I decided to buy this book because I was working on a story and wanted something to help jumpstart dialogue. It was my first dictionary of slang. Although there are a few gems to be found in it, you really have to work hard to get at them.
In the first place, even when considering the subtitle, this book is not quite what it advertises. A better title might be "Transgressive Slang, or a Million and One Synonyms for the Genitals." I'd estimate that about 95% of the dictionary consists of slang for the male and female genitals, copulation, farting, being drunk, a catamite, homosexuals, marijuana, cocaine, feces, the anus, a despicable person, and, as Woody Allen once put it (more or less) "A man cut me off the other day. I got out of my car and told him to be fruitful and multiply, but in other words." Of these, the male and female genitals must account for at least 50% of the words defined.
I don't know about you, but it seems to me that much of the English language can be made, via context, a euphemism for the penis. Having so many listed is ample evidence of having maintained a healthy young sense of humor, but not exactly helpful or interesting.
I'm not a linguist, lexicographer, or philologist -- and Richard Spears has a PhD in linguistics -- so I don't pretend to understand the methodology which academics use to determine what to include and omit, but I still found some of the choices awfully strange and just unenlightening. For example, the first definition for "woman" is "a rude term for a woman." Of course it is possible to say "woman" insultingly, but what word can't be intoned in such a way as to indicate contempt? To be fair, "woman" is the only example of this particular category of definitions I've found, but Spears also includes several items in pig-latin. These selections are mostly synonyms for the words I listed above. Does pig-latin qualify as slang or euphemism? Well, if you say "up yours!" in it, it sure is an insult, argot too, but worthy of note?
Moreover, there really isn't much to find outside of transgressive or sexual/taboo terms. There are a few interesting selections of thieves' cant, but no contemporary mafia slang, say, nor current underworld slang, no anything from gang or prison argots. As far as I can tell, the selection of current African-American slang is limited to the entry "PHAT". Even "Yo" cannot be found, nor the current meaning for "tip", despite the fact that it fits the general category of meanings included. There is little American slang by region and the vast majority of entries do not include an American region of usage -- regional descriptions are done by country. There is no jargon from any field outside of soldiers, sailors and doctors. The catch phrases included are almost entirely from the list provided above. There is a lot of homosexual jargon for practitioners of particular sexual fetishes and the fetishes themselves are explained, but this is unusual. Most entries do not include explanations of the context in which the words were coined, etymologies that would, if included, have made for interesting reading. For example, Spears mentions that "three sheets to the wind" has a nautical origin and that "sheets" refer to lines in that jargon, but not why it became a euphemism for drunk.
I surmise that part of the reason for the limited categories of words on offer is that the paperback is abridged. But this creates problems too. I found several words cross-referenced whose definitions are not actually included.
I also think that using the book for the purpose of authenticating historical dialogue could be difficult. It is not ordered by date, but alphabetical. A fine choice in itself, but Spears does not tell you whether a term is "slang" at the time of origin or just a regular word that has fallen into disuse and become slang or what have you. For example, was "cantrip" slang in the 1700's? How about "carnality" in the 1400's? Was "cemetery" ever a euphemism? How about "chancre"? "Comedo"? Some words like these are included for reference reasons -- meaning that a cross-referenced list of slang synonyms appears under the entry. But not all the ones I've come across by a long shot and Spears' introduction does not explain how to understand the listings' historical sense.
So, fine, what slang is is difficult to define. But why not include the definition for the most widely used slang term of all, "cool"? ("Cool" appears as "to cool the heat of passion.") He includes "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" as a slang term for LSD. Have you ever heard anyone say "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" to refer to anything other than the song? True, it is well known that the song could mean LSD, but I, for one, have never heard the phrase outside of a reference to the song. Trust me, if you were a parent trying to figure out what your kids were telling you, you would be woefully underserved by "Slang and Euphemism."
I would give "Slang and Euphemism" three stars, because, after all, I don't know how it stands up in comparison to other dictionaries of slang, language is constantly in flux, it was obviously a tremendous effort to compile, it is probably near impossible to come up with a satisfying methodology for word selection, there are some gems, and included is an extensive bibliography you can use to find dictionaries more suited to your particular slang interest having discovered that you have one. However, nowhere on the cover is it announced that the book is an abridgement, which to me smacks of false advertising.