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The Life of Slang
     

The Life of Slang

by Julie Coleman
 

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Bloody was once a shocking word. It was used largely by the working classes and caused their betters to shudder with horror. But Bloody isn't slang anymore in Britain, though it is still a swear-word. Everyone knows it, and most people use it, particularly when they're trying not to be offensive.

In Life of Slang, Julie Coleman offers a fascinating portrait at an

Overview

Bloody was once a shocking word. It was used largely by the working classes and caused their betters to shudder with horror. But Bloody isn't slang anymore in Britain, though it is still a swear-word. Everyone knows it, and most people use it, particularly when they're trying not to be offensive.

In Life of Slang, Julie Coleman offers a fascinating portrait at an aspect of our language that is as slippery as it is lively—the ever-changing, protean world of slang. Ranging from Old English to the posts on Facebook and Twitter, Coleman shows why and how slang is used and how it has developed in English-speaking nations around the world. The records of court cases at London's Old Bailey and machine-searchable newspaper collections provide a wealth of new information about historical slang, while blogs and tweets provide us with a new perspective on contemporary slang. Coleman shows that slang can be quite difficult to pin down. Indeed, some words begin their life as slang, but then move on to the more dignified realm of standard English. Snide "insinuating, sneering" began as slang but is now considered standard use. Mortar-board "a hat worn at graduation" and tip "to give money in return for a service rendered" were both slang when they were first used. On the other hand, some words remain stubbornly slang. Pig has been slang for "police officers" since the beginning of the nineteenth century, and Buck "a dollar" has enjoyed slang status in the United States for a century and a half.

Vividly written and packed with fascinating observations on an ever-changing aspect of our language, Life of Slang will delight all word mavens and is guaranteed to teach you some new words that you shouldn't use in polite company.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The Life of Slang by Julie Coleman wears academic robes, but underneath it's only too willing to get down and dirty....enjoyable and succinct." —Robert McCrum, The Observer

"Completely fascinating... immensely enjoyable... Coleman's thinking lifts this book above the usual semi-disposable level of writing about rude words." —James McConnachie, The Sunday Times

"Coleman's book is an enjoyable, thorough look at the purposes and particulars of slang that should be required reading, especially for newcomers to the topic. This is a textbook textbook on slang." — ThinkMap Visual Thesaurus

Library Journal
What is slang and its "life cycle" of development? Taking the position that language is alive, the author aims to answer questions for general readers. We might easily recognize slang, but can we explain why we label certain language as such? Coleman (English language, Univ. of Leicester; The History of Cant and Slang Dictionaries) brings expertise to the subject, incorporating language quotes into her discussion (this is not a dictionary-style listing of phrases). With deep historical knowledge and a UK-centric perspective, Coleman surveys slang from the Middle Ages to the present and provides examples from around the English-speaking world. Need to distinguish among standard and colloquial language, jargon, and slang? Wonder why so much slang emerged from the military and schools? Coleman provides answers. Employing a chatty tone, she explains the role of the Oxford English Dictionary in etymology instead of assuming readers already understand such context. Still, the topic's depth, together with its supporting references, keep the work scholarly. VERDICT As a specialized source, this is recommended for serious language students.—Marianne Orme, Des Plaines P.L., IL

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199571994
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
03/24/2012
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Julie Coleman is Professor of English Language at the University of Leicester.

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