Green’s Dictionary of Slang News

GDoS Update #11 July 31 2019

 

Welcome to the eleventh and latest update of the online version of Green’s Dictionary of Slang.

 

As ever, some statistics: research (somewhat limited by external priorities) over the last three months has added 199 new slang terms, the majority from the last few years; 216 entries have been predated as to their currently recorded ‘first use’ and  new citations – including ante-dates, inter-dates and post-dates to reflect the continuing use of many terms –  have been uploaded. In all there are 2463 new citations, appearing under 1510 headwords. In total the database currently offers 55,261 headwords (within which are nested over 135,000 discrete words and phrases, underpinned by just over 650,000 citations). All this material is on offer to every user.

 

For an overview, with the fruits of the last quarter’s research in chronological order, all users of the dictionary can go here.This uses the same software as the Timelines of Slang. New terms are marked in red, ante-dates in blue. As pionered in recent updates, the format has been improved: entries now link to the specific part of an entry, its sense and where pertinent its homonym number. Unfortunately the software does not permit click-through access (this is in development) , but users will be able to see at once which part of an entry has improved.

 

While a good proportion of the new material comes from recent publications, typically The Border (2019) the final volume of Don Winslow’s epic treatment of the Central and North American drug trade, the dictionary has also benefited hugely from the generosity of Phil Virta, publisher in charge of Gale’s Archives of Sexuality & Gender. These archives, which comprise material from the British Library’s Private Case, the New York Public Library and the Kinsey Report offer many primary sources, from 1690 to 1940, both fiction and non-fiction, that lie behind the history of sexuality. The material is available through many libraries and institutions but not, or not easily, for the independent researcher. My tweet to this end was picked up at Gale and three month free access was given me. I am hugely grateful.

 

The resource is wide-ranging, but not everything offers useful pickings. One must pick and choose and trust to one’s judgement to spot the plums. Of the titles I have opened, around 70 have been worth further research. The first being Pleasant quippes for upstart newfangled gentlewomen by S. Gosson (1596) and the last the collection of Limericks (1959) published by ‘Count Palamiro Vicarion’ (i.e. the British poet Christopher Logue) in his days hacking for Maurice Girodias’ Olympia Press. The bulk of the material focuses on the 18th and 19th centuries. Among the most productive titles have been two 1732 ‘‘novelisations’ of Hogarth’s similarly named series of engravings, The Harlot’s Progress (31 examples) and The Progress of a Rake (27) and The Honest Fellow, or Reveller’s Bemorandum Book (1790) by ‘Bumper Allnight, Esquire’ (106).

 

London being the contemporary ‘sin city’ the guidebook format was always popular: ostensibly promoting security for the visiting unwary, it offered a little soft porn in its rambling into bordellos and boudoirs, and some tips as to criminal ‘cant’. Whether such titles kept out-of-towners’ purses not to mention bodies untainted, is unknown. Titles include The Tricks of the Town Laid Open; or, A companion for country gentlemen (1755) (23), Low-life; or, One half of the world, knows not how the other half live (1764) (11), The Midnight Spy: or, A view of the transactions of London and Westminster from the hours of ten in the evening, till five in the morning (1766) (10) and Midnight Scenes and Social Photographs (1858) by ‘Shadow’ (16). Collections of ‘drolleries’  —  ballads, poems, anecdotes and the like  —  had a ready market. The Dictionary has already drawn on a number; this research has added material from The Bacchanalian Magazine (1793) (79), Hilaria. The Festive Board (1798) (64) and Cythera’s Hymnal; or, flakes from the foreskin: A collection of songs, poems, nursery rhymes, quiddities, etc., etc. never before published (1870) (79). The Honest Fellow is another of the genre.

 

The sexual memoir also has a role to play. Purportedly confessional and revelatory, more likely one more variety of titillatory make-believe, productive titles include ‘Experiences of a Cunt Philosopher’ (1884) in Randiana (24), ‘Lais Lovecock, containing the adventures of Miss Lais Lovecock, written by herself, etc.’ included in The  Bagnio Miscellany (1892) (24), ‘Suzan Aked’ The Simple Tale of Suzan Aked (1898 and a title best spoken aloud) (16) and The Memoirs of Madge Buford, a modern Fanny Hill (1902) by D. St John (72).

