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Dictionary of Contemporary Slang

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Q n

1a. a geriatric person

1b. a hospital patient

1c. a corpse

2. All senses of the term are based on the image of the capital letter Q as representing an open mouth with lolling tongue and seem to have originated in the slang of North American health carers. The letter may be written (in notes, on charts, etc.) or pronounced by medical staff.

Q.T., q.t. n See on the q.t.

quack n

a doctor. This usually lightheartedly pejorative term originated in the 17th century when it referred to a peddler of spurious cures. It is a shortening of ‘quacksalver’ which is composed of ‘quack’ (give one’s verbal ‘patter’) and ‘salve’ (save, soothe or cure), and is a pun on ‘quicksilver’.

quad, quod n American

a clumsy or unfortunate person, misfit. The word, used by high school and college students from the 1990s, is probably a shortening of ‘quadriplegic’ (disabled in all four limbs), although some users derive it from ‘quadrilateral’ as a version of square.

quail n

a girl, young woman, or females viewed as sex objects. This equating of the female with the game bird is approximately three hundred years old, surviving in the language of American highschool and college students, where predatory males also talk of going out ‘loaded for quail’ (ready or equipped for seduction).

quakin’ adj American

excellent, impressive, exciting and/or excessive. A synonym, heard since 2000, for slamming, jamming, etc.

quality adj

good. As an appreciative description or exclamation of approval the word is

used by British schoolchildren among others.

quandong n Australian

a woman. The quandong fruit (santalum acuminatus) is fleshy with a hard seed centre; the word has thus been appropriated to refer to women with supposedly similar qualities – either prostitutes or friendly females who refuse to be seduced.

quean n British

the earlier spelling of queen, meaning an effeminate homosexual. This spelling coexisted with queen until the early 1960s when it virtually disappeared. Quean was a descendant of Old and Middle English words related to (but not derived from) ‘queen’, stemming ultimately from an Indo-European ancestor, gwena, meaning woman. Over 1,000 years the senses of quean shifted from ‘woman’ to ‘wanton’, before being transferred to a male context.

queef n American

an alternative spelling of kweef

queen n

an effeminate homosexual. The word quean signified a whore in early 19thcentury slang. This appellation was transferred to male prostitutes (often transvestite) and thence to male homosexuals in general. The use of the word is obviously reinforced by its colloquial use to mean an imperious or ostentatious (older) woman. In the gay environment of the 1970s and 1980s queen was used to refer specifically to individuals who are affected in manner, elderly and/or consciously effeminate.

‘And he’s just a go-getting queen. He’s interested in you purely because of your plays.’

(Kenneth Halliwell, quoted in Joe Orton’s Diary, 2 May 1967, 1986)



queer n, adj

(a person who is) homosexual. Until the 19th century queer denoted odd or curious, as it still does in standard English. Its use as first a euphemism, then a slang synonym for homosexual arose between the world wars, probably first in the USA. Queer ultimately derives from quer, a German word meaning crooked or awry. In the mid-1980s gay activists began to use the term to refer to themselves, in keeping with the trend among ‘transgressive’ minorities to appropriate the language of their oppressors (as in the earlier case of nigger).

‘You can’t expect to pick up a young postoffice worker and his middle-aged keeper, and burst into tears because the keeper is queer.’

(Joe Orton’s Diary, 2 May 1967)

queer-bashing n British

the attacking, intimidation or mugging of male homosexuals. A practice indulged in by teddy boys, and later skinheads, among others. The term has been extended to denote verbal aggression or prejudice against gays.

quiche out vb

1.British to eat very greedily or to excess. A Sloane ranger and yuppie version of pig out, which was later adopted by university students.

2.to behave in a weak, irresolute, cowardly way; to wimp out. In this sense the term has been used in Oxbridge student slang, sometimes shortened to ‘quiche’.

quickie n

a hurried or short-lived sex act

quid n

a pound sterling. The word was first used to refer to a guinea, then a sovereign, later to the sum of one pound. The origin of the word (it arose in the 17th century) is obscure. Partridge suggests ‘what’ (quid in Latin) as a synonym for

‘wherewithal’. An equally plausible derivation is from quid pro quo, alluding to the words on older banknotes, ‘I promise to pay the bearer the sum of…’.

quidlets n pl British

money, pounds sterling. A humorous version of quid using the diminutive suffix ‘- let’.

quiff n

1.British a pompadour hairstyle, kisscurl or backcombed fringe. The quiff was fashionable with teddy boys and rockers among others.

