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Dictionary of Contemporary Slang

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The practice is indulged in as a prank or punishment by cyberpunks or net-heads.

‘Spamming is often doled out as punishment for behaviour that runs against the grain of net culture – corporate advertising say – or posting a chain letter …’ (Surfing on the Internet by J. C. Herz, 1994)

spam! exclamation British

an all-purpose exclamation of defiance, rejection, irritation. The word was defined on the Internet in February 1997 by Bodge World.

spam javelin, spam baton n British

the penis. The second version was recorded on the website of the Royal Marines in 2004. Beef bayonet is a synonym.

spangled adj British intoxicated by drink or drugs

‘I got absolutely spangled on vodka the night before and had a really great time.’

(Johnny Borrell of Razorlight, NME 28 March 2005)

spank, spanking n British

a beating, usually a severe one. An example of menacing understatement in working-class slang, as used by police officers and criminals. The term is used only slightly more lightheartedly as a euphemism for sadistic games or flagellation.

taking part in spanking sessions ‘D’you want your spankin’ now?’

(The Firm, British TV play, 1989)

spankin’ adj American

excellent, exciting, powerful, impressive. A vogue term since around 2000, synonymous with jammin’, quakin’.

spank the plank vb

to play the guitar. A piece of musicians’ jargon.

spank your very crotch exclamation British

thank you very much. A jocular alteration recorded on the Student World website in 2001.

spanner n British

an unfortunate, weak individual, a misfit. The term became a popular phrase among adolescents in the early 1990s following its use on the BBC TV comedy,

The Mary Whitehouse Experience. It probably originated as a schoolboy variation of spastic and spasmo, perhaps blended with prannet or pranny.

spannered adj British

intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. The term was in use among young British holidaymakers on Ibiza in 1999.

spare1 n British

an unattached and presumably available female or females. A condescending, slightly archaic term, usually forming part of a phrase such as ‘a bit of spare’.

What’s it like down the dancehall? Plenty of spare?

spare2 adj British

out of control, furious. The word, usually in the form ‘go spare’, has been in use since before World War II. It derives from the notion of excess.

spark vb British

1. to incite someone to anger or violence. A vogue term among British adolescents since the 1990s.

It’s easy to spark him, but I wouldn’t do it if I were you.

2.to hit (someone). The term may be based on the phrase spark out, meaning (knocked) unconscious.

3.to take drugs, become stoned

We was sparkin’.

sparkler n British

a lie, especially a welcome or helpful lie. A working-class Londoner’s expression.

‘So he wouldn’t say the old sparkler?’ (Simon Holdaway, Inside the British Police, 1983)

sparklers n pl

jewels, gems. A long established term from the lexicon of thieves, counterfeiters, spivs, etc.

spark out, sparko adj, adv British

fast asleep or completely unconscious. The expression is now a mainly workingclass colloquialism; it was formerly a rustic expression evoking a dead fire or extinguished candle. Sparko was a variant form heard in the 1980s.

He had three or four drinks and went spark out.

She’s been sparko for the last hour or so.

sparkplug n American

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

spark up vb

to light a cigarette or joint. The phrase, which became widespread in the 1990s, also occurs as a request or demand to ‘spark me up’.



sparrowfart n

dawn. A joky euphemism inspired by ‘cock-crow’. The phrase became obsolete in Britain in the 1930s but remained in use in Australia, and was revived in Britain in the late 1960s by the cartoon strip The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, published in the satirical magazine Private Eye.

spasmo n British

a variant form of spastic or spazz

spastic adj, n

(behaving like or reminiscent of) a clumsy, unfortunate, feeble, foolish or unpopular individual. A schoolchildren’s vogue word in Britain from the early 1960s onwards, prompted by the publicity given to charities and other schemes to aid spastic children. The same word was used in the 1950s by adults, particularly in the armed services, and in the 1960s by schoolchildren and adolescents in the USA. The noun form is frequently shortened to ‘spas’ or spazz; the adjective altered to ‘spazzy’.

That’s an utterly spastic idea.

