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 Definition: A jargon or dialect used by a professional group. This tends to be used when referring to criminal groups, but can be applied to any specialised group. It can also, simply, mean how a group uses ‘slang’.

Pronunciation: It can be pronounced either with or without the ‘t’ – though, in reality, not using the ‘t’ is a form of verbal furbelow.

Origin: This began to be used in the English language in the 19th century. It comes from the Frenchargoter, meaning to quarrel.

Why this word?

Chrissy and I met when we were studying Anthropology in Maynooth University. Thus, concepts that refer to the linguistic idiosyncrasies of a defined group interest us. Sadly.


Nothing can be more depressing than to expose, naked to the light of thought, the hideous growth of argot. Indeed it is like a sort of repellent animal intended to dwell in darkness which has been dragged out of its cloaca. One seems to see a horned and living creature viciously struggling to be restored to the place where it belongs. One word is like a claw, another like a sightless and bleeding eye; and there are phrases which clutch like the pincers of a crab. And all of it is alive with the hideous vitality of things that have organized themselves amid disorganization.”

-Victor Hugo

How to use this word:

The use of this word depends on the context. For example, in an interview (depending on the job and the interviewer), you could point out your fluency and inherent knowledge of the argot of the company/role/section.

Another use is in power play. For example, if you are the parent to a teenager and they try to talk ‘street’ or slang to you to show that you are out of touch, you could retort with ‘Your argot is misused here”, thus showing your superior intellect and immediately regaining the high ground. Yes, parenting really is that simple …


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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