Jonathon Green's Slang

Friday, April 08, 2011


Slang is the ultimate in fleeting, faddish, subversive language that resists authority and academic rigor. Which makes it an odd fit for Jonathon Green's epic three volume, 6000-page, 450-dollar, 17 years-in-the-making herculean effort to catalog and cite over 10,000 English language slang words that stretch back over 500 years. Green has created the single most comprehensive and rigorously cited slang dictionary ever assembled. And so we asked him, 'why'?

Comments [6]

Connor from Raleigh

I have to agree with Mr. Green's defination of slang because it is all about the criminals. But to say it is about racism goes, I think off on a tangent because you have both white and African Americans speeking it slang which to the rest of us sounds like uneducated gibberish. I also think that the ability to speek and understand slang has become a right of passage for young people because they want to sound "cool" or "Gangsta" and while the history of slang might be interesting I think in todays society and culture it is something that we need to move past.

Apr. 15 2011 07:45 PM
J.E. Staley from Portland, OR

I was very interested in Jonathon Green's take on the roll of slang in our language, but dismayed that he dismissed the Urban Dictionary so quickly. What he fails to realize is that the Urban Dictionary is not a comprehensive documentation of slang, but the place where new slang is being created and modified by in-groups that are:"...impertinent, mocking, unconvinced by rules, regulations and ideologies". So I thought writing an Urban Dictionary entry would be appropriate.

1. adjective:
a: A person who has potential for mass market appeal and popularity, but ruins it with academic arrogance.

b: The social outcast who thinks he might fit in, if only he could figure out what the cool kids are saying.

2. person: Author of the comprehensive volume on slang, Green's Dictionary of Slang, and confirmed enemy of the Urban Dictionary.

"No wonder the university is failing, the professors are all Jonathon Greens"

"If I wasn't such a Jonathon Green, maybe someone would love me."

"All the ad hominem attacks would stop if you stopped being a Jonathon Green."

Apr. 12 2011 05:33 PM
Diepiriye Kuku from New Delhi, India

I'm shocked at appalled that you allowed your guest to characterize slang as product of gang culture. And he even used a word that should have clued you in: Criminal. You know the scope of the law changes dramatically over the time frame that your guest mentioned. None of you mentioned race, even though race was implicit to both your discussion of criminality & even the example of how ‘hooptie’ changed over centuries, i.e. in your urban dictionary segment you deny the fact that in any other segment ‘urban’ is proxy for ‘black’ both in rabbit ears to indicate a cultural meaning behind the words, & not the explicit meaning b/c its original meaning different from those who appropriated it. Hoopti? Your guest totally ignored that the words would have meanings to those who use it, other than just wanted to skirt the law. Heard of the underground railroad? Runaway slaves used slang & were criminals.

Apr. 12 2011 02:13 PM
bob garfield from desk

@marc leavitt.
Oh, yeah? Well YOU misspelled Highland Park, where you live, so nyah nyah nyah.

Kidding. Actually, I didn't mispronounce Agence France Press. I pronounced it in English. Sometimes we use foreign pronunciations of foreign words, sometimes English translations -- according to no particular set of rules. There's a fine line between between being respectful/ knowledgable and pretentious. This time i erred on the side of unpretentiousness.

That said, we should have a rule and stick with it. So we shall endeavor to come up with one.

Apr. 10 2011 12:32 PM
christa hillhouse from omaha NE

dang! i wish i could afford that collection! great show, tho ..

Apr. 10 2011 11:58 AM
Marc Leavitt from Highlan Park, NJ 08904

This is just an informational FYI. Bob Garfield on today's show (4/10/11) mispronounced Agence France Presse. Correct pronunciation is Ah-jhahns; he pronounced it as "AGENCY."

great show, as usual.

Apr. 10 2011 11:08 AM

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