Green’s Dictionary of Slang News

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Heroes of Slang 1: John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester

 ‘Rouse stately Tarse

And the lett thy Bollocks grind

Heave up, faire Arse,

And lett thy Cunt be kind

To th’ Deed.

Thrust Pintle with a force,

Spend till my Cunt overflow.’

‘ffuckadilla’s Song’ from Sodom (1684)



John Wilmot (1647-80), second earl of Rochester, was a member of the circle of fast-living wits and courtiers at the court of Charles II. Son of a Cavalier hero and a staunchly Puritan mother, and born some might have said fittingly on All Fools’ Day, he was educated as a typical contemporary aristocrat. Wadham College, Oxford, which he entered at the age of 12, preceded the Grand Tour, which in turn was followed by introduction at Court. Aged 18, after fighting sea battles against the Dutch, he abducted and married the heiress Elizabeth Malet. During one of his almost annual banishments from court, caused by a penchant for pushing the royal patience too far, he allegedly set up on Tower Hill as ‘Alexander Bendo,’ a self-styled ‘German astrologer’, offering gullible clients ‘rare secrets … for help, conservation, and augmentation of beauty.’


Rochester’s wit and erudition were paraded in his poetry, which has been cited by critics as setting him among the last of the Metaphysical poets and the first of the Augustans. He died young, and thus his output, in which he was happy to savage his own failings as acutely as those of others, was small, but it was varied and highly influential. Dryden, whose patron he briefly was, Swift and Pope were all influenced by him. For many people his subsequent reputation rests particularly on his lampoons, satires and erotic writings. He wrote, according to the Oxford Companion to English Literature, ‘more frankly about sex than anyone in English before the 20th century.’


The Heroes of Slang: A Short Introduction


In an attempt to add a third dimension to the lexicon (beyond, that is, the predictable team of ‘here’s a word or phrase’ and ‘here’s what it means’), GDoS is proposing a new series, lexico-biographies as it were: The Heroes of Slang. The bibliography behind this website is moving towards 10,000 sources; there is no chance, nor wish to cover them all (see here for a timeline of the most prolific). But the Heroes of Slang will be just that: a week-by-week go-round of those who have done most to bring slang into the limelight, whether creators, exploiters or collectors. The aim is to offer some back-story, some biography and a range of the slang that’s associated with their work. We can’t, again, look at everything — Irving Welsh, for instance, is cited for 1,400 terms — but these posts will show the flavour of each artist through the best of the slang they use.


The series will begin next week, with the ‘profane and lewd writings’ of Lord Rochester, a dissolute aristocrat and ‘one of the wittiest poets’ of the late 17th century who, to quote the Oxford Companion to English Literature, wrote ‘more frankly about sex than anyone in English before the 20th century.’ Slang’s version of lit. crit. is a little more focused: he offers some 200 early terms; and a good two-thirds of them referenced aspects of what in a very rare example of euphemism, he termed et-caetera


But first, a brief introduction.


January 2017 Update

We are pleased to announce the first of what will be regular three-monthly updates to Green’s Dictionary of Slang Online.

Since the launch in October 2016 on-going research has added 2,250 new citations, 351 antedatings of recorded use, and 371 new slang words and phrases.

New words include brinsy (1639), skin the fox (1683), lappy-gagger (1717), jamming cull (1739), dance a lunching-drum (1867), poison shover (1893), blood on the moon (1901), square Jane, no nonsense (1917), Anzac poker (1921), sneak disser (2012), S.L.I.M.E. (2014) and manaman (2016).

Notable antedates include in the days of Queen Dick (1652 from 1786), unruly member (1683 from 1734), Newgate knocker (1781 from 1843), go to it (1812 from 1956), shicer (1845 from 1936), pleased as a dog with two cocks (1859 from 1915), dornick (1900 from 1933), prat (1901 from 1940) and axle grease (1941 from 1981). Details are to be found in the database.

To take a look at what has been done as regards antedates and new material, we have created a timeline of the updates. New material is marked with a red star, antedates with a blue. Subscribers, who have access to the citations that underpin every entry and sense, will be able to see all these in the dictionary itself; other users will benefit in improved dating and of course the new words.