2.British a male homosexual or effeminate male. The usage is probably influenced by the words queer and poof.

3.a fart

4a. American a prostitute or promiscuous woman

4b. American a woman or women as (a) sex object(s). A term used invariably by males.

I’m going to get me some quiff.

quim n British

the female sex organs. A taboo term featuring in 19th-century pornography and the 20th-century lexicon of obscenity. The word has probably lost popularity since the 1950s, although it remains in use, invariably among males, particularly outside the southeast of the country. The exact origin of quim is unclear. It may be related to the Chaucerian queynte (the vagina) or the Welsh cwm (a valley or crevice).

quince n Australian

a male homosexual or effeminate male. The word is probably a blend of queen and ‘mince’. It may also be derived from the Asian fruit of the same name.

quoit n Australian

the anus. A coinage inspired by the earlier ring.


raar adj British

good. The word, recorded among teenagers in Kent in 2003, may be a form of rare, which in black speech can mean both good and bad. The word often occurs in the combination ‘bare raar’, meaning very good.

raas n Jamaican

an all-purpose term of abuse or exclamation of anger or contempt. A version of (up) (your) arse or a short form of raasclat.

Compare yass

raasclat, rassclaat n Jamaican

a term of strong abuse used as an insult or as an exclamation. The word literally means a rag for wiping the backside, the equivalent of the later American insult ass-wipe, raas being a patois version of (your) arse and ‘clat’, a cloth.

rabbit vb, n

(to) talk, gossip, (have a) conversation. The term is cockney rhyming slang, from ‘rabbit and pork’: talk. The word gained widespread currency through TV comedies of the 1970s and the soundtrack to a 1980s advertisement for Courage Best beer. Rabbit (or ‘rabbit on’) is now often used by middle-class speakers unaware of its rhyming provenance. Genuine cockneys often prefer the derivation bunny.

race off, race vb American

to seduce. A common term in the 1960s. The original image evoked is that of sweeping a victim off her feet and away.

rack n American

1.a bed. This use of the word is probably of armed-service origin.

2.female breasts

‘She’s attractive – great rack, nipples like pencil erasers…’

(Disclosure, US film, 1995)

rack (out) vb American

to lie down and/or go to sleep. An expression now used principally by teenagers and college students, but which originates in the armed-service slang noun rack, meaning bed.

rack attack n American

a bout of extreme laziness, a period spent in bed. A campus witticism (other rhyming compounds are snack attack and tack attack) based on the use of rack to mean bed.

racked adj American

1.ruined, defeated, disabled. The term referred originally to being kicked or struck in the rack or male genital area.

2.intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. The adolescent usage is probably a borrowing of the standard term as it occurs in phrases such as ‘racked with pain’, although it may be based on the preceding sense or be an alteration of wrecked.

I was racked by 9 p.m.

racked-off adj Australian

irritated, disgruntled. An expression ranking in vehemence somewhere between ‘cheesed-off’ and pissed-off.

racked-up adj American

tense, stressed, strung up. An expression heard occasionally since the 1970s.

‘I remember my first shoot. You know I was really racked-up but the lieutenant was there for me.’

(Miami Vice, US TV series, 1988)

rack off vb Australian

to go away, leave. A brusque, but less offensive alternative to piss off, fuck off, etc. The phrase, usually in the form of an admonition, has been introduced to a British audience via Australian soap operas of the late 1980s, such as Neighbours.

rack up vb

to prepare a line of cocaine for snorting



‘Rack up the line and get her face in it.’

(Former pop star Brian Harvey quoted in

News of the World, 15 June 2003)

rad adj American

excellent, outstanding, admirable. A shortening of radical, used as a term of great approbation by school and college children in the late 1970s. It is also heard in the UK and Australia since the 1980s where it has become a vogue term, especially among the subcultures of surfers and skateboarders.

‘But the really rad word is still to be had from the skater/authors themselves…’ (Mail on Sunday, ‘Biz’ magazine, June 1987)

radical adj

excellent. In the 1980s the word moved from its political sense, via ‘radical chic’, to a generalised meaning of admirable in adolescent speech. It is now usually shortened to rad.

‘That radio station is well radical.’

(Recorded, teenage male, London, May 2003)

radio rentals adj British

crazy, deranged, mental. A humorous expression recorded in 1988, employing an approximate rhyme using the name of a television hire chain.

