Friday, November 09, 2012
Dingle Berries and Nurds
This rather grotty, 1971 paperback was pretty much irresistible. It's a dictionary, clearly, that focuses on words from black, gay, criminal, pop and drug culture and it makes a fascinating read. I suppose I expected to find a lot of amazing words that I'd never heard before, but the thing that strikes you most forcefully is how tame and ordinary most of the words sound to a modern ear. Clearly, in 1971, these words were included in a dictionary like this precisely because they needed explaining, they sounded edgy and part of an 'underground' culture that 'most people' might not understand. So it's interesting to note how many of these words, particularly from the world of drug-taking are now in common parlance: mainlining, Charlie, shooting up, Smack, week-end habit, pep pill would all need no explanation today and wouldn't be considered a part of a sub-language, incomprehensible without the aid of a dictionary!
Other words, however, have a significance in the 70s that they have now lost:
Peace. Salutation used when meeeting and parting. It has replaced hello and good-bye to a considerable extent.
Marshmallow n. Female's breast. See BREAST
Marshmallows n. Testicles. See TESTICLES
Chestnut n. Female's breast. See BREAST
Chestnuts n. Testicles. See TESTICLES
and some have changed in spelling as well as a slight shift in meaning like:
Nurd n. Individual lacking in social grace; jerk; dumb person.
Certainly I had never before heard of the
S.P.C.H. n. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Homosexuals.
This was a time when phrases like: "Off the Wall", "Get Into Her Pants" and "Spaced Out" all required explanation.
There was one definition which took me slightly by surprise, however, and either I have led a more sheltered life than I believe or this one might be new to many of you. Readers of a nervous disposition may like go somewhere else at this point.
dingle berry n. 1. Lint and fecal matter that gathers and hangs from the pubic hair that surrounds the anus. 2. Dumb person 3. One who ingests dingle berries during sexual play.