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Dictionary of Contemporary Slang

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grouse n, adj Australian

(something) excellent, superlative. This use of the word probably derives from the notion of the bird as a delicacy; also used figuratively to denote an attractive woman since the pre-war period.

grub n

1. food. The word has existed with this meaning since at least the 17th century, inspired by the action of grubbing around.

‘‘At the weigh-in, Reynolds, in the red corner, weighed eight stone, two pounds.’ ‘Give the poor sod some grub!’ (Adolf Hitler, My Part in his Downfall, Spike Milligan, 1971)

2a. Australian a dirty, slovenly person. This sense of the word was in British use until the early 20th century, but is now obsolete there.

2b. British a younger child, especially a grubby or defiant one. From the terminology of prep and public schools.

Both these senses of grub derive from the lowly insect larva.

grues adj British See gruse

gruff vb, n British

(to) fart

grundies n pl British and Australian underpants, perhaps related to the earlier undie-grundie

grunge n

1a. American anything dirty, distasteful, squalid or sordid. This adolescent coinage is now heard in Britain.

‘For Martin Amis is the Wodehouse of grunge…’

(David Sexton, Sunday Correspondent, 17 September 1989)

1b. American a boring or irritating person or task

2. a genre of rock music and subsequently a youth subculture and fashion movement, originating in Seattle in 1992. The earlier senses of the word were applied to the heavy, fuzzy sound of the musical style and to the deliberately scruffy image cultivated by its adherents.

‘Sure, even before Kurt Cobain took his own life last year, whispers of grunge’s death had been patently acknowledged.’

(Guardian, 25 March 1995)

grunt n American

1. a soldier, an army private. A derogatory term sometimes used ironically by the soldiers themselves, deriving from the supposedly low intelligence and pre-

dilection for grumbling of the humble enlisted man or conscript.

‘The grunts were conscious that they were involved in a drug-and-rock ’n’ roll extension. Most of the combatants, black and white, came from the working class.’

(Michael Herr, Observer, 15 January 1989)

2. power. The term is used particularly by car enthusiasts to refer to engine power.

‘The engine size has gone up from 3.4 to 3.6 so there’s plenty of grunt.’

(Top Gear, BBC 2 TV motoring series, 13 February 1997)

gruntled adj

satisfied, gratified. A jocular back-for- mation from the standard ‘disgruntled’ (in which ‘gruntle’ in fact means grumble and is related to grunt). This rare word is typically used by educated speakers, saloon-bar philosophers and amateur or professional comedians.

I was feeling extremely gruntled following my success.

grunt-work n American menial or demeaning job(s)

‘You know, I used to do the grunt-work around here. Now I own the place.’

(Double Cross, US film, 1994)

gruse adj British

unpleasant, repellent. The term is an abbreviation of ‘gruesome’.

‘I watched my mate get her tongue pierced and it was well gruse.’

(Recorded, London student, 2002)

G-thing, G-thang n American

1. a subject or activity characteristic of a gangsta

‘Nothin’ but a G-thang.’

(Title of a rap recording by Dr Dre, 1992)

2. a subject or activity characteristic of males, from the phrase ‘it’s a guy’s thing’

You wouldn’t understand: it’s a G-thing.

gub vb British

a. to hit (someone), especially in the mouth or face

The geezer kept at him and finally Mickey gubbed him.

b.to defeat

Our team got well and truly gubbed.

Both senses of the verb derive from a dialect form of gob meaning mouth. The terms are heard particularly in the Scottish Lowlands and the north of England.

gubbing n British

a beating. The term, from the verb to gub, is almost always used literally, but can


guns of Navarone

also be used figuratively to mean a verbal attack.

