Friday, December 31, 2010

A "ham sandwich"

At the FT (site registration required), Henry Hitchings has an absolutely lovely essay about dictionaries of slang old and new (the first is one I consulted when I was long ago writing about Jonathan Wild, and the second is probably out of my price range but does indeed sound, as Hitchings says, "lusciously" browsable):
Leafing through the pages of Green’s Dictionary, one accumulates a stock of favourite oddments: an “Oklahoma credit card” is a siphon tube for stealing petrol, a “knocking-jacket” a nightdress, and a “fogle-hunter” a pickpocket who specialises (or really “specialised”, one imagines) in stealing silk handkerchiefs. Some of the illustrative quotations are equally droll: one letter-writer recalls that “I told you in my last how she gave the athletic stockbroker at Hove the mitten” – to be given the mitten is to have one’s proposal of marriage rejected – and another makes the seemingly far-fetched claim that “Penrith is becoming a real funk-hole”, though a funk-hole is here a place of refuge rather than somewhere James Brown might have frequented.

1 comment:

  1. Equally browsable is the Dictionary of American Regional English (a product of my colleages here at Wisconsin!)