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Monumental Scholarly Dictionary of Slang Is Now Online

If you simply want to find slang, there are plenty of places to look online, but if you want a thoroughly researched, meticulously documented view of 600 years of English slang expressions, Jonathon Green's Green's Dictionary of Slang is what you need. Until now, getting a look at Green's three volume masterpiece involved a trip to the library, or shelling out hundreds of dollars. This week, with the launching of Green's Dictionary of Slang Online, it's become a whole lot easier to dig into the fascinating, long history of English slang.

The site allows lookups of word definitions and etymologies for free, and, for a well-worth-it subscription fee, offers citations and more extensive search options. We have made good use of Green's dictionary here at mental_floss, for articles like "31 Adorable Slang Terms for Sexual Intercourse from the Last 600 Years," "35 Classy Slang Terms for Naughty Bits from the Past 600 Years," and "35 Creative Slang Terms for Death from the Past 600 Years."

The range of usually-not-discussed-in-polite-company human experience is covered in the dictionary, and constantly expanding with new research. As Green's announcement states, "the dictionary breaks down into the following major themes and categories; the order is based on frequency of definition:

Crime and Criminals 5012; Drink, Drinking and Drunks 4589; Drugs 3976; Money 3342; Women (almost invariably considered negatively or at best sexually) 2968; Fools and Foolish 2403; Men (of various descriptions, not invariably, but often self-aggrandizing) 2183; Sexual Intercourse 1740; Penis: 1351; Homosexuals/-ity 1238; Prostitute/-ion 1185; Vagina 1180; Policeman / Policing 1034; Terms of Racial or National Abuse: 1000; Masturbate/-ion 945; Die, Death, Dead 831; Beat or Hit 728; Mad 776; Anus or Buttocks 634; Defecate/-ion & Urinate/-ion 540; Kill or Murder 521; Promiscuous / Promiscuity 347; Unattractive 279; Fat 247; Oral Sex 240; Vomiting 219; Anal Sex 180; STDs 65.

Now doesn't that sound like a lexicographical good time? Check out Green's Dictionary of Slang Online here.

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Big Questions
Where Does the Phrase '… And the Horse You Rode In On' Come From?
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Horses may no longer be the dominant form of transportation in the U.S., but the legacy of our horseback-riding history lives on in language. When telling people off, we still use the phrase “... and the horse you rode in on.” These days, it’s rare for anyone you're telling to go screw themselves to actually be an equestrian, so where did “and the horse you rode in on” come from, anyway?

Well, let’s start with the basics. The phrase is, essentially, an intensifier, one typically appended to the phrase “F*** you.” As the public radio show "A Way With Words" puts it, it’s usually aimed at “someone who’s full of himself and unwelcome to boot.” As co-host and lexicographer Grant Barrett explains, “instead of just insulting you, they want to insult your whole circumstance.”

The phrase can be traced back to at least the 1950s, but it may be even older than that, since, as Barrett notes, plenty of crude language didn’t make it into print in the early 20th century. He suggests that it could have been in wide use even prior to World War II.

In 1998, William Safire of The New York Times tracked down several novels that employed the term, including The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972) and No Bugles, No Drums (1976). The literary editor of the latter book, Michael Seidman, told Safire that he heard the term growing up in the Bronx just after the Korean War, leading the journalist to peg the origin of the phrase to at least the late 1950s.

The phrase has had some pretty die-hard fans over the years, too. Donald Regan, who was Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan from 1981 through 1984, worked it into his official Treasury Department portrait. You can see a title along the spine of a book in the background of the painting. It reads: “And the Horse You Rode In On,” apparently one of Regan’s favorite sayings. (The book in the painting didn't refer to a real book, but there have since been a few published that bear similar names, like Clinton strategist James Carville’s book …and the Horse He Rode In On: The People V. Kenneth Starr and Dakota McFadzean’s 2013 book of comics Other Stories And the Horse You Rode In On.)

It seems that even in a world where almost no one rides in on a horse, insulting a man’s steed is a timeless burn.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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language
How to Say Merry Christmas in 26 Different Languages
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“Merry Christmas” is a special greeting in English, since it’s the only occasion we say “merry” instead of “happy.” How do other languages spread yuletide cheer? Ampersand Travel asked people all over the world to send in videos of themselves wishing people a “Merry Christmas” in their own language, and while the audio quality is not first-rate, it’s a fun holiday-themed language lesson.

Feel free to surprise your friends and family this year with your new repertoire of foreign-language greetings.

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