You can’t fancy him! He looks an utter spastic.

spazz, spaz n, adj

(a person who is) foolish, clumsy, incapable. A version of spastic used by schoolchildren in Britain and the USA.

spazzmobile n British

a.an invalid car

b.an old, decrepit or (supposedly) ludicrous vehicle

The word has been used by schoolchildren since the 1960s.

spazz out vb American

to lose control of oneself; become hysterical or agitated, go berserk. A teenage phrase of the 1970s and 1980s, from spastic.

spec adj British

excellent. In playground usage since 2000. It may derive from the appreciative use of ‘special’.

special adj British

slow-witted, foolish. A playground term of abuse from the notion of children ‘with special needs’.

special K n

the drug ketamine. The nickname borrows the brand name of a breakfast cereal.

specky adj Australian

neat, clever. The fairly common term has been defined by Internet slang enthusiasts as ‘nifty’. ‘Specking’ was an old term for mining for gold, but the connection is not proven.

spee n British

a friend, comrade. In an article in the

New Statesman and Society, Maria Manning reports this word, of unknown origin, as being used in school playgrounds in the UK in February 1990.

speech vb British

a.to ‘chat up’ a potential partner

He was speeching her all evening.

b.to attempt to persuade, cajole

Don’t try speeching me.

speed n

an amphetamine drug. The word was first applied in the 1960s to methedrine, a powerful stimulant. By 1968 it was becoming the generic term for all amphetamines (which literally ‘speed up’ the nervous system).

‘Someone suffering (and they do!) from speed hang-ups and come-downs really drags the whole scene down.’

(Letter to Oz magazine, June 1968)

speedball n

a combination of stimulant and depressant (e.g. heroin and cocaine) for injection. The word arose among hard-drug users of the 1940s in the USA. By the 1980s it was also used to designate various other concoctions including those taken orally or by inhalation.

speedfreak n

a.a user of speed (amphetamines)

b.a person who behaves as if over-stim- ulated, by extension from the first subsense

speeding adj

under the influence of speed

spencer n South African an attractive young female

spesh adj British

exceptional, excellent. A characteristic clipping of the standard sense in adolescent usage from the 1990s.

They were hoping for something really spesh.

You’re my spesh mate.

spewing adj Australian

extremely irritated, agitated, flustered, etc.



spewsome adj British

nauseating, repellent. A middle-class usage, blending ‘spew’ and ‘gruesome’.

spick, spic n, adj

(a person) of Latin origin, (an) Italian or Hispanic. This highly offensive racist term parodies the speech of such people in the catchphrase ‘no spick da Inglish’.

spide n British

a synonym for chav, in vogue in 2004. It is said to originate in Belfast slang.

spidge n British

chewing gum. The term was posted on the b3ta website in 2004.

spiel vb, n

(to give) a speech or talk, particularly a glib or persuasive patter. The expression may also encompass hard luck stories or lengthy excuses. The word originated in the 19th century, deriving from the German spieler (a player) or spielen (to play), as applied to card-sharps, hence hucksters, fast-talkers, etc.

He gave me this long spiel about how he was so overworked he wouldn’t have time to help.

spiffed, spiffed-up, spiffed out adj dressed smartly. These expressions, now popular among American teenagers, are, like the British spiffy, ‘spiffing’ and spiv, a derivation of the early-19th-century British dialect term ‘spiff’, meaning dandy. Spiffed itself was heard in British speech until the 1930s and spiffed-up until the 1960s.

spifflicate vb British

to beat up, thoroughly defeat. A nursery word of the 1950s, spifflicate was coined in the 18th century (the first recorded use was in 1785 meaning to confound). It does not derive directly from any standard or dialect term, but is an invention imitating Latinate multisyllabics.

spiffy adj

smart, dapper, impressive. A word which, since it is in mainly middleand upper-class use, is generally considered colloquial rather than slang. It derives from the archaic 19th-century dialect word ‘spiff’ (noun and adjective), meaning (a person who is) dandy or smartly dressed, which is also the origin of spiffing and spiv.

‘You’re the best looking cop in the place. Well, you look pretty spiffy yourself.’

(Legwork, US TV series, 1987)

spike n

a hypodermic syringe. An item of drug addicts’ jargon dating from the 1950s. The word was used to denote an ordinary needle for many years before that.

