The Cassell Dictionary of Slang by Jonathon Green - review by David Profumo

David Profumo

Fancy-Free Mongrel Shows the True Marmalade

The Cassell Dictionary of Slang


Cassell 1,312pp £25

'Strip me with the wrought end of a wallaby's dong!' Jonathon Green has done it again, his latest compilation being a 'rookery nook' nearly a million and a half words long; and although I'm no 'wajank' (Trinidadian for 'expert', thanks very much), I can assure you this essential tome is 'the true marmalade'.

But let me start with a quibble. In his Introduction, Green dubs slang 'a jackanapes lexicon of the dispossessed', which may sound snappy but is itself a touch exclusive. In stressing the streetwise qualities of his subject, defining it as young, urban, colloquial, rebellious, he himself 'gives the rough end of the pineapple' to the legitimate slang of certain other minorities - the armed forces, some schools and professions - on the grounds of parochialism (although they were good enough for his great predecessor, Eric Partridge). Here, Standard English is to slang as Lady is to Tramp. A fancy-free mongrel, the latter romps and growls and wears no licence disc; it comes on strong (sometimes successfully interbreeding) and bolts into the night. Or it could be a mudlark scoffing as the Establishment seeks to hoik its hem above the mire. Slang is lingo without a condom.

I hope you

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RLF - March