Slang (A Very Short Introduction) ★★★☆☆

slang (Custom)

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Title: Slang
Series: A Very Short Introduction
Author: Jonathon Green
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 135
Words: 40K



Slang, however one judges it, shows us at our most human. It is used widely and often, typically associated with the writers of noir fiction, teenagers, and rappers, but also found in the works of Shakespeare and Dickens. It has been recorded since at least 1500 AD, and today’s vocabulary, taken from every major English-speaking country, runs to over 125,000 slang words and phrases. This Very Short Introduction takes readers on a wide-ranging tour of this fascinating sub-set of the English language. It considers the meaning and origins of the word ‘slang’ itself, the ideas that a make a word ‘slang’, the long-running themes that run through slang, and the history of slang’s many dictionaries.

My Thoughts:

This book was totally bogus, esteemed dudes and dudettes. And if I was a stoner I could probably write this whole review in some sort of slang, but sadly, being somewhat educated and not a complete idiot, I choose to use proper grammar and form.

Green is a lexicographer. For those who don’t know what a lexicographer is, like me before I was enlightened with this book, it is, simply put, someone who puts dictionaries together. I must say, I have NEVER seen so many uses of the word lexicographer, lexi or lexis in a book before. Because of this fact, Green’s focus on Slang is more about documenting it rather than defining it. Nailing down when a slang word was first used is more important to him than anything.

While he does claim to not exactly define what Slang is, he sure does a lot of defining what it isn’t. Did you know that jargon is business oriented terms that only apply within certain fields? A lot of the terms in surveying, for instance, would be considered jargon. Then you have cant, which is what criminals use to baffle the police. Neither of these instances are slang though, so don’t even THINK about calling them that or Green will call you mean names.

I usually like to include a quote that stood out to me from these VSI books. So here is this one’s contribution to the cause:

If ‘slang’ embodies our innate rebelliousness (the undying, if not always expressed, desire to say ‘no’) then how can it not reject the strait-jacket. We are moving away from top-down diktats—in language as elsewhere. If we must define then I suggest that the words we term slang are seen simply as representatives of that subset of English spoken in the context of certain themes, by certain people, in certain circumstances.
` page 154

Talk about really nailing down specifics, eh? I noticed this passage because of the philosophical nature of it, the more so because I totally agree with the broken nature of man and his contrariness and saying “no” even when it can harm him.

Overall, this was a bit hard to get through, as Green used a lot of words, terms and ideas that are not readily known by the lay person. Just like previous VSI books, this was barely an introduction to the uninformed but an introduction by someone who doesn’t know how to communicate knowledge very well.


30 thoughts on “Slang (A Very Short Introduction) ★★★☆☆

  1. I still use Dude or the Afrikaans version of it (ou, which means old or old guy) a lot… Mainly when talking with my older brother, its kinda our thing… This does not sound like a kind of book I would ever be interested in picking up… Great review non the less DUDE 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m going to keep reading these VSI books but I can tell that a part of every review is going to be me complaining about these more being like lecture papers than an introductory book to a subject. sigh.


      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, I’d rather glean even a superficial knowledge of a subject with a book series in the hundreds than try to track down particular books on particular subjects.

          Me and non-fiction, well, I’m doing what I can to continue reading it…

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Well, can only say pretty much one thing about this: not for me, no matter in which slang I would type this comment😂😂 Brave of you to continue reading a book such as this though, especially considering what you said about it using a lot of unfamilair terms😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sadly, the whole series seems to be an “Introduction for those Already Familiar with All the Pertinent Terminologies”.
      It seems like they are afraid to write outside of the academic terms that they are familiar with and that all their academic buddies are familiar with. It really isn’t written for me and you.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Whoever has been tapped to write these VSI books seems to fall into that category. So far, none of the 3 or 4 I would qualify as a true introduction, not one tiny bit.

          I’m still learning stuff, but having to figure out what the egghead is actually trying to say? Kind of defeats the whole purpose for an “Introduction”



        1. I’m just annoyed because I chose this series because I thought I could actually learn a tidbit or two and so far all I seem to actually be doing is complaining every time I read one.


          Liked by 1 person

  3. I‘ve studied linguistics, a long time ago. And dialects/slangs were fascinating – only partly because of blurring morphology, different lexicon, but more due to different syntax and semantics. And they aren’t the languages of plebs and idiots but the most natural ones, whereas „high language“ is mostly artificial.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. If this author is unable to clearly and efficiently convey the subjects he writes about, I would say he’s failed in his mission. And on the specifics, it seems strange to me that – as you indicated – he would be interested in pinpointing the time of first usage of any given slang term rather that its origins, which to me would be much more interesting…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sadly, your first sentence applies to every single one of these VSI books so far. I’m still finding them somewhat interesting and I am learning a little bit, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped.

      Oh well 😦

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The little I’ve interacted with slang has made me think it is always regional, within an age group or within a group that is insular.

      Thank goodness the internet can expose people to a worldwide use of language…

      Liked by 1 person

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