Slang books

On The Browser site (Writing Worth Reading), a recent interview with lexicographer Jonathon Green (compiler of Green’s Dictionary of Slang, 2010) on slang. After initial remarks —

I see slang as the counter-language. At its heart it’s down, it’s dirty, it’s grubby, it’s tart, it’s essentially subversive. … [it’s] rough, truthful language.

Green recommends five very different books on slang:

A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words (1859), by John Camden Hotten

Slang To-day and Yesterday (1933), by Eric Partridge

A History of Cant and Slang Dictionaries (4 vols., 2004-2010), by Julie Coleman

The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood [in Baltimore], by David Simon and Edward Burns (1998)

The F-Word (1st ed. 1995; 2nd 1999, 3rd 2009), by Jesse Sheidlower

For current comprehensive scholarly slang dictionaries of English, I’d recommend the new Green dictionary, which is international in scope, and Jon Lighter’s more restricted but more extensive Historical Dictionary of American Slang (in four volumes, two already published as the Random House Dictionary of American Slang; the project is now under the aegis of Oxford Univ. Press).


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