Thursday, July 19, 2007


The latest addition to our slowly-evolving library of audio interviews on The Generalist’s audio site, documents the work of Jonathon Green, one of the world’s leading lexicographers of slang.

Over the last 25 years, in numerous works – including the ‘Cassell Contemporary Dictionary of Slang’, ‘Slang Down The Ages’, ‘Talking Dirty’ and the ‘Slang Thesaurus’ - he has documented this underworld of language with an appetite that equals if not surpasses his illustrious historical predecessors in this field.

Their story forms part of Green’s ‘Chasing the Sun: Dictionary Makers and the Dictionaries They Made.’ [Jonathon Cape 1996/Pimlico 1997].

He is currently into the editing stage of the final volume of his as-yet-untitled meisterwork – a 3-volume slang dictionary which will be the most detailed book of its kind ever published.

It will contain some 100,000 headwords; these are accompanied and underpinned by more than half a million citations. Green is hopeful it will be released in 2009. The dictionary will also be available on-line and will be kept constantly updated.

You can hear the interview here:

Below is an exclusive preview of the dictionary:

piss n.

[piss v.]

1 urine.

c.1386 Chaucer Wife’s Prol. 729: How Xantippa caste pisse vp-on his heed [OED]. 1440 Promp. Parv. 402/1: Pysse, or pysche, urina, minctura. 1596 ‘Misdiaboles’ Ulysses upon Ajax 42: In commendation of p——g, bringing out of Valerius the story of the Cretans who [...] drunk their own p—s. 1604 Dekker The Honest Whore pt. 1 in Works vol. II (1873) I iv: It [sc. tobacco] makes your breath stinke, like the pisse of a fox. 1610 Jonson The Alchemist II iii: With all your broths, your menstrues, and materials, / Of piss, and eggshells, women’s terms, man’s blood. a.1618 J. Harington Epigrams II no. 43: Found meanes to write his mind in excellent verse: / For want of Pen and Inke, with pisse and ordure. 1682 Radcliffe ‘A Call to the Guard by a Drum’ in Poems 64: From your crack’d Earthen Pisspots where no Piss can stay. 1699 ‘The 2nd Part of St. George for England’ in Playford Pills to Purge Melancholy I 331: As birch is soaked first in Piss when Boys are to be whipt. 1708 The Humours of a Coffee-House 16 Jan. 91: Your Sal Volatile Oleosum Man, that makes such a Noise with crying old stinking Piss about the Town. 1733 Anon ‘The Gentleman’s Study’ in The Dublin Magazine 18: Four different Stinks lay there together, Which were, Sweat, Turd, and Piss, and Leather. c.1807 Anon. ‘The Giblet Pye’ (in Bold 1979) 227: Sly Darby, being enraged at this, / Resolved when next they met to seize / The lock that scatters Una’s piss. 1820 Anon. The Bugger’s Alphabet (in Bold 1979) 42: C is the cunt all covered in piss. 1841 Anon ‘The Racehorse’ in The Gentleman Steeple-Chaser 4: What stuff is that your munchin? / Drink water too that stinks like p-ss. 1888-94 ‘Walter’ My Secret Life (1966) X 2083: As my sperm rises I love her, could drink her piss, her blood, so do I long to be incorporate with her. 1916 Joyce A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 96: That is horse piss and rotted straw, he thought. 1922 Joyce Ulysses 161: Spaton sawdust, sweetish warmish cigarette smoke, reek of plug, spilt beer, men’s beery piss, the stale of ferment. 1934 H. Miller Tropic of Cancer (1963) 56: The globe was sprayed with warm turtle piss. 1947 D. Davin For the Rest of Our Lives 52: The drunken back streets of Cairo where [...] the gutters stank of piss. 1953 ‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 138: It stinks like piss in here. 1963 Dunn Up the Junction 29: The toilet is aswim with piss. 1975 A. Bleasdale Scully 174: Y’all shitbags an’ cack merchants [...] y’all stewin’ in y’own piss. 1981 S. Berkoff Decadence (in Decadence and Other Plays, 1985) 34: He thinks his piss now tastes like wine. 1996 (con. 1970) G. Moxley Danti-Dan in McGuinness (ed.) The Dazzling Dark (1996) II v: My heart pumps piss for you. 2004 T. Winton ‘Cockleshell’ in The Turning (2005) 123: The ointment’s active consituent is urea. He knows what that is. Piss!