Gucci adj

flashy, materialistic. The name of the Italian design company, usually employed with (mildly) critical intent, was adopted for use in street and, later, campus slang in the USA in the 1980s. Gucci shoes and handbags were part of the accessories favoured by devotees of the hip hop and rap subcultures. In the slang of the British Officer Training Corps the phrase Gucci kit is used to mock those who bring expensive luggage and accessories to training camps.

guck n

a sticky substance, muck. A mainly American nursery word blending ‘goo’ and ‘muck’. Also spelt gook.

guff vb, n British

(to) fart. An old childish vulgarism which has been revived since the late 1980s as part of a vogue for pseudo-nursery slang among students and others.

‘The force of the gigantic guff you used has wrecked the entire drainage system.’ (Johnny Fartpants, Viz comic, April/May 1988)

guffie n British

a fart. A variation of guff.

guinea n American

an Italian. An offensive term, the origin of which is obscure, but which might derive from a proper name such as Gianni or Giovanni, or else by a tortuous process from the name of the African country (whence slaves were exported).

gumby n

an aggressively gormless, clumsy and/or dull person. From the name of a character personifying these qualities in the TV comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus in the 1970s (in turn partially inspired by Peter Cook’s earlier invention ‘E. L. Wisty’). The personification and name were taken up by British and American teenagers in particular.

gump n American

1.a foolish, clumsy person, a simpleton. This widespread term pre-dated the 1994 film Forrest Gump. It originated in Yorkshire English dialect, in which it denoted a ‘dolt’ and was probably related to the colloquial ‘gumption’.

2.a male prostitute, particularly a transvestite male prostitute, from the slang of Chicago police, recorded in the non-fic-

tion work Pure Cop, 1991. By 2000 it was also in use in the UK.

gumshoe n

a detective, private eye or plain-clothes police officer. The term was first used in the USA early in the 20th century and referred to the silent rubber-soled shoes that detectives supposedly wore, as opposed to uniformed police officers’ heavy boots.

gunge n British

a sticky substance, muck. A slang term of the 1960s which has become a mid- dle-class colloquialism.

gung-ho adj

excessively eager, enthusiastic and/or assertive, especially in the context of patriotism, jingoism and military aggression. This phrase was thought to be a Chinese rallying cry. (The words ‘gung ho’ were part of the Chinese title of an Industrial Cooperative and were assumed wrongly to mean ‘work together’.) It was adopted by the Marine Corps and later for general American military use in World War II. It became known outside the USA to a limited extent during the Korean war and more particularly during the Vietnam war, now being so well known as to constitute a colloquialism rather than a slang term.

gunk n

1.muck, goo, sticky stuff. An American version of the British gunge, now heard in Britain, too. By extension it can also mean debris or rubbish.

2.British a school misfit. A schoolboy term reported to be in use in Eton College by Tatler magazine in September 1989.

gunsel n American

a.a callow youth

b.a gunman

The latter meaning is now more widely encountered, but the former, with overtones of punkishness, comes from the Yiddish slang for young man (gantsel or ganzl: ‘gosling’) and was the sense in which it was used in crime novels and film noir in the 1930s. The second meaning is based on a misreading of the first.

guns of Navarone n pl South African female breasts. The jocular expression from the 1990s borrows the title of a 1961 film featuring giant cliff-top cannons.



guppy n

an environmental yuppie. A journalese coinage blending ‘green’ and ‘yuppie’, inspired by the popular tropical fish.

gurgle n British

(an) alcoholic drink. A fairly predictable euphemism, used typically by pub habitués and other hearty drinkers. It is probably influenced by gargle.

‘Fancy popping down to the Swan for a bit of a gurgle?’

(Recorded, middle-aged drinker, Pangbourne, 1986)

gurgler n Australian

a toilet. The term is sometimes used figuratively in the phrase ‘down the gurgler’, meaning ruined, lost or failed.

gurk vb, n

a.British (to) belch, burp

b.Australian (to) fart

Imitative words used, mainly by children, since the 1950s.

gurner n

a tablet of ecstasy. The term was in use among UK students and others from the late 1990s.

gurning adj British

intoxicated by drugs or drink. The term was popular among adolescents and students from the later 1990s and refers particularly to someone feeling the ill effects of drugs. It is inspired by the verb to ‘gurn’ (from Middle English girn, a form of ‘grin’), which means to pull grotesque faces.

