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Dewdroppers, Waldos & Slackers
     

Dewdroppers, Waldos & Slackers

by Rosemarie Ostler
 

Ever encountered a blatherskite? How about a darb? When was the last time you got the straight skinny at a rap session or told someone to keep on truckin'? How many once-popular American words aren't you using these days? Quite a few, if you're like most people.
Thousands of words and expressions entered American English between 1900 and 1999. Every era from

Overview

Ever encountered a blatherskite? How about a darb? When was the last time you got the straight skinny at a rap session or told someone to keep on truckin'? How many once-popular American words aren't you using these days? Quite a few, if you're like most people.
Thousands of words and expressions entered American English between 1900 and 1999. Every era from the "Roaring Twenties" to the "Me Decade" brought its own fads and trends and the language to go with them: fresh youth slang, up-to-the-minute buzzwords, and colorful catch phrases. Most of this new vocabulary exploded into the vernacular, only to fizzle a few years later as trendier trends and more current events demanded new terminology.
Giving yesterday's words another chance to sparkle before they retire to the archives for good, Dewdroppers, Waldos, and Slackers focuses on language that still resonates with the mood of its times. These are words that most Americans would once have recognized, if not actually used. Nothing says Sixties like groovy, even though this resilient piece of slang was heard as early as the 1940s, lingered into the 1970s, and amazingly, is making a twenty-first century comeback.
A nostalgic word trip through the highs and lows of American English from the last century, this book pays special attention to words that enjoyed a brief vogue only to end up abandoned and nearly forgotten: one-reelers, bulls, jet jockeys, keypunch operators, the bugged-out and the slackers. They all have a place in this book in engaging essays—arranged by decade—that put these words in their historical and sociological context. The twentieth century is over, but we can still appreciate the words we left behind.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Well documented and entertaining, this book...will appeal to all aficionados of language."—Choice

"Ostler's work is fun for browsing; it offers a unique presentation of recent cultural history."—Library Journal

"Ostler's inspired idea was to track the popular speech of the 20th century — slang, colloquial terms, occupational lingo and notable buzzwords — by the decade in which it was popular. Much more than just a glossary, this book is a fascinating peek into some long-forgotten corners of American culture."—Columbus Dispatch

"For Gram, Pops, Mom, Dad or any other loved one with a vintage vocab. There are tons of words in this book we all used to say, and thought we were pretty cool while doing it. So, to prevent the embarrassment of improper slang usage, fo-shizzle, buy this and gift it like crazy."—Boston Herald

"Worthwhile.... Engaging. A nice light accurate skimming of the vocabulary of particular eras of the twentieth century." —Allan Metcalf, secretary of the American Dialect Society and author of America in So Many Words

Library Journal
As the title indicates, this reference work is not simply a slang dictionary. Along with definitions, linguist and librarian Ostler includes in each decade's chapter both brief discussions of relevant cultural topics and a few photos. These short, often humorous essays are a way to provide examples for the terms defined. For example, Ostler's introductory essay for the 1980s includes a paragraph summarizing the "teddy bear pats" and "killers bees," characterizing the decade's numerous corporate takeovers, as well as describing the Valspeak (Valley Girl talk) that became widespread. More discussion and word lists for each of these themes appear later in the chapter. Definitions of terms are usually brief but overall reliable. Sources for the definitions are provided in two sections: a bibliography of general resources as well as separate lists of sources for each chapter. These citations are not for definitions of specific terms, but the lists do include a wealth of intriguing information. The multiple word lists in each chapter create a need for quick cross referencing beyond the index. Similarly, the decade-by-decade presentation seems artificial when slang terms are forced into a decade, e.g., slang from the Vietnam War or computer-related terms. Paul Dickson's recent Slang: The Authoritative Topic-by-Topic Dictionary of American Lingoes from All Walks of Life is heftier and more accessible, since terms are organized by topic, e.g., war. Nevertheless, Ostler's work is fun for browsing; it offers a unique presentation of recent cultural history and should find a place in larger language collections in academic and public libraries.-Marianne Orme, Des Plaines P.L., IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195161465
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
11/28/2003
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
9.40(w) x 6.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Rosemarie Ostler, a linguist and librarian, has written on this topic for The Saturday Evening Post, and her work has also appeared in The Futurist, Oregon Quarterly, Whole Earth, and Writers' Journal.

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