‘…Once a year he’d get the latest issue of Maledicta,a journal of scatological invective and insult, unashamedly incorrect, wilfully scurrilous, and pretty funny, and read me the highlights…’
Interview with Stanley Kubrick by screenwriter Michael Herr,published in Vanity Fair.
Maledicta : the International Journal of Verbal Aggression, edited since 1995 by the German-born chemical engineer-turned- philologist, Reinhold Aman, comes out of Santa Rosa, California. In the UK the nearest we have to it is the Profanisaurus section ofViz magazine, which has been edited for several years by the fictional TV presenter Roger Mellie ( ‘the man from the telly’). Both Viz and Maledictainvite readers to contribute scurrilous material, but while Mellie publishes scurrility usually made up by himself and his readers, Maledicta is a serious academic journal, despite the fact that in his frequent and furious attacks on the politically correct Aman is liable to describe prison authorities as ‘ sons-of-bitches ‘ and female opponents of free speech as ‘ militant lesbians ‘.
Maledicta occupies a unique position in the academic world as a place in which international bad language—graffiti, scatology, sexual and other popular jargon — is explored by academics and interested amateurs alike. For instance, in issue XII (1996) which we found at Jot HQ, one can find a disquisition on Domino Pizza jargon by an ex employee of the restaurant chain and a compendium entitled ‘Dutch Soldiers’ Latrinalia’ by a former Dutch soldier, alongside an analysis of medieval swear words by Dr Aman, a paper on the ‘ Lexical Categories of Homosexual Behaviour in Modern Burmese ‘ by the head of the Himalayan languages project at Leiden, and a language analysis of Yoruba EEbu by a Nigerian professor of English. Continue reading →
Found in the 1919 volume of the British literary miscellany Today is a fascinating disquisition on the American use of English by the journalist J.M.C. Hampson, himself an American Anglophile. He begins his piece with a fragment of American dialogue followed by its translation:
“ Well, Dana, how do you stack- up this morning? “
“ Oh, sickabed.”
“Is that so? What’s on your system?”
“Oh, had a row with the Vrow; and look at that.” He pointed to the calendar on the wall in front of him, on which appeared in bold figures “Friday, 23.”
“Good Lord! 23—-skiddoo! Ugh! No wonder. Well, so long, I must be on my way. See you later.”
This being translated into English means that I called in at the office of my friend Dana Howard, said “Good morning “ , asked him how he felt, was informed that everything was all wrong, and that the proper place for him was in bed, that he had started the morning by an argument with his wife, and that he had just realised that it was Friday the 23rd. Be it understood that to an American 23 is the zero mark, and when it crops up all one can say is “skidoo”, meaning “get out of here”, or “away with it “; and if Friday falls on the 23rd it is even worse than Friday the 13th.All good Americans of the cities, at any rate, walk very warily before the Lord that day and pray that nothing untoward will happen . “So long “ as a substitute for au revoir is, of course, frequently used in England. Continue reading →
Discovered in that garden of visual delights, The Saturday Book (1960 ) is this quite extraordinary advert concocted by a working man’s outfitter by the name of Harris sometime in the mid nineteenth century. The copy is almost entirely composed of contemporary slang and cant terms. Harris’s three shops were all in central London locations, which might suggest that some of the colloquialisms were Cockney rhyming slang, or at least slang that was restricted to the capital and its environs. A few of the terms have survived to this day ( ’ slap up ‘, is excellent, as in slap up meal; ‘no-go’, as in not accepted ; cords, for corduroys; ‘grabbed the chance’; ‘out and out ‘; ‘tick’ for credit; ‘crib’ for home; ‘swag’ for booty), while others have been lost for ever. Who the hell are Tea Kettle Purgers and Head Robbers? What was the Swan Stream and the ‘Melton Mowbray style ‘? Something to do with fox hunting, perhaps? Are ‘Trotter Cases’ shoes?
