I describe and discuss a series of court cases which focus upon on decoding the meaning of slang terms. Examples include sexual slang used in a description by a child and an Internet Relay Chat containing a conspiracy to murder. I consider the task presented by these cases for the forensic linguist and the roles the linguist may assume in determining the meaning of slang terms for the Courts. These roles are identified as linguist as naïve interpreter, lexicographer, case researcher and cultural mediator. Each of these roles is suggestive of different strategies that might be used from consulting formal slang dictionaries and less formal Internet sources, to collecting case specific corpora and examining all the extraneous material in a particular case. Each strategy is evaluated both in terms of the strength of evidence provided and its applicability to the forensic context.
- forensic linguistics