Diction Exercise (264)

Slang is a colorful aspect of language, but it is not appropriate in every setting. Choose the correct alternative wording for the slang expressions in the following sentences.

  • He told me that he has been hired for a really cushy job at the county tax office.

  • No wonder she was so wired; I saw her drink eight cups of coffee before noon.

  • I don’t know why she got so bent out of shape when I broke her Chinese umbrella stand.

  • The Channel 5 announcer reported that police had busted twelve drug dealers.

  • When we dropped in on our next-door neighbor, we discovered that he was plastered.

Answers and Explanations

1. He told me that he has been hired for a really cushy job at the county tax office.

Correct: undemanding
Cushy is a shortened form of cushiony. The job is perceived as being as easy as sitting all day on a cushion.

2. No wonder she was so wired; I saw her drink eight cups of coffee before noon.

Correct: overstimulated
The slang expression derives from wired in the sense of "connected by wires to an electrical source." A person who is "wired" by caffeine or other stimulants is extremely nervous and on the edge of emotional distress.

3. I don’t know why she got so bent out of shape when I broke her Chinese umbrella stand.

Correct: upset
The person who is reacting in anger or dismay may display the emotion in extreme body language.

4. The Channel 5 announcer reported that police had busted twelve drug dealers.

Correct: arrested
Although the word bust has been in the language as a synonym for the verb to burst since the 17th century, it is still widely considered to be nonstandard. The expression bust in the sense of "to arrest" or "put a stop to" is slang and still sounds out of place in the formal context of news reporting.

5. When we dropped in on our next-door neighbor, we discovered that he was plastered.

Correct: extremely drunk
One can only speculate as to why plastered means intoxicated. My guess is that it’s because an extremely drunk person loses control of the facial muscles so that the face takes on an empty stare like that of a death mask made of plaster of Paris.

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