Phat [was Re: gay/ghey/ghay]

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Wed Jun 2 14:52:13 UTC 2004

On Wed, Jun 02, 2004 at 03:36:48PM +0100, Jonathon Green wrote:
> >
> >        "Pseudo-slang" was just a made-up term I used to refer to words
> >like "fuck" that are frequently denigrated as slang but are not in fact
> >slang.
> >
> >John Baker

Let me interject something that Mr. Green was too modest to
mention in his post, namely that his name is "Jonathon", no
"Jonathan" or "John" as some recent messages have had it.

> If I might throw in another ten penn'orth/cents: I don't think, with
> respect to John Baker,  that _fuck_, and other taboo terms that started
> off life as mainstream (if not exactly 'standard') English but by c.1700
> were considered off-limits, are so much 'pseudo-slang' which to me, at
> least, implies a degree of deliberate contrivance, but slang 'faut de
> mieux'. Excluded from polite use (although the cites never stop coming)
> and mainstream lexicography they remained in the wider lexis, but found
> themselves 'rescued', at least as far as dictionaries are concerned, by
> the slang lexicographers. (Indeed I'm not sure that _fuck_ appears in any
> mainstream dict. other than Florio's Italian-English _World of Words_
> (1598), where it translates 'fottere').

Do you mean used in definition text? It's hard to imagine "fuck"
being used in definition text for any non-recent dictionary, and
not in very many recent ones either.

But in terms of _fuck_ being itself defined, there were indeed
a number of dictionaries that included it (Bailey's _Universal
Etymological English Dictionary_ and _Dictionarium
Britannicum_ among the more prominent ones); Allan Walker Read
discusses this in some detail in his 1934 _American Speech_
article. The latest until the modern era was the 1795 second
edition of John Ash's _New and Complete Dictionary of the
English Language_.

I also agree that "fuck" is slang, and not pseudo-slang; we've
discussed this before.

Jesse Sheidlower

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