The Curious and Little-Known Slang Terms Found in Modern Britain

From Susie Dent’s fascinating new book on ‘modern tribes’

The lexicographer and etymologist Susie Dent is well-known in the UK thanks to her role as the resident word expert and adjudicator on the long-running Channel 4 quiz show Countdown (the very first programme broadcast on the channel in 1982; Susie Dent joined the show in 1992). Dent is also the author of a series of popular books on the English language. Dent’s Modern Tribes: The Secret Languages of Britain is her latest book, and we were fortunate enough to be recipients of a review copy. The book is a treasure-trove of unusual jargon and colourful slang from various trades, clubs, sports, social groups, and walks of life – everything from an old publican’s friendly nickname for a habitual drinker (that’s a tosspot) to the theatrical term for an actor who performs in an exaggerated, hammy manner (that’ll be a scenery-chewer). Dent has been scouring old dictionaries of slang and other historical sources for such memorable linguistic zingers. Read the rest of this entry

Five Fascinating Facts about Goethe

Fun trivia about Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

1. One of the first poems Goethe ever wrote was in English. Although Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was a German poet, novelist, and philosopher, he began writing poetry in the English language from an early age. One of his earliest efforts is, fittingly enough, about wanting to become a poet: ‘And other thought is misfortune / Is death and night to me: / I hum no supportable tune, / I can no poet be.’ But poet he would be – although not in English. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s ‘Because I could not stop for Death’

A critical reading of a classic Dickinson poem

In ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ Emily Dickinson writes about one of her favourite subjects: death. But the journey she describes is intriguing: is it faintly comical, or grimly macabre? Below are some notes towards an analysis of ‘Because I could not stop for Death’ which address the poem’s language and meaning.

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility – Read the rest of this entry