English English language Etymology Expression Language Usage Word origin Writing

Is Angelina a celeb or a sleb?

Q: Is “sleb” a word you would find useful?

A: No, we don’t use “sleb,” and don’t expect to. If we want a short, informal version of “celebrity,” we use “celeb,” an older and far more popular term.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes “sleb” as a British colloquial “alteration of celeb n., reflecting a monosyllabic pronunciation in rapid speech.”

The earliest example for “sleb” in the OED is from the title of a May 1, 1996, posting to the Usenet newsgroup alt.showbiz.gossip: “Sleb sighting.”

All the other Oxford citations are from British sources, as are most examples in the News on the Web corpus, a database from online newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters.

The earliest OED example for “celeb” is from the December 1907 issue of the Smith College Monthly: “She is a Senior Celeb and I’m just any Freshman.”

When “celebrity” showed up in English in the late 1300s, it meant the “state or fact of being well known, widely discussed, or publicly esteemed,” according to Oxford.

The first citation is from Chaucer’s Middle English translation, dated around 1380, of De Consolatione Philosophiae, a sixth-century Latin work by the Roman philosopher Boethius:

“þat is ryȝt clere and ryȝt noble of celebrate of renoun” (“that is right worthy and right noble of celebrity of renown”).

It wasn’t until the early 1800s that the word “celebrity” came to mean “a well-known or famous person,” according to the dictionary.

The first OED example is from the August 1831 issue of the New Monthly Magazine (London): “How will the new Chamber be composed? Of mayors, and notaries, and village celebrities.”

Now, according to Oxford, the term usually refers to “a person, esp. in entertainment or sport, who attracts interest from the general public and attention from the mass media.”

Finally, for American readers who may not have seen “sleb” in the wild, here’s an example from the May 10, 2017, issue of the Spectator (London):

“It’s an open secret that the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are none too comfortable with all the emoting and the sleb mingling.”

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