If you ask me, she’s completely radio rentals.

rads n British

the police. A term used by young streetgang members in London since around 2000.

raf vb Caribbean

to steal or borrow without permission. The term was recorded in Trinidad and Tobago in 2003. Synonyms are bandit and sprang.

rag (on) (someone) vb American

to criticise, denigrate, nag. This usage dates back to the 19th century when ‘ragging’ was also employed in British slang to mean teasing or provoking. In black American slang from the 1990s rag was often used synonymously with diss.

rag doll n American

a gullible or compliant female. The term is used by street-gang members, hip hop aficionados and college students.

rage n Australian

a wild party or celebration. A 1960s expression which is the equivalent of the British rave-up and, like that term, underwent a revival in the late 1980s.

ragged out, ragged up adj American

1.dressed or dressed up. Since the 19th century this term has been used colloquially like ‘dolled up’ or ‘in one’s glad rags’.

2.distasteful, unpleasant. A teenage and Valley Girl expression of the late 1970s.

raggedy-ass, ragged-ass adj American unkempt, uncouth, disorganised. An elaboration of ragged.

raggo adj

berserk, uncontrolled or uncontrollable. Possibly originating in black speech and probably derived from lose one’s rag, this is a term used by young street-gang members in London since around 2000.

rag-head n

an Arab. A pejorative term inspired by the headdress worn particularly by Gulf Arab males. The term is occasionally applied to turban-wearers too. An alternative is towel-head.

raging n British

a first (first-class honours degree). Students’ rhyming slang (on ‘raging thirst’) of the late 1980s. James and Pattie are alternative versions.

He was tipped for a raging, but he ended up with a Desmond.

Compare Douglas; made-in; Richard; Taiwan

rag it vb to have sex

‘Listen man, you rag it…if you want.’

(Former pop star Brian Harvey quoted in

News of the World, 15 June 2003)

rags n pl American

clothes. Heard in the speech of black Americans since the 1960s (threads and vines were contemporary synonyms) and later elsewhere, the word has more recently been supplanted to some extent by garms.

Where d’you get them cool rags?

rag-top n

a convertible car. The Americanism has also occasionally been heard in Britain as an alternative for soft-top or the earlier drop-head.

rag week n British

the time during which a woman is menstruating, a ‘period’. The expression is a play on both on the rag and rag week as signifying a student carnival.

rah n, adj British

(someone who is) ‘posh’, a synonym is yah: both terms imitate the drawling or



braying speech supposedly characteristic of such individuals

rail n American a line of cocaine

‘I smoked my first joint at 12, did my first rail at 13…’

(Corey Taylor of US rock band Slipknot, speaking in 2002)

rain on someone’s parade vb American to spoil someone’s enjoyment, frustrate someone’s efforts, etc. A colloquial phrase which gave rise to many more vulgar synonyms such as piss in someone’s pool or on someone’s chips

rally vb American

to behave outrageously, indulge in wild activity. A preppie term, used invariably by and about males.

Come on, let’s rally! They were really rallying.

ralph1 vb

1.to vomit. One of many echoic terms for the activity, ralph is typically heard among students in all English-speaking areas. ‘Call (for) Ralph’ is an alternative version.

2.American to take a right turn

ralph2 n

a right turn. The word is usually part of the phrase hang a ralph (as opposed to hang a louie).

rambunctious adj

lively, troublesome, loud. A facetious invention elaborated from rumbustious. The term has been in use since the early 19th century and is probably Irish or American in origin, although the invention of such jocularities (as in the 19thcentury ‘obstrepalous’ and the recent ‘spondicious’) was paralleled in Britain.

‘This is a lullaby my mother used to play when I’d get rambunctious. It always seemed to calm me down.’

(Kindred, US film, 1987)

rammed adj British very crowded, full

‘Coming back on Eurostar, it was rammed.’

(Recorded, female traveller, London, June 2003)

ramp vb

to provoke, annoy. A term used by young street-gang members in London since around 2000.

Don’t ramp with me. She’s been ramping him.

ramp up vb British

to organise or arrange. The phrase presumably comes from the terminology of car mechanics whence it has been extended in working-class usage (by police officers among others) to mean mounting any sort of operation.

ranch vb American

to ejaculate. The slang usage, heard among adolescents, seems to be unconnected to the standard sense of the word.

random1 n, adj American

(a person who is) unfashionable, unattractive, mediocre, unwanted or excluded from fashionable circles. The term was popular among adolescents, particularly female, on college and high-school campuses in the US during the 1990s.

