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How to train readers in Argot or Slang


I have a character which is typical street thug, criminal and did his time in jail. He is using a lot of underground Argot and thug slang. Example below

At the end we got the ice, gravy train if you know your beeswax

In translation from argot it means "At the end we stole the jewelry, easy money if you know what you are doing"

What is a good way to explain these expression to a reader without info-dumping or interrupting flow of the dialogue. I would like to lessen the learning curve for the reader to learn desired argot/slang or find an effective way how can reader understand uncommon expressions specific only for certain group of people (prostitutes, criminals, cops, bankers etc.)

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1 answer


I would argue that you shouldn't, nor should your writing require training the reader in the first place.

At least not in a work of fiction.

At its heart, fiction is about telling a story. (Which may or may not be intended only as entertainment.) More generally, any kind of writing is ultimately about communicating some kind of message to the reader; where the reader, in turn, may be separate in individual, time and/or space.

If your writing fails at communicating, then it doesn't matter how factually accurate it is; you have still failed.

If you're using language that is so obtuse that the average reader can't be expected to follow the story you're telling without, effectively, needing to learn at least elements of a different language (whether that's specific jargon, a strong dialect or outright a different language), then your story is likely to fail at immersing the reader or getting any message across to them. Only the most dedicated people are likely to read it at all.

What you're asking about, in fact, seems not dissimilar from my older question How to convey that the POV character does not understand what's said in dialogue?

All of this, of course, is one part of the reason why so many fiction stories incorporate some kind of universal translator, or dialog is in a language that the characters wouldn't use (but the reader knows), or both.


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