Five Hundred Years of the Vulgar Tongue

Help is at hand for those who wish to ripen their prose or add spice to their reports! Greens Dictionary of Slang has launched its on-line version. Coming more than five years after Jonathon Green published the print edition of his exhaustive three-volume reference work, this is excellent news for lexicographers and those who love the English language. As Ben Zimmer, the language columnist for The Wall Street Journal, wrote in the New York Times Book Review at the time, “It is a never ending challenge to keep up with the latest developments in the world of slang, but that is the lexicographer’s lot. Green plans to put his dictionary online for continuous revision, which is indeed the direction that many major reference works (including the O.E.D.) are now taking. In the meantime, his monument to the inventiveness of speakers from Auckland to Oakland takes its place as the pièce de résistance of English slang studies. To put it plain, it’s copacetic.” The online dictionary is a digitized version of Green’s Dictionary of Slang, which originally appeared in 2010, with the addition of over five more years of research. The exploration continues, and for the first time the evolving database will be able to reflect the on-going additions and improvements that make it a unique resource. As Johnson’s 1755 introduction to the Dictionary of the English Language puts it: “I saw that one enquiry only gave occasion to another, that book referred to book, that to search was not always to find, and to find was not always to be informed; and that thus to persue perfection, was, like the first inhabitants of Arcadia, to chace the sun, which, when they had reached the hill where he seemed to rest, was still beheld at the same distance from them.”