The research for GDoS includes material from all English-speaking countries, and covers over half a millennium of slang creation. The new research looks at both geographical and chronological developments. Thanks to the Trove database of Australian newspapers we have been able to look particularly at Australian material (some 277 additions or revisions), which work has been coupled to a specific project, in collaboration with Dr James Lambert of the National Institute of Education, Singapore, the ante-dating of material gathered in the 1940s by Australian lexicographer  Sidney J. Baker. Mr Baker offered no supporting proofs of his glossary; this has now been, where possible, provided.

New material has looked particularly at music, drawing on recent rap and grime lyrics. This is naturally a vast topic: it will continue. In addition, the continuing reading of on line databases, individual books and other print publications, current newspapers and social media, has naturally added slang at all stages of the lexis, in this particular selection going back to the 16th century.

In terms of functionality

  1. the advanced search now provides a count of results
  2. a quicker way through from bibliography entries to cites (users can click through from a given bibliography entry to find the relevant citations)
  3. as the first move towards creating a variety of ways which will allow non-subscribers to see what the full dictionary has to offer, a ‘Word of the Week’ will permit non-subscribers to see a full entry, with its supporting citations. Our first Word of the Week is the boys.

Mister Slang Podcast episode 3: Yiddish

Jonathon Green and Peter Curran discuss the origins of Yiddish, the language which originated in Germany and became the means of expression of Jewish America. Plus, Lenny Bruce is proclaimed a Hero of Slang.

Listen or download on SoundCloud


The Timelines of Slang: Marriage and Other Relationships

A new Timeline of Slang is now available, covering marriage, cuckoldry, affairs, and jealousy.

Mister Slang Podcast episode 2: Halloween Special

Jonathon Green and Peter Curran discuss slang with a supernatural twist in this special Halloween themed podcast. Plus, another historical character is inducted into the Heroes Of Slang pantheon.

Listen or download on SoundCloud


Election Special: Vote Early Vote Often

Party Boss

Nearly there. Two weeks left at time of writing and nowhere to go but down. Will that put an end to maunderings from across the pond? Probably not. Anyway, we Brits have plenty of local euro stuff to ponder over the ditch. We shall see.

Before slang there was quotations, Dictionaries of. Among them Last Words, the Royals, Sport, Cynics and Politics. Plenty of opinion there, plenty of bons mots and wit, but the problem with quotes is that ultimately they’re no more than a single opinion, however amusing. Not that far removed, too often not at all removed from the little texts we’ll be seeing in our Christmas crackers. Slang is something else, even if the citations that help define the headwords are rarely quotable. H.L. Mencken may have seen democracy as ‘the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard’ and we may laugh along with the old curmudgeon, but slang’s examples don’t work that way. What they do, so much more important, is paint the wider scene: the way that ‘we,’ in this case anglophone slang speakers, view a given topic. That said, slang doesn’t really do politics. Nor politicians. Not, at any rate, on the same level as those old favourites: sex, drugs and, at least figuratively, rock ’n’ roll. I won’t be offering any timelines soon. If we ask slang for its response, it’s simple: we are not impressed.


Mister Slang Podcast episode 1: Drink

In the first of a new series Jonathon Green and Peter Curran explore the disreputable backstreets of the English language. Today they look at the many slang terms for drink and drunkenness, and discuss the life of Nelson Algren, the first of Jonathon’s Heroes Of Slang.

Listen or download on Soundcloud


Welcome to GDoS Online

I saw that one enquiry only gave occasion to another, that book referred to book, that to search was not always to find, and to find was not always to be informed; and that thus to persue perfection, was, like the first inhabitants of Arcadia, to chace the sun, which, when they had reached the hill where he seemed to rest, was still beheld at the same distance from them.

— Johnson’s introduction to the Dictionary of the English Language (1755)

Today marks the launch of Green’s Dictionary of Slang Online, a digitized version of Green’s Dictionary of Slang, which originally appeared as a three-volume book in 2010. Everything that was in that book is available here, plus the fruits of over five more years of research. That book, however, was a beginning. Research continues and for the first time, the evolving database will be able to reflect the on-going additions and improvements that make it a unique resource.