The Browser has one of its FiveBooks interviews with Jonathon Green, whose admirable Green’s Dictionary of Slang I wrote about in this post; I especially liked his discussion of the five books he recommends, ending with Jesse Sheidlower’s The F-Word (which I reviewed here): “Everybody should look at this and see how lexicography should be done, because it is a superb piece of work. It’s not a grubby book, or a meretricious book, it’s an amazing piece of scholarship.” Quite so, and the same is true of Green’s own magnum opus.


  1. It’s not a grubby book
    is how a schoolmaster, and an old one at that, would have described it forty years ago. Jonathon Green is morphing into his own research.

  2. So, old donnish slang, or what? To my Transatlantic ear it’s a perfectly standard word, and quite evocative of crude meretriciousness. Merriam-Webster 9th Collegiate gives as the (historically) last definition ‘worthy of contempt : BASE’ without any usage label.

  3. Is there a slang word for “slang”?

  4. For grubby, the OED has 3. Dirty, grimy; also slovenly and underbred [underbred, not ill-bred?]. And its first citation is 1845 HOOD Black Job vi, They look’d so ugly in their sable hides: So dark, so dingy, like a grubby lot Of sooty sweeps.
    But there’s also Grub-street, which it can cite from 1630, nowadays (ironically) Milton Street, “the name of a street near Moorfields in London ‘much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems’ (J.); hence used allusively for the tribe of mean and needy authors, of literary hacks.” – So The F-Word is a grubby book, actually.
    No, it’s not donnish. When I wrote the first comment, I was thinking of grubby meaning “filthy” in the sense of having to do with sex. I’m guessing that’s just a usage from the late-19C.

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