Some items of clothing advertised are self-explanatory ( moleskins, doeskins ),but others must be hunted down. I almost gave up on ‘broady’ until I found it online as meaning broadcloth. My reprinted Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence (1811) was slightly more useful. The word ‘Quid ‘, meaning a a sovereign, dates from around 1688; to a Regency buck, however, it was a guinea, as was a ‘canary’ ; a ‘bob’ was a shilling and a ‘kick’ was a sixpence, though pluralised it meant breeches or trousers, as did kicksies. But the Slang Dictionary made no mention of Mud Pipes, Box Cloths, Plushes, Pilots, and Upper Benjamins. Perhaps these were of Victorian or purely Cockney origin. [RR]
Found in an old Sunday Observer colour supplement from December 1967 this glossary of (then) very recent hippy and 'underground' slang, apparently known as 'Zowie.'In Britain 'Zowie' is mostly associated with David Bowie's son Zowie Bowie (born 1971) now known as Duncan Jones...For a comprehensive online dictionary of hippy slang check out Skip Stone's Hippy Glossary. Since the Summer of Love some of the words below have entered the language (groovy, happening, trip, vibrations, riff) and some like 'Zowie' itself and 'grey' have had very little currency. Slang authority Eric Partridge imported most of Peter Fryer's glossary into later editions of his Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English.
A TO Z OF 'ZOWIE'Peter Fryer offers a selective glossary of the Underground.
acid/LSD. Acid-head/one who uses LSD. be-in/hippy meeting. bread/money. bust/police search, raid. cool/unruffled, admirable (but see groovy); not carrying illegal drugs. crazy/admirable. dig/understand. Diggers/idealist hippies undermining capitalist economies by giving away free clothes, washing-machines to needy. drag/bore, dissapointment. drop-out/one who opts out of society. flip/arouse enthusiasm. F. one's wig/lose one's head. Flower Power/from Flower Children or Beautiful People. Revolutionary philosophy akin to ideas of Young Liberals, e.g. Make Love Not War. Characteristic: bell. freak/arouse or share collective enthusiasm (freak-out). fuzz/police. gig/single paid performance. grey/middle-aged, conventionally dressed/minded person (orig. US Negro term for a white). groove/make good progress, co-operate. groovy/admirable, sexually attractive. happening/spontaneous eruption of feeling/ display. hippy/product of Haight-Ashbury ('Hashbury') dist. of S. Francisco. Anarchic successors to Beat generation. Essential beliefs: protest, legalised drugs, opting out. Not to be confused with plastic hippies/mostly conventional youth who like to dress up at weekend. hung up/annoyed. love-in/gathering associated with groovy scene. mind-blowing/ecstasy producing. naturals/non-hip people. plug-in/turn or switch on. psychedelic/mind-expanding. Psychedelia/drugs, flashing lights, sound, colour, movies, dance – usually experienced simultaneously. riff/repeated background phrase in music. scene/Underground, or specific part of it. stoned/very high on cannabis. straight/conventional person, one who does not use cannabis. teeny-bopper/anything from 11–16–average age of record-buying public. think-in/poetry session, discussion group. trip/LSD experience. turned on/(1) accustomed to cannabis. (2) aware. UFO/(pronounced 'yoofo'). Unlimited Freak Out – a hippy club. vibrations/atmosphere; reactions, with sexual overtones. Zowie/a new import from San Francisco, meaning hippy language.
Found in the Haining collection - this article from 1936 on pickpockets. The author Louis Mansfield has much advice,most still relevant. The bit about a 'dip's' long, tapering fingers may be fanciful but certainly it is not a profession for one with fat fingers...
PEARSON'S WEEKLY, May 30, 1936
THIS IS DERBY WEEK, SO–
WATCH YOUR POCKETS!
Pickpockets will be busy among the crowds. It is their best time of the year. Louis C. S. Mansfield, detective and crime investigator, lets you into secrets of the "dip's" profession – and they have some good ones. You have been warned!
TAKE HIS ADVICE–
I have worked against pickpockets for years. Here's my advice to you if you want to return home with your notecase.
Be careful when you see men carrying, and not wearing, their overcoats, or holding newspapers which are open–not folded.
Grab your wallet quickly if a stranger starts brushing paint or dust off your coat.
If somebody hits you on the back and says "Sorry," look for a touch in front–because you won't feel it.
From a cult novel by old Etonian Robin Cook who later changed his name to Derek Raymond to avoid being confused with schlock novelist Robin 'Coma' Cook. As Raymond his books became very dark and gory but persisted with varieties of slang for which his first book The Crust on Its Uppers (1962) was known. A rich source book of slang, some unique, some well worn and some highly ephemeral. Here is a small selection:
Angst = trouble
Archbishop = Archbishop Laud = fraud
Baize, the = Bayswater Road
Binns= spectacles (dark binns- dark glasses)
Blag= a bluff, a tall story (Fr. 'blague?) Also as verb
Bubble=bubble-and-squeek= Greek (thus Archbubble= ArchGreek or Greek-in-chief)
Cat's-meat gaff= hospital
Charver= to have sex with
Deviator= a crook (devious= crooked; deviation= a crime)