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Colloquialism & Examples

When Steven Spielberg and Universal Pictures brought out Jaws in 1975, little did they know that the movie would be a milestone in more than one quarter. While the audience gasped in horror at the underwater antics of a killer shark in the film, its roaring success gave birth to colloquialism. The word ‘blockbuster’ was first used in the modern sense of the term to describe the massive box-office success that Jaws garnered. The rest is history.

Colloquialism & Examples

From interjections like “My bad!” to abbreviations like IKR, colloquialism examples
are all around us. While they are fun to point out, what do you do when you have
to write an entire assignment on them?

All you need to do is simply bookmark this blog for
those times. You never know when your professor might just spring a surprise
test or assignment. Keep this blog handy when you need to write on colloquialism
and examples. Read on to know what they are, why they are used, and how they
differ from slangs.

Colloquialism: defining
what it is (and what it isn’t)

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Colloquialism denotes the use of informal or
day-to-day conversational words and phrases in writing. They might be defined
geographically (a la Hagrid’s way of speaking in the Harry Potter series that
signifies a West Country dialect). That apart also includes idioms, aphorisms,
and slang (in some cases).

The word ‘colloquialism’ derives from Latin ‘colloquium’
that means conversation or simply “speaking together.”

While you can observe colloquialisms in everyday
conversations, poems and drama see frequent uses of this literary device by
authors far and wide. A colloquialism is a fascinating way of creating
life-like characters and making them even more relatable to the readers. It is
quite a common literary device seen in first-person narratives or dialogues in
works of prose, poetry or drama.

Examples of colloquial words used in everyday life

Imagine this. You walk about the block on your way to
the deli to pick up your favourite shake and sandwich combo for a quick meal.
You bump into someone wearing a tee shirt you like, and you casually comment,
“Hey, man, cool tee!” If that person just happened to land in your city from,
say, the 1950s, they are most likely to be left looking bewildered at you,
trying to make sense just what about their clothing was so cold.

That’s just how colloquialism works. American tourists
in the UK hardly ever know that ‘tea’ means loads more than just the go-to
beverage for the Brits. They use it colloquially to signify a trending topic or
a piece of gossip that is making the rumour mills work overtime. Similarly, if
you are not active on social media, you may not yet know that ‘extra’ now means
‘over-the-top’ on top of its original meaning denoting something that is more
than the required quantity. Read this post to find out more about colloquial words you have been
using unknowingly in your speech and texts to friends.

Colloquial words vs. slangs
and jargons

Colloquialism, slangs and jargon are closely related.
But not all slangs or jargon make their way into colloquialism. While slangs
and jargons (in some cases) may be used as colloquial
, here’s what they actually are.

Informal words or phrases that a certain group of people use among themselves are termed as slangs. They can be used to express a wide range of emotions, often strongly felt. Certain subcultures can have specific slangs to use among themselves as well, so slangs are mostly culturally defined. Australians use the terms barbie’ for barbecue and ‘togs’ for swimsuits. That makes them examples of slangs that are culturally defined.

Used by professionals, scholars or
people within a specific industry, jargons are mainly technical terms. Only the
people with a bit of knowledge regarding the concerned industry would
understand those special words. If you were to suddenly mention the word
‘galley’ to your group of friends who are not familiar with the publishing
industry, they wouldn’t grasp the meaning at all. For the uninitiated, ‘galley’ refers to an almost-finished draft
of a book or magazine in the publishing industry. “Mise en place” means prepping for a dish in the culinary industry
whereas “knife
is a jargon for the fashion industry that denotes narrow folds on dresses or

Most linguists classify jargons and slang as separate
from colloquialism. But a few of them opine that they become a part of colloquialism when a large
subset of people use those in a country or area.

Examples of Colloquial expressions in Speech and Literature

Colloquialism expressions as examples are quite common
in literature. Here are a few that will help you stay ahead on the topic.

  • “I ain’t done nothing wrong by speaking to the gentleman. I’ve right to sell flower if I keep off the kerb.” – Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  • “There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening…” – Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  • “Well, yeh might’ve bent a few rules, Harry, bu’ yeh’re all righ’ really, aren’ you?” – Rubeus Hagrid in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

Most of us are familiar with the spoken (and written)
American colloquialisms like ‘chips’ for the British variant ‘crisps’ or ‘sidewalk’
to the British variant of ‘footpath.’ Here is a fun article on how people from
all around the world have found colloquialisms for a common insect: woodlice.

Going colloquial in a sentence

How it adds character to literature and speech?

Colloquialisms are formed when people use them in
every day conversations. They are a crucial part of how people of certain
cultures, communities, or regions speak. Hence writers use colloquialism to
create characters that have a realistic connect with the readers. When colloquial
words are used in a sentence, they carry the cultural or regional markers along
with them. Colloquialisms can appear in literature as part of the narrative or
in the form of dialogues between certain characters.

Take a cue from Mark Twain, for starters. He portrays the
eponymous character in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn using loads of
colloquialisms in Huck’s dialogues. Huck, a teenager hailing from Missouri, USA,
had no formal education. His expressions and colloquial phrases are strewn with
examples that give his character an energetic voice. Mark Twain uses Southern
colloquialisms throughout the text. This brings out the character traits of Huck
and speaks volumes about his socio-economic background. 

You will also find colloquialism examples in the works
of Agatha Christie where she uses common Belgian and French colloquialisms to highlight
Hercule Poirot’s non-British origin. You can also take this brilliant quiz by the New York Times that gives you
a linguistic map by analysing your use of colloquialisms in everyday speech.

Parting words

Colloquialism opens a portal to the writers’ societies
in literature. If you are a student of literature, you may note that
colloquialism often helps us understand the characters much better. When you
use colloquial words in a sentence, you convey a sense of understanding towards
the people or society you are writing about. However, assignments on
colloquialism may be tougher than blurting out as many as you can. Keep this
blog handy for the times when you need to write on the popular literary device
of colloquialism and examples. Here’s wishing you all the luck with the next

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