‘Look at Gemma, she is properly gurning man…’

(Recorded, art student, UK, 2002)

gussied-up adj

smartly dressed, neatly turned out. The term is common in American speech and is heard elsewhere. It may have originated in Australian usage and is possibly based on the names Augustus, Gus or Gussie as supposedly denoting an effeminate or fussy male.

‘Well, you’re all gussied-up.’

(Curaçao, US film, 1993)

gut-rot n

a cheap, low-quality alcoholic drink. This phrase is probably more widespread in Britain and Australia than the alternative rot-gut. Unlike rot-gut, it is occasionally also used to refer to food.

gutsache n

a miserable, complaining person, a mis- ery-guts. The expression is particularly

popular in Australia, but is also heard in Britain. The image evoked is of someone perpetually suffering from dyspepsia or provoking indigestion in others.

gutser, gutzer n Australian See come a gutser

gutted adj British

a. devastated, deeply disappointed, saddened or shocked. A vogue word among working-class and lower-middle-class speakers since the late 1980s, perhaps encouraged by the over-use of the word by sportsmen and sports commentators. The concept has also been expressed subsequently by the alternatives kippered and filleted.

‘24 hours before work on the commercial was due to start the answer came from Central. It was no. After all those years – just no. I was gutted.’

(Paul ‘Benny’ Henry, News of the World, 8 January 1989)

b. used as an exclamation. By the end of 1990 the term had become a schoolchildren’s catchphrase, used as a shout of victory or defiance, meaning ‘I have humiliated you’ or ‘you have been shamed’. The form ‘gutted out’ is also heard.

gutters n British

an unattractive female. A synonym for butters and dog, in the jargon of clubland recorded from the early 1990s.

‘An out and out gutters.’

(Touch magazine, September 1993)

gutty, gutsy adj British

bold, brave or ‘bolshie’. A late 1980s coinage, popular in unsophisticated speech, which is a back-formation from the well-established colloquial sense of guts denoting courage.

guv n British

a respectful term of address to a male, in working-class usage. Said invariably by, as well as to, men, guv is a shortening of the almost equally widespread guvnor, meaning boss.

guvnor, governor n British

a boss, chief or leader. A descriptive term or term of address used by, to and about males in working-class speech. This widespread colloquial form of governor arose in the early 19th century and shows no sign of dying out. Governor, then spelt correctly, was recorded as a slang term for one’s employer as early as 1802; Charles Dickens later


gyppy tummy

referred to it as a slang synonym for ‘old man’ or ‘boss’ when referring to one’s father. In the 1980s it acquired a further nuance in the form ‘the guvnor’ as an acknowledged expert or leading exponent (for instance among rock musicians and fans).

‘I’ll be alright ’cos I believe in the life hereafter. I mean, Jesus was the governor wasn’t he?’

(East Ender, Sunday Times, 2 June 1968)

gweeb, gweebo n American

a stupid, dull person. A late 1980s variation on dweeb, coined by teenagers. It is probably unrelated to the British grebo.

gwot n American

a contemptible person. This high-school term of great distaste, heard since the late 1980s, is an invention, obviously influenced by other evocations of

unpleasantness such as grotesque, weed, twat, etc.

‘Oh God, not him, he’s such a gwot.’ (Some Kind of Wonderful, US film, 1987)

gyppo, gippo n

1.a gypsy

2.an Egyptian. A neutral rather than pejorative term in origin, gyppo was, and is, sometimes extended in uneducated speech to encompass other Arabs or Muslims.

3.British a vulgar, poor and/or unsophisticated person. One of a number of pejorative terms (such as chav, pikey, skeg) in vogue since 2003.

gyppy tummy n British

an attack of diarrhoea. A phrase from the colonial era. The equivalent of Delhi belly, Montezuma’s revenge, etc.