2 an act of urination.

1837-8 ‘Toasts And Sentiments’ in The Cuckold’s Nest 48: How very convenient are those corner places, / Which beside every gin shop one sees, / Wherein men may walk to the wall, turn their faces, / And have a good p--s at their ease. 1842 Anon ‘Sally May’ in Nancy Dawson’s Cabinet of Songs 8: At p-ss one day I saw the lass. 1922 Joyce Ulysses 546: Was he insulting you while me and him was having a piss? 1934 H. Roth Call It Sleep (1977) 247: I godda take a piss. 1946 K. Amis letter 15 May in Leader (ed.) (2000) 66: To put a lump of sugar in his mouth or go for a piss. 1952 J. Jones From Here to Eternity (1998) 613: Every time I took a piss I thought I had the clap for sure. 1966 T. Keyes All Night Stand 58: [I] tried to amuse myself by having a piss. 1974 P. Larkin ‘Sad Steps’ in High Windows Groping back to bed after a piss / I part thick curtains. 1989 (con. 1950s-60s) in G. Tremlett Little Legs 99: I told him to stop the car [...] while I have a piss. 1997 Barlay Curvy Lovebox 166: That was that most to-tahly smashing piss I evah have. 2000 Niall Griffiths Grits 170: When wih get back t’mih car ih gors off fer a piss.

3 vaginal fluid.

1865 ‘The Love Feast’ in T.P. Lowry The Stories the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell (1994) 58: When quite undressed, the bower of bliss / Dissolved in one warm rush of piss / Whose briny jet bedewed the nick. 1973 (con. 1940s-60s) ed. Hogbotel & ffuckes ‘Heigh Ho Says Rowley’ in Snatches & Lays 31: C is for cunt all slimy with piss.

4 as drink.

a. any sort of weak or otherwise unpalatable drink, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

1933George Orwell’ Down and Out in Davison (ed.) Complete Works (1987) I 153: Dat tay in de spike ain’t tay, it’s piss. 1968 K. Amis letter 11 Mar in Leader (ed.) (2000) 694: Food excellent, wine awful piss. 1974 (con. 1960s) R. Price The Wanderers 30: I ain’t drinkin’ any a that orange piss. 1989 D. Waters Heathers [film script] What did you do, put a phlegm globber in it or something? I’m not gonna drink that piss. 1999 K. Sampson Powder 115: He took a gingerly sip of M√Ęcon Blanc and declared it piss. 2001 N. Griffiths Sheepshagger 184: Whisky, not povo headfuck cheap piss like that.

b. (also pish) an alcoholic drink.

1925 (con. WWI) Fraser & Gibbons Soldier & Sailor Words 224: Pish: Whiskey. Any spirits. 1958 A. Sillitoe Saturday Night 90: You can’t stand up to ’em with all that piss inside you. 1981 J. Wambaugh The Glitter Dome (1982) 15: It’s this Glitter Dome piss you’re drinkin. Irish whiskey, my dick. 1993 I. Welsh Trainspotting 302: A couple of bottles of your best piss . . . and a table for four.

c. beer.

1945 P. Larkin letter 31 Oct. in Thwaite (ed.) Sel. Letters (1992) 110: Your letter found me last night when I came in off the piss: in point of fact I had spewed out of a train window and farted in the presence of ladies. 1977 K. Gilbert (ed.) Living Black 220: Got forty-four gallon drums of bloody metho ‘n all the piss they want. 1999 A. O’Hagan Our Fathers 140: We’ll have two pints of yer best piss. 2004 P. Howard PS, I Scored the Bridesmaids 204: The local piss we’re drinking is called Toohey’s.

