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.


Jim said...

:) Sounds more like something from Viz's Profanisaurus

Anonymous said...

Here in Australia we call these dags - used specifically for "fecal matter adhering to the wool around a sheep's anus". Used of a person who is poorly dressed - "he looks really daggy", and oddly enough,as a term of endearment (but not by many)- "you old dag".

Paul Brownsey said...

I still have somewhere a paper placemat I picked up in a diner in the USA in 1969 headed "The Language Explosion" and featuring many youth-culture expressions coming in around that time. "How many do you know?" the placemat asked.

One of them was "hang-ups", which my mother thought was slang for a bra...

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