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Slang and Euphemism (Signet Reference) [Mass Market Paperback]

Richard A. Spears
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 4.83
Price: 4.78 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Signet Book; 3 Revised edition (July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451203712
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451203717
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 10.7 x 3.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 407,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best slang dictionary I've found! 24 Sep 1998
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Mr. Spears does an excellent job researching and listing slang words and euphemisms. His sense of humor comes through in the definitions, but he takes his work seriously. I have purchased 4 copies of the book - one for myself, and 3 for friends who looked through it and had to have one. I keep a copy on my desk to crack open when I need a laugh. If you like language and slang you will love this book!
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By Erastes
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
A fantastic book of slang and euphenism, I use it daily. The only niggle I'll have is that it's sometimes a little too USA founded. It not only gives alternative words for terms - most of them dirty - but gives the etymological dates of such terms too. An essential for authors of historical ficton.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
70 of 80 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars might not be what you'd expect 21 Dec 2000
By I. Gimlet - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best slang dictionary I've found! 24 Sep 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Mr. Spears does an excellent job researching and listing slang words and euphemisms. His sense of humor comes through in the definitions, but he takes his work seriously. I have purchased 4 copies of the book - one for myself, and 3 for friends who looked through it and had to have one. I keep a copy on my desk to crack open when I need a laugh. If you like language and slang you will love this book!
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for Historical Writers 28 Nov 1999
By Sabrina Jeffries - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Not only does this dictionary provide a comprehensive look at slang, it also gives dates of use and a helpful synonym cross-reference, so that if you're looking for a term appropriate to a period, you can find it. I couldn't work without it.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful and amusing 9 Aug 2001
By F. G. Hamer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book is invaluable as a reference if you want to understand other people�s slang. True, its content centers round sexual slang, but then that�s true of slang itself. For sure, most words you will hear �on the street� are contained in this little gem, though sometimes they�re difficult to find. The origins can sometimes be interesting, as can the dates of origin of many phrases. I particularly liked the phrase �to rattle your dags�, meaning to move very quickly. This originated in Australia, dags being the dried excrement that collects on the wool at the rear of a sheep. Apparently it can make a noise when the creature walks.
I agree with what one of the other reviewers says. Because this is the abridged edition, some of the cross-references don�t cross-reference (hence the deduction of one star). However, for writers looking for the unusual, Slang and Euphemism is a great source if information. Unfortunately, you might find yourself including something in your dialog that nobody else understands. �Ah, the guy�s a gonif.� - �No way. He might be a bit ishkimmisk, but no way a slommocks.� - �Get out a here, he�s a real gollumpus.�
It probably pays to maintain a good sense of humor when delving into Slang and Euphemism. Taking it too seriously will do your head in. On the other hand, if your partner asks you if you feel like a little light culbutizing exercise, you�ll know how to respond!
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not to impressed. 6 Oct 2003
By "flherbes" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I personally picked up this book for oaths, curses, and insults. Something to liven up some of my less polite fictional characters, you know? But after purchasing this book, I'm not to happy. It contains mostly "Sexual slangs and metaphors," a few drug terms, but nothing that really fit my needs. But if that is what you're needing the book's alright, I guess
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