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BOOK REVIEW: Language! 500 Years Of The Vulgar Tongue by Jonathon Green

| 20 September 2014 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Language! 500 Years Of The Vulgar Tongue by Jonathon Green
Atlantic/Allen & Unwin rrp$49.99
June 2014
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
7.5/10

Language! 500 Years Of The Vulgar Tongue by Jonathon Green cover

Jonathon Green could be labelled a geek, of sorts – but a geek of the English language specialising in its colourful array of vulgar slang must surely be a popular lad down at the pub on a Friday night, certainly more so than your average bookish nerd.

Here he delves deep into the origins of the many types of slang – and if it’s cheap thrills you’re after, rest assured there is, to coin a phrase, frequent and severe course language.

“Slang is a man-made language,” Green asserts, and he’s probably right – though in more modern times even ‘proper’ ladies don’t mind joining in if the timing is right.

As the lexicographer draws the origin of slang from early Latin, from middle 1600s Chaucerian English, and through to the 1900s, we see the pattern emerging – slang (or ‘cant’) is the language of the gutter, the underprivileged and uneducated, the night.

More and more, though, it is creeping into daylight, into newspapers and books and day-to-day conversation. Slang is, in a sense, becoming the language, but as Green cannily points out, it is still the vulgar, sexual, racist lexicon, and that will never be wholly embraced.

Category: Book Reviews

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