‘There’s no getting round the style question. If you want to be “do-able” … you cannot afford to dress “random”.’ (Sunday Times ‘Style’ magazine, 22 October 1995)

random2 vb British

to pull or score with a stranger. An item of student slang in use in London and elsewhere since around 2000.

R and R n

1.relaxation. A piece of armed-services shorthand (for ‘rest and recreation’) now used by civilians.

2.rock ’n’ roll. A short form used by aficionados and the record industry.

randy adj British

sexually aroused, lecherous. A word which was formerly considered unsuitable for normal use but which, since the 1960s, has been used in the media and in ‘respectable’ conversation. (Mickey Dolenz of the pop group The Monkees heard the phrase ‘randy Scouse git’ on the British TV comedy series ‘Till death us do part’ and used it as the title of a single in 1967. This was deemed too offensive for radio and in Britain the song title was changed.) Randy is of uncertain origin. It was first recorded at the end of the 18th century. Two suggested etymologies for the word are: a dialect verb meaning to behave in a wild or wanton manner, and a Hindi word meaning lustful. Of these, the first (the rarely recorded word was related to ‘rant’ and ‘random’) is the more likely.



‘Girls…showing their arms in thin, thin frocks (good luck to randy grandfathers).’

(About Town magazine, June 1962)

rang-a-tang n Caribbean

a belligerent or troublesome person

rang(e)y adj American

aggressive, oppressive. The term (which rhymes with ‘tangy’) is of uncertain origin.

rank1 adj

1. unpleasant. The standard adjective (its original meaning was overbearing or excessively strong) has been adopted as an all-purpose vogue term of disapproval by teenagers in the USA and in Britain, where it probably originated in black usage.

‘This health-drink stuff is just so rank!’

(Recorded, teenage schoolboy, London, 1994)

2. excellent, admirable. A term of approbation originating, it is said, in the 1960s pachuco (Hispanic street-)culture of the USA.

rank2, rank out, rank on (someone) vb American

to insult, taunt or provoke. The terms, which occur in adolescent speech, probably originated in black street slang.

rap1 n

1a. a conversation, especially an earnest and/or lengthy discussion. A word which became an important part of the counterculture lexicon at the end of the 1960s, rap was originally used by blacks and beatniks, deriving from the verb form.

1b. a rhythmic spoken chant, often to a musical background. This form of (originally) improvised delivery became a vogue first among young blacks in New York and other eastern American cities (inspired by Jamaican ‘toasting’), and then a worldwide pop phenomenon in the 1980s.

2. an accusation or charge, blame or punishment. An 18th-century British use of the verb ‘rap’ was to denote swearing an oath against, accusing of, or charging (with a crime). This sense survives, via American English, in the phrases ‘take the rap’ and ‘beat the rap’ and the term rap sheet.

rap2 vb

a. to talk, converse or discuss. A key term from the hippy era which usually denoted

an earnest or communal exchange of ideas. The word was first heard in this sense in black American speech; it was subsequently adopted by white hipsters, beatniks and hippies in turn. (Rap was in use in Britain in the late 1960s but in its original sense is now confined to the remnants of hippy culture.) The exact origin of this use of the word is not at all clear; possible etymologies include a shortening of ‘rapid’ (speech), ‘rapport’ or ‘repartee’. The term might come simply from the similarity between talking and tapping (‘rapping’) on a drum or other surface; this might fit an origin among jazz musicians. Alternatively, in archaic slang a ‘rapper’ was someone who ‘talked’ to the authorities (see the noun form) and this notion may have become generalised in black argot into ‘talk’.

b. to deliver an (originally improvised) monologue to a musical backing; to perform rap music. This musical form of the 1980s originated as a street phenomenon among black youth in American cities in the 1970s.

rapid adj British, Irish

clever, stylish, attractive. In 2000 the term was defined as ‘dead cool, as used by Ronan and Shane from Boyzone’. In Leicester in 2004 the same word was being used as an all-purpose term of appreciation.

