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A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English

by Eric Partridge

ISBN 0025949802 / 9780025949805 / 0-02-594980-2
Publisher McMillan Publishing Company
Language English
Edition Hardcover
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Book summary

Wordslinger Eric Partridge intended his dictionary to be a "humble companion" to the Oxford English Dictionary--a ribald companion is more like it! In Partridge's domain, a gentleman's pleasure-garden has little to do with the horticultural, referring as it does to the genitalia muliebria. On the other hand, play pussy is a Royal Air Force term meaning "to take advantage of cloud cover," and since the 1970s British forces have called intelligence operatives secret squirrels. And so it goes.

There is enough slang, cant ("i.e., language of the underworld"), and expletives here for all takers--there's low, Cockney rhyming, "picturesque Australian similes," society phrases, and even the semiproverbial. Dorothy Wordsworth, of all people, used a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse--a phrase "applied to a covert yet comprehensible hint, though often stupidity is implied."

Partridge also reveals low language's less larky side. His book can be a dark record of linguistic prejudice through the ages. Of course, in a slang dictionary, nothing is what it seems. Elevated means "drunk"; a deep-freezer is "a girl or woman of the prim or keep-off-me type"; and stage fright is late-20th-century rhyming slang for "a (glass of) light (ale)." Are you able to descry what the jocular Seduce my ancient footwear really means? If not, consider consulting Partridge's masterwork, as large as life and twice as natural. [via]