‘...it’s mondo and pretty authoritative, including entries not only from the United Kingdom and America but also from Australia, New Zealand, India and the Caribbean. Who’s the daddy?!’ – Guardian
‘A veritable Madame Tussaud’s of the vulgar language. It is a really epoch-making, monumental piece of work’ – New Statesman
‘…contains many entries and citations that will, and should, offend.’ – Tom Dalzell and Terry Victor
Eric Partridge wrote widely on matters concerning the English language. He did not restrict his interest to matters slang and unconventional, but it is his work in this area that had, and continues to have, the greatest impact, and on which his reputation is most celebrated. He wrote more than forty books in his lifetime, and contributed to many, many more. It is so substantial a body of work that any list short of a full bibliography will inevitably do his great achievement a disservice. Partridge was a philologist, etymologist, lexicographer, essayist and dictionary-maker; he is a legend and an inspiration.
A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English is widely acknowledged to be the most authoritative and comprehensive dictionary of slang in the world, and Partridge’s greatest achievement. In the eight editions published between 1937 and 1984, Partridge recorded and defined the slang and unconventional English of Great Britain, and to a lesser extent her dominions, from the 1600s through the 1970s. His body of work, scholarship, and dignity of approach led the way and set the standard for every other English-language slang lexicographer of the 20th century.
Slang enthusiasts are now able to explore a selection of Partridge’s greatest works in a fully searchable and user-friendly digital format through Partridge Slang Online. It offers excellent functionality, making the weird and wonderful world of slang immediately accessible to all. Providing unprecedented access for slang lovers worldwide, it includes over 60,000 dictionary entries and 6 Partridge e-Books.
If you or your library subscribe, then log in to gain an immediate feel for the flavour and wisdom of Partridge’s work. Use the highly discoverable content and impressive search facilities, along with the access to a fully searchable Bibliographic Library. If not, then click on the sample entries provided for an initial insight into this invaluable online resource.
The single most significant development in slang and unconventional English since the 2006 publication of the first edition of the New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English has been the unprecedented migration of slang from the spoken word to the written word as a result of the exponential growth of electronic communication, social networking and microblogging websites; from AOL's Instant Message in the mid 1990s, to texting through SMS in the early 2000s, the commercial launch of Facebook™ in 2004 and the 2006 introduction of Twitter™.
The written language of social media and texting is an informal shorthand, dominated by hundreds of initialisms and abbreviations of which a mere several dozen are used regularly and the majority were coined for the joy of coining. A second feature of the unconventional English of social networking is the use of non-standard spelling. Single letters and numerals are used to represent words or sounds – B (be), C (see), K (okay), R (are), U (you), 1 (won), 2 (to), 4 (for), and 8 (the sound “ate”). Another flourish comes with substitutions of symbols for letters - @ for a, 3 for E, ! for I, 1 for l, $ for S, + for t, etc.
Previously spoken slang has eventually found itself in print, however comparatively little of the written slang and unconventional English of social network websites makes the reverse trek to the spoken language. There are notable exceptions, such as “lulz” as a phoneticized “LOL” (laugh out loud), but the rule is no migration. After generations on the street, slang has found a home in writing, in the glow of a handheld or laptop or desktop screen.
The interface of social networking and news groups in particular, and the Internet in general, has also had a profound effect on slang by facilitating the formation of limited-interest or fetish-oriented online ‘communities’; groups of individuals who previously were likely not to have discovered like-minded others now find a need for a language in common; this has given impetus and wider currency to some very specific types of slang.
Tom Dalzell, Berkeley, California
Terry Victor, Caerwent, South Wales
Three criteria were used for the inclusion of a term or phrase in this dictionary. We included slang and unconventional English (1) used anywhere in the English-speaking world (2) after 1945 (3).
