New Timeline

September 3rd, 2014

Just added a new slang timeline to the selection. This time it’s Mental Instability:

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Timeslines Continued

September 6th, 2013

New Timelines for Sexual Intercourse added:

Intercourse pt 1: The Basics:
Intercourse pt 2: Oral etc:
Intercourse pt 3: Orgasm, Fluids, etc:

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August 18th, 2013

I am building a series of Timelines based on the database that underlies Green’s Dictionary of Slang.

These are the links to those currently available:


Pubs and Bars:

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Dollops of Mud and Demonic Poetry

July 29th, 2012

A talk given to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester as part of a Conference to celbrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the publication of A Clockwork Orange

The phrase queer as a clockwork orange, which means eccentric or bizarre, and can be applied sexually or otherwise, was sourced by Anthony Burgess to late World War II when, as a serving soldier, he heard it in the mess. I am quite willing to believe him: the phrase is cognate with similar slang similes such as queer as a coot, first ascribed to his acquaintance Julian McLaren Ross, queer as a three dollar bill, queer as duck soup, a coinage of the 1930s and oldest of all queer as Dick’s hatband, which seems as impenetrable a construct as Burgess’s borrowing and has been recorded in this sense since at least 1835 (meaning ‘below par, or ‘out of sorts’ it goes back a further half-century). As I say, I wish to believe, but…the problem is that we have no proof. Despite the resources of the Internet, and other than in scholarly articles that quote Burgess himself, the first recorded citation comes as late as 1977, in a glossary appended to a book designed to help policemen battle with the contemporary world.

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Cursing like a Bargee & Slinging the Bat

July 29th, 2012

A paper on ‘Rudyard Kipling and Slang’ delivered to the Rudyard Kipling Society in London on June 29 2012

Rudyard Kipling is not at first sight a particularly ‘slangy’ author. If, as many of us do, we come to him as children he seems positively disapproving. In the Just so Story ‘How the First Letter Was Written he (as Tegumai) admonishes Taffy (his daughter Josephine) for using ‘awful’ to mean ‘great’. ‘Taffy,’ said Tegumai, ‘how often have I told you not to use slang? “Awful” isn’t a pretty word.”.’ Whether or not an adjectival use of ‘awful’ still qualified as slang in 1902 is arguable, and whether Kipling was appeasing those who termed his work vulgar, no matter. The reality is that when one starts dissecting Kipling’s fiction one finds that slang plays a regular, important role. There are hundreds of slang words and phrases in the works, as well as a wide range of job-specific jargon, typically in his sea stories. He uses it for the most basic of reasons: to confer authenticity. He is not a coiner, but a recorder, and his slang lexis is that of the contemporary world, leavened, as in the conversations of the Soldiers Three, by the specifics of a given background.

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