Thursday, December 31, 2009

More joys of dictionaries of slang

The arguments justifying dictionaries are almost as entertaining as the dictionaries themselves.
The first is from the introduction to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

We need not descant on the dangerous impressions that are made on the female mind , by the remarks that fall incidentally from the lips of the brothers or servants of family; and we have before observed that improper topics can with our assistance be discussed, even before ladies, without raising a blush on the cheek of modesty. It is impossible that a female should understand the meaning of ‘twiddle diddles’ or rise from the table at the mention of ‘Buckinger’s boot’.

Unless of course she got fed up with her smarmy bothers, stole their book and looked up the words they were using. Then she might wonder why they were discussing such things in her presence. But I suspect the intro is not meant to be taken entirely seriously.

On the other hand: The first English Dictionary, Cawdrey’s: A Table Alphabeticall of Hard Words published in1604 contained no more than 3,000 words and spelt words two ways on the title page. It was published:

For the benefit and help of ladies, gentlewomen or any other unskilled persons. Whereby they may more easilie and better understand many hard English wordes, such as they shall heare or read in the scriptures, Sermons or elsewhere and also be made to use the same aptly themselues.

According to Simon Winchester “…fantastic linguistic creations like abequitate, bulbulcitate and sullevation appeared in these books alongside Archgrammarian, …there were words like necessitude, commotrix, and Parentate…”
The latter apparently means to celebrate ones parent’s funeral.

However, none of my slang dictionaries have “To go round the Wrekin” or any variation on this phrase.

I am disappointed.


Unknown said...

I love dictionaries of anything - I think it's the freakish logicality... etymology is a particular favourite! Should we get our coats... ;)

Hope your 2010 is as good as mine is going to be ;)

Liam Guilar said...

The OED on cd rom.....worth every penny i saved for it...

Do you know (with apologies for the sexist boy)

Track any poet to a beginning
and in a dark room you discover
A little boy intent on sinning
with an etymological lover

(I don't know where this comes from.)

I hope your 2010 is a fine one. health for you and the family, the company of good friends and a steadily growing publication list....
But 2010! When i was at primary school we all thought we'd be having holidays on Mars in 2010,