 

Then of course there is unalloyed porn. Crissie. A music-hall sketch of to-day (1899) (38) may, as an advertisement claimed, have been ‘evidently drawn from the life’: its titular heroine was allegedly the wife of a printer employed by the pornographer Leonard Smithers, but the back-story was irrelevant. What mattered was that ‘the whole work is very obscene.’ Two popular contemporaries were the pseudonymous ‘Ramrod’ (slang for penis) who in 1900 offered The Nocturnal Meeting (79) and Family Connections (19) and the wholly visible G.R. (Reginald) Bacchus whose works included Nemesis Hunt (1902, presumably a piece of smutty rhyming slang), Pleasure Bound ‘Afloat’ (1908) Maudie (1908) and Pleasure Bound ‘Ashore’ – all starring the same sexually self-indulgent cast-list and good for 40 terms between them. Bacchus (1873-1945) dropped out of Oxford and worked as a freelance arts reviewer before gravitating into the world of Leonard Smithers, both pornographer and publisher of such exotics as Aubrey Beardsley. The writer also pursued a double life, mixing his smutty outpourings with what Jack Smithers, son of Leonard, recalled as as ‘the most goody-goody stories for a prominent religious weekly’.

 

Perhaps the most intersting find of all is not, other than in its sharing of a number of popular obscenities, a piece of pornography but The German Prisoner (1930) by the British novelist James Hanley (29). Far tougher both in its imagery and its vocabulary than better-known chronicles of World War I such as Goodbye to All That or the punningly titled  Her Privates We, Hanley’s novella was printed privately and, like another of the author’s books, Boy, duly banned. Among its slang terms are backscuttle, bugger all, fuck you! johnny rollocks, shithouse and sodding. The trenches had been tough, but its language, doubtless extreme in situ, had usually been left where it fell.

 

Update #10: 30 April 2019

 

Welcome to the tenth and latest update of the online version of Green’s Dictionary of Slang.

 

As ever, some statistics: research over the last three months has added 265 new slang terms, the majority from the last few years; 135 entries have been predated as to their currently recorded ‘first use’ and  new citations – including ante-dates, inter-dates and post-dates to reflect the continuing use of many terms –  have been uploaded. In all there are 2329 new citations, appearing under 1565 headwords. In total the database currently offers 55,213 headwords (within which are nested over 133,000 discrete words and phrases, underpinned by approximately 640,000 citations). All this material is on offer to every user.

 

For an overview, with the fruits of the last quarter’s research in chronological order, all users of the dictionary can go here.This uses the same software as the Timelines of Slang. New terms are marked in red, ante-dates in blue. As pionered in recent updates, the format has been improved: entries now link to the specific part of an entry, its sense and where pertinent its homonym number. Unfortunately the software does not permit click-through access (this is in development) , but users will be able to see at once which part of an entry has improved.

 

As usual the research has focused largely on newspaper databases, notably those held by the British Library, the US Library of Congress and, for Australia, Trove. These, by their nature, tend to look backwards in time, but there is also an on-going accretion of up-to-date slang. Individual ‘contributors’ include four more works by the late Robert G. Barrett, a hugely popular Australian author and creator of his hero Les Norton, two from America’s Stephen Mack Jones (August Snow and Lives Laid Away), Nico Walker’s Cherry and from Joe Lansdale (best know for his Hap and Leonard stories) Leather Maiden. Older texts include the prolific Nina Wilcox Putnam’s West Broadway and from journalist and scriptwriter Ben Hecht (celebrated for the play, latterly movie The Front Page) A Thousand and One Afternoons, a selection of his columns in the Chicago press. Plain or Ringlets, another novel by Robert Surtees, already well represented, adds to his world of rural society and the fox-hunting it enjoys. Finally, the late 17th century’s pleasingly titled Catalogue of Jilts, cracks, prostitutes, night-walkers…and others of the linnen-lifting tribe.

