ride and a rasher

The one stream of poetry which is continually flowing is slang. —G. K. Chesterton

One of the many benefits of owning the two-volume New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (Routledge), besides the sheer size of the thing up there on a shelf with your other weighty reference books, is that you can dip in just about anywhere and enjoy the exuberant, endless display of human inventiveness with language. Let me demonstrate by flipping open volume 1 to . . . dick, as chance would have it. Besides ten meanings for that word, all familiar to an American speaker such as yourself, we have variations such as dickhead, dick-breath, dickwad, dickwipe, dicknose, and dickless wonder—more proof that the language will never have enough terms to describe “an offensive unlikeable person.” But there is always something new to learn. You could guess that a dick doc is a urologist, especially if you’ve gone to medical school, but did you know that a dickless Tracy is a female police officer? That Dick Emery is Cockney rhyming slang for “memory”? Or that dick mittens are “hands that were not washed after urination”? Well, see?

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