Colloquial (adj.)

Ellie Huh, Colloquial, 2022, text graphic [courtesy of the designer]

Colloquial (adj)


Words that live in the mouth
Particularities of speech
A scheme between language, people, and place

A shared tongue
A tone
An inflection
A vocal affect
Delivery as described in parenthetical stage directions
(Gesturing wildly) An utterance!
An exchange
An accent
An ’

A technology for joining
Familiar, familial
A winky face
A means to “Win Friends & Influence People”
“How ’bout them ___?!”
Currency to be traded by actors, dialect coaches, and politicians

Acronyms at a job, as in, “Go ahead and send the CNT to Larry in OCIG”
A smudged sign and signifier
A closed universe
Internal logic
Euphemism hiding in plain sight
A subreddit thread
An inside joke that isn’t necessarily funny
A choreographed series of emojis in a group text

A phrase to be heard and spoken, but rarely read
Language stripped of elocution
An affront to Professor Henry Higgins
Hackneyed words, cliched phrases
Vowels scrambled
Disavowed formality
Indiscriminate articulation
A friend to exuberant punctuation

A meme
A quotation
An abbreviation
An exaggeration
An embodied sound
A form of authentication
A hand signal

To insiders, a shared understanding
To outsiders, a treasure hunt for context clues
A way to say “I am one of you”
A way of policing, “You are not one of us”
Verbal collage
The zeitgeist
Fodder for yearly updates to the Oxford English Dictionary

A recitation of region
A phone call home
A Southern vernacular
A voice from somewhere
The rejection of newscasters’ standard broadcasting speech
Resistance to linguistic hegemony
A site-specific thesaurus
Non-standard English

Personal branding
Things your aunt says
Something with no literal translation
Something to be unlearned for academic writing
Something to be relearned when writing for the public
An implement for code-switchers
A phrase that provides entry into a subculture, later to be muddied and stolen by the dominant culture

An oral history
A conversational time capsule that can’t be disinterred
A word bank
An index
An inheritance
Something loose but with geographic, social, and emotional boundaries
Something basic, but specific
“You know what I mean?”

Courtney McClellan is an artist and writer originally from Greensboro, NC. Her work addresses speech, performance, and civic engagement. She has served as the Fountainhead Fellow in the Sculpture and Extended Media Department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA; the Roman J. Witt Artist in Residence at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI; and an Innovator in Residence at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.