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The Dictionary of American Slang

by Robert L. Chapman

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Book Review

Dollars to doughnuts, your reference shelf lacks a good slang dictionary, and that's a fine how-de-do. Whether you're a stuffy writer looking to gussy up your prose, a poindexter who thinks studying dictionaries is the cat's pyjamas, or a muttonheaded fogy hoping to get a clue, Robert Chapman's Dictionary of American Slang fills the bill. Containing more than 19,000 terms of American slang, this lexicon represents all periods of American history, from phrases out of the 1880s, such as carrot-top for "redhead," to more recent '90s jargon such as carjacking. It covers the widely acceptable and the taboo, slang from cowboys and railroad workers and slang from rock & rollers, corporate America, and the gay community. It includes obsolete phrases such as canoeing for "making-out," and up-to-date terms relating to technology, such as listserv for "electronic mail list." Each item features pronunciation guides, word origins, and usage examples, and words that are derogatory or impolite are clearly labelled as such. A righteous reference and a lulu of a browser, the Dictionary of American Slang is an elegantly produced and scholarly rigorous linguistic knockout. Originally published in 1960, The Dictionary of American Slang is widely regarded as the standard in its field. This is the third edition, expanded and completely updated.

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