Quirky Berkeley lexicography

In the NYT yesterday, a piece “A Step-by-Step Guide to Berkeley’s Many Quirks” by Malia Wollan, beginning:

Tom Dalzell looks too strait-laced to be the arbiter of the eccentric.

Nonetheless, almost two years ago, Mr. Dalzell, 63, set out in his khakis and comfortable shoes to walk every street, alleyway and path and document this city’s material oddities on a website he calls Quirky Berkeley. “There is a tremendous diversity of thought here,” Mr. Dalzell said. “And one of the ways we express our lack of conformity is with the quirky things we put on our houses and in our yards.”

Ah, the name Tom Dalzell, familiar to me from a very different context.

Mr. Dalzell moved to Berkeley 30 years ago, after a stint working for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. He manages a labor union of gas and electric utility workers by day and moonlights as an author of slang dictionaries and a collector of idiosyncrasies.

In fact, Dalzell parlayed an enthusiasm for words into a lexicographic career.

More on Quirky Berkeley:

The rules are simple: no seasonal decorations, and all quirk must be viewable from the street.

So far, Mr. Dalzell has walked nearly 150 miles and shot some 9,000 photos of rogue garden gnomes who moon passers-by; a four-foot-wide peace sign outside a house long occupied by Wavy Gravy of Woodstock fame and his Hog Farm commune compatriots; dozens of colorful hard hats hanging from a front yard tree; a massive wolf sculpture made from old car parts; a menagerie of animal-shaped mailboxes; a giant metal orange that once served as a roadside refreshment stand but now sits in a wooded side yard; and a variety of wildly painted houses and sculptures.

Dalzell on this blog:

9/23/09: Lifting shirts
The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, vol. 2 (Dalzell and Victor, 2006) follows OED2 in marking the word [shirtlifter] as Australian, dated 1966

1/1/11: Genital junk
[from Ben Zimmer:] something about the sound and sense of the word must have made it ripe for reinvention. Tom Dalzell, whose latest book is “Damn the Man!: Slang of the Oppressed in America,” sees junk catching on euphemistically

1/3/11: Metaphorical circle jerks
There are a lot of different directions here, and I wasn’t sure which one(s) Engelmann intended, but Tom Dalzell pointed out on ADS-L that HDAS (the Historical Dictionary of American Slang) has circle jerk ‘mess’ since 1973, and the compound seemed to him to be fairly common in that sense.

6/7/11: Package deal
[quoting Ben Zimmer on ADS-L:] In my On Language column on genital “junk” in January, I quoted Arnold Zwicky and Tom Dalzell on the useful vagueness of “junk” and such related euphemisms as “down there,” “unit,” “thing,” and “stuff”. Lettermanian “deal” fits well into that category.

6/8/13: Crowdsourced lexicography
[quoting from the NYT:] The idea that consensus rules has its skeptics. Tom Dalzell, senior editor of The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, is a fan of Urban Dictionary, but he argues that the site has obvious limits.

Over the years, Dalzell has published (alone or with various collaborators) a number of word-enthusiast collections on popular topics: The Slang of Sin (1999), Sex Slang (2007), Vice Slang (2007), Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang (2010), Damn the Man!: Slang of the Oppressed in America (2010), The Slang of Poker (2012), Vietnam War Slang (2014).

2 Responses to “Quirky Berkeley lexicography”

  1. Tim Pierce Says:

    It seems tragic to have missed the opportunity to call the project “Quirkily Berkeley” .

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