Author(s): Max Decharne
Slang is the language of pop culture, low culture, street culture, underground movements and secret societies; depending on your point of view, it is a badge of honour, a sign of identity or a dangerous assault on the values of polite society. Of all the vocabularies available to us, slang is the most alive, constantly evolving and - as it leaks into the mainstream and is taken up by all of us - infusing the language with a healthy dose of vitality.Witty, energetic and informative, Vulgar Tongues traces the many routes of slang, beginning with the thieves and prostitutes of Elizabethan London and ending with the present day (where the centuries-old terms rap and hip-hop still survive, though their meanings have changed). On the way, we'll meet Dr Johnson, World War Two flying aces, pickpockets, schoolchildren, hardboiled private eyes, carnival geeks and the many eccentric characters who have tried to record slang throughout its chequered past.If you're curious about flapdragons and ale passion, the changing meanings of punk and geek, or how fly originated on the streets of eighteenth-century London and square in Masonic lodges, this is the book for you.
A rollercoaster ride through the colourful history of slang - from highwaymen to hip-hop.
Max Decharne's engaging book Vulgar Tongues is a spectacular feat, collating information from a mind-boggling range of sources - from jazz lyrics to dime novels, from 18th century brothel directories to 1960s criminal autobiographies. -- Lynne Truss * New Statesman * A fantastic book -- Robert Elms * BBC Radio London * I'm loving Max Decharne's alternative history of English slang, Vulgar Tongues, and plan to be using a lot of wonderful new swearwords! -- Christopher Fowler A detailed delight ... The entertainment to be found within this etymology is legion ... Luckily for us, Decharne is a master of the manifold, who wields a light touch over a heavy amount of research ... Decharne's work ably demonstrates that the creation of slang is something hardwired in us, the need to mock suppression being the mother of its invention - one brilliant argument for never keeping a civil tongue. -- Cathi Unsworth * Fortean Times * Though he may not be a professional linguist, he has an infectious enthusiasm for the peculiarities of English vocabulary... The strength of Mr. Decharne's account is its zest * Wall Street Journal * English slang is a field rich for tillage, as Max Decharne proves in Vulgar Tongues, a triumph of philological research and mordant social commentary...[it] never loses sight of slang's deeper cultural role * Washington Post * Decharne, a musician and songwriter, has written extensively on music, crime and noir, and his great gift is to connect his encyclopedic knowledge of more recent slang to that of the past. His mind is a trivia-trap of the first order, and the book is a bracing historical tour of the lexicons of sex, prostitution, crime, alcohol, drugs, popular music and military slang. -- Peter Sokolowski * New York Times * [Decharne's] great gift is to connect his encyclopedic knowledge of more recent slang to that of the past. His mind is a trivia trap of the first order, and the book is a bracing historical tour of the lexicons of sex, prostitution, crime, alcohol, drugs, popular music and military slang -- Peter Sokolowski * New York Times *
Max Decharne is an author, songwriter and musician. He has recorded numerous albums and singles, and eight John Peel Sessions as the singer with The Flaming Stars. A regular contributor to Mojo magazine since 1998, his books include Hardboiled Hollywood, King's Road, the jive-talk dictionary Straight From The Fridge, Dad, and A Rocket in my Pocket, a history of rockabilly music (Serpent's Tail 2010) as well as the 2016 work Vulgar Tongues - An Alternative History of English Slang.