Slang, writes Michael Adams, is poetry on the down low, and sometimes
lowdown poetry on the down low, but rarely, if ever, merely lowdown. It is
the poetry of everyday speech, the people's poetry, and it deserves
attention as language playing on the cusp of art.
In Slang: The People's Poetry , Adams covers this perennially interesting
subject in a serious but highly engaging way, illuminating the fundamental
question "What is Slang" and defending slang--and all forms of nonstandard
English--as integral parts of the American language. Why is an expression
like "bed head" lost in a lexical limbo, found neither in slang nor
standard dictionaries? Why are snow-boarding terms such as "fakie," "goofy
foot," "ollie" and "nollie" not considered slang? As he addresses these and
other lexical curiosities, Adams reveals that slang is used in part to
define groups, distinguishing those who are "down with it" from those who
are "out of it." Slang is also a rebellion against the mainstream. It often
irritates those who color within the lines--indeed, slang is meant to
irritate, sometimes even to shock. But slang is also inventive language,
both fun to make and fun to use. Rather than complain about slang as "bad"
language, Adams urges us to celebrate slang's playful resistance to the
commonplace and to see it as the expression of an innate human capacity,
not only for language, but for poetry.
A passionate defense of slang, jargon, argot and other forms of nonstandard
English, this marvelous volume is full of amusing and even astonishing
examples of all sorts of slang. It will be a must for students of language
and a joy for word lovers everywhere.