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Know your slang, poindexters?

Never mind if you’ve got the heebie-jeebies, how did we get that word? Winner of the Dartmouth Medal for RUSA/ALA Outstanding Reference Source and 2011 Booklist Editors’ Choice, Green’s Dictionary of Slang is a remarkable collection of this often reviled but endlessly fascinating area of the English language. We dug through a few of the 10.3 million words and over 53,000 entries — definitions of 100,000 words with over 413,000 citations — to come up with a little quiz to celebrate.

What can you NOT be as drunk as..?
a) Chloe
b) A rat
c) A cootie
d) A daffodil

Newsweek 8 Oct. 1951 (28): “In Detroit, someone who once would be called a drip or a square is now, regrettably, a nerd, or in a less severe case, a _____.”
a) Punch buggy
b) Scurve
c) Pencil case
d) Collosus

Identify the cockney rhyming slang for “water”:
a) Patēr (Latin for father)
b) Neptune’s Daughter
c) Canal fodder
d) Thames toddler

What is the first recorded use of “wham” meaning to hit or strike?
a) “Wear him down wit’ dat left an’ den wham him wit’ de right.” in Charles Van Loan’s ‘On Account of a Lady’ in Taking the Count (1915).
b) “Wham, wham, re, bop, boom, bam.” The title of Paul Whiteman’s jazz instrumental (1940).
c) “Who‥not only hit upon this dainty amendment, but coax’d many of the old licensed matrons‥to open their faculties afresh, in order to have this whim-wham of his inserted.” in Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy (1760).
d) “Wham! A beautiful corner kick.” in Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings Goes To School (1950).

In Dickens’s Oliver Twist, what does Mr Grimwig threaten to eat?
a) His hat
b) His boots
c) His turtle
d) His mother

“Cheese-eating” first became suspicious in the United States when:
a) The Simpson’s character Groundskeeper Willie’s called the French, “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” in 1995
b) Donald Rumsfeld referred to the French as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” upon the French government’s refusal to become involved in the Iraq war in 2003
c) The character Charley Malloy says “People I may know … you mean eat cheese for ya?” in On the Waterfront (1964)
d) It was used as a term for informing on and betraying other criminals in the 1950s

Where did the term “gyp” — meaning to deceive or defraud — originally come from?
a) Gypsum, mineral used for plaster of Paris among other things and used to deceive people about purchases which would quickly crumble later
b) Gee-up, to encourage horses to move
c) Gypsy, gypsies were commonly believed to be thieves throughout much of history
d) A corruption of “chip,” an obsolete term for a counterfeit coin

Which of the following is NOT a “stink” slang term?
a) Stink-eye
b) Stink-jet
c) Stink-finger
d) Stink-hole

Which term can refer to money, bodily secretions, or an unpleasant person?
a) Cheese
b) Moolah
c) Goat
d) Bread

What is beehive sex?
a) Excessive attention to a lady’s hair (1960s)
b) Obsession, derived from the (over-)watchful eye of a beekeeper on his hives (obsolete)
c) A South African term for orgy
d) Sex in a confined space to which others may be witness

Do these daffodils look drunk? Answers to the quiz below…

AND THE ANSWERS ARE…

What can you NOT be as drunk as..?
d) A daffodil
drunk as Chloe is Australian slang dating from 1789; drunk as a rat dates from 1589; and drunk as a cootie from 1827 in Massachusetts Spy

Newsweek 8 Oct. 1951 (28): “In Detroit, someone who once would be called a drip or a square is now, regrettably, a nerd, or in a less severe case, a _____.”
b) Scurve

Identify the cockney rhyming slang for “water”:
b) Neptune’s Daughter

What is the first recorded use of “wham” meaning to hit or strike?
a) “Wear him down wit’ dat left an’ den wham him wit’ de right.” in Charles Van Loan’s ‘On Account of a Lady’ in Taking the Count (1915).

In Dickens’s Oliver Twist, what does Mr Grimwig threaten to eat?
a) His hat
“A bad one! I’ll eat my hat if he is not a bad one.”

“Cheese-eating” first became suspicious in the United States when:
d) It was used as a term for informing on and betraying other criminals in the 1950s
1951 J. BLAKE letter 15 April in Joint (1972) 19: To report these unsavory and totally lost creatures […] is called ‘ratting’ or ‘cheese-eating’.

Where did the term “gyp” — meaning to deceive or defraud — originally come from?
c) Gypsy, gypsies were commonly believed to be thieves throughout much of history

Which of the following is NOT a “stink” slang term?
b) Stink-jet

Which term can refer to money, bodily secretions, or an unpleasant person?
a) Cheese
“As to the way in which yer emptied my pockets – yes; but not as to the time nor manner when you will restore the cheese!” in Ned Buntline’s The G’hals of New York (1850).
“There’s more f**king cheese on your knob than hair on your block.” in J.H. Ross’s Mint (1922/1955) [J.H. Ross is a pseudonym for T.E. Lawrence; Mint recounts his time in the RAF (joined 1922)].
“You are such a cheese.” in Samuel Bracebridge Hemyng’s Eton School Days (1864).

What is beehive sex?
c) A South African term for orgy
in Ken Cage’s Gayle: The Language of Kinks and Queens: a History and Dictionary of Gay Language in South Africa (2003)

Jonathon Green, a lexicographer, is the author of the Chambers Slang Dictionary (2008) and Chasing the Sun (1996). He has published books since the 1970s, on topics ranging from occupational jargon to censorship, and is a regular radio and television commentator. Every word and phrase authenticated by genuine and fully-referenced citations of its use, Green’s Dictionary of Slang has a level of authority and scholarship unmatched by any other publication in this field. From the past five centuries right up to the present day, and from all the different English-speaking countries and regions, it demonstrates the sheer scope of a lifetime of research by Jonathon Green, the leading slang lexicographer of our time.

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