Featured Article: “‘Jeuje,’ ‘Zhoosh,’ ‘Zhuzh’: A Word of Many Spellings, and Meanings” by Hayley Phelan
Have you ever heard someone use the term “jeuje” to describe that extra something added to almost anything, but often used when talking about fashion or style? How would you define the word? Do you know anything about its origin?
In this lesson, you will learn about the etymology of the slang term “jeuje.” Then you will research the history of your favorite slang word, and even invent a new word for our monthly vocabulary challenge.
Watch this one-minute video that includes multiple people pronouncing and using the word “zhuzh” in different contexts.
Have you heard the word before? Have you used it? If yes, in what context?
Is there another word you would use instead of “zhuzh”?
What is your favorite slang word? Why?
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read the article, then answer the following questions:
1. Read the first two paragraphs of the article. Based on the description, describe a time when you participated in “the art of the jeuje.”
2. What are some of the theories about the origin of the word? How does Paul Baker, a linguist at Lancaster University in England, trace the possible historical roots of the term?
3. What is “back slang”? Can you think of other slang terms that use back slang or play with letter order?
4. Why was Polari important for the gay community in Britain? Can you think of other examples of languages or dialects that are important within communities that have faced exclusion or oppression?
5. How did the word first become more known in the mainstream in the 1960s? How was Carson Kressley significant in making the word popular in the 21st century?
6. How has social media changed the way in which we encounter and experience slang words? How does Emily Brewster, a senior editor and lexicographer at Merriam Webster, explain the way that slang words are often codified?
Then make a one-pager explaining the history and evolution of the slang word. You might use a timeline or a collection of images to show how the word’s meaning has changed over time. Be sure to include the definition of the slang term and an example of it in a sentence of your creation.
Additional Teaching and Learning Opportunities
Create a new word. Is there a word that you wish existed? Maybe a blend of two existing words, a play of word letters or something entirely new? Once you’ve come up with your new word, you can submit the word to our February Vocabulary Challenge for a chance to have it published as our Word of the Day.
Learn more about words. Are you curious about where new words come from? Would you like to dig deeper into the history of American slang? Or maybe you’d like to know more about Black English, or African American Vernacular English? Watch one of the videos and then report out to your class, teach them three key things you learned from the video and pose two questions, based on the video, for the group to discuss.
Learn about slang in other languages. Are you multilingual or learning another language at school? How familiar are you with slang terms in a language other than English? Learn five new slang terms in that language. For example, if you study French, you might learn some verlan, or if you’re learning Spanish, you can learn some Mexican slang.
Want more Lessons of the Day? You can find them all here.