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Slingin' the Old Jack Lang: The history of rhyming slang

Uploaded 06/11/2015

Rhyming slang can claim to be London’s one truly home-grown language. It may have started around 1830 among the canal-digging navvies, the villains of St Giles or, as is most likely, the costermongers of the East End, spreading over time to Australia and the United States. But it remains the most quintessentially ‘London’ of all slang’s vocabularies. It isn’t a vast lexis, something over 3,000 words in all, but it’s still going strong. Like black cabs and red telephone kiosks it’s not what it was, but like them it’s part of the world’s shorthand for ‘London’. Jonathon Green is the world's leading expert in slang lexicography. His latest work, the three-volume Green's Dictionary of Slang, appeared in 2010. He has continued to amend, improve and expand the database, and the ongoing work is scheduled to be launched online later this year. If you enjoy listening to this event do take a look at the other events we have coming up.

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