‘When I put a spike into my vein,

Then I tell you things aren’t quite the same.’

(Lyrics to ‘Heroin’, written by Lou Reed and recorded by the Velvet Underground, 1967)

spike up vb

to inject onself (with a narcotic)

spill vb

to confess, own up or reveal a secret. A racier version of the colloquial ‘spill the beans’, the term is typically used in an underworld context, often involving informing on associates or otherwise betraying a confidence.

I couldn’t get him to spill.

spill one’s guts vb

to confess or reveal information. An elaboration of spill or ‘spill the beans’ used particularly by or about criminals.

They put a little pressure on him and the creep spilled his guts.

spin n British

a search (of a home or other premises), typically by police officers. A derivation of spin (someone’s) drum.

I think we’d better give their gaff a spin. He’s about due for a spin.

spin (someone’s) drum vb British

to make an official search of someone’s house, in the jargon of the police force. Drum is one’s home and spin provides the play on words, referring to the spinning of a drum in a fairground lottery. In the 1990s ‘spin this’ was used as an expression synonymous with ‘up yours’, and was accompanied by a one-fingered gesture.

spin out vb

to become confused or disorientated

‘I was totally spun out when I found out James was cheating on me.’

(Recorded, teenager, Devon, 2002) spit1 n American

a.rubbish, nonsense, shit

b.nothing at all, zip, zilch

‘What did he tell me? – He told me spit.’ (Macgruder and Loud, US film, 1985)



In both cases spit is a euphemism for shit, usable in fairly polite company or in the mass media.

spit2 n See big spit, the

spit-spot adj

fine, excellent, as it should be. A euphemistic version of shit-hot. (The expression is used by the fictional Mary Poppins in the film of the same name, as a synonym for ‘chop-chop’.)

spit the dummy vb Australian

to lose one’s temper, express one’s anger. The image is presumably that of a baby expelling its pacifier in a fit of rage.

spitting feathers n British

exhibiting extreme enthusiasm or agitation. The colourful phrase is heard particularly in armed-forces’ usage and probably evokes the squawking of a frantic bird. It is one of many bird-related images in colloquial speech, such as drop off the twig/‘perch’ and ‘sick as a parrot’.

spiv n British

a disreputable, flashy male, typically one who lives by shady dealing rather than orthodox work. This word had existed in the jargon of race-track habitués and petty criminals since the late 19th century, but came into its own after World War II, when it was adopted by the press and public to designate the touts, black marketeers and ‘wide boys’ who flourished in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Spiv is an alteration of ‘spiff’, an archaic dialect word for a dandy which also gave rise to the adjectives spiffy and ‘spiffing’.

‘Max Kidd was an ex-plumber made good; a total spiv down to the last camel hair in his coat.’

(TV review by Kate Saunders, Evening Standard, 17 May 1989)

splash the boots vb

to urinate. A euphemism heard, particularly among drinkers, in Australia and Britain since the 1960s.

‘Excuse I, but could you direct me to the bathroom. I’ve got to splash the boots.’ (The Wonderful World of Barry McKenzie, cartoon strip by Barry Humphries and Nicholas Garland, 1966)

splatted adj British

stabbed. An item of black street-talk used especially by males, recorded in 2003.

splay1 n American

marihuana. A word of obscure origin used by schoolchildren and students.

splay2 vb American

to have sex (with). The vulgarism invariably applies to male sexual activity. It has been recorded in use among Californian pornographers and prostitutes and may have originated as photographers’ jargon, from ‘splay-shot’, employing the standard word (itself a Middle English clipping of ‘display’).

splend adj British

excellent, admirable, very satisfactory. A shortening of splendid favoured by mid- dle-class adolescents and young adults since 2000.

splendid adj British

excellent. The standard word was borrowed as a vogue term of approbation by British teenagers in the early 1990s.

splib n American

an Afro-Caribbean person. A racist epithet heard since the 1980s, of uncertain origin although it is claimed unconvincingly to be a blend of spade and ‘liberal’. It is more likely to be a nonsense bebop or jive talk coinage.

splice vb British to have sex (with)

‘I spliced his woman while he was on bar duty downstairs.’

