Oxford UP has published Jonathon Green’s magnum opus:

The three volumes of Green’s Dictionary of Slang demonstrate the sheer scope of a lifetime of research by Jonathon Green, the leading slang lexicographer of our time. A remarkable collection of this often reviled but endlessly fascinating area of the English language, it covers slang from the past five centuries right up to the present day, from all the different English-speaking countries and regions. Totaling 10.3 million words and over 53,000 entries, the collection provides the definitions of 100,000 words and over 413,000 citations. Every word and phrase is authenticated by genuine and fully-referenced citations of its use, giving the work a level of authority and scholarship unmatched by any other publication in this field.

I want one. But the damn thing costs $450.00.


  1. Ridiculous price, and typical of the OUP, I may say. They completely ignore the general public, they think we’re all libraries.

  2. From an article in The Independent:

    It’s also good to know that the phrase “the arsehole of the world” was first used about Holland in 1660 (“the Buttock of the world, full of veins and blood but no bones in’t”) and that the Australian name for an unimpressive semi-erection – sited halfway, so to speak, between the turgid cities of Melbourne and Ballarat – is a “Bacchus Marsh”, the birthplace of Booker winner Peter Carey. And the title? You must wait until page 313 to learn the meaning of Getting off at Gateshead. It’s the experience of emerging before one has actually arrived, of getting off at the stop before your destination, of alighting at Gateshead when you’d rather go all the way to Newcastle. If we must be coy, it’s coitus interruptus.

    Only Green would know that similar usages involve descending at Broadgreen before Edinburgh Waverley, at Edge Hill before Lime Street, Liverpool, or Fratton before Bristol Dockyard. Few readers of this joyous celebration of linguistic bawdy will, I suspect, be tempted to leave before the gospel.

  3. Just to clarify, OUP-USA is distributing GDoS in North America, but its UK publisher is Chambers Harrap. You can order the Chambers edition on for a mere £130.
    Also, the publication date has been delayed until October 5th, or possibly a bit later. When it does finally get published, there will apparently also be a searchable online version of GDoS available via Oxford Reference Bookshelf.

  4. Ah, good to know—thanks!

  5. But why is a new book released in the US for $450 and in England for less than half that price? Both are available to (nearly) everyone, at Amazon. That’s even nuttier.

  6. List price in the UK is £295, which comes out to $467 at the current conversion. I can’t tell you how Amazon works out its discounts (or what their discount will be for GDoS in the States).

  7. Ah-ha, the list. Thanks, Ben. Only marginally nutty, then.

  8. “Only Green would know that similar usages involve descending at Broadgreen before Edinburgh Waverley..”: bah, it was ‘getting off at Haymarket’ in my time in Edinburgh.

  9. if i can be called [el-deene], Edo can be ee-doh alright i guess, i just wave oh they can’t pronounce it, it’s not their fault, must be there is like a bone in people’s tongues to make them the tongues stiff

  10. oops, wrong thread

  11. oops, wrong country.
    It seems that the Indy’s Broad Green railway station isn’t even in Scotland.

  12. “The oldest used railway station in the world”. Too bad they’ve demolished it and replaced it with a piece of drab 1970s modernism, then.

  13. So what’s the oldest station still in use in more or less the original building? Other L&M and similar B&O over here are museums.

  14. Wikipedia’s saying it’s this one, Earlestown, but it doesn’t look like the same building that it had in 1911.

  15. I guess they’ve just made the roof shallower, replaced the bridge and in general done their best to not respect its history. It’s 1830.

  16. I wait for the train every day in some nondescript 60’s thing or some 90’s bit of Plexiglas, instead of the H. H. Richardson original. (Will try to find a better photo online.)

  17. Here’s one. That’s really shocking, though.

  18. I meant to say I can’t see any actual railroad in the picture.

  19. The GB scan of the AR piece is a little clearer and shows the track side.

  20. Why did the bean counters wanted to spend their money rebuilding what seem like perfectly good stations? It must have been to update their image, or something.

  21. David Marjanović says

    So… the spelling Jonathon really exists??? I’ve encountered it a lot on teh intarwebz, but in every single case it was committed by someone who misremembered.

  22. Jonathan Mayhew says

    It does exist, unfortunately.

  23. Ben Zimmer:
    … there will apparently also be a searchable online version of GDoS available via Oxford Reference Bookshelf.
    That would be great. But how sure can we be that it will happen? I find no evidence online.

  24. Noetica: I heard about the Oxford Reference Bookshelf plans from this post on the American Dialect Society listserv — Michael Quinion got the news from Green himself.

