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The screaming abdabs: Anthony Burgess’s Dictionary of Slang

by | 3rd, June 2017

Anthony Burgess,

 

Manchester-born writer and academic Anthony Burgess began work on a dictionary of slang –  “the home-made language of the ruled, not the rulers, the acted upon, the used, the used up. It is demotic poetry emerging in flashes of ironic insight.”

Entries in A from Anthony Burgess’s lost dictionary of slang

Abdabs (the screaming) – Fit of nerves, attack of delirium tremens, or other uncontrollable emotional crisis. Perhaps imitative of spasm of the jaw, with short, sharp screams.

Abdicate – In poker, to withdraw from the game, forfeiting all money or chips put in the pot.

Abfab – Obsolescent abbreviation of absolutely fabulous, used by Australian teenagers or ‘bodgies’.

Abortion – Anything ugly, ill-shapen, or generally detestable: ‘You look a right bloody abortion, dressed like that’; ‘a nasty little abortion of a film’ (Australian in origin).

Abyssinia – I’ll be seeing you. A valediction that started during the Italo-Abyssinian war. Obsolete, but so Joyceanly satisfying that it is sometimes hard to resist.

Accidental(ly) on purpose – Deliberately, but with the appearance of accident: ‘So I put me hand on her knee, see, sort of accidental on purpose.’ (Literary locus classicus: Elmer Rice’s The Adding Machine, 1923.)

Arse – I need not define. The taboo is gradually being broken so that plays on the stage and on radio and television introduce the term with no protest. The American Random House Dictionary … is still shy of it, however, though not of the American colloquialism ass. Arse is a noble word; ass is a vulgarism.

NOTE: Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange is cited three times in the historical Oxford English Dictionary: ‘thou’, ‘your’ and ‘droog’ which was invented by Burgess in the novel and appears on the first page: “There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim.”

Via: The Anthony Burgess Foundation and Flashbak, which has more.



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