Vulgar Tongues: an Alternative History of English Slang

Vulgar-tongues-an-alternative-history-of-english-slangLynne Truss at The New Statesman:

This is the trouble with books on slang. However exhaustive they are, they always leave you asking, “But why?” Max Décharné’s engaging book Vulgar Tongues is a spectacular feat, collating information from a mind-boggling range of sources – from jazz lyrics to dime novels, from 18th-century brothel directories to 1960s criminal autobiographies.

Take a word such as “chippie”, meaning whore. Décharné gives us a couple of quotations from Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest (1929) and Raymond Chandler’s The High Window(1942) – which is where you would expect him to find some. But his killer examples are the title of the jazz record “Chasin’ Chippies” by Cootie Williams and His Rug Cutters (1938) and an exchange from a 1960 Chester Himes novel set in Harlem,The Big Gold Dream:

“I was watching out for my girls,” Dummy replied.

“Your girls?”

“He’s got two chippie whores,” Grave Digger replied. “He’s trying to teach them how to hustle.”

more here.