The Victorian Dictionary of Slang & Phrase

SKU: BK2689
‘Plunges the reader straight into the late 19th-century’ 


‘I hope J. Redding Ware studies comes into its own, or at least that others discover him. How often is it worth reading a dictionary just for the stories?’ 
Inside Higher Ed


Acutely aware of the changes in English usage at the close of the Victorian era, the lexicographer James Redding Ware (1832–1909) decided to record for posterity new and archaic words and phrases from all walks of life, from the curses in common use by sailors and the rhyming slang of the street to the jargon of the theatre dandies. Where else would you turn to learn the meaning of ‘Bow-wow mutton’, ‘Air-hole’, ‘Lally-gagging’ and ‘Damper’?

Ware’s dictionary, first published in 1909, is a treasure trove of the everyday language of the nineteenth century, showing the influence of American English on Victorian slang as well as historical and innovative words and phrases. While it presents numerous expressions now obsolete, and some terms and definitions in the idiom of the era which would not now be considered acceptable, it also uncovers the origins and meaning of many slang words still in use today.

With an introduction by John Simpson, formerly Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, this dictionary provides a fascinating and highly entertaining witness to the colourful history of unofficial English. 

James Redding Ware (1832-1909) was an author, journalist and lexicographer.
John Simpson was the Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. 

  • Paperback
  • 288 pages, 196 x 129 mm
  • ISBN: 9781851244485
  • Publication September 2015

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