5 constr by the, a general intensifier; the essence, the ‘daylights’.

1934 H. Miller Tropic of Cancer (1963) 73: That boss of mine, he bawls the piss out of me if I miss a semicolon. 1942 H. Miller Roofs of Paris (1983) 50: He’s really fucking the piss out of her by this time. 1961 C. Himes Pinktoes (1989) 36: By God, he was going to shock the supremacy piss out of their white-livered bladders. 1972 D. Jenkins Semi-Tough 209: Who the piss wants to know? 1981 J. Bradner Danny Boy 101: How de piss you know owny black man does vote foh de Palmm Tree? 2003 C. Feldmann The Sons of Sheriff Henry 322: Heard? Who the piss hasn't heard!

6 (also pish) rubbish, nonsense, anything or anyone unappealling, worthless.

1947 K. Amis letter 24 Mar. in Leader (ed.) (2000) 123: They show us their pictures, which are UNRELIEVED BAD NINETEENTH CENTURY ANECDOTAL ACADEMY PISS. 1950 K. Amis letter 27 Nov. in Leader (ed.) (2000) 249: Have you read Eliz. Taylor’s A wreath of roses? Piss, but two or three sodding funny scenes. 1963 K. Amis letter 2 Apr in Leader (ed.) (2000) 623: Bawled ‘piss’ and other unspeakables at a young British poet and globe-trotter, who I thought was a great piss-talker. 1974 C. Eble Campus Slang March 5: piss [...] Billy’s getting an A on that test was a real piss. 1991 O.D. Brooks Legs 44: If you dump that swamp piss like I told you, I’ll fill that pot with the best alky you ever drank. 1998 I. Welsh Filth 227: The telly is fuckin pish as usual. 2000 T. Udo Vatican Bloodbath 66: ‘We, as prodisents, don’t believe any of that shite’ ‘Aye,’’ said one of the gang members. ‘It’s pish.’

7 in fig. use, high spirits.

1964 Jim Thomson Pop. 1280 in Four Novels by Jim Thompson (1983) 381: ‘Fellas would get all full of piss an’ high spirits and take right off after them.’ 1994 T. Willocks Green River Rising 161: His time in the infirmary had taken all the piss out of him.

C.1 attrib.

piss-burned discoloured, esp. of a grey wig which has turned yellow.

1686 A. Behn The Lucky Chance II i: A cloak to skulk in a-night, and a pair of piss-burned shammy breeches. 1691 N. Ward ‘The Authors Lamentation’ in Writings (1704) (2 edn) 23: My coat it is turn’d, with the Lappets Piss-Burn’d. 1742 H. Fielding Joseph Andrews (1954) III 274: A long piss-burnt beard served to retain the liquor of the stone-pot. 1788 Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2 edn) n.p.: Piss-burned. Discoloured: commonly applied to a discoloured grey wig. 1796 in Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (3 edn). 1811 in Lex. Balatronicum [as Grose 1796]. 1823 in Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.

piss-easy (orig. N.Z.) very easy.

1988 Viz Oct./Nov. 2: Oh, fuck that Tom! It’s piss easy. 2000 J. Connolly Layer Cake 9: I reckon it [i.e. drug dealing] must look very inviting, like piss-easy money, which it is when all goes well. 2003 in McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Slang.

piss-in-the-wind pointless, time-wasting.

1997 Simon & Burns The Corner (1998) 474: The politicians and profesionals are still offering up the kind of piss-in-the-wind optimism that compels any rational mind to recall another, comparable disaster.

piss over teakettle head-over-heels.

1998 in Guardian Sport 2 Oct. 16: A nice sharp right-hander on the chin, sent him piss over teakettles, spark out on the greensward.