«A CRITICAL STUDY OF JOHN CAMDEN HOTTEN AND THE SLANG DICTIONARY A Dissertation by DRAGANA DJORDJEVIC Submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies of ...»
A CRITICAL STUDY OF JOHN CAMDEN HOTTEN AND THE SLANG DICTIONARY
Submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies of
Texas A&M University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
Major Subject: English
A CRITICAL STUDY OF JOHN CAMDEN HOTTEN AND THE SLANG DICTIONARYA Dissertation by
DRAGANA DJORDJEVICSubmitted to the Office of Graduate Studies of Texas A&M University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
Chair of Committee, J. Lawrence Mitchell Committee Members, C. Jan Swearingen Jennifer Wollock Rodney C. Hill Head of Department, M. Jimmie Killingsworth May 2010 Major Subject: English iii ABSTRACT A Critical Study of John Camden Hotten and The Slang Dictionary. (May 2010) Dragana Djordjevic, B.A., University of Belgrade;
M.A., Texas A&M University Chair of Advisory Committee: Dr. J. Lawrence Mitchell Many lexicographers found some words unsuitable for inclusion in their dictionaries, thus the examination of general purpose dictionaries alone will not give us a faithful history of changes of the language. Nevertheless, by taking into account cant and slang dictionaries, the origins and history of such marginalized language can be truly examined. Despite people‘s natural fascination with these works, the early slang dictionaries have received relatively little scholarly attention, the later ones even less. This dissertation is written to honor those lexicographers who succeeded in a truthful documentation of nonstandard language. One of these disreputable lexicographers who found joy in an unending search for new and better ways of treating abstruse vocabulary was John Camden Hotten. This study investigates the importance of Hotten‘s Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words in the evolution of dictionary making.
I analyze how many editions exist, the popularity of the 1864 edition, and differences between this and preceding editions, suggesting the inexorable growth of Hotten as a compiler. A short history of British cant and slang lexicography is provided and questions concerning the
terms such as slang and cant are defined and discussed briefly within the context of recent, relevant scholarship.
The conclusions drawn from this research are laid out in extensive annotations embedded in the lexical items of a critical edition demonstrating once again that Hotten‘s compilation was extremely important in the evolution of dictionary making. That Hotten‘s work was accepted as authoritative is evidenced by the number of allusions and borrowings from it as seen in the work of later lexicographers: Barrère and Leland draw extensively upon it in A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon, and Cant, 2 vols. (1889-90) as do Farmer and Henley in Slang and Its Analogues, 7 vols.
(1890-1904), and Eric Partridge in A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (1937).
Hotten‘s work seems to have been very influential in the preservation of words as well. A vast number of slang words that are cited in Hotten‘s dictionaries were used for a long time among the common people; in fact, the popular literature of the nineteenth century, particularly historical fiction, draws upon this vocabulary, and may well prove to be specifically indebted to Hotten‘s work. Thackeray‘s Vanity Fair and Joyce‘s Ulysses are full of slang expressions; Conan Doyle shows himself familiar with the terminology of pugilism in Rodney Stone, as does George Bernard Shaw in Cashel Byron's Profession.
This dissertation places John Camden Hotten as a writer/publisher/compiler and his work within contemporaneous scholarly argument, and, contrary to popular opinion, acknowledges the publisher‘s significant contributions to the development of Victorian literature and late
I would like to thank my committee members, Dr. Jennifer Wollock, Dr. Jan Swearingen, and Dr. Rodney Hill, for their support throughout the course of this research. A special thanks goes out to my committee chair, Dr. J. Lawrence Mitchell, for offering his knowledge, guidance and encouragement when I needed it most. This dissertation owes more to his patience and diligence than words can tell.
Thanks also go to my colleagues and the department faculty and staff for making my time at Texas A&M University a great experience. I also want to extend my gratitude to all of my friends who offered their knowledge of English slang and helped me write this dissertation, especially Dr. Rochelle Bradley who worked tirelessly at polishing my work.
Finally, thanks to my parents for teaching me the importance of education and to my
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
Victorian Publishing Practices
Hotten as an Author
Hotten as a Publisher
In Hotten‘s Defense
CHAPTER IV: HOTTEN‘S CONTRIBUTION TO THE DEVELOPMENT OFLEXICOGRAPHY
APPENDIX B ……
Table 3 Number of Entries under Chosen Letters
Percentage of B.E.‘s Entries Used in Hotten Table 4 Considering the Total Number of Entries in the 3rd Edition............. 109 Percentage of Grose‘s Entries Used in Hotten‘s 3rd Edition.............. 112 Table 5 Percentage of Vaux‘s Entries Used in Hotten Table 6 Considering the Total Number of Entries in the 3rd Edition.............. 115 Percentage of Vaux‘s Entries Used in Hotten‘s 3rd Edition............... 115 Table 7 Percentage of Vaux‘s Entries Used in Hotten‘s Footnoted Entries... 116 Table 8
Dictionaries, in any form—etymological, general, business, or medical—are, and always will be, historical documents. As Sidney I. Landau observes, lexicography, as a craft of dictionary making, is a way of doing something useful since no work of linguistic scholarship is more used or more helpful than a dictionary. His research actually shows that a dictionary and the Bible are probably the most common works in American homes.2 Indeed, dictionaries are used as reference works in everyday life: Students employ them frequently while learning a new language; literary critics and historians seize upon them for background information, while playwrights, poets, novelists, and film-makers turn to them for lively contemporary or period dialogues. In brief, dictionary makers have an important task to record the language that changes This dissertation follows the style of MLA Manual.