 

The primary single contribution comes from contributing editor James Lambert who has looked more extensively than any other researcher at the multiplicity of terms that have been created around Australia’s bogan, a socially derided class which in local terms is the current synonym for the earlier hoon or ocker, and in the wider world, of the chav. The full entries, with usage examples, are to be found here, but for those who would enjoy a summation we can offer the following:

 

Derivatives:
■ anti-bogan adj. antagonistic towards bogans or the bogan lifestyle; not bogan in style or manner. ■ boganacious adj. bogan to an extreme extent, i.e. ‘bodaciously bogan’. ■ boganaire n. [bogan + SE millionaire] a very wealthy bogan, also attrib. ■ boganalian adj. [bogan + Australia] in context of Australia conceived of as a land of bogans. ■ boganality n. bogan behaviour and mentality; ‘bogan-ness’. ■ Boganator n. a fantasy super-robot which has the characteristics of the bogan and Hollywood’s Terminator; used to identify as an uber-bogan to satirise bogan lifestyles; also attrib. ■ bogandom n. the world of bogans; bogans collectively. ■ boganese n. the highly colloquial and slangy style of speech used by bogans. ■ boganesque adj.bogan-like; somewhat bogan. ■ boganette n. a female bogan. ■ boganfest n. an event at which many bogans are present; also attrib. ■ boganfy v. to imbue with bogan-ness. ■ boganhood n. the state or quality of being a bogan. ■ boganic adj. bogan in nature, bogan-like. ■ boganify v. to imbue with bogan-ness; to stereotype as a bogan. ■ boganification n. the process of rendering a place or person characteristic of a bogan mentality or style. ■ boganise v. to imbue with bogan-ness, e.g. in customizing an automobile, thus boganised. ■ boganisation n. imbuing with bogan values and styles. ■ boganish adj. casual, unfocussed. ■ boganism n. bogan behaviour, the bogan aesthetic. ■ boganista n. [bogan + fashionista] a ‘fashionable’ and/or glamorous female bogan; also attrib. ■ boganistan n. a notional place that is primarily inhabited by those who qualify as bogans. ■ boganistic adj. bogan in nature, bogan-like; thus boganistical, boganistically. ■ boganite n. var. on bogan. ■ boganitis n. a mythical ‘disease’ whereby the bogan aesthetic is communicable to the unwary. ■ boganity n. the state of being a bogan; bogan-ness. ■ Boganland n. Australia; any area with a high population density of bogans. ■ boganless adj. free of bogans. ■ boganmobile n. any vehicle favoured by bogans, especially a customized classic Australian car. ■ boganness n. the state of being a bogan. ■ boganing n. behaving like a bogan. ■ boganocracy n. bogans as a political force or ruling power. ■ boganology n. often joc. the academic study of bogans or boganness; thus adj. boganological, boganologist. ■ boganophile n. one who loves bogans; thus boganophilia. ■ boganophobe n. (also boganophobic) one who is (irrationally) hostile towards bogans; thus boganophobia, n. hostility towards bogans, boganophobicadj. hostile towards bogans. ■ boganopolis n. any place with a high population density of bogans. ■ boganosity n. (also boganocity) the bogan aesthetic; the essence of bogan behaviour. ■ boganry n. bogan behaviour, the bogan lifestyle. ■ Boganville n. (also Bogansville) a major agglomeration of bogans, sometimes applied to an entire town or city. ■ Boganvillean.(also Boganvillia, Boganvilia Street) [pun on Bougainvillea, a common garden creeper] a var. of previous, a major agglomeration of bogans, sometimes applied to an entire town or city, thus boganvillian. ■ bogany adj. bogan in nature; typical of a bogan. ■ brogan n. [bro + bogan] a fellow bogan; a bogan who is a brother or a ‘bro’; a sibling who is a bogan. ■ fauxgan n. [Fr. faux, false/fake + bogan] a phony bogan, usu. middle or upper-middle class; one who merely pretends to the type.
In compounds:
□ bogan army n. a large gathering or group of bogans, e,.g. as football fans; bogans as a social unit. □ bogan band n. any music group, especially hard rock or Oz rock, traditionally favoured by bogans. □ bogan boy n. a young male bogan; a demeaning ad hoc nickname for someone behaving like a bogan. □ bogan brew n. any type of beer favoured by bogans, especially traditional Australian mass-produced lagers. □ bogan central n. a place with a high population density of bogans. □ bogan champagne n. one of a variety of drinks, typically inexpensive and sugary, favoured by bogans. □ bogan chariot n. any vehicle make or type stereotyped as being driven by bogans. □ bogan chic n. bogan style or fashion of choice. □ bogan chick n. a female bogan. □ bogan city n. a city or town with a high population density of bogans; a fig. ‘city of bogans’. □ Bogan Day n. 1  a fictional day on which boganism is celebrated. 2  Australia Day (26th January). □ bogan dust n. 1  (also the bogans) any narcotic or recreational drug that comes in powder form, esp. methamphetamine (rather than the more expensive cocaine). 2  small pieces of broken glass that accumulate on the side of a road or highway [the assumption being that these are from broken bottles tossed out of vehicles]. 3 (also BD) instant coffee. □ bogan girl n. a female bogan. □ bogan heaven n. any place especially loved by bogans. □ bogan juice n. any drink favoured by bogans, e.g. bourbon whiskey and coca-cola. □ bogan magnet n. a place or event that attracts bogans. □ bogan name n. a given name considered indicative of the parents’ bogan lifestyle; typically with unconventional spelling, and often a surname used as a first name. □ bogan slogan n. an expression, aphorism, motto, or the like, expressing bogan sentiments or attitudes, often found as a tattoo. □ ex-bogan n. a person who used to be a bogan; one who eschews their former bogan identity. □ inner bogan n. a bogan personality that resides within all Australians whether externally noticeable or not. □ non-bogan n. one who does not espouse bogan values. Finally □ Violent Bogan, n. one of the multiple alternatives for Victoria Bitter beer.
In phrases:
■ bogan it up v. to behave or act as a bogan. ■ bogan-spot v. (also bogan-watch) to spend one’s leisure time watching bogans, thus bogan-spotting. ■ bogan up vtr. to customize or decorate a vehicle in a manner that appeals to bogans. 2  vi. to adopt the persona and/or dress of a bogan. ■ cashed-up bogan n. (also CUB) (Aus.) a uncultured but well-off individual who spends money on bad taste, trashy, gaudy merchandise. ■ de-bogan v. to purge oneself or another of bogan style or influence. ■ out-bogan v. to outdo another bogan in one’s own boganness.

