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08 May 2014 | by John Morrish

Word on the street

The Language Game

 
In his recent Language! 500 Years of the Vulgar Tongue, Jonathon Green, the cynosure of slang studies, lists 1,740 words for sexual intercourse, 1,351 for penis and 1,180 for vagina. There is, however, no slang word for “love”. If true, and I can’t immediately contradict it, that may be the most delightful thing I have heard this year: there is a concept so sacred that language – our language, at least – refuses to scuff it up, cheapen it, ridicule it or use it as a weapon.And of course, those are the sort of things slang does. In an earlier book, Green talks of it as “A jackanapes lexicon of the dispossessed. The language of the rebel, the outlaw, the despised, the marginal. Above all it is the language of the city – urgent, pointed, witty, cruel




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