Synopses & Reviews
Slang is language with its sleeves rolled up, colorful, pointed, brash, bristling with humor and sometimes with hostility. From "forty-rod whiskey" and "five-finger discount" to "bum rap," "buzz off," and "fly by night," slang words add zest to everyday speech. Now, in The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang
, John Simpson and John Ayto have gathered together a vibrant collection of over 5,000 slang terms, drawn from the vast Oxford English Dictionary
Each entry contains the headword, part of speech, and definition. The great majority also have at least one illustrative example of the term in context, often drawn from writers such as John Updike, Gore Vidal, Louise Erdrich, Jessica Mitford, and Thomas Pynchon. Many entries contain labels indicating the social group or discipline from which a word derives--such as Black English, theatrical, military, or nautical--as well as the region where it originated. In addition, when the term has had more than one meaning, the various senses are listed chronologically. The changes in meaning are often fascinating: "Slush fund," originally a navy expression, referred to money collected from the sale of "slush" (fat or grease obtained from boiling meat) and used to buy luxuries for the crew. "Snow bird" originally meant someone who joined or rejoined the Army in the winter for food and shelter. And both "to give someone the bird" and "to goose someone" were theatrical terms meaning "to boo a bad performance." The dating of terms also yields some surprises. "Out-of-sight," for instance, dates to 1896, "buzz off" to 1914, and "blind" (as in "blind drunk") first appeared in print in 1630. (On the other hand, the expression "gussied up," which seems old fashioned, first appeared in 1952). The etymologies are often interesting: the word "boondocks," for example, comes from the Tagalog word bundok (mountain), and those who use "poppy-cock" to avoid stronger language will be saddened to hear that it derives from Dutch dialect pappekak (soft excrement). Finally, the words have been gathered from all over the English-speaking world, including many from Australia--such as "ankle-biter" (child), "blue" (a redhead), "technicolor yawn" (vomiting)--and from the United Kingdom, such as "blimey" (a contraction of "God blind me") and "Thiefrow" (a nickname for London's Heathrow Airport, after its reputation for lax security).
Ranging from age-old (but still common) slang expressions such as "mamzer" (Hebrew, "bastard") which appeared in English usage as early as 1562, to recent coinages such as "wilding" (a gang of youths on a rampage) which first appeared in 1989, this is an authoritative and up-to-date record of slang throughout the English-speaking world.
Here are over 5,000 slang words and phrases common to 20th-century English, providing a comprehensive and highly engaging guide to the most outspoken corner of our language. Unlike most such dictionaries this volume is organized thematically. Within each section the words are listed chronologically, starting with the century's earliest words and phrases and progressing right through to the present day, thus illuminating the development of slang and colloquial language over the last hundred years. Word origins and other interesting features of usage are given wherever possible, as are illustrative quotations from a wide range of authors. A comprehensive A-Z index lists all words included in the dictionary, so you can find a particular word quickly. From five-finger discount to forty-rod whiskey, this is an authoritative and up-to-date record of slang throughout the English language.
About the Author
is co-editor of the Oxford English Dictionary
(Second Edition) and editor of the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs
. John Ayto
is author of the Longman Register of New Words
and the Glutton's Glossary
Table of Contents
A-Z Dictionary of Modern Slang