Full advantage was taken of the wide net cast by Partridge when he chose to record ‘slang and unconventional English’ instead of just slang, which is, after all, without any settled test of purity. We considered for inclusion all unconventional English that has been used with the purpose or effect of, (1) lowering the formality of communication and reducing solemnity and/or, (2) identifying status or group and putting oneself in tune with one's company. In all instances, an entry imparts a message beyond the text and literal meaning. This approach was especially useful when dealing with world slang and unconventional English. A broader range permitted inclusion of many Caribbean entries, for instance, which merit inclusion but might not meet a stringent pure-slang-only test.
Our only real deviation from Partridge's inclusion criteria was a much diminished body of nicknames. The regiment nicknames that populate Partridge's work no longer fulfil the language function that they did in the United Kingdom of Partridge's day.
If there was a question as to whether a potential entry fell within the target register, we erred on the side of inclusion. We generally chose to include poorly attested words, presenting the entry and our evidence of usage to the reader who is free to determine if a candidate passes probation.
Partridge limited his dictionary to Great Britain and her dominions. For this project we elected the broader universe of the English-speaking world. Globalization has affected many facets of life, not the least of which is our language. There certainly are words that are uniquely Australian, American, or British, but it is impossible to ignore or deny the extent of cross-pollination that exists between cultures when it comes to slang. We were aided in our global gathering by indigenous contributors in Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Ireland, and New Zealand.
Included is the slang and unconventional English heard and used at any time after 1945. The cultural transformations since 1945 are mind-boggling. Television, computers, drugs, music, unpopular wars, youth movements, changing racial sensitivities, and attitudes towards sex and sexuality are all substantial factors that have shaped culture and language since the end of the War.
We included pidgin, creolised English, and borrowed foreign terms used by English-speakers in primarily English-language conversation.
No term was excluded on the grounds that it might be considered offensive as a racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, or other slur. This dictionary contains many entries and citations that will, and should, offend. To exclude a term or citation because it is offensive is to deny the fact that it is used. We are not prescriptivists and this is simply not our job. At the same time, we tried to avoid definitions or editorial comment that might offend.
We were tempted, but finally chose not to include an appendix of gestures, and an appendix of computer language such as emoticons or Leet Speak. Eventually we decided not to include the word/word phenomenon (‘Is she your friend friend or friend friend?’) or the word/word/word construction (‘The most important three things in real estate are location, location, location’).
It was not possible to include the obvious pregnant silence that suggests ‘fuck’ (‘What the **** do you think you're doing?’). We shied away from the lexicalized animal noises that often work their way into informal conversation, and similarly did not include musical phrases that have become part of our spoken vocabulary.
We use indigenous spelling for headwords. This is especially relevant in the case of the UK arse and US ass.
For Yiddish words, we use Leo Rosten's spelling, which favours ‘sh-’ over ‘sch-’.
An initialism is shown in upper case without full stops (for example, BLT), except that acronyms (pronounced like individual lexical items)
are lower case (for example, snafu). Including every variant spelling of a headword seemed neither practical nor helpful
to the reader. For the spelling of headwords, we chose the form found in standard dictionaries or the most common forms,
ignoring uncommon variants as well as common hyphenation variants of compounds and words ending in ‘ie’ or ‘y’.
For this reason, citations may show variant spellings not found in the headword.
Placement of phrases
As a general rule, phrases are placed under their first significant word.
However, some invariant phrases are listed as headwords.
For example, a stock greeting, stock reply or catchphrase.
Terms that involve a single concept are grouped together as phrases under the common headword.
For example, burn rubber, lay rubber and peel rubber are all listed as phrases under the headword rubber.
In dealing with slang from all seven continents, we encountered more than a few culture-specific terms. For such terms the domain or geographic location of the term's usage is identified. We use conventional English in the definitions, turning to slang only when it is both substantially more economical than the use of conventional English and is readily understood by the average reader.
Gloss and citation
The voice and tone of The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English is most obvious in the gloss:
the brief explanations that Partridge used for ‘editorial comment’ or ‘further elucidation’. Partridge warned against using the gloss to show what clever and learned fellows we are – a warning that we heed to the very limited extent it could apply to us. We chose to discontinue Partridge's classification by register.
