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A Dictionary of Rhyming Slang

by John Ayto

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Book Review

Highly readable and lively, The Oxford Dictionary of Rhyming Slang is the ultimate guide to this perennially captivating subject. This new volume charts the 150-year history of rhyming slang from its origins in 19th century cockney rhyming slang to modern popney rhyming slang. Unlike other dictionaries of its kind, The Oxford Dictionary of Rhyming Slang is organized thematically, with slang words gathered under headings such as "food and drink", "sex", "clothing", and "illness". Illustrating how rich and entertaining a language form it is, author John Ayto provides extensive examples and explores the range and development of rhyming slang throughout its history. From "silver spoon" (moon) to "alligator" (later) and "Jack and Jill" (hill), this reference is an authoritative and up-to-date guide to this colorful corner of language. Dr John Ayto is an experienced lexicographer and author of several language titles. He is particularly brilliant though when he gets into the euphemistic territory of body parts and functions. If you call someone a "berk" or "burk" and think that's quite mild just remember it derives from a rhyme with Berkley or Berkshire hunt. Whores have variously been called "boat and oar", "bolt the door" (graphically reduced to "old bolts"), "Doug McClure", "Roger Moore", "sloop of war" and "two by four". And ask yourself what "raspberry ripple" and "Christmas crackers" might rhyme with. For word lovers The Oxford Dictionary of Rhyming Slang is an enlightening browse with lots of historical titbits.

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