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.