Slang: The People's Poetry

Slang: The People's Poetry

by Michael Adams
     
 

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Slang, writes Michael Adams, is poetry on the down low, and sometimes lowdown poetry on the down low, but rarely, if ever, merely lowdown. It is the poetry of everyday speech, the people's poetry, and it deserves attention as language playing on the cusp of art. In Slang: The People's Poetry, Adams covers this perennially interesting subject in a serious but… See more details below

Overview

Slang, writes Michael Adams, is poetry on the down low, and sometimes lowdown poetry on the down low, but rarely, if ever, merely lowdown. It is the poetry of everyday speech, the people's poetry, and it deserves attention as language playing on the cusp of art. In Slang: The People's Poetry, Adams covers this perennially interesting subject in a serious but highly engaging way, illuminating the fundamental question "What is Slang" and defending slang--and all forms of nonstandard English--as integral parts of the American language. Why is an expression like "bed head" lost in a lexical limbo, found neither in slang nor standard dictionaries? Why are snow-boarding terms such as "fakie," "goofy foot," "ollie" and "nollie" not considered slang? As he addresses these and other lexical curiosities, Adams reveals that slang is used in part to define groups, distinguishing those who are "down with it" from those who are "out of it." Slang is also a rebellion against the mainstream. It often irritates those who color within the lines--indeed, slang is meant to irritate, sometimes even to shock. But slang is also inventive language, both fun to make and fun to use. Rather than complain about slang as "bad" language, Adams urges us to celebrate slang's playful resistance to the commonplace and to see it as the expression of an innate human capacity, not only for language, but for poetry.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Adams (English language & literature, Indiana Univ.; Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon) offers word lovers a new perspective. This is not the usual compendium of slang but an explanation of its nature and purpose. Adams intends to engage the nonacademic reader, so he boils down the lexical, social, aesthetic, and linguistic concepts of slang in chapters like "What Is It?" and "It's All in Your Head." Footnotes provide source information in a nonscholarly format for faster and easier understanding. Adams promotes slang as an integral part of American English and categorizes and defines hundreds of new words and examples from current American expressions, with an emphasis on African American slang. He believes that slang springs from resistance to authority, which has perhaps influenced his choices, for most exemplify the more outrageous elements of slang. VERDICT The style here will either irritate or entertain; Adams stays within the confines of each chapter's theme but leaps from example to example and topic to topic. These literary gymnastics may not please everyone, but the generous index facilitates access to this lively and informative book.—Nedra Crowe-Evers, Sonoma Cty. Lib., Santa Rosa, CA
From the Publisher
"Adams' theories are brilliant, and he draws on a startlingly diverse universe to illustrate his points, leaping without apparent effort from Chaucer to stamp collectors; from snowboarders to UPS drivers; from T.S. Eliot to Charles Dickens; from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Simpsons. With a love of the subject matter and a glorious grasp of the language, he carries you effortlessly from one big idea to another. What a book!"
—Tom Dalzell, editor of The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English

"A lively and engaging look at English slang and its multitudinous forms."
—Ben Zimmer, The Visual Thesaurus

"The depth of the argumentation and the richness of the writing and the archive make Slang a text that is at once highly readable and theoretically productive."
—Phillip M. Carter, Language in Society

"Michael Adams's Slang is not a collection of words but an examination of the scope and function of slang in our language and our lives. It's scholarly yet highly readable—just as you would expect from the author of Slayer Slang."
—Jan Freeman, Boston Globe

"Brilliant.... Adams' theory of slang as a poetic device is truly insightful."—Semiotica

"This is an intelligent book, executed with passion. Slang offers important comment and documentation on an aspect of our culture that is very often overlooked."—January Magazine

"Book length studies (as opposed to dictionaries) of slang are few and far between, so with this volume Adams has done scholars, students, and aficionados of slang a great service. Adams has a knack for illuminating both linguistic ephemera and its underlying principles. Speaking to the general reader, the author uses linguistic jargon sparingly, puts scholarly observations in everyday terms, and illustrates key ideas with in-depth examples rather than drive-by word citations. This book is a must for libraries and lovers of language. Essential." —CHOICE

"[A] lively and informative book."—Library Journal

"Slang is the wink-wink, nudge-nudge of language. It gives the illusion (and creates the impression) that it is all, like, edgy and cazh, but Michael Adams shows it is much more than just flash and trash. This book puts slang near the center of human language, and our journey to it is, as Jo said in Little Women (1868) 'fun, and no grubbage.'"—Richard W. Bailey, Professor of English Language and Literature, University of Michigan

"Slang: The People's Poetry takes the study of slang well beyond words and phrases and into the discursive functions as well as the cognitive underpinnings of slang. Adams' knowledge of high culture and low culture as well as his careful observation of contemporary language use make his analysis of slang fresh and appealing to twenty-first century readers."—Connie Eble, Professor of English, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199986538
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
03/02/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,161,854
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Michael Adams teaches English language and literature at Indiana University. He is the author of Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon and editor of From Elvish to Klingon. For several years, he was editor of Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. He is currently editor of the journal American Speech.

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