________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 10 . . . . January 21, 2005


Slangalicious: Where We Got That Crazy Lingo.

Gillian O’Reilly. Illustrated by Krista Johnson.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2004.
84 pp., pbk. & cl., $14.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55037-764-7 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55037-765-5 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
English language-Slang-Juvenile literature.
English language-Etymology-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Linda Ludke.

**** /4


"Where did a crazy word like flapper come from?" I asked.

"Some people think it came from a word for teenage girls from forty years earlier," answered Edmund. "Some people point out that it was an old word for a young duck and by 1910 was used to refer to independent women, especially those campaigning for women's right to vote. But, really, no one knows."

"That happens with slang words," added Lexie. "People use slang in conversation for a long time before the expressions get written down. By the time someone writes them down, everybody has forgotten how they started."


This fun, colourful introduction to the origins of slang will have readers hooked on language play. The information is presented by means of a fictional story about a young boy researching a school assignment. While the boy is searching the internet, two computer screen characters named Edmund and Lexie - "the slang experts" - come to the narrator's aid. The trio quickly "get down to brass tacks," and over 500 examples of slang words and phrases are explored.

     As the narrator tries to comprehend the information he reads on the computer screen, Edmund and Lexie provide commentary and answer questions. The page layout is visually appealing, with a blue typeset to highlight the website text. The ensuing dialogue is realistic, and the conversational tone adds to the book's readability. The innovative format also includes computer pop-up sidebars that offer interesting tidbits such as "From the 1930's on, Abyssinia (the former name of Ethiopia) has been slang for "I'll be seeing you.").

     Chapters are arranged by subject and include: "Nibbles, Nosh and Bun Pups"; "Greens, Geets and the Daily Grind"; "The Boob Tube, the Flicks and the Funnies"; and "Speakeasies and Gumshoes." Readers will be intrigued to find out the origins of such slang words as "smart aleck" (thought to refer to Alec Hoag, a famous thief of the 1840s), "bunk" (shortened from Buncombe, North Carolina, where a politician gave a speech that made no sense), and "yob" (reverse letters for "boy"). The chapter on "Globetrotting Slang" explores expressions from Britain ("apples and pears" is Cockney rhyming slang for stairs) and Australia ("chalkie" refers to a teacher). Our own "Great White North" slang such as "hoser," "double-double" and "two-four" is also highlighted.

     Krista Johnson's witty cartoon illustrations depict a literal translation of phrases. "Being sent up the river" is accompanied by a convict paddling a canoe through jail gates. "Rubbernecking" shows a man with a twisted neck craning out the car window. Readers would have a fun time trying to guess the phrases from looking at the pictures.

     Slangalicious emphasizes how slang is part of an oral tradition and changes over time. The final chapter includes questions engaging readers to think about language that is used today. An index lists all the words and phrases that appear in the book. Suggestions for further reading and a list of selected sources are also provided.

     This highly recommended book is the bee's knees!

Highly Recommended.

Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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