Language: 500 Years of the Vulgar Tongue

Language 500

Exhilarating… Green is an elegant, caustic, knowledgeable writer, always lucid, never patronising, always entertaining.’

(Paula Byrne, The Times)

Odd Job Man: Some Confessions of a Slang Lexicographer


‘In his relentless campaign to drag slang out of the sewer and brothel, and into the drawing-room and academy, Green has no rival. He is the Dr Johnson of slang, its Putin, its Mr Toad, its Dickens.’

(Nicholas Shakespeare Sunday Telegraph)

Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Green’s Dictionary of Slang, which has been published in 2010 is the most thorough-going attempt at slang lexicography yet to appear. Written ‘on historical principles’ and aimed primarily at language specialists it shows how slang, from every English-speaking country, has developed over 500 years of its recorded history. Apart from the simple etymologies and definitions of the words and phrases it contains, its three volumes illustrate every term with several hundred thousands of usage examples, known as citations.

‘… It’s not hyperbolic to suggest that it’s the OED of slang’

(Michael Quinion, World Wide 2010-11-27)



Chambers Slang Dictionary

Chambers Slang Dictionary appeared in 2008. It was effectively the much revised and expanded third edition of a book that had first appeared a decade earlier as The Cassell Dictionary of Slang. Like Green’s Dictionary of Slang, it took in half a millennium’s worth of material, but unlike its successor offered no usage examples. Nonetheless its 87,500 entries attempted to offer the general reader as wide an overview of slang as was possible at the time.
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Chasing the Sun

Chasing the Sun is a history of lexicography, starting with the proto-Iraqi Akkadians of 3000 BCE, and moving on to the present day. It took its title from the comment by Dr Johnson, in the introduction to his great dictionary of 1755, in which he stated that any thought of ‘capturing’ a language was impossible. He compared it to those who, believing that the sun lived on top of a far-off mountain, climbed that mountain only to find that the sun had moved, to another peak. The process was infinite, just as is the ever-expanding language.
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Days in the Life

Days in the Life was an oral history of the counter-culture or ‘alternative society’ of the hippie Sixties as experienced in London. Some 110 of the period’s movers and shakers were interviewed, and their reminiscences, often at odds, and in many cases brought out for the very first time, provide a unique tapestry of the era. Published in 1988, the book was among the very first to address that world, too often set in the stone of simplistic fantasy and media stereotypes. It has become a recognized source-book for anyone dealing with the topic.
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Them, published in 1990, was a second oral history, in this case moving from the hippies to those, from a wide variety of countries, who had emigrated to the United Kingdom. Whether looking for a better life, or escaping persecution in the country of their birth, or simply paying a visit that has never ended, these were all first-generation immigrants. Their stories explained how the Britain of which they had only heard would turn out to be a very different place, whether far better, or for the unfortunate, far less rewarding.
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A Selection of Publications

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Language: Dictionaries and Related Publications

Newspeak: A Dictionary of Jargon (1983)
The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang (1984, 1992; 1995)
The Slang Thesaurus (1986, 1996)
The Dictionary of Jargon (1987)
Neologisms (1991)
Slang Down the Ages: the Historical Development of Slang (1993)
Words Apart: the Language of Prejudice (1996)
Cassell Dictionary of Slang (Cassell 1998, 2005)

Dictionaries of Quotations

Book of Rock Quotes 1 (1977)
Famous Last Words (1979, 1997)
Book of Sports Quotes (with Don Atyeo; 1979)
Don’t Quote Me: The Other Famous Last Words (1981)
Book of Political Quotes (1982)
Contemporary Dictionary of Quotations (1982, 1989, 1996)
Sweet Nothings: A Book of Love Quotes (1984)
Consuming Passions: A Book of Food Quotes (1985)
Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations (1994)
Cassell Dictionary of Insulting Quotations (1996)

Oral Histories:

It: Sex Since the Sixties (1993)

Miscellaneous Publications

The Encyclopedia of Censorship (1990 Facts on File, New York; revised 2005)
All Dressed Up: The Sixties and the Counterculture (Cape, 1998)
Cutting it Fine: Inside the Restaurant Business (with Andrew Parkinson Cape 2000)
Cannabis: A History (2002)

Downloadable pdfs

All these pieces were originally published in Critical Quarterly magazine

Diction Addiction
Vulgar Tongue
Mongrel Tongue
The Higher Plagiarism
Another Cantry
Rhyming slang
Sticks and Stones
Take your pixel
Romany Rise