Vulgar Tongues

Vulgar Tongues

by Max Décharné


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This rollercoaster ride through the colorful history of slang—from highwaymen to hip-hop—is a fresh and exciting take on the subject: entertaining and authoritative without being patronizing, out-of-touch or voyeuristic.

Slang is the language of pop culture, low culture, street culture, underground movements and secret societies; depending on your point of view, it is a badge of honor, a sign of identity or a dangerous assault on the values of polite society. Of all the vocabularies available to us, slang is the most alive, constantly evolving and—as it leaks into the mainstream and is taken up by all of us—infusing the language with a healthy dose of vitality.

Witty, energetic and informative Vulgar Tongues traces the many routes of slang, beginning with the thieves and prostitutes of Elizabethan London and ending with the present day, where the centuries-old terms rap and hip-hop still survive, though their meanings have changed. On the way we will meet Dr. Johnson, World War II flying aces, pickpockets, schoolchildren, hardboiled private eyes, carnival geeks and the many eccentric characters who have tried to record slang throughout its checkered past.

If you’re curious about flapdragons and ale passion, the changing meanings of punk and geek, or how fly originated on the streets of eighteenth-century London and square in Masonic lodges, this is the book for you.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681774640
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 06/06/2017
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Max Décharné is a writer and musician. He writes about music regularly for Mojo magazine, where he is their chief authority on the subject of rockabilly music, which he has followed and played since the 1970s. His work has also appeared in the Sunday Times (London), the Times Literary Supplement among others. He is the author of six previous books including Hardboiled Hollywood: The True Crime Stories that Inspired the Great Noir Films (Pegasus) and Straight from the Fridge, Dad: A Dictionary of Hipster Slang (Broadway). He lives in England.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

Introduction: The Mark of a Decadent Mind 1

Slang Origins: Vagabond Speech and Rogue's Latin 27

1 The Beast with Two Backs 57

2 The Oldest Profession 78

3 This Bag of Bones 96

4 Polari Missiles 123

5 Here's to Crime 151

6 Tails You Booze 177

7 High as a Kite 200

8 Dig that Sound 228

9 It Takes a Record Company with Millions to Push Us Forward 255

10 Burn Baby Burn 281

11 Uniform Patterns of Speech 301

12 The Last Word 329

Bibliography 339

Index 358

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