Update of 1 February 2019

 

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Welcome to the ninth and latest update to the online version of Green’s Dictionary of Slang.

As ever, some statistics: research over the last three months has added 227 new slang terms, 117 entries have been predated as to their currently recorded ‘first use’ and 1,861 new citations – including ante-dates, inter-dates and post-dates to reflect the continuing use of many terms –  have been uploaded. The database currently offers 55,159 headwords (within which are nested over 133,000 discrete words and phrases, underpinned by approximately 640,000 citations). All this material is on offer to every user. If the volume of new material is somewhat smaller than usual, I can only plead an alternative priority: the writing of a book on women and slang, which should be published later this year.

For an overview, with the fruits of the last quarter’s research in chronological order, all users of the dictionary can go here. This uses the same software as the Timelines of Slang. As usual the research has focused largely on newspaper databases, notably that held by the British Library, the US Library of Congress and, for Australia, Trove. These, by their nature, tend to look backwards in time, but there is also an on-going accretion of up-to-date slang. For the cutting edge, more terms from London drill music have been added, and, going back in time, there are examples from the early 20th century Australian Lone Hand, a literary magazine, spun off the Sydney Bulletin, which equated itself with London’s Strand Magazine. More recent Oz-isms are delivered thanks to the memoirs of Nick Cummins, better known to fans of Aussie Rules as ‘The Honey Badger’ and Tracey Spicer, a journalist and author of The Good Girl Stripped Bare. Finally there is a substantial input from the UK music hall, quoting from songs by such as Marie Lloyd, Bessie Bellwood and Harry Champion.

