Kate Lister (historian and curator of the website Whores of Yore) writes in her foreword to Sounds and Furies that language ‘is a powerful agent of social control, and dictates the acceptable, the feminine, and the well behaved’. Slang lexicons have long served to objectify women in all sorts of ways. It is not surprising, she argues, that Green’s Online Dictionary of Slang records only twenty-seven slang terms for the clitoris but 1,122 for the vulva. Female sexual pleasure does not find much expression in the slang lexicon.
Women and their relationship to and with slang has been a neglected topic in the otherwise copious literature on slang. Jonathon Green, today’s foremost slang lexicographer, has finally tackled this topic in his fascinating and hefty new book. He takes us on a journey through some seven hundred years of the slang lexicon in an effort to show how women have always had a stake in slang.