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Sounds & Furies

Sounds & Furies

‘From fishwives to flappers and from music hall performers to Mumsnetters, women have indeed made contributions to the slang vocabulary of English; by bringing together so much fascinating material about their words and their worlds, this book makes its own contribution to the history of both women and language.’
Professor Deborah Cameron, Professor of Language and Communication, Worcester College, University of Oxford

‘Green comprehensively disproves that slang is inherently masculine. Mumsnetters and bulldaggers, flappers and slappers, shicksters and hash-slingers all put in their claims as slang-users in their own right in this entertaining and thought-provoking book. Any writer venturing into the contentious area of women as users, creators or objects of slang from now on will look to Green for guidance or for arguments.’
Julie Coleman, author of The Life of Slang

Slang. The ultimate in man-made languages. The male gaze made verbal. A world where words for intercourse mean ‘man hits woman’, the penis is a gun, a knife or club and the vagina a terrifying tunnel. Possibly with teeth. Two thousand words for woman and every one a put-down. Even ‘mother’ is simply short for the grossest of obscenities.

Thus the story, now and for several hundred years. But stories are just that and perhaps there’s an alternative.

In this book Jonathon Green, the leading collector of English-language slang and drawing on forty years of research in the field, asks whether women have another role to play. As slang’s active, positive, rebellious subject, rather than its endlessly derided, submissive object.

Sounds & Furies represents a quest to overturn a long-established, but far from invulnerable belief system. To show that throughout a recorded history that starts with Chaucer’s bawdy, mouthy and magnificently self-willed Wife of Bath and carries on through a cast of working girls and villainesses, playwrights and bestselling authors, shop-girls and fish-wives and through to the modern, on-line worlds of Mumsnet and Tinder, women have always made slang their own.

If slang has always been the language of the margins, then women, for all their numbers, have also been consigned to the margins. Those days, it is ever more clear, are over. If slang has a role then it is to represent us at our most human. That may not mean ‘admirable’ but it surely means ‘true’. And humanity is on offer to everyone, whatever gender they may claim. That goes for language, whatever its variety, too.

From the foreword by sex historian Kate Lister:
‘Patriarchal cultures have understood women, controlled women, and marginalised women. But, this book also reveals that it is the rebellious women who used slang: the fishwives, the scolds, the whores, and the harridans. Long may they continue to do so.’
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Genre: Language / Linguistics / Historical & Comparative Linguistics / Dialect, Slang & Jargon

On Sale: 7th November 2019

Price: £16.99

ISBN-13: 9781472141910

Reviews

It's long been accepted, even while complaining about women using it, that slang is inherently masculine. In his detailed and wide-ranging survey, Jonathon Green comprehensively disproves this. About time too. Green finds that, at least in recent years, English-speaking women have been every bit as enthusiastic, creative and filthy in their non-standard language as men. Mumsnetters and bulldaggers, flappers and slappers, shicksters and hash-slingers all put in their claims as slang-users in their own right in this entertaining and thought-provoking book. Women remain frequent objects of slang too, so mysogynists and offence-seekers needn't feel neglected. Any writer venturing into the contentious area of women as users, creators or objects of slang from now on will look to Green for guidance or for arguments. One way or another, his continued influence is assured.
Julie Coleman, author of The Life of Slang
Women's relationship to slang, and especially their role in coining and popularising it, has been not so much a neglected topic as a non-issue: collectors and scholars have often assumed either that slang was an overwhelmingly male preserve, or else that women's contributions had gone unrecorded, and were consequently inaccessible to research. In Sounds and Furies Jonathon Green has put these assumptions to the test, and found many of them wanting. From fishwives to flappers and from music hall performers to Mumsnetters, women have indeed made contributions to the slang vocabulary of English; by bringing together so much fascinating material about their words and their worlds, this book makes its own contribution to the history of both women and language.
Professor Deborah Cameron, Professor of Language and Communication, Worcester College, University of Oxford