Almost a year ago I announced the publication of the U.K. edition of the book of curses and insults I coauthored, Uglier Than a Monkey’s Armpit; next year the U.S. edition should be coming out, and the publisher has asked me to make some changes to the section on American English. Specifically, the Dr. Dre line I was so fond of has to go because quoting song lyrics is a problem, but they also feel the selection is a little lackluster in general, and I have to agree. The thing is, when I signed on to the original project, I wasn’t given much time to provide a whole bunch of material, so I was pretty much grabbing at whatever I could turn up, and I was disappointed in my U.S. section. I know my native country has been a world leader in invective and cursing, and I want better evidence! So if you know of a good, punchy line from a story, novel, or other nonmusical item that shows off the vulgar inventiveness of these United States, or a word that arose here (besides pissant, which is already included), please add a comment or drop me a line. If it winds up in the book, you may wind up in the acknowledgments! (Needless to say, if you own the U.K. or Australian edition and have noticed errors, by all means mention those.)
The entries that could stand to be replaced (besides the Dr. Dre line) are the fairly boring ones I’ve reproduced below the cut.
This term, at the end of the eighteenth century simply a reference to the well-to-do in the brand-new United States, a century later had insulting overtones. It had plenty of company: the upper crust (a term used from the 1830s on) were also called fancy-pants, high-hats, Mr Moneybags (or Gotrocks), snoots, stuffed shirts, and (in New York City, where their natural habitat was Fifth Avenue) Avenoodles (a term used by Walt Whitman in 1856 and still in use in 1900).
This vivid term for what in the late 1850s was a mixed black and Irish slum on the west side of Manhattan is still in use, though real estate values in the neighborhood have risen considerably (and realtors are trying to persuade people not to call it that). Other unsavory neighborhood names (no longer in use) listed in Irving Lewis Allen’s comprehensive The City in Slang: New York Life and Popular Speech are Misery Row, Bandit’s Roost, and Mixed-Ale Flats.