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.