Green’s Dictionary of Slang News

GDoS Update #20 1 July-30 September 2021

Welcome to the 20th upgrade of this 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. This update marks the fifth anniversary of this on line version of the dictionary.

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. Since there are sufficient statistics below I shall skip the usual counts. Unfortunately the demise of the Timeglider software means that again and for the future the list of all these additions will no longer be available in their established blue for predate and red for neologism, but as 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. (A new timeline, on ‘happy’, is on-going).

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 436 entries. Among additions are the near-entire contents of Australia’s Sydney Slang Dictionary of 1882, the first such antipodean lexicon since that which accompanied James Hardy Vaux’s Memoirs of 1812/1819. Predates of existing entries, working as ever on lexicography’s primary rule: ‘It’s Always older Than We Think’ run to 287. The longest of these takes gravy n. (2), meaning alcohol, back from 2010 to 1870. Among the new words are gridiron and doughboys, the snuffle-grunting lay and the Collins Street twist.

While the range of material consulted is as wide as ever, I would like to express my particular (and somewhat belated) thanks to two individuals: Professor Andrew Carpenter of University College, Dublin and James Gibbons, of New York. Professor Carpenter very kindly responded positively to my suggestion that his collection of Verse in English from Eighteenth century Ireland might have missed a few of the more gross double-entendres. I was happy to plumb depths that he no doubt preferred to sidestep. His work (I have also looked at Verse in English from Tudor and Stuart Ireland (Cork 2003) and Verse Travesty in Restoration Ireland: Purgatorium Hibernicum and The Fingallian Travesty) has brought over 200 early examples to the database, including first uses of arselick (an act of sycophancy), buttered bun (a woman who has had intercourse with one man and is about to repeat this immediately with a new partner), nap (a dose of a venereal disease), snake (the penis) and sponge (the vagina). The excavation of such terms is of course all my responsibility.

Jim Gibbons has been working (for free) for the database for more than three years. A criminal prosecutor and later a criminal court judge for many years in New York City he volunteered himself as a researcher and has contributed many citations to GDoS. These tend to come from a variety of noir fiction and/or police procedurals. But not invariably: among this material has been examples of what can best be termed a niche: the world of the French Foreign Legion, the inspiration for a number of books from the 1910s till the present day. The most celebrated, of course, was Beau Geste, by P.C. Wren, which appeared in 1924 and was turned into the first of several movies a year later. There was, however, a great deal more. As he put it when submitting some 225 pages of citations:

On a lark, I ordered a few anglophone Legion memoirs (some credible, some embellished, some faked) and started reading.  One led to the next—by now I’ve read most of them.  Some bravura writing.  Much fell in the genre of WWI soldiers’ writings: not Beau Geste-ish at all. There was also schlock. And lots of slang!

Indeed. Some 500 terms are covered, and of these around 40% were a first recorded use.

The database has also benefited, as it does in every update, from the work of consulting editor James Lambert, former editor of the Macquarie Australian Slang Dictionary (2004). Among much else he contributed a substantial number of entries based on the bogan, Australia’s chav. in May 2019. This current update sees the fruits of his further researches: bogan n. the language of bogans, the bogan apocalypse n. a dystopian future in which bogans reign supreme, and the bogan-proof fence, a proposed large-scale fence to keep bogans from spreading throughout the land (jocularly modelled on the real-life rabbit-proof fence first established in 1897). It is very much hoped that his next contribution to the story of Australian slang, the role played by Cornelius Crowe’s Australian Slang Dictionary (1895), will be appearing here soon.