  25. I think it’s officially called the Oxford Digital Reference Shelf.

  26. Jonathon, etc
    In North America, especially the US, many people either don’t quite remember traditional spellings or deliberately adopt a different, “exotic” spelling for their children’s names, eg “Phyllicia” for “Felicia”, if they don’t actually invent a brand new name. Given the English way with vowels, the pronunciation is not necessarily different. But it is likely that the spelling Jonathon is influenced by marathon and other -athon coinages, while Nathan is not as common and therefore not often available as a spelling model (and not all parents of Jonathans are assiduous readers of the Bible).
    I ran into a student whose first name was Amythest: “Amethyst” would have been unusual enough as a name, but I guess there was the attraction of “Amy” for people who might not have known how to pronounce amethyst (or spell it offhand).

  27. Thanks Ben.
    Qrỡŋ, the exact identity of that Oxford facility is uncertain. One is directed to different locations, searching on different variants of the name; and the list of titles is not constant either. All very mixed up! Oxford claims at one site that OED online is available through most public libraries in the UK, and associates this with a “bookshelf” product. But is that accurate?
    There is much confusion in Australia about these things (confusion occulted by blissful insouciance, of course). We are often treated as a backwater even in these days of supposed globalisation. One large metropolitan library I have dealings with did not know the difference between OED and the single-volume Oxford Dictionary of English (ultimately Oxford’s stupid fault, in my opinion). The library makes a cut-down Oxford suite available to customers online, and has even dropped the New Grove from its offerings. A serious dumbing-down. Myself, I normally have access to everything through university subscriptions; but for the larger community the intellectual landscape is bleak indeed.
    Ben, Quinion’s information includes these details, apparently (though not certainly) from Green himself:

    Whether this [“an e-book via the Oxford Reference Bookshelf”] will be available to purchasers outside the US isn’t yet known, nor whether online e-booksellers like Amazon will will be able to sell a version for devices like the Kindle. It’s not likely to be cheap, though, with pricing – Jonathon believes – likely to be closely similar to the hardback price.

    Totally unsatisfactory. Oxford has a lot to answer for.

    And the Oxford Historical Thesaurus is to be integrated with the online Oxford English Dictionary when the site is relaunched in December. I did a little usability testing on the new version and the indications are that it will be excellent.

    Great news also: if it can be believed, and if it will somehow apply to us all.

  28. It’s true it’s available at most public libraries; in fact the market is currently flooded with old library copies of the OED.
    for the larger community the intellectual landscape is bleak indeed.
    Yes, it is. Especially if you’re living in a non-English speaking country where public libraries aren’t hooked up to the OUP; it would be a better world if the OUP were run by google. And that other one, the firm with the twee lettering, who only let me read the first page. Bastards.

  29. JSTOR.

  30. Yes, I’ve complained about JSTOR before (and posted about it here).

  31. Goodness, I hadn’t realised they were as bad as that. I had assumed the problem was bureaucracy, I’d no idea it was avarice. I could show them where to stick their economic model. Well said, Tom Matrullo, though (and you, Language).

  32. Pub date for GDoS has been pushed back to early November, we hear.

  33. Thanks again, Ben. The current information at is hardly helpful: “Out of Print–Limited Availability … Chambers (September 24, 2009) [sic!]”. But full and apparently accurate information appears at “£130.00 … Pre-order Price Guarantee. … Chambers (26 Nov 2010)”.
    That’s not too bad a deal, but it’s hard to make a decision. If it is sure to turn up online and searchable, perhaps we prefer to wait for that – even if there is a subscription to pay. But if we wait, it might not turn up at all, and by then the hardcopy price will be undiscounted.

  34. and by then the hardcopy price will be undiscounted. But there will be cheap, not-very-used copies available — and I do hope you use bookfinder to find the cheapest source, Doctor.

  35. The Internet works in mysterious ways its wonders to perform, and some news is good news.

    After They Who Shall Not Be Named reneged on their promise to make GDoS searchable with a “We won’t do it: sue us if you dare”, Green was left with the digital database rights but nothing to do with them. Academia and industry alike turned him down with “What’s in it for me?” He tried hiring programmers, but the ask (“megabucks”) was beyond his means. Finally, David Kendall offered to do the work gratis, just because it needed to be done (dpk is a student of historical linguistics as well as a programmer) and today is online. Headword search, definitions, and etymologies are free; advanced search and supporting quotations are available to individuals by subscription at £49/year (currently about US$60). Institutional subscriptions are also possible: rates on request.

    I have a subscription (it would be a solecism to assert that this has any connection with my occasional IRC conversations with dpk over the years) and will be pleased to look up anything that other Hattics can’t get for themselves.

    I hope this will become a post, and in any case it should go in the left bar.

    Note that this version is greatly updated from the print version.

  36. Very nice — I’ll give it its own post.

  37. Might wanna comment in BGZ’s LL post about this – the background is missing and the readers there would appreciate it.

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