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A colloquialism is a word, phrase, or other form used in informal language. Dictionaries often display colloquial words and phrases with the abbreviation colloq. as an identifier. Colloquial language, colloquial dialect, or informal language is a variety of language commonly employed in conversation or other communication in informal situations. The word colloquial by its etymology originally referred to speech as distinguished from writing, but colloquial register is fundamentally about the degree of informality or casualness rather than the medium, and some usage commentators thus prefer the term casualism.
Some colloquial speech contains a great deal of slang, but some contains no slang at all. Slang is permitted in colloquial language, but it is not a necessary element. Other examples of colloquial usage in English include contractions or profanity.
In the philosophy of language, the term "colloquial language" refers to ordinary natural language, as distinct from specialized forms used in logic or other areas of philosophy. In the field of logical atomism, meaning is evaluated in a different way than with more formal propositions.
A colloquial name or familiar name is a name or term commonly used to identify a person or thing in informal language, in place of another usually more formal or technical name.
Someone in the United States who is referring to very heavy rainfall might say it is "raining cats and dogs". The person listening would have to understand from general usage that the animals are not falling from the sky during a rainstorm.
Expressions used can mean completely different things outside of the country where the colloquialism is used. For example, a woman in London who had a conversation with a man might ask him to "knock me up tomorrow morning", which means to give her a wake-up call. A person from the United States would have no idea of the meaning of the sentence because in the U.S., the term "knock up" is colloquial for impregnate.
Distinction from other styles
Colloquialisms are distinct from slang or jargon. Slang refers to words used only by specific social groups, such as teenagers or soldiers. Colloquial language may include slang, but consists mostly of contractions or other informal words and phrases known to most native speakers of the language.
Jargon is terminology that is especially defined in relationship to a specific activity, profession, or group. The term refers to the language used by people who work in a particular area or who have a common interest. Much like slang, it is a kind of shorthand used to express ideas that are frequently discussed between members of a group, though it can also be developed deliberately using chosen terms. While a standard term may be given a more precise or unique usage amongst practitioners of relevant disciplines, it is often reported that jargon is a barrier to communication for those people unfamiliar with the respective field.
- colloquialism. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved September 10, 2008, from Dictionary.com
- colloquial. (n.d.) Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved September 10, 2008, from Dictionary.com
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- Colloquial Spanish Dictionary of Colloquial Spanish.
- Urban Thesaurus An Urban Thesaurus
- Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Ludwig Wittgenstein