New terms are marked in red, ante-dates in blue. The format has been improved: entries now link to the specific part of an entry, its sense and where pertinent its homonym number. Unfortunately the software does not permit click-through access (this is in development) , but users will be able to see at once which part of an entry has improved.

The Slang Canon

We lack, or I certainly cannot track one down, a patron saint of lexicography. Let alone, to fine-tune, some similar figure standing guard over slang. Kory Stamper, the former doyenne of Merriam Webster, the American dictionary publisher, claimed Samuel Johnson for the former but given the eponymous Noah Webster’s disdain for the Great Cham, this seems something of a stretch. In any case, this is – in OED terms – only definition 2 of the term: ‘a person who typifies or is a prime exemplar of something.’ What I’m after is definition 1.: an actual saint, glorified by the authorities who do that sort of thing, and as such ‘chosen or regarded as a protector or intercessor for a person, place, occupation, etc.’ And nothing, I fear is doing. Which is a pity, since slang, surely, could come up with a decent advocatus diaboli.

 

Which is also a pity because of those of us who toil in the very lowest depths of what Johnson termed ‘the lower employments’ of the life lexicographical definitely need a bit of tutelary supervision. We are not helped, of course, by our own use of the word saint: Pierce Egan, revising Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue in 1823, defines the word as ‘a hypocrite’. This is hardly courting support.

 

Indeed, none of slang’s uses of ‘saint’ are very flattering. St Bernard: a very large, hairy penis (St Peter is a penis too, but seemingly of average dimensions); St George: sexual intercourse in the rear-entry position or with the woman on top and giving the phrase ‘ride a St George’ wherein the superior female is, of course ‘the dragon’. Sex is also found in Sallenger’s Round, properly ‘St Leger’s round,’ which was a dance and thus, like many ‘dances’ adapted as a name for fucking;  St Luke’s bird is an ox and St Marget’s ale water. Rhyming slang gives St Martin’s (le Grand), a hand, St Vitus’s dance, pants or trousers and St Louis blues, shoes. St Louis flats are also shoes: flat and moccasin-like, with a design on the toe – often that of a card suit – and once popular among jazz musicians and gamblers. Others of slang’s canonized notabilities are St Johnstone’s tippet, a hangman’s noose, a St John’s Wood dona, an up-market prostitute or kept woman (the London suburb being their residence of choice) and St Peter’s sons, petty thieves, who take anything they can lay their hands on.

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GREEN’S DICTIONARY OF SLANG TO GO FREE

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GDoS Online was launched two years ago, in October 2016. Since then there have been seven updates,  the latest is forthcoming at the end of this month, and the dictionary has been expanded, improved and, not least corrected. There are now just over 55,000 headwords, within which can be found nested, i.e. included at the primary noun, verb and sometimes adjective:

1,278 derivatives

18,776 compounds

19,880 phrases

All of which are backed up by 640,451 illustrative citations.

My initial aim was to offer the dictionary in two formats: one would be free and permitted users to see A [the word, its compounds, phrases and derivatives, plus all pertinent senses] + B [an etymology] and C [a definition]. For those who were willing to pay a subscription there would also be D [the illustrative citations that show a term’s historical development]. An update, including both new terms of slang (whether from the past or present) and new citations (which meant that subject to research the much-desired ‘first recorded use’ of a given term would be continually shifted backwards) was to be added every three months.

In the two years that the dictionary has been on line there have been added:

2,215 new slang words and phrases

3,045 ante-dates, i.e.  earlier examples of first recorded use

19,947 new citations

Two years into the project, and having no intention to abandon my researches, I have decided that the dictionary in its entirety – headwords, etymologies, definitions and citations – will henceforth be made available for free. I am grateful to those who have subscribed, and for those who wish, I shall repay whatever sums are outstanding as of the relaunch. I would ask only for a little time, since the new system must first be up and running. Your subscription will continue as is until then.

Thanks too to everyone who has supported the on-going research. Please continue. All suggestions, as they say, very gratefully received.

It is intended that this change, plus the latest update, be released on 5 November.  This date may not resound with non-UK users, but elucidation can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes_Night.

The precise method of logging on will be explained once the relaunch is ready. It is hoped that the same URL will remain.

