Green’s Dictionary of Slang News

GDoS Update #21 1 October-31 December 2021

Welcome to the 21st appearance of the three-monthly upgrades of the on line version of Green’s Dictionary of Slang. A mixture of Covid and crashes have meant that the previous couple of updates have lacked their attendant, explanatory blog. My apologies. Things have slightly improved. Covid undoubtedly persists (I recently found myself using the phrase ‘mask discipline’), but thanks to the indefatigable Jesse Sheidlower, crashes have been avoided this time. herewith the usual explanatory bare bones and stats.

Fortunately working from home and extracting one’s information from digital sources is no novelty for the lone slang collector. Things have barely changed. The database has now reached some 54,150 headwords, many of which contain nested content, whether as derivatives, compounds, phrases or exclamations. In total the last three months has increased the total of available citations by 4867 (pertaining to material in 3440 headwords). The database has amassed just under 610,000 citations since the project began. I have also tried to restore some of the geographical spread that was originally researched some time ago, but had, for reasons of space, to be excluded from the print edition in 2010. That, unsurprisingly, remains an on-going project and a number of the cites gathered since 2010 have been added for that very purpose.

As ever the update offers a mix of new terms, whether from the past or as near present as research can achieve, and a number of predates of existing terms, each one gnawing yet further at that most desirable of bones, the first recorded use. Given the irreversible demise of the original, Timeglider software, I suggest that those who wish for an instant overview of what the last 90 days’ research has garnered in terms of these categories or should a pair of Excel files, which I have made available via Dropbox and which can be found here and here. They offer new slang terms and predates of existing material. The Timelines of Slang, however, remain available here.

Among the new terms are pitch the baby card v. for a cheat to encourage a victim by betting and deliberately losing; arm-hooker n. a (female) companion, whose arm is hooked through ones own, coke nail, n. the nail of a single finger that is allowed to grow disproportionately long and which can thus be used to scoop up cocaine for inhalation; good on the flute adj. loquacious; soften one’s cough v. to render someone susceptible to confessing; gruesome Gertie, the electric chair used for executions in the Louisiana State penitentiary, Angola from 1941-91; husband beater n. a long-handled parasol; jaba juntz n. a non-specific object, ‘stuff’; lick-wimble n. a heavy drinker; the Tea-pot or the Morning Slop-Basin, London’s right-wing Morning Post newspaper and the self-justificatory male phrase I can only piss with the cock I’ve got.

Predates of existing entries, working as ever on lexicography’s primary rule: ‘It’s Always older Than We Think’ run to 226. These run from out-and-outer, in the sense of a particularly gross lie, an example of which was hitherto glossarial only and listed in 1984 which has now been recorded in 1831, to various one-year alterations, such as fine as wine, first-rate, very attractive (now 1984), clucky, pregnant (1936) and smartmouth, cheeky(1979). More substantial changes can be be found with ass-whipping, a thrashing, back 142 years to 1823, stumer, in the racing sense of a horse that for corrupt betting purposes will not be allowed to win, back 77 to 1873, and an attributive use of chaw-bacon, meaning rustic, back 46 to 1832.

For this update new material, which as ever means terms that are new to the database (and which thus may date from any point during the more than half-millennium that has been researched) has added 460 entries. Among new sources are the near-entire contents of Cornelius Crowe’s Australian Slang Dictionary (Sydney 1895, 1155 terms), a follow-up to the Sydney Slang Dictionary (1882, see update #20) and between them the first attempts at antipodean slang lexicography since the lexicon published alongside James Hardy Vaux’s Memoirs of 1812/1819. Other titles include a pair of scabrous early 19th century newspapers: The Age (1835-45) and The Satirist, or Censor of the Times (1831-49). The former is perhaps best-known for its editor Charles Molloy Westmacott (1788-1868) who as ‘Bernard Blackmantle’ wrote one of many successors-cum-plagiarisms of Pierce Egan’s best-seller Life in London: The English Spy (1825). Westmacott’s paper sold well enough but its aim was blackmail and the possibilities for extortion that might spin off. He earned a highly negative portrait as the unprincipled gossip-monger ‘Sneak’ in Edward Bulwer’s England and the English (1874), and was ranked as ‘the principal blackmailing editor of his day’.

The qualifier ‘principal’ should be noted. The Age was hardly alone. Its rival and sometimes contemporary (it marginally outlived its predecessor: both fell victim to the growing moralising of ‘Victorian’ sanctimony) was Barnard Gregory’s The Satirist, with its high-sounding but wholly inapplicable subtitle ‘The Censor of the Times’. Again Gregory was a journalist who kept one hand for writing while extending the other to take bribes whereby that same writing might be suppressed. He faced the courts charged with libel and eventually served prison time. More slangy than the Age, the Satirist is a great source of what would then have been new slang. Among the terms – whether brand-new or predates – it brings to GDoS are burke, originally to rob graves, here to suppress cover up or stifle’ by cheeses! a token euphemism for Jesus, cockchafer, a woman, occasionally a man, who permits or encourages a good deal of sexual intimacy but stops short of intercourse, high and dry, one who belongs to the Anglican congregation of the Church of England (rather than an evangelical, known as a low and slow), jiggle, to have sexual intercourse and old cockalorum, sexual intercourse itself, lush room, an inn or tavern (from lush, alcohol or to drink), mud-plunger, a heavy boot for country walking, pancake, a sucker (playing on the synonymous flat), securer, a specially made dice box that facilitates cheating, toppy, drunk and lick-wimble, i.e. ‘lick-corkscrew’, a heavy drinker

As he did in the previous update, Jim Gibbons has sent in many examples of both new terms and predates of existing ones. After eviscerating the pulp fiction version of the French Foreign legion last time, he has now been through a substantial proportion of the works of Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014, an African-American author whose titles would now be grouped under the rubric of ‘Young Adult’. GDoS now offers some 460 slang terms from 34 of Myers’ books. More than 30% of these represents what are currently first recorded uses. Among them: for air, for free, bad boy, something impressive or alluring, beast, an expert, break someone’s face, to hurt someone’s feelings, calendar space, prison time, up in someone’s face, arguing, confronting, jive up, to make a mess, to ruin, perped down, looking ,ike a gangster, put (something) on, to allot responsibility, ringy-dingy, a phonecall, sticker, one who helps a heroin addict find a vein in which to inject, and do the thing, to defeat comprehensively.