GED Language Arts (RLA) : Theme

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GED Language Arts (RLA)

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from “A Defense of Slang” in The Romance of the Commonplace by Gelett Burgess (1902)

Could Shakespeare come to Chicago and listen curiously to "the man in the street," he would find himself more at home than in London. In the mouths of messenger boys and clerks he would find the English language used with all the freedom of unexpected metaphor and the plastic, suggestive diction that was the privilege of the Elizabethan dramatists; he would say, no doubt, that he had found a nation of poets. There was hardly any such thing as slang in his day, for no graphic trope was too virile or uncommon for acceptance, if its meaning were patent. His own heroes often spoke what corresponds to the slang of today.

The word, indeed, needs precise definition, before we condemn all unconventional talk with vigor. Slang has been called "poetry in the rough," and it is not all coarse or vulgar. There is a prosaic as well as a poetic license. The man in the street calls a charming girl, for instance, a "daisy." Surely this is not inelegant, and such a reference will be understood a century from now. Slang, to prove adjuvant to our speech, which is growing more and more rigid and conventional, should be terse; it should make for force and clarity, without any sacrifice of beauty.

Why does the author believe there was no slang in Shakespeare’s time?

Possible Answers:

Even strong, offensive, and unusual language was widely accepted and understood.

English dramatists refused to employ slang in their work.

Slang was considered too vulgar and its usage was discouraged by Queen Elizabeth I.

There were too few laboring classes from which slang could be drawn.

The people of Elizabethan England were too serious for such prosaic creativity.

Correct answer:

Even strong, offensive, and unusual language was widely accepted and understood.


The author makes a statement that there was “hardly any such thing as slang” in Shakespeare’s day. But, we know that the author has compared the slang spoken in Chicago to the language of Elizabethan England. To remedy this apparent discrepancy, it is necessary to read on and pay attention to the phrase “no graphic trope was too virile or uncommon for acceptance.” Here, the author is stating that slang language in Elizabethan England was part of the common city-wide vernacular and not confined to smaller groups, such as the “messenger boys and clerks” of Chicago. The author clearly feels that even offensive or unusual language was widely used and understood.

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