Some users might feel that there remains one question: why?

There are a number of practical reasons, mainly to do with administration, an area of expertise that has never traditionally appealed to lexicographers but which over-excites the various authorities who demand it. Those, however, are secondary.

What makes GDoS different from any other published slang dictionary is the range of citations, the usage examples. Researching these, finding new material, pushing back our knowledge of the first appearance of a term (and that pushing back is infinitely flexible, the only constant being that ‘back’ is almost certainly on offer to the searcher) has always been at the heart of the dictionary. Not everyone needs such material on every occasion, but it seems to me that everyone should have the opportunity to consult it. This will now be possible.

In an ideal or perhaps older world, the work might have gained institutional backing, the usual means being a publisher. But I have come long since to accept that no publisher, even including the one who (reluctantly, as they made clear) put out the print edition in 2010, feels that the work is of value or worth. No matter; death will see me off, dismissal will not. I have no choice but to continue alone and in so doing, what truly matters is visibility.

So ego, of course, enters the picture: one does the work, one wishes it to be seen and used. Otherwise one becomes nothing more than an ever-older old man, sitting in a small room, tracking down new words for, inter alia, masturbation.

When the print version appeared, a reviewer was kind enough to declare the work ‘Quite simply the best historical dictionary of English slang there is, ever has been […] or is ever likely to be.’ I am no longer responsible for proving the first half of that encomium, I am very keen to justify the second.

Jonathon Green aka Mister Slang

IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT SUBSCRIPTIONS

UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE GREEN’S DICTIONARY OF SLANG WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ACCEPT NEW SUBSCRIPTIONS. YOUR CURRENT SUBSCRIPTIONS WILL BE HONOURED. FURTHER INFORMATION WILL BE POSTED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

GDoS Update #7: 31 July 2018

Welcome to the seventh and latest update to the online version of Green’s Dictionary of Slang.

 

As ever, some statistics: research over the last three months has added 311 new slang terms, 319 entries have been predated as to their currently recorded ‘first use’ and 2,839 new citations – including ante-dates, inter-dates and post-dates to reflect the continuing use of many terms –  have been uploaded. The database currently offers 55,003 headwords (within which are nested over 133,000 discrete words and phrases, underpinned by approximately 630,000 citations). All of this new material can be seen by subscribers; the changes that are reflected by the predates  are also shown in alterations in the approximate dating used in the absence of citations: for instance ‘late 19C’ to ‘early 19C’, ‘1980s+’ back to ‘1940s+’, and so on. But as ever, for those who want or need to access the detailed and continually evolving and expanding heart of the data, we have to recommend a subscription.

 

For an overview, with the fruits of the last quarter’s research in chronological order, all users of the dictionary can go here. This uses the same software as the Timelines of Slang. As usual the research has focused largely on newspaper databases, notably that held by the British Library, the US Library of Congress and, for Australia, Trove. These, by their nature, tend to look backwards in time, but there is also an on-going accretion of up-to-date slang. Thus there are also a substantial number of terms from UK drill music, state of the art as regards London slang, and, to go back to the other end of slang’s history, some 17th century pamphleteering, often credited to women authors.

 

New terms are marked in red, ante-dates in blue. The format has been improved: entries now link to the specific part of an entry, its sense and where pertinent its homonym number. Unfortunately the software does not permit click-through access (this is in development) , but users will be able to see which part of an entry has improved.

 

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April 2018 Update + Hero of Slang 8: Billy Rowe

Welcome to the sixth and latest update to the online version of Green’s Dictionary of Slang.

 

As ever, some statistics: research over the last three months has added 301 new slang terms, 377 entries have been predated as to their currently recorded ‘first use’ and 2,775 new citations – including ante-dates, inter-dates and post-dates to reflect the continuing use of many terms –  have been uploaded. The database currently offers 54,873 headwords (within which are nested over 133,000 discrete words and phrases, underpinned by approximately 630,000 citations). All of this new material can be seen by subscribers; the changes that are reflected by the predates  are also shown in alterations in the approximate dating used in the absence of citations: for instance ‘late 19C’ to ‘early 19C’, ‘1980s+’ back to ‘1940s+’, and so on. But as ever, for those who want or need to access the detailed and continually evolving and expanding heart of the data, we have to recommend a subscription.