He thinks he’s rapid, doesn’t he?

rapper n

a practitioner or devotee of rap music

rap session n American

a conversation or discussion. A phrase first used in the 1950s by black Americans, hipsters and beatniks, later taken up by hippies, alternative therapists and teenagers.

rap sheet n American

(documentary evidence of) a person’s criminal record. The expression has been in use since World War II and derives from the underworld slang noun-form rap, meaning an arrest or arraignment.

rapt adj

delighted. A vogue term of the late 1980s which seems to have spread from Australia to both Britain and the USA in the hip parlance of adolescents. The word is the standard (literary) English term meaning enraptured.

She wasn’t exactly rapt when I told her, I can tell you.



rare adj British

1.an all-purpose term of approbation, often employed as an exclamation by schoolchildren since the 1980s, especially in the north of England and Scotland. This sense of the word probably originated in black youth-culture in the USA and was transmitted via rap, skateboarding terminology, etc. Rare was previously used as a generalised vogue term in this way by mods briefly in 1966. It was used as long ago as the 16th century, with sporadic examples in between.

2.unpleasant, unattractive, inappropriate. Probably a deliberate reversal of the earlier slang usage, since around 2000 this has been a vogue term of disapproval among UK teenagers.

See also raar

rash adj

wonderful. A term of high appreciation among American teenagers and aficionados of hip hop in the 1980s. It is nearly always expressed as ‘totally rash’ and was coined on the lines of wild, bad, wicked, etc.

raspberry n

a farting sound made by blowing through the lips, a Bronx cheer. Now an innocent colloquialism heard all over the Englishspeaking world, it derives from the late 19th-century London rhyming-slang phrase, ‘raspberry tart’: fart.

rasta n

a Rastafarian. The word is a shortening of the name of the devotees of Ras Tafari (one of the titles of the late emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie) whose sacrament is ganja and who wear dreadlocks. The language of the Jamaican movement has influenced English slang mainly via reggae music.

rat (on) vb

to inform on or betray (someone). An Americanism employing the familiar identification of a rat with treachery or spite. The phrase was imported into Britain and Australia before World War II.

Rule number one is you don’t rat on your friends.

rat-arsed adj

drunk. The terms rat-arsed, rat-faced and the milder ratted enjoyed a vogue among adolescents and young adults (particularly those from middleand

upper-class backgrounds) from the mid1980s. Terms employing ratas a prefix evoking disgust were heard throughout the English-speaking community in the 1980s (rathole, ratshit, etc.), particularly in Australia and the USA.

ratbag n Australian

a despicable, disreputable or obnoxious person. This term of abuse originated in Australia where it derived either literally from a bag used by a rat-catcher or from the notion of a bag full of rats as the epitome of obnoxiousness. The word became popular in Britain in the early 1960s (helped in no small part by its frequent use in the popular radio com- edy-series Hancock’s Half Hour) and is now often used with a degree of affection. In Australia it often denotes an eccentric.

‘She’s a total ratbag – I don’t want to have anything more to do with her.’

(Neighbours, Australian TV soap opera, 1987)

rated adj British

excellent, admirable. A vogue term of approbation heard among adolescents from the later 1990s, which began as an abbreviated form of ‘A-rated’ or ‘highly-rated’.

rat-faced adj

drunk. A vogue term of the late 1980s among all social classes in Britain (particularly heard among Sloane Rangers and yuppies).

ratfink n American

a treacherous, despicable person. The word is a combination of ‘rat’ (traitor) and fink (informer) and was first used to refer to union blacklegs or scabs. It enjoyed a vogue in the 1960s in its more generalised sense and is still used, albeit less widely.

See also fink

rathole, rat-hole n

a disgusting, squalid place. A fashionable expression of distaste in the later 1980s. In 1987 the college lecturers’ union NATFHE condemned ‘Thatcher’s rathole Britain’ in a press handout.

rat out vb

to abandon, betray, cravenly withdraw. An Americanism which is also heard in Australia and, to a lesser extent, in Britain. Usages involving the ‘rat’ compo-



nents have been in vogue since the 1980s.

She ratted out at the last minute. They ratted out on us.

Don’t rat me out.

rat-run n British

a side street used for fast commuter traffic. A phrase and phenomenon of the late 1980s.

ratshit adj Australian

worthless, inferior, utterly disappointing. The word (pronounced like ‘ratchet’) usually expresses bitter disapproval or disillusion.

ratted adj British

drunk. A more polite version of rat-faced or rat-arsed. All three terms were in vogue in the second half of the 1980s.

‘When we were looking for the personification of the Kentucky face, we got so ratted, so drunk … for an entire week.’

