On The Dictionary of American Slang

On The Dictionary of American Slang

These posts are taken from this copy of The Dictionary of American Slang, compiled and edited by Harold Wentworth, Ph.D. and Stuart Berg Flexner, M.A., published in 1960 by the Thomas Y. Crowell Company.

I bought this book for less than a buck while I worked in my esteemed position as book pricer at a thrift store. It was probably less than a buck, with my employee discount, as it was priced at 99 cents, actually, being a discard from the library of Sibley Senior High School in West St. Paul.

(We usually priced discards lower, unless they were unusually rare, in which I removed the plastic cover to make this less obvious. Book dealers find library editions in poor quality so there’s no reason to draw attention to this fact, though anyone with eyes could see the school stamp and check-out card pocket.)


The reason for the discard isn’t just age, but is related to it. Much of this book uses slang that is highly offensive to us in the modern era. Not that we haven’t evolved new forms of offense (cf. UrbanDictionary) but that we aren’t as bald-faced about, with the notable exceptions of Newt Gingrich, I suppose. There are plenty of entries that describe someone who is ‘cheap’ or ‘swindling’ in ethnic or racial terms, as well as notations that indicate ‘Some Negro use.’

Who knows? Maybe the GOP is still using this as a reference guide?

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