H n

heroin. This was the most popular term among British drug users in the 1950s and 1960s before being supplanted by smack, scag, brown etc.

He’s been on H for years.

habit n

an addiction, a ‘drug habit’. A drug-user and law enforcers’ term, sometimes extended to refer to more innocuous addictions.

a $100 a day habit hack n

1.a journalist, professional writer. The word, inspired by the image of a worn-out workhorse, has traditionally denoted a disreputable, unprincipled, mercenary reporter or writer. Since the late 1960s, if not earlier, journalists have appropriated it to refer to themselves proudly rather than self-deprecatingly. Hack is still used in publishing as a simple descriptive term for a journeyman writer prepared to tackle any subject, as distinct from a specialist.

2.British an excessively ambitious student. In the slang of Oxford and Cambridge universities this is the undergraduate equivalent of the many schoolchildren’s synonyms for swot.

3.a cough, particularly a dry, rasping cough. The word imitates the sound in question.

hacked-off, hacked adj

annoyed, irritated, resentful. From the late 1980s, this phrase has enjoyed something of a vogue as a replacement for the better-known ‘brassed-off’, ‘cheesed-off’ and as a euphemism for pissed-off. It has been recorded in both the USA and Britain since the early 1950s.

hacker n

1. someone who hacks into a computer system. The hacking in question is the evocation of a person chopping their way

through dense undergrowth to their destination. Hacker in this sense appeared as part of data-processing jargon in the early 1980s. Spectacular instances of the penetration of computerised systems brought the word to public awareness.

2.a taxi driver. A ‘hackney cab’ (the archaic version of taxi cab) takes its name from ‘hackney’, meaning a horse used for transportation. The short version of the phrase survives in this sense.

3.a clumsy worker. Here hack evokes chopping clumsily, rather than handling or cutting finely.

hackette n British

a female journalist. A jocular term coined by journalists (on the basis of hack) and popularised in the 1980s by Private Eye magazine (who referred to society gossip columnist Lady Olga Maitland as ‘the fragrant hackette’) among others.

hack into vb See hacker

hack it vb

to succeed, to manage (in spite of adversity). A slang usage which remained relatively obscure until the early 1980s, since when it has become a common colloquialism. The original sense of hack is uncertain here; it may mean to drive, to strive or to chop (one’s way through).

The poor guy’s finished, he just can’t hack it anymore.

hag n

a disreputable, promiscuous and/or irritating female

hagsay n, vb British

(a) shag in pig Latin, in secondary school usage

ha-ha n British

marihuana or hashish (cannabis), or another ‘euphoric’ drug. A light-hearted reference by middle-class soft-drug users to the hilarity induced by smoking, ingesting or sniffing the chosen substance.



hairball n American

an unpleasant and/or despicable person, by analogy with something vomited by a cat. The phrase owes its usage from the 1980s partly to the fact that, while offensive, it is not obscene and can therefore be used in television dramas and by children in the presence of adults.

hairy1, hairie n British

a bearded, long-haired person and, by extension, a beatnik, ‘bohemian’ or intellectual. A disparaging term typically used by middle-class speakers in the mid1960s.

Honestly, she spends her time with all these weirdos and hairies.

hairy2, herry, herrie n Scottish

a female. The term is almost invariably pejorative and often refers to an unattractive or troublesome young woman. It is said to derive from the fact that the poorer female inhabitants of Glasgow in the 1930s and 1940s could not afford hats (then de rigueur for respectable women), thereby exposing their hair to onlookers.

Mick was off wi’ a wee herrie, so I’m told.

hairy-arsed, hairy-assed adj British wild, primitive, uncouth or rugged. A term in armed-forces and middle-class use which is often, but by no means always, appreciative in tone.

‘I am not some hairy-arsed Viking from the North bent on a bit of rape and pillage.’

