A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785)

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A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785)

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Jun 21, 2018 4:39 am

Below, I can do no better than to quote verbatim the description of this dictionary which appears on the website of Public Domain Review.

(The dictionary is downloadable from the link above as a PDF and in several other e-book formats.)
Thirty years after Dr Johnson published his great Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Francis Grose put out A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785), a compendium of slang Johnson had deemed unfit for his learned tome. Grose was not one for library work. He preferred to do his lexicography in the sordid heart of after-hours London. Supported by his trusty assistant Tom Cocking, he cruised the watering holes of Covent Garden and the East End, eating, boozing, and listening. He took pleasure in hearing his name punningly connected to his rotund frame. And he produced a book brimming with Falstaffian life.

In Vulgar Tongues (2016), Max Décharné called Grose’s dictionary, “A declaration in favour of free speech, and a gauntlet thrown down against official censorship, moralists and the easily offended.” While a good deal of the slang has survived into the present day — to screw is to copulate; to kick the bucket is to die — much would likely have been lost had Grose not recorded it. Some of the more obscure metaphors include a butcher’s dog, meaning someone who “lies by the beef without touching it; a simile often applicable to married men”; to box the Jesuit, meaning “to masturbate; a crime, it is said, much practised by the reverend fathers of that society”; and to polish meaning to be in jail, in the sense of “polishing the king’s iron with one’s eyebrows, by looking through the iron grated windows”. Given this was the era of William Hogarth’s famous print Gin Lane (1751), it’s not surprising to find the dictionary soaked through with colourful epithets for the juniper-based liquor: blue ruin, cobblers punch, frog’s wine, heart’s ease, moonshine, strip me naked. The Grose dictionary also contains hundreds of great insults, like bottle-headed, meaning void of wit, something you can’t say about its author.

Re: A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785)

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Jun 21, 2018 3:34 pm

Since writing the original posting I've investigated more closely the various ways in which it is possible to browse and share the dictionary, which is presented initially in a flip-book format. Navigation here is basic, and involves clicking on the left- or right-hand side of the book (or on the left- or right-pointing arrowhead icons located under the bottom right of the book) to flip backwards or forwards through it, one page at a time.

However, if you maximize the flip-book format (by clicking on the icon to the immediate left of the left- and right-pointing arrowheads), additional options are selectable in the new tab that subsequently opens. You can:

1) Download the dictionary in PDF, ePub, plain text, DAISY and Kindle formats.

2) Use the search box to find a particular word or expression. The text in question is searched for both in the headwords and in the definitions. Each found occurrence of the term is indicated by a pushpin displayed along a navigation bar below the flip-book that represents its approximate location in the book. Mousing over the pushpin displays the entire entry containing the term. You can also click on a pushpin to be taken to the full page that contains the relevant entry, where the search term will also be highlighted in purple to make it easier to locate quickly. You can click on one pushpin without losing the others.

3) Browse the book by dragging the position marker along the navigation bar.

4) Use the zoom controls to zoom in or out; on my screen, a full-height letter F, for example, can be magnified to 2.2 centimetres.

5) Listen to an entry being read aloud. The computer voice (which has been made to sound like an American woman) is rather mechanical-sounding, but is generally comprehensible. (However, it fails to indicate when it is reading text in parentheses; that could certainly be confusing, especially when the parenthetical text is also an abbreviation.) Each successive sentence in an entry is highlighted in purple as it is read out.

6) Select from a one-page view, a two-page view and a thumbnail view.

7) Link to the entire book, or to a particular page within it, via Facebook, Twitter or email.

8) Embed a mini Book Reader version of the dictionary in your own website or blog.

Taken together, these extra features impressively enhance the basic functionality.

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