Finding the Write #Words? No. 36: The Slang Thesaurus

Continuing the description of books on words and the English language listed in the introductory post, which you’ll find here.

Book 36: The Slang Thesaurus

Hardback, 280 pages. Published in 1986 by Elm Tree Books/Hamish Hamilton Ltd, which is the edition I own. I can’t now recall what it cost me. The 1985 edition is still available as a paperback for £9.68 new, and £4.95 in a used version. There appears to be a newer version, published in hardback in 1992, and available as a used book for £1.78.

In common with a number of thesauri, this one is split into sections, as follows: Abstract Relations, Space, Matter, Animate Existence, Personality, Intellect, Communication, Volition, Emotion, Morality and Religion, Human Relations, People, and Specialist Jargons.

The index runs from page 149 and runs through to page 280.

If I open it at random, at pages 134/135, I find I’m looking at one of the ‘Specialist Jargons’ sections; Crime: Crime and Punishment.

Page 134 starts with a continuation of an entry from the previous page; ‘488. Search; Pursuit n. 1. raid: swoop;  2. search warrant: brief, ticket, W;  3. to stop and search: fan, frisk, jack up, pat (one) down, pull, rumble, turn over; spec. spin, – a drum (to search premises);  4. Spec. Go out poncing (UK: to search for working pimps); house (UK: to trace a suspect to a given place);  phr. 5. The heat’s on!’

This entry is followed by 489. Apprehension; Arrest, 490. Examination of Prisoners, 491. Sentence, which is a longish entry continuing on page 135, which continues with 492. Capital Punishment, 493. Commutation and Release, and 494. Prison Life, another long entry that goes on to finish the best part of page 136.

The slang words shown come from UK, USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Spain, and the West Indies, with a smattering from Yiddish.

As with all books dealing with slang, there’s an element of the ‘dated’ about it. Because much slang originates with youth speak, it is inevitable that some of it is recycled with lengthy gaps between periods of usage, and some simply disappears over time. I’ve used the book only occasionally, as I try to keep slang to the minimum, and to base it on what I’ve actually heard, where possible. But I suspect it would be a very useful resource for anyone wanting to write authentic dialogue from the recent past.

English is a complex language, made up of words from many countries, and borrows rules of grammar, punctuation and even style from the originating lands, which can make it interestingly familiar to learners but also frequently frustratingly baffling to the same students.

Those learning the English Language will find help on pronunciation here. And you’ll find a friendly group on Facebook through this link.

And, for those with a real interest in English and considering their future, here’s a link that suggests the many possible career opportunities open to those with a degree in the subject. It’s also a link to an online university, and therefore an advert for their services. I know nothing of the institution, but the list of possible career choices might be useful.

Earlier posts in the series can be found by clicking on the titles below.

2. A Dictionary of Misunderstood Misused Mispronounced Words.
3. A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English.
4. A Miscellany for Word Lovers.
6. A Dictionary of Rhyming Slang.
7. Brit-think, American-think.
8. Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors.
9. Collins English Dictionary.
10. Current English Usage.
11. Descriptionary; a Thematic Dictionary.
12. Divided by a Common Language.
13. Eats Shoots & Leaves.
14. English Prepositional Idioms.
15. Fowler’s Modern English Usage.
16. Hart’s Rules for Compositors and Readers.
17. Hartrampf’s Vocabulary Builder.
18. i before e (except after c).
19. Longman Companion to English Literature.
20. New Hart’s Rules.
21. New Nuttall Dictionary of English Synonyms and Antonyms.
22. Oxford Compact Thesaurus.
23. Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English.
24. Roget’s Thesaurus.
25. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.
26. The Dictionary of Diseased English.
27. The Elements of Style.
28. The Emotion Thesaurus.
29. The Grouchy Grammarian.
30. The Last Word.
31. The Little Red Writing Book.
32. The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors.
33. The Oxford Manual of Style.
34. The Oxford Spelling Dictionary.
35. The Penguin Rhyming Dictionary.

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