(John Ashworth, Director of the LSE, quoted in the Independent, 5 January 1995)

half a bar n British

before decimalisation in 1971 half a bar was ten shillings; since then it has meant fifty pence. The phrase is London working class or cockney. ‘Bar’ is an archaic term, still occasionally heard in London, coming from a Romany word (bar or baur(o)) meaning a sovereign and, later, one pound.

half-arsed, half-assed adj ill-considered, incomplete, ineffectual. An expression which appeared in British and American usage around the turn of the 20th century. The term may originate in the notion of something which has less than a whole solid base or, according to a more fanciful theory, derive from a jocular deformation of ‘haphazard’. In modern British speech

it is sometimes used as a more vulgar version of half-hearted (its more probable inspiration).

‘I’d rather write nothing than something half-arsed. There are far too many halfarsed books in the world.’

(Novelist Dan Rhodes, interviewed in the Guardian, 9 April 2003)

hamburger n British

the vagina. A vulgarism in use among adolescents in the 1990s and listed in Viz comic in 1994. Furburger is a (probably earlier) synonym.

hammer n

1.a male who behaves excessively, a heavy drinker. In this sense the word has been used by US college students and some British adolescents since 2000.

2.a gun. A term used by young streetgang members in London since around 2000.

3.See put the hammer on (someone)

hammered adj British

drunk. A fashionable word among mainly middle class young people since the 1980s.

‘Sloane Rebs all support Chelsea FC, and can be seen every other Saturday lunchtime “chugging brew” and getting hammered at any number of pubs in the Fulham Road, before charging down to Stamford Bridge for a “frightfully good game of footy”.’

(I-D magazine, November 1987)

‘First things first: I’m a bit hammered and a bit dyslexic.’

(Posted on online student blog, October 2004)

Hampsteads n pl British

a short form of the cockney rhyming slang ‘Hampstead Heath’: teeth

hampton, Hampton Wick n British

the penis. Hampton Wick is a southwestern suburb of London, providing a rhyme for prick. In modern usage the short form of the phrase is usually preferred. Since the mid-1970s the term has been considered well established and inoffensive enough to be used in television comedies.

‘Then there were these telephone calls from…groupies. Somehow they’d learned a hell of a lot of cockney slang. They’d phone up and say “Hi Jeff Beck, how’s your ’Ampton Wick?” Ridiculous!’

(Jimmy Page, Oz magazine, April 1969)

Compare ted

ham shank


ham shank n British

an act of male masturbation, rhyming slang for wank. An item of student slang in use in London and elsewhere since around 2000.

hamstered adj British

intoxicated by drugs or drink. An item of student slang in use in London and elsewhere since around 2000.

handbag1 n British

a male escort, a ‘walker’. Handbag refers to a ‘decorative appendage’ to a fashionable lady, often a homosexual male. The term was popular in high society and journalistic circles in the mid-1980s.

handbag2 vb British

to frustrate, obstruct or attack. A jocular version of sandbag seen in the 1980s, often in journalistic references to Margaret Thatcher. The term evoked shrewish intransigence.

handbag situation, handbags at ten paces n British

a scene of provocation, a confrontation and/or feigned violence. These sarcastic phrases are typically used by football supporters to describe a scene in which players make a show of menacing or jostling each other. The reference is to a supposed brawl between middle-aged women.

‘A handbag situation – when players square up and scuffle (supermarket style) but the ball is too far away for them to kick each other…’

(Evening Standard, 26 May 1994)

hand-job n

an act of manual sexual stimulation, usually masturbation of a male by a female. A common vulgarism in use since the mid-1960s.

handle n

a name, nickname, alias or title. The first sense of the word was that of title (an appendage to one’s name) in the early 19th century.

hand shandy n British

an act of (male) masturbation. The term became widespread in the 1990s.

handsome adj British

excellent, impressive. An all-purpose term of approval used by cockneys and other Londoners, sometimes standing alone as an exclamation. The ‘h’ is usually dropped.

handy adj British

1.a catch-all London working-class term, invariably pronounced without the ‘h’ and signifying adept, devious, virile, brutal, etc., usually in a context of immorality or illegality

2.a term from teenage sexual slang, invariably applied to boys and defined by Just Seventeen magazine in August 1996 as ‘a bit too tactile under a girl’s T-shirt for her liking’

hang vb American

1. to consort with, frequent. This black street usage is a shortening of the colloquialism ‘hang out’ and was adopted by white adolescents from the 1990s.

