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The first English Dictionary of Slang 1699 Review

Monday, October 4th, 2010

The First English Dictionary of Slang 1699

My copy of The first English Dictionary of Slang 1699 reprinted by the Bodleian Library arrived in the post today and a willing-tit of a book it is too.

The introduction is interesting covering the dating of its first printing, who B.E. Gentleman (the mysterious author) might have been and other topics.  The original preface is also included.  The meat of the book is the dictionary.  Of the 4000 entries 900, according to the introduction, are canting words and phrases.  Many others relate to crime, punishment, roguery and deceipt.

It includes words such as blobber-lippd – very thick, hanging down, or turning over, chounter – to talk pertly, and (sometimes) angrily and willing-tit – a little Horse that Travels chearfully.  I’ve come across some of the terms before in more recent dictionaries, like Eric Partridge’s Dictionary of the Underworld.  Since this is a period dictionary there is a more consistent feel to the words and the world they come from.  This makes is an excellent resource for a writer looking for inspiration or colourful words.  I’d also recomend it to any RPG writer or games master looking for inspiration for a game set in Renaissance Britain.

The book is a nicely produced hardback with clear printing and an attractive black on red dust jacket.  The printing is clear and easy to read (unlike one period dictionary I bought which was a reprint of a poor quality scan of the original book).  Although I’ve only skimed the dictionary so far I’d highly recommend it.

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