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REVIEWS Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang. 1994. Ed. J. E. Lighter. New York: Random House, lxiv + 1006 pp. $50.00 U.S.; $67.00 Can. The first volume of diis diree-volume set (hencefordi HDAS) was published in 1994, and bills itself as "the only historical dictionary of slang, spanning three hundred years of slang use in America." The book itself has an attractive red, white, and blue cover with praise from lexicographic dignitaries on the back. There are 3 pages of acknowledgments, 27 pages of introductory essay, plus 2 pages of notes, 7 pages of Select Annotated Bibliography, 10 pages in the guide to die dictionary, a Pronunciation Key, a list of abbreviations , and 1,006 pages of entries covering A through gytch. By any reckoning, this is an extraordinary work. When completed, it will be the largest work on English slang, and I assume, the largest work on the slang of any language. Just thumbing through the first volume will be a delight to anyone interested in informal and colloquial English—page after page of revelation after revelation. The completed dictionary will be quite large by any measure. In terms of the number of entry blocks, I would estimate that there are as many as 36,000, with up to 60,000 defined senses—assuming that the bibliography planned for the final volume will occupy about as much space as die front matter of the first volume and that the two volumes to come are the same size as the first. I think that is roughly three times the size of R. L. Chapman's New Dictionary of American Slang (NDAS) in terms of defined senses, with the additional bulk coming mainly from the quotations included. A further part of the difference between the entry counts of NDAS and HDAS results from the inclusion of a large number of idiomatic phrases in HDAS. A similarly titled dictionary of slang is The Macmillan Dictionary of Historical Slang, edited by Jacqueline Simpson. It is an abridgement of Eric Partridge's large Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (DSUE). The Macmillan volume contains only words and expressions already in use before World War I. Lighter's work is a historical dictionary, meaning, in this case, that it focuses on the history of word use, not on the historical development of word form: In fact the rigor used in assembling and presenting printed citations for each entry in HDAS is the distinguishing feature of this work vis-à-vis all the odier American slang dictionaries. The format is the same as the OED, the Dictionary of American English on Historical Principles (DAE), and other historical dictionaries. A set of dated citations follows each definition, allowing the reader to form an idea of when the word or expression was in use. The HDAS quite sensibly shows some of the British origins of the American entries. In addition JEL wisely Reviews1 87 mentions in his introduction that before 1820, the differences between British and American English were minimal. There are many phrases to be found in HDAS, both within entries and in a separate section at the end of some entries. Many of them appear to be standard English idioms, but it is good to have this information handy and accessible. Phrases and idioms are alphabetized under an editor-identified "key word" in the phrase, very often following the entry for this "key word." Phrasal material is given the same treatment as regular entries, using dated citations to establish a period of use. This is an important event for practicing lexicographers, who can now consider the inclusion of slang in modern dictionaries with a greater sense of confidence, and indeed, obligation. In the words of Sidney Landau quoted on die back cover, "The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang is an absolutely outstanding work of scholarship that will have a profound influence on die treatment of slang in all future dictionaries of English." Indeed, dictionaries that focus on the printed language will want to include much of die material that JEL has documented in HDAS. Defining slang Much of the introduction is devoted to defining and describing slang and informing the reader...


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