Doofus / 'Historical' Slang

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Thu Jun 19 21:49:53 UTC 2003

I agree wholeheartedly with Jonathon Green's response to Frank Abate's
dismissal of the whole enterprise of historical lexicography of slang.
I'll state my feelings very briefly:  Yes, slang lexicography lags behind
the oral origins of most slang, but early printed citations still shed
significant light on those origins and are a lot better than nothing.
And the techniques now available to historical lexicographers, by which I
principally mean online databases but also have in mind the brilliant
nonelectronic researches of collectors such as Jonathan Lighter and Barry
Popik, unearth citations that are closer to the true oral origins of the
terms than Abate seems to realize.

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and     YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
  Access and Lecturer in Legal Research     Yale University Press,
Yale Law School                             forthcoming
e-mail: fred.shapiro at     

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