(Harry’s Kingdom, British TV film, 1986) spliff n

1.a cannabis cigarette, joint. The word, which is of uncertain derivation, originated in Britain or the Caribbean in the 1960s. In the USA it designates a joint containing both cannabis and tobacco, in the ‘English style’.

2.a stupid person. The word is used in this way by teenagers.

split1 vb

to leave. A piece of American slang that came to Britain in the hippy era, it is a shortening of the earlier beatnik term ‘split the scene’ (from the notion of separating oneself from a group or gathering).

split2 n British

a female. This highly derogatory term is short for ‘split arse’ and was popularised by the comedian Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown.

‘Lesley Morris, 23, said sailors called the WRENS sluts, slags, splits and turtles.’

(Daily Mirror, 4 February 1997)



splosh n British

1a. a woman or women in general

1b. an act of sexual intercourse

Both these related uses are vulgarisms popular in London working-class parlance since the late 1970s, often in the form ‘a bit of splosh’.

2. money. This sense of the word is now almost obsolete, but existed in the vocabularies of cockneys, spivs and their upper-class imitators in the 1950s.

splurt vb British

to leave, run away. The term, whose etymology is uncertain, may be an altered form of split. It has been used by gang members and schoolchildren since the late 1990s.

spod1 n British

1a. smegma

1b. seminal fluid

A vulgarism which was in use among adolescents in the 1990s.

2. a clumsy, dimwitted or socially unacceptable person. The term is applied to school misfits by fellow pupils and was reported to be in current use at Eton in the September 1989 issue of Tatler. In the 1990s it was defined as a synonym for narg in Oxbridge student slang.

spod2 vb British

to engage in meaningless activities when supposedly doing a job. Posted on the Internet by Bodge World in 1997.

spoilers n pl South African

the buttocks. An appreciative term applied to females by males by analogy with the rear of a sports car. Hatchback and sixteen-valve are other automotive terms applied to females.

spon n British

1. money. A clipped form of spondulicks, fashionable in certain circles since the late 1980s.

‘We’re going to have to go round to Bill’s to pick up some spon.’

(Recorded, self-employed decorator, London, 1988)

2. a fool. This childish term of abuse or disparagement has been obsolete since the early 1960s. It was almost certainly a survival of the early 19th century use of spoon to mean a simpleton.

spondulicks, spondoolicks n

money, wealth. A lighthearted term which was obsolescent by the 1960s (having originated in the USA in the

1850s), but which, like other synonyms for money, was revived in the 1980s (compare rhino, pelf, etc.) It originated as a learned witticism, borrowing the Greek term spondylikos; pertaining to the spondylos, a seashell used as currency.

spoof vb Australian

to ejaculate. Spuff is a variant form.

spooge n American

sperm. The word is an invention based on the standard term and used by children and adolescents.

spook n American

1.a black person. The reference is either an ironic one to the subjects’ black colour (as opposed to the white of spectres) or to their ‘haunting’ of certain locations.

2.a spy, secret agent. This usage may be a simple reference to unseen ‘ghosts’ or may derive from the fact that many World War II agents were recruited from the Yale secret society, the ‘Skull and Bones’.

‘In 30 beautifully crafted novels during the past 16 years, he [Ted Allbeury] has revealed details from the real world of spooks that have been struck from others’ memoirs.’

(Sunday Times, 17 December 1989)

spooky adj British

eccentric, crazy. An item of youth slang recorded in the 1990s which may have originated in black usage.

That Linda’s well spooky. spoon n British

1.a person from a privileged and/or wealthy background. The word became fashionable among young City financial traders in the early 1990s, used either contemptuously or teasingly by workingclass speakers of their upper- (or sometimes middle-)class fellows. It derives from the expression ‘born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth’.

2.a stupid, ‘thick’ person.

See also mong; minghawk; scrag2; spliff

spooner n British

an unpleasant and/or obnoxious person. In playground usage since 2000.

sport girl n Caribbean

a prostitute or promiscuous female

spot (someone) vb

a. American to pay for, lend or advance money to. This usage of spot probably derives from gambling or sports jargon in which it means to specify odds or conditions.

Spot me a twenty will you?


spunk rat

b. to lend or give. The older adult colloquialism has become a vogue term among British adolescents since 2000.