 

For an overview, with the fruits of the last quarter’s research in chronological order, all users of the dictionary can go here. This uses the same software as the Timelines of Slang. As usual the research has focused largely on newspaper databases, notably that held by the British Library, the US Library of Congress and, for Australia, Trove. These, by their nature, tend to look backwards in time, but there is also an on-going accretion of up-to-date slang.

 

New terms are marked in red, ante-dates in blue. The format has been improved: entries now link to the specific part of an entry, its sense and where pertinent its homonym number. Unfortunately the software does not permit click-through access (this is in development) , but users will be able to see which part of an entry has improved.

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Loveless in Slangland

In honour (?) of Valentine’s Day, I offer another slightly amended wander down the primrose path I trod with The Dabbler five years or so ago. The piece, as originally titled, was named ‘No Words for Love in Slang’. Well, no hearts and flowers, anyway. Please read on:

 

For those who wish cross-reference to GDoS, all combinations with ‘love’ can be found here unless otherwise noted.

 

I tried to write a musical once. I had lunched well, couldn’t face the database and it served to counterfeit work. It was called – goodness, how did you guess – Slang! I forget the plot – which is always the problem: I can sketch the puppets but can never make them dance – and it came to nothing. I composed, well, doodled, what I laughingly termed some lyrics. There was only one that was passable. It was called ‘There’s No Word for “Love” in Slang’. As I recall, the hero (poor, honest and resolutely foul-mouthed) sang it on his way to meet the heroine (rich, daughter of a grasping, snobbish papa, and forbidden on pain of disinheritance any non-standard syllables). You can see why I didn’t finish it. But the song title was correct. Because there isn’t.

 

Valentine’s Day comes every year and may bring many a surprise (not least its definitions in slang), but one thing is wholly predictable: no troths will have been plighted on behalf of the counter-language. Slang remembers the unfortunate Valentine’s end: one does not attain martyrdom without…being martyred. So too the concept of ‘love’ at the vocabulary’s hands. Of course, if one searches for ‘love’ as a headword, one finds several. Though none, I would note, a verb. There is love as in ‘love of a…’ which is a term of praise kindred to duck, as in ‘duck of …’ and tends to apply to small children or else items of clothing: hats, dresses, although Walter, he of that multi-volumed stroke book My Secret Life, recalls how, on holiday, his hosts offered to ‘get me a love of an Italian boy to bugger.’ And there is the cry of Lord love a duck! which combines them. But it should surprise no-one that love is usually found in compounds, and that in the bulk of those compounds the word is substituting for ‘sex’. Thus these, for the penis, which of which at least some seem to have escaped from heavy metal, or at least a Spinal Tap tribute band: love bone, love dart, love gun, love hammer, love muscle, love pump, love rod, love staff, lovesteak, love stick, love torpedo, love truncheon and love warrior  (Not mention corporal love, which fleshy non-com ‘stands to attention’). If one has one genital than one must have its opposite number. Here it is: the love box, love canal, love crack, love flesh, love glove, love hole, love lane (and thus take a turn on Love Lane or on Mount Pleasant, to have sex), lovelips, love’s cabinet, love seat and the love shack which can equally efficiently multitask as the place a man keeps for seductions and as an object of sexual desire (who can also, lord help them, be a love muffin) and conquest. The fountain or treasury of love work too.

 

Nor are we done with the licentious list: love apples, grenades and spuds are testicles; the love button is the clitoris, love rug the female pubic hair, love custard and love juice semen, and the love envelope, a condom. Love handles (the idea being that one can hold on to them during sex) represent the excess flesh around a portly stomach that may be seen in a kinder light by those who appreciate the Rubensesque figure. There is the love bug, which in this context stands for VD rather than VW, as in Hollywood’s twee Herbie. And, how could we forget, the love machine is a what an older synonymy termed the ‘town bull.’

