New Books in Language

Interviews with Scholars of Language about their New Books Support our show by becoming a premium member!


Jonathan Green, “Green’s Dictionary of Slang” (Hodder Education, 2010)

Over the last thirty years, Jonathon Green has established himself as a major figure in lexicography, specialising in English slang. During this time he has accumulated a database of over half a million citations for more than 100,000 words and phrases, and these are the basis for the vast, authoritative and widely acclaimed Green’s Dictionary of Slang (Hodder Education, 2010), winner of the Dartmouth Medal as the American Library Association’s ‘outstanding reference work of the year’.

Slang’s definition is itself perhaps elusive, but to Green it is ‘counter-language’, by analogy with ‘counter-culture’, and possesses the same vivid qualities: it is irreverent, subversive and fun. It is, however, also important for what it tells us about how people live, interact and think, and is worthy of serious study.

In this interview we do not attempt to summarise the A-Z of slang (nor even the C-F), but we do talk about slang’s relation to culture, the history of its lexicography, and the day-to-day work of its researchers. We talk about the benefits of the internet for this work, as well as the limitations of user-generated alternatives and the challenges they pose to the professional scholar. And inevitably, we bring together the themes of the Oxford English Dictionary, canonical literature and comic-book porn.

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 January 26, 2012  57m