imani


Many of slang terms used over the past few decades developed from popular trends during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Because of this, the way that slang changes over time is almost always dependent on words that are popular to say among individuals and certain groups of people. Words such as groovy and far out had been popular within the 60’s and 70, and such words were also used by people who were viewed as role models, like professional athletes and movie stars. Some examples of generational differences in slang are listed below:

1970s: bogus - unfair; gross - disgusting; horn - telephone; no brainer - easy problem; zip - nothing

1980s: crib - where you live; go postal - go crazy; melt down - total collapse; wannabe - someone who wants to be something; wicked - excellent or very cool

1990s: bling - glitter; hood - juvenile delinquent; loot - money; po-po - police; senior moment - memory loss

2000s: buzz - shave your head; cougar - older woman dating younger man; holla - call on the phone; peep - person; tat - tattoo

- author unknown


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