He’s been hangin’ with the homeboys. Those betties hang down at the mall.

2. to relax. This usage is probably a shortening of the phrase hang loose. Originating in black street slang, it was adopted by white adolescents from the 1990s.

I’m inclined to tell them all to go to hell and just hang for a while.

hang a louie vb American

to take a left turn. A teenage expression from the early 1970s.

hang a ralph vb American

to take a right turn. A teenage expression from the early 1970s.

hang a yooie/u-ie vb British

to make a U-turn when driving a car. A mock-racy expression from the 1980s.

hang five vb

to ride a surfboard (at near-optimum speed or full stretch) with the toes of one foot hooked over the front. From the jargon of American surfers since the early 1960s.

See also hang ten hanging adj British

1.ugly, usually applied to females. In this sense the word was recorded in South Wales in 2000.

2.tired, exhausted. From army and Officer Training Corps usage.

Compare hooped

This may be a shortening of the synonymous expression hanging out of my hoop, where ‘hoop’ signifies ‘anus’.

3. drunk

hang loose vb American

to stay relaxed, keep cool, chill out. A vogue term from the late 1950s and early 1960s when it characterised the nonchalant state of detachment aspired to by beatniks, jazz musicians, etc. The phrase



(still heard occasionally) is often an exhortation to a friend on parting. It probably originates in the use of ‘loose’ to describe a free, unstructured style or mood (although some have interpreted it as referring to the male genitals in an unencumbered position).

hang one on vb

an alternative form of tie one on

hang one on someone vb

to hit, punch someone. An expression, used particularly by brawlers, which may also be expressed with the verbs ‘land’, ‘stick’ or ‘put’.

hang out vb See let it all hang out

hang ten vb American

to ride a surfboard (at near-optimum speed or full stretch) with the toes of both feet hooked over the front. From the jargon of American surfers since the early 1960s. The phrase is sometimes used figuratively to mean something like ‘go full-tilt on a risky course’.

hang-up n

a neurosis, obsession. From the image of being hung on a hook. This beatnik term was seized upon by the hippies to describe the concerns of the straight world. Unlike many contemporary terms, hang-up has not dated significantly and is still in use today.

He’s got a hang-up about young chicks in uniform.

hank adj British

extremely hungry. Recorded in London in 1994, the word is a shortening of the rhyming slang phrase ‘Hank B. Marvin’, meaning starvin(g), borrowing the name of the lead guitarist of the Shadows pop group.

‘Can you hurry up, we’re all bloody hank in here.’

(Recorded, builder, southeast London, July 1994)

hankie-head n

an Arab. The term, which probably postdates the more widespread synonyms rag-head and towel-head, was popularised by the comic writer P. J. O’Rourke in the 1980s.

happening adj American

exciting, stimulating and/or up-to-date. A fashionable term from the vocabulary of teenagers since the mid-1970s. It is influenced by the earlier black catch-

phrase greeting ‘what’s happening?’ and the hippy cliché, ‘it’s all happening’.

a really happening band

happy dust n

a narcotic in powder form. The term has been applied to cocaine, PCP and amphetamines among others.

happy slapping n British

a transgressive fad of 2005 whereby a random victim is attacked and the attack photographed or videoed on a mobile phone. The coinage is probably influenced by the phrase ‘slap-happy’.

‘Let’s happy slap that bloke there.’ ‘Ha! Aye!’

(Viz magazine, June/July 2005)

haps adj British

an abbreviation of happy

‘We’re really haps to be in the Smash Hits Pop-o-Saurus.’