 

Love’s lexis is not all sexual. There are always the drugs: a love affair (punning on slang’s nicknames) is a speedball, i.e. a mixture of heroin (‘boy’) and cocaine (‘girl’). The love drug, plain and simple, is MDMA or Ecstasy, love weed marijuana and pure love LSD. Love curls represented a hairstyle in which the hair is cut short and worn low over the forehead, love-pot a drunkard. Perhaps slang’s take is best summed up in love letter, an American usage of the 1940s defined either as a bullet or as some form of hard projectile thrown at a human target. And for the love of Mike! (who can also be Heaven! holy Buddha! Jupiter! Michael Angelo! Moses! Pete (and Alf)! Peter the hermit! and Polly Simpkins!) is an exclamation of exasperation or surprise.

 

One can expand the search, but can one render the definitions more affectionate? No. Love and kisses, rhyming on ‘the missus’ at least suggests a tinge of harmony, but love and marriage, as ordained by a number of crooners, is merely a carriage, while other rhymes offer love and hate (weight), God-love-her (one’s mother) and light of love (a prison governor), and never forget that this last, un-rhymed, means a whore.

 

Last chance: definitions containing ‘love’. Excluding those that include ‘affair’. Slang resists moderation and passion, even obsession are the rule. Not much improvement here. Do one’s balls on, busted on, collared on, dead set on, daffy, dotty, doughy, drop one’s ovaries (a gay term as it happens, at least in South Africa), fall for, have it for, hung up on, gone a million, nuts on, potty about, snowed over, soft on, spoons on, stuck on, go turtles on (‘turtle dove’ = love) and wrapped. Is it me, or do other also fail to hear much in the way of hearts and flowers? Half of them, after all, are synonyms for ‘mad’. As for sugar on and sweet on, it is not merely my diabetes that shudders.

 

I give up. Slang and love use single beds, or draw a line with what used to be known as the Dutch wife, i.e. a bolster (though modern use has redefined the compound as a blow-up ‘love doll’). I gave up the musical too. Let it not be said, however, that my creative fantasies are at an end. I see…the hard-boiled slang lexicographer. ‘They call me Lex, lady, Lex Argot. Argot’s the name — etymology’s my game’. No guns, just a vast and heavy book. And maybe the cute and of course a sassy lesbian mixed-race sidekick, who speaks only in Multi-ethnic London English. Or rhyming slang. ‘There are 130,000 words in the naked dictionary: this has not really been one of them.’

 

January 2018 Update & Hero of Slang 7: Edward Bradley

Welcome to the fifth and latest update to the online version of Green’s Dictionary of Slang, the first to appear in what is now the second year of the  dictionary’s life as a website.

 

As ever, some statistics: research over the last three months has added 294 new slang terms, 376 entries have been predated as to their currently recorded ‘first use’ and nearly 3,300 citations – including ante-dates, inter-dates and post-dates to reflect the continuing use of many terms –  have been uploaded. The database currently offers 54,791 headwords (within which are nested over 133,000 discrete words and phrases, underpinned by a total of 630,000 citations). All of this new material can be seen by subscribers; the changes that are reflected by the predates  are also shown in alterations in the approximate dating used in the absence of citations: for instance ‘late 19C’ to ‘early 19C’, ‘1980s+’ back to ‘1940s+’, and so on. But as ever, for those who want or need to access the detailed heart of the data, we have to recommend a subscription.

 

For an overview, in chronological order, all users of the dictionary can go here. This uses the same software as the Timelines of Slang. As usual the research has focused largely on newspaper databases, notably that held by the British Library, the US Library of Congress and, for Australia, Trove. These, by their nature, tend to look backwards in time, but there is also an on-going accretion of up-to-date slang.

 

New terms are marked in red, ante-dates in blue. The format has been improved: entries now link to the specific part of an entry, its sense and where pertinent its homonym number. Unfortunately the software does not permit click-through access (this is in development) , but users will be able to see which part of an entry has improved.

 

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Given the lack of focus on a single area of slang over the past quarter, I offer in place of my usual disquisition, Hero of Slang 7 (slightly augmented from the original version as published on line by the Dabbler in 2011). In this case the star is the Reverend Edward Bradley, best-known by his literary pseudonym ‘Cuthbert Bede’.

 

bede

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