Thursday, September 24, 2020

Knickers in a Twist: A Dictionary of British Slang by Jonathan Bernstein

Hey wait -- I just realized the oddest thing about this 2006 book by an ex-pat British writer then living in LA. It was originally published first in the UK.

Don't...don't they already understand their own slang? Wouldn't that be like Random Penguin publishing Shit Americans Say? Who would actually buy that?

(In other news: I haven't worked in trade publishing for a decade, and clearly my is-this-a-viable-product detector is no longer reliable, since this is a thing that happened already.)

Anyway: the book is Knickers in a Twist. The author is Jonathan Bernstein, who I think is the same guy who wrote Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector.

It collects a whole bunch of both current and recent-historical slang used by people in various corners of the UK -- pretty much all things that people who are not yet dead might actually say or at least clearly remember people saying within their lifetimes -- organized into about three dozen thematic chapters to make looking for a term alphabetically more difficult but with an index to make that possible again. Bernstein apparently relied on his own knowledge and asking other British people for research, with possibly an intensive program of taking notes while watching Carry On movies and Two Ronnies re-runs.

I am not British. So if I say that this book seemed entirely plausible to me, as a person living in an entirely different country with a somewhat different culture who has a vague interest in words-in-general and Britishness in particular...well, you can add as many grains of salt as your taste requires.

It is often funny, and it's a quick read, and it will at the very least introduce or re-introduce you to some colorful terms that you can use in your own life, probably confusing everyone around you. I read it in the smallest room of the house, and it was admirably suited to that purpose. I can enthusiastically recommend it on those bases.

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