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Weekly Alibi Ain't Ain't in the Dictionary

Alternative Dictionaries on the WWW.

By Devin D. O'Leary

JANUARY 26, 1998:  One problem we run into working at a newspaper is whenever someone tries to get clever and slip some obscure slang term into their article, the editors have precious little resources to check the validity of said slang word. If I want to talk about shaking my ass in Yiddish, am I wiggling my tuchas, my tuches or my tokhes? It's a valid concern, when you're searching for journalistic accuracy. While the good old OED is good for some things, it ain't exactly gonna give me an accurate translation of Cockney slang like "Bob's your Uncle," now is it? Where's a fella to turn when he needs that certain flavoring of patois? How about the World Wide Web, the Internet, the information superhighway, the trip dub, cyberspace, the ... well, you get the idea.

Alternative Dictionaries (www.notam.uio.no/~hcholm/altlang)--This is one of the more ambitious dictionaries on the Web. It's a cooperative attempt to catalogue slang terms from just about every language on Earth. It's divided by language, so you've got to know which one you want. There are dozens to choose from. You can check out 120 different Swedish slang words, but only one in Urdu ("kabiel gondhu" meaning "big faggot" in case you were wondering). The Yiddish section is fairly expansive, but by no means complete. I now know the proper meanings for both shlemiel and shlemazle, though (which still doesn't help me understand that damn "Laverne & Shirley" song). The proper Yiddish spelling for booty is "tokhes," by the way. And if you happen to know any slang words in Upper Sorbian, be sure and wing them to the Alternative Dictionaries, because they haven't found a single one yet.

Twists, Slugs and Roscoes: A Glossary of Hardboiled Slang (www.vex.net/~buff/slang.html)--William Denton and pals have compiled an exhaustive tome dedicated to the often arcane language of hardboiled detective fiction. Drawing mostly from the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, "Twists, Slugs and Roscoes" translates the most hardboiled of tough guy dialogue. The title of this Web page, for example, refers to women, bullets and guns. Although some hardboiled slang can be rather obvious (spinach=money), some can be quite obtuse. Why a telephone is called an ameche I suspect we'll never know. While I wouldn't suggest using much of this stuff in everyday conversation, this site does boast high entertainment value. With a little digging, you might even be able to translate my favorite pulp fiction phrase courtesy of writer Robert Leslie Bellam: "I'll bunt you in the crumpet 'til your beezer leaks buttermilk!"

Jive Page--Speaking the Forgotten Language (www-scf.usc.edu/~vanderpo/jive.html)--Jimmy "J.J." Walker spoke it. Richard Pryor used it. Even Redd Foxx was known to spout it on occasion. But as the authors of this tongue-in-cheek site are quick to point out, jive is "not just for African-Americans anymore." This one is designed with more TLC than most alternate dictionary sites--it's actually got frames and a few graphics! Click on the little animated Jive Guy for today's hip saying. Browse the educational "Introduction to Jive;" page through the "Jive Bible," or simply check out the list of jive books, movies and TV shows. Before you're done, you'll be jivin' like a turkey in no time. Today's assignment? Decipher the following: "You slap yo-self some fly digits offa dat bantor play built ona coke frame sippin' at de juice stand?"

Dictionary of Gay Slang (www.rit.edu/~wxygsh/dictionary.html)--Speaking of tokhas, did you know that gay people have over 100 slang words for ass? Well, neither did I, but I consider myself fully enlightened after browsing this site. Started in 1989, the Gay Dictionary is one of the oldest and most extensive slang sites on record. Most every word in here refers to some aspect of sexual intercourse; and as such, probably isn't the kind of thing you want to drop into casual conversation with your mom (then again, who knows, maybe you do). My personal favorite gay slang word? "MMM-Bop." Hanson's bubblegum pop tune now secretly refers to a three-way orgy. That's "Man-Man-Man-Bop." Jeez, I'll never look at that video the same way again.

devin@alibi.com


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