(Pop group Fierce, speaking in 2000)

hard-arse, hardass n

a tough, unyielding and/or severe person, a martinet. This noun form postdates the adjectival form hard-arsed.

hardass n American See hard-arse hardball n See play hardball

hardcore1 adj

1. thoroughly criminal, deviant or sexually debauched. This is a specific sense of the colloquial meaning of hardcore (committed or uncompromising, as applied, e.g., to political beliefs or pornography). In the 1970s in the USA the word took on a narrower connotation in the jargon of the street and underworld, coming to mean irredeemably criminal. It was often used in this sense to indicate admiration or awe.

the hardcore life

That guy’s real hardcore.

2. excessive, outrageous, relentless. This vogue term in adolescent speech in the later 1990s was often used to indicate appreciation or admiration. It is based on the earlier uses of the word to characterise pornography and rock music and, according to its users (one of whom defined the usage as referring to ‘somebody who stays up all night, is violent, or drinks everyone under the table or takes loads of drugs’), its antonym is lightweight.

a hardcore guy/scene acting/playing hardcore.



hardcore2 n

a style of fast, loud, aggressive music, a development of punk. The term originated in America in the early 1980s, perhaps influenced by the adjectival use of hardcore to mean (uncompromisingly) rebellious, anarchic or criminal, spreading to Britain around 1985. The genre has since spawned subcults such as ‘deathcore’ and ‘speedcore’.

hard-off n American

an unstimulating, disappointing person, experience or sensation. The term, coined by analogy with hard-on, is used by members of both sexes.

hard-on n

a. an erection. To ‘have a hard-on’ has been the most common way of expressing male sexual tumescence since the early 20th century. It derives from a slightly earlier adjectival form (to be ‘hard-on’) which follows a pattern of Victorian euphemism which includes ‘fetch off’ (to have sex or an orgasm), etc.

‘Don’t go home with your hard-on/It will only drive you insane.’

(Lyrics from ‘Don’t go home with your hard-on’, Leonard Cohen and Phil Spector, 1977)

b. a sudden strong desire or affection. This specialised sense is a piece of macho business jargon from the late 1970s. It suggests an aggressive and uncompromising wish to acquire or cement relations with, e.g., a business partner.

I think Ingrams is nursing a hard-on for United Mills.

hard word, the n

a.a rejection or condemnation

‘It was the one thing that would bring Christina [Onassis] and her father together again. It was only a matter of time before Christina gave me the hard word.’

(Joseph Bolker quoted in Heiress, by Nigel Dempster, 1989)

b.a difficult request or ultimatum, particularly a demand for money or sex

The phrase is normally part of longer expressions such as ‘put the hard word on’ or ‘give someone the hard word’. The origin of the expression is obscure, but it is most prevalent in Australian use.

harf, hark vb American

to vomit. Echoic terms in use among students in 2003. Hork is a variant form.

haricot (bean) n Australian

a male homosexual. Rhyming slang on queen.

Harold Ramp, Harold n British

a rhyming slang term for tramp or homeless person, popular since 200. The proper name seems to be an invention for the purposes of the rhyme.

harolds n pl Australian

trousers or underpants. The etymology of this jocular usage is unclear: it is thought to originate in rhyming slang based on a real or imaginary proper name such as ‘Harold Taggs/Wraggs’: bags.

harp, harpoon n

a harmonica. Long known as a ‘mouth harp’ among black American blues musicians, the harmonica became known worldwide as a harp during the rhythm and blues boom of the early 1960s. Harpoon is a later and fairly rare elaboration.

‘Seriously he [Stevie Wonder]’s a knockout harp player, but this singingonly effort is a swinger.’

(Rave magazine, March 1966)

harpic adj British

crazy, deranged. A pun which was popular for instance among schoolchildren in the 1960s. The person so described was ‘clean round the bend’, from the slogan of the Harpic toilet cleaning preparation which claimed in a TV advertisement to ‘clean round the hidden bend’. The word was used on Whacko!, a parody of public-school life starring the late Jimmy Edwards.

harpoon n

1. a hypodermic syringe. Another example of the self-dramatising language of drug abusers.