Included in the gloss are attestations of the headword's usage, either in the form of simple citations
(usually to a glossary, proving the simple existence of the word) or quotations with citations. We try to include quotations that do more than simply illustrate usage of the word.
As much is drawn from written sources, we were also mindful of the possibility of hoax or intentional coinings without widespread usage.
Most of our citations are culled from reading, although late in the project we augmented some glosses with citations from electronic databases such as Lexis-Nexis and Amazon.com's ‘Search Inside the Book’ feature. Future updates will benefit from further use of databases, but we cannot imagine that the art and importance of reading for citations will be lost altogether.
We have not normalised or corrected either the spelling or punctuation in citations.
An author's idiosyncratic or aberrant spelling is acknowledged only in extreme cases, such as phonetic representations of regional accents, when the sense may be lost to the average reader.
A source is included in the bibliography if it is cited at least five times. The date of the edition used is given in the bibliography.
Country of origin
As is the case with dating, further research will undoubtedly produce a shift in the country of origin for a number of entries. We resolutely avoided guesswork and informed opinion.
We recognise that the accurate dating of slang is far more difficult than dating conventional language. Virtually every word in our lexicon is spoken before it is written, and this is especially true of unconventional terms. The recent proliferation of electronic databases and powerful search engines will undoubtedly permit the antedating of many of the entries. Individualised dating research, such as Allen Walker's hunt for the origin of ‘OK’ or Barry Popik's exhaustive work on terms such as ‘hot dog’, produces dramatic antedatings: we could not undertake this level of detailed research.
It all began with Eric Partridge (1984–1979) renowned philologist, etymologist and lexicographer, who dedicated his life to the study of languages. It is for his work on slang, and in particular for his flagship dictionary, The Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, that he is most widely remembered and admired.
Partridge Slang Online, and The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English carry on the Partridge tradition where Partridge left off. Partridge himself observed, “More than almost any other kind of book, a dictionary constantly needs to be revised; especially, of course, if it deals with the current form of a language and therefore has to be kept up to date.” Tom Dalzell and Terry Victor have done just that, documenting the slang and unconventional English of the English-speaking world since 1945, and through the first decade of the new millennium, with the same thorough, intense, and lively scholarship that characterized Partridge's own work.
Tom Dalzell - Senior Editor
Tom Dalzell is a lawyer who moonlights in an extremely serious way as a slang collector and author.
Recognized as the leading expert on American slang, his most recent publications include Damn the Man: Slang of the Oppressed (2011) and Far Out Depends on Where You're Standing (2012).
Terry Victor – Editor
Terry Victor is not only a slang collector but also an actor, broadcaster, writer and director.
A Dictionary of Anglophone Rhyming Slangs is due to be published in 2013.
We carry the flame for words that are usually judged only by the ill-regarded company they keep. Just as Partridge did for the 16th century beggars and rakes, for whores of the 18th century, and for the armed services of the two world wars, we try to do for the slang users of the last 60 years. We embrace the language of beats, hipsters, Teddy Boys, mods and rockers, hippies, pimps, druggies, whores, punks, skinheads, ravers, surfers, Valley Girls, dudes, pill-popping truck drivers, hackers, rappers and more. We have tried to do what Partridge saw as necessary, which was simply to keep up to date.
Tom Dalzell, Berkeley, California
Terry Victor, Caerwent, South Wales
Dr. Richard Allsopp, Director of the Caribbean Lexicography Project and former Reader in English Language and Linguistics, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados.
Dr. Dianne Bardsley, Manager of the New Zealand Dictionary Centre at Victoria University of Wellington.
James Lambert has worked primarily in Australian English, specialising in slang in general and Australian slang in particular.
John Loftus manages the online archive at www.hibernoenglish.com.
Lewis Poteet is a leading Canadian authority on slang and dialect.
John Williams served as a consulting lexicographer on this project.