(Ralph Steadman, I-D magazine, November 1987)

rattle (someone) vb

a word mainly heard in Scotland meaning to have sex with someone

rattler n

1.a surface or underground train. The word has been used in Britain and the USA (where travelling hobos referred to ‘hopping a rattler’) since the 19th century. Until the late 1950s the London underground system was sometimes known to workmen as the Rattler.

2.British a womaniser, seducer. It derives from the verb form rattle (someone), meaning to have sex with and, like that term, is heard mainly in Scotland.

rattle someone’s cage vb

to provoke, disturb, rouse. A phrase in mainly working-class usage which, like others (‘drop off the perch’, ‘sick as a parrot’, etc.), uses the imagery of a caged bird or animal. The expression usually forms part of a provocative rhetorical question ‘who rattled your cage?’, addressed to someone suddenly roused to anger or indignation. Yank (someone around/someone’s chain) is an American alternative.

rattly n

a female. The word was used by British adolescents in 2001.

raunchy adj

sexually provocative, earthy, risqué; lustful or lust-inducing. The word prob-

ably took one of its original meanings, ‘ripe’ or over-ripe in the metaphorical sense, from the Italian rancio, meaning rank or rotten, although a British dialect origin has also been posited. Until the late 1960s raunchy was mainly in American usage.

rave, rave-up n British

a wild party, dance or occasion of abandoned behaviour. A usage originating in bohemian circles in the late 1950s. In the early 1960s the word was taken up by mods and shortly thereafter by the media and the older generation, who still employ the term. More recently still the acid house youth cult adopted the word to refer to their (typically large-scale and movable) celebrations, sometimes specified as orbital raves (those within reach of the M25 motorway). By 1990 schoolchildren were also using the word as a synonym for a party.

raver n British

an unrestrained, hedonistic person. An archetypal 1960s term which originated in the 1950s among bohemians and beatniks, when it was applied to frequent attenders of all-night parties and jazz clubs, etc. In the later 1960s the already slightly dated word epitomised hippy abandonment to euphoria. Since 1986 the term has referred to devotees of rave culture.

raw adj British



A term used by young street-gang members in London since around 2000.

rawk n British

a variant spelling of rock (music), heard from 2004 and intended to suggest self-conscious enthusiasm or mockery thereof

‘I guess I’m really into rawk.’

(Recorded, student, Reading, UK, June 2005)

raw meat n

a euphemism for the sex organs or sexual activity, heard in the late 1960s and 1970s

razoo n Australian

a very small sum of money, ‘a brass farthing’. A word said to be of Maori origin, used in negative phrases such as ‘I haven’t got a brass razoo’ or ‘without a razoo’.



razorblade n British

a black person. An unaffectionate rhym- ing-slang term (based on spade) used by police officers among others in the 1970s and 1980s.

razz vb

to tease or deride. A word which is currently more popular in Australia and the USA than Britain (although it features in British public-school argot). Razz was originally a theatrical shortening of raspberry and the verb is still used in theatrical parlance to mean jeer. In modern usage it often appears to have overtones common to ‘rag’, ‘rouse’ and roust.

readies n pl

cash, banknotes, money. A shorter and racier version of the phrases ‘ready cash’ or ‘ready money’.

‘It was always the same old story. “I’ve no money on me. Have you any readies, Al?” They must think we’re a bit daft up North.’

(Guardian, 12 December 1987)

ready, the ready n

money, cash. This is currently a less common form (except in the USA) of the plural readies. Ready or the ready was in fact probably the original form of the term, first recorded in the 17th century.

rear-end vb

to ruin, damage. The figurative use of the phrase probably derives from the colloquialism referring to a car collision, with possible suggestions also of sexual activity.

‘The guys upstairs rear-ended him good.’

(Reported, New York office worker, September 1995)

rear-gunner n British

a male homosexual. One of many pejorative synonyms in use among heterosexuals since the 1980s. The phrase was used on more than one occasion in interviews by the punk singer John ‘Johnnie Rotten’ Lydon.

recce n British

a reconnaissance or reconnoitring. An armed-service shortening (pronounced ‘reckie’), which has been generalised in civilian usage to mean a preliminary check or look around.

recco n Australian

recognition, peer-group respect. An abbreviation heard among young adults and adolescents.

rectum rider n

a male homosexual

red adj British

suffering the after-effects of smoking marihuana or of another drug. A term used by young street-gang members in London since around 2000.

red-arse n British

a new army recruit. In the early 20th century the term referred specifically to a Guardsman (whose jacket was red).