Trench, Richard. On Some Deficiencies in Our English Dictionaries. London, 1860.
Landau, Sidney. Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography. Cambridge:
Cambridge UP, 1989. 310.
frequently, and their work is of high value in our society, and thus should be appropriately respected and appreciated.
Nevertheless, the preeminent figure in dictionary making, Dr. Samuel Johnson, ironically defines a lexicographer as ―a harmless drudge.‖3 He compares the mistakes of an engineer and a chemist to those of the compiler of dictionaries and concludes that, by comparison, the mistakes of the lexicographers are indeed harmless. But the lexicographer is more than merely a harmless drudge, as Johnson well knew. Lexicographers are obliged to record the language truthfully, and if they document it incorrectly and incompletely, the language is impoverished. Since a dictionary is ―an inventory of the language,‖ it is not the task of the compiler of a dictionary to select only the good words of a language.4 Yet, earlier lexicographers often excluded vulgar and obsolete words from their works. Even Dean Richard Chevenix Trench, a contributor to The Oxford English Dictionary, did not always follow his own principles and deleted many vulgar terms because he deemed them inappropriate. Since many lexicographers found some words unsuitable for inclusion in their dictionaries, the examination of general purpose dictionaries alone will not give us a faithful history of changes of the language or any clear idea of what words people used for curses or such taboo subjects as sex and excretion. Nevertheless, by taking into account cant and slang dictionaries (extremely popular among people in the early modern period), the origins and history of such marginalized language can be truly examined.
The history of cant and slang lexicography is long and frequently disreputable. Despite people‘s natural fascination with these works, the early slang dictionaries have received relatively little scholarly attention, the later ones even less. Unlike contemporaneous mainstream Landau 36.
Landau 67. Trench qtd.
dictionaries, such as Samuel Johnson‘s A Dictionary of the English Language (1755),5 dictionaries of slang are far more often used than studied. This dissertation is written to honor those lexicographers who succeeded in a truthful documentation of nonstandard language. While mainstream dictionary writers have a comprehensive job to record all the standard words in a particular language, their less respectable colleagues, slang dictionary compilers, have the difficult assignment of recording slang even while it is changing. One of these disreputable lexicographers who found joy in an unending search for new and better ways of treating abstruse vocabulary was John Camden Hotten. In 1859, he first published The Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words,6 which proved to be very popular among the public and went through four editions in Hotten‘s lifetime (the 2 nd in 1860, the 3rd in 1864, and the 4th in 1872). This compilation was the first substantive work that provided evidence of contemporary marginalized language through innovative methods. Not only did Hotten pioneer numerous practices in slang dictionary making, such as the inclusion of quotations from the literary sources and word etymologies, but he was also the first to give a ―Bibliography of Slang and Cant‖ in which he listed some 120 titles for the first time ever and added his own critical comments on each. Hotten‘s dictionary is, in fact, the most comprehensive record of nineteenth-century slang, but it has never received the recognition and admiration it deserves. This dissertation is intended to put John Camden Hotten and his slang dictionaries in their place: both as fit objects for academic study and as constitutive parts of a tangled tradition.
Published on 15 April 1755 and written by Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, sometimes published as Johnson's Dictionary, is among the most influential dictionaries in the history of the English language.
The abbreviated title The Slang Dictionary will be used in this study.
For that reason, the sketch of Hotten‘s life and work is designed in the first chapter not to exhaust the subject, but merely to place this writer/publisher/compiler and his work within contemporaneous scholarly argument. Since Hotten, as a publisher, has received very poor press from both his contemporaries and later historians, I examine his controversial publishing practices, re-evaluate the dispute over his name, and, contrary to popular opinion, acknowledge the publisher‘s significant contributions to the development of Victorian literature and late nineteenth- and twentieth-century lexicography.
Furthermore, I discuss A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words in the context of the general and specialized dictionaries available at the time. This study demonstrates how the dictionaries are related to each other, considering not only which earlier glossaries they used, but also how they used them. As a result, the second chapter gives a short history of British cant and slang lexicography, forming the introduction to the study and laying the theoretical and critical foundations for the dissertation. It begins with a general overview of the development of slang dictionaries, from the earliest short glossaries to the most recent multiple-volume works.
Questions concerning the inclusion and exclusion of obsolete words and who makes such decisions are answered, and key terms such as slang and cant are defined and discussed briefly within the context of recent, relevant scholarship while the emphasis is put on the importance of Hotten‘s Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words in the evolution of dictionary making.
Performing comprehensive research and providing evidence of Hotten‘s contributions, the third chapter analyzes in depth the historical, descriptive, and linguistic aspects of the most important edition of Hotten‘s Slang Dictionary—the third edition, printed in 1864. First, I analyze how many editions exist, the popularity of the third edition, and differences between this and preceding editions, suggesting the inexorable growth of Hotten as a compiler. Second, by examining historical lexicography, this study demonstrates Hotten‘s selectiveness in his appropriation of available sources and thus identifies distinctive features of The Slang Dictionary‘s content and methodology. And third, by comparing Hotten‘s entries to the same slang terms included in late nineteenth- and twentieth-century slang dictionaries, this study shows how important this reference work was in the preservation of slang terms and in the evolution of dictionary making. This comprehensive research on the 1864 edition of Hotten‘s dictionary reveals much invaluable information on ephemeral aspects of language and paves the way for my proposed plans to compile a new critical edition of The Slang Dictionary, a sample of which is laid out in Appendix A.