Compare artillery; shooting gallery

2. a version of harp in the sense of harmonica

harry n British

heroin. An addicts’ term from the 1960s, personifying the drug in the same way as charlie for cocaine.

harry- prefix British

a prefix used in public-school, university and armed-services’ slang, almost always by males, to add jocular familiarity to a standard term. It is often used in conjunction with the -er(s) word ending. The -er(s) form is probably earlier; ‘harry-’


have a mare

seems to have originated in armed-forces speech pre-World War II.

Fiona’s harry-preggers again.

harry-starkers adj British

naked. An upper-class or armed-serv- ices jocularity.

harsh adj

1.American unpleasant, inferior. An allpurpose negative, briefly a vogue term among Californian adolescents in the mid-1990s.

2.good, impressive. In this reversed or ironic sense, recorded among British mods of the 1960s and US high-school and college students of the 1990s, the word is one of a large set of near-syno- nyms including savage, brutal, tough, etc., which have been adopted into adolescent codes.

hash n

hashish (cannabis resin). Hashish from North Africa, the Middle East and the Himalayas is the most widely used form of cannabis in Britain, especially among white smokers, while grass (herbal cannabis) is more common in the USA. This shortened form of the word was probably the most widespread term in use among British cannabis smokers in the early 1960s. It was then largely supplanted by more colourful terms such as charge, shit, dope, etc.

‘Hash smoking is now a widespread social habit, almost in the same class as whiskey and soda.’

(Letter to Oz magazine, June 1969)

hassle vb, n

(to subject someone to) bother, harassment, intrusive complications. This term had existed in American English since the 19th century; in the 1960s it formed part of the hip and counterculture jargon which became established throughout the anglophone community. In origin it is either a blend of ‘harass’ or ‘haggle’ and ‘tussle’ or ‘wrestle’, an anglicisation of the synonymous French verb harceler or, more convincingly, a version of hustle. In Britain hassle replaced hustle as a vogue term among beatniks and mods in about 1967.

hat n American

a condom. Jim(my)-hat is an alternative form.

hatch vb British

to drink, drain one’s glass. A matter-of- fact beer-drinkers’ term, derived from the exclamation ‘down the hatch!’.

‘I think we’d better hatch these [beers] and get going.’

(Recorded, wedding guest, Bristol, 1988)

hatchback n South African

a female with prominent buttocks. An appreciative term used by young males in the 1990s and inspired by the designation of cars.

hate on (someone) vb American

to be jealous of (someone). An expression used on campus in the USA since around 2000.

hater n American

a jealous or envious person. An expression used on campus in the USA since around 2000.

hatstand adj British

crazy, eccentric, deranged. The nonsense term was invented by the comic Viz for the character Roger Irrelevant and was adopted into student slang in the late 1990s.

He’s completely hatstand and always has been.

haul ass vb

to get moving, go into action. An Americanism, usually in the form of a command or exhortation, which has been heard in British and Australian speech since the 1980s.

haul off vb American

to get ready to strike someone or to launch an attack. The term may be used literally (of leaning back before aiming a blow) or figuratively.

have a cow vb American

to throw a tantrum, become extremely agitated. An expression used on campus in the USA since around 2000. The analogy is probably with the colloquial ‘having kittens’.

have a lend (of someone) vb Australian to deceive, bamboozle, lie about. The phrase is related to older locutions such as ‘get a lend of/have a loan of’ which refer to a dishonest individual taking advantage of another by borrowing from them.

‘You better be sure he’s having a lend of you.’

(Recorded, Melbourne bus driver to adolescent passenger, 1995)

have a mare vb British

to become angry, infuriated. The mare in question may be a shortening of nightmare, or the phrase is possibly a version of the American have a cow, evoking the

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