red-assed adj American furious, irate

red biddy n British

cheap red wine or methylated spirits as drunk by tramps or derelicts. Biddy, originally a diminutive of Bridget, was an affectionate name for a woman, preserved in the colloquial term ‘old biddy’.

red bumpies n American

a venereal infection. An expression used on campus in the USA since around 2000.

red-eye, the n

an early-morning or overnight flight or train service. The expression, which refers to the tired appearance of the passengers, originated in the USA where it was a nickname given to coast- to-coast flights.

red-heat vb American

to harass, importune, pursue

red-high adj British

delighted, ecstatic. The term was recorded in use among North London schoolboys in 1993 and 1994.

red-inker n British

a recorded arrest. A ‘score’ in the tally of arrests for a particular officer or police station, in the jargon of the police force.

redneck n American

a rustic bigot or boor. This now familiar expression became well known in the late 1960s when it was extended from the original sense of a rural white southern farmer (with a neck red from being bent to the sun or from anger) to include all opponents of liberation or the counterculture.

red Ned n Australian

cheap red wine. The Australian version of red biddy.



reds, red devils n pl American

capsules of Seconal, a barbiturate used by drug abusers, from the colour of the capsules

‘The use of “reds” or barbiturates for highs (lows would be more descriptive) seems to be increasing again.’

(Dr Hip Pocrates (Eugene Schoenfeld), 1969)

red sails in the sunset adj menstruating. A phrase, taken from the title of a popular song, which has been used (almost invariably by men) since the 1960s.

Looks as if she’s red sails in the sunset.

reeb n British

beer in backslang. A word which was heard in the 1950s and which survives in limited use (among young market-work- ers for instance).

reefer, reef n

a.a marihuana cigarette, an earlier term for a joint. A word which fell out of favour with cannabis smokers in the late 1950s but which was perpetuated by the media and law enforcement agencies.

b.marihuana. A famous and risible American anti-drug film of 1936 was entitled Reefer Madness. In origin the word is a corruption of grifa, the Spanish slang for marihuana.

reek vb American

to be repellent, inferior or worthless. A vogue term of disparagement or denigration among American adolescents since the 1990s. It is a synonym for suck, ‘stink’ and wipe.

Like it totally reeks!

re-entry n American

in the parlance of LSD users, the return to normality after the effects of an LSD trip have worn off. A term briefly popular in the midand late 1960s, derived from the jargon of space exploration.

reestie adj American

unpleasant, obnoxious. The word can be applied to persons or objects and is characteristically used by adolescents. It is probably a blend of reek and beasty.

regulatin’ n British

fighting, from black speech. Synonyms are mixin’, startin’, tanglin’.

reject n

a term of abuse popular among British schoolchildren since the 1980s

rello n Australian a relative, relation

We’re having the rellos over.

remmy, remmie, rem n British

a fool. This item of schoolchildren’s slang was reported in the 1990 publication Bad Language by the sociolinguist Peter Trudgill. It may derive from the designation ‘remedial (pupil/lesson)’.

renk vb

1.to become furious

2.to be repellent

The word, of uncertain derivation, has been used in both senses by UK adolescents since around 2000.

rentacop n

a hired security guard. A term generally used disapprovingly or derisively, particularly in the era of student unrest when US campus authorities frequently called on such personnel for assistance.

rentals n pl American

parents. A version of parental unit(s), also rendered as rents or units. The expressions became fairly well known from the later 1980s.

I’m going to be in deep doodoo when the rentals see this.

rent boy n British

a young male prostitute. A gay slang term of the later 1960s that moved into common currency following press revelations of scandals in the 1980s. Young, sometimes homeless (and often heterosexual) rent boys frequented the Piccadilly area of London from at least the 1970s.

rents n pl

parents. Originally a term in use among American teenagers, this clipping, typical of youth slang of the late 1980s and early 1990s, was adopted by other Englishspeaking adolescents in the 1990s. A synonym is units.

The rents are away for the weekend. rep1 n

a shortening of ‘reputation’, used especially to denote (appreciatively) a reputation for violence or sexual prowess or (pejoratively) promiscuity. The word, typical of the clippings popularised first by American adolescents from the late 1970s, has moved from the language of street gangs and rappers into schoolchildren’s usage since the late 1990s.

He’s gotta protect his rep.

If she goes on like this she’s going to get a rep for skeezing.

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