Can you spot me a cig?

spout off vb British

to talk volubly, pompously or out of turn. A post-1970 version of the earlier ‘spout’ or the more literary ‘spout forth’, suggesting the outpouring of words. Spout off, like ‘mouth off’, is usually used intransitively and is more disparaging than the earlier forms.

sprang vb Caribbean

to steal or borrow without permission. Recorded in Trinidad and Tobago in 2003. Synonyms are bandit and raf.

sprankious, sprankshious adj Caribbean lively, attractive

sprat vb British

to look for a sexual partner, attempt to seduce. Often in the form ‘out spratting’, the equivalent of out trouting which may have inspired it. It may also be based on the phrase ‘a handful of sprats’ (a variant of the more recent bit of fish), meaning successful sexual contact with a female.

sprayed adj British

shot. An item of black street-talk used especially by males, recorded in 2003. Said to be from the resultant spraying of blood rather than bullets.

spree-boy n Caribbean a roisterer

spring (someone) vb

to obtain someone’s release from captivity or prison, either as a result of a legal manoeuvre or, more commonly, by assisting their escape

spring for vb British

to pay for. A raffish expression, used typically by working-class speakers, indicating willingness or alacrity.

OK, keep your hand in your pocket, I’ll spring for the grub.

sprog n British

a.a child, offspring

b.a novice, new recruit

The first sense of the word has become widespread in colloquial speech since the mid-1970s, the second is limited to the context of institutions, including the armed services. The exact origin of the word is obscure, but it is reasonable to assume that it is a blend of sprout and ‘sprig’. Sprog also means ‘head’ in Australia.

sprog some dosh vb British

to withdraw money from a cash-dis- penser or bank. A phrase used by students from the late 1990s. The sprog element may denote ‘give birth to’.

‘I need to sprog some dosh before we get to the pub…’

(Recorded, London student, 1999)

sprout n British

a child. The word is a middle-class 1990s’ alternative to the earlier sprog and the more recent howler and wowler.

sprung adj American

infatuated. An item of teenage slang applied to someone who ‘has a crush’ on another.

I could tell she was totally sprung on me.

spuck n American semen

spud n

1.a potato. This universal slang term has been recorded since the 1840s. A ‘spud’ was a small narrow spade (from the Middle English spudde, meaning a dagger, itself from the Italian spada, meaning a sword) of the sort used to dig up potatoes.

2.a stupid person. This use of the word, recorded among schoolchildren, may be an alteration of spod rather than a reference to the potato.

spud-bashing n British

potato-peeling, especially as a punishment

spuff vb Australian

to ejaculate. A variant form of spoof, the term was used in the Australian movie

The Hard Word in 2003.

spunk n

1a. spirit, vim. The word has been recorded in this sense since the 18th century. Most authorities derive it from spong, a Gaelic word for tinder (itself from the Latin spongia, meaning sponge), hence ‘spark’.

1b. semen. The idea of a life-force, ‘vital spark’ or spirit in the male context led to spunk being used in this sense (as was ‘mettle’ in archaic speech) from the 19th century onwards.

2. Australian a spunk rat. The shorter form, usually referring to males only, has become increasingly widespread since about 1987.

spunk rat n Australian

a sexually attractive young person. The phrase is based on spunky in the sense of



spirited, and is influenced also by spunk in the sexual sense.

‘But it’s all right for her, she’s got a whole smorgasbord selection of classic spunk rats.’

(Kathy Lette, Girl’s Night Out, 1989)

spunky adj

spirited. The adjective is derived from the noun spunk.

squaddie n British

an army private. The word is either from ‘squad’ or from the archaic swaddy, meaning a bumpkin.

square adj, n

(a person who is) conventional, conservative or unfashionable. Since the 17th century square has been used to mean honest, reputable or straightforward. The modern sense of the word dates from the 1930s jive talk of black jazz musicians in Harlem, New York. (Cab Calloway’s 1938 lexicon defines a square as an ‘unhip person’.)

‘To be square is to be dull, middle aged, old fashioned. To be square is to be not with it.’

(About Town magazine, June 1962)

squat n American

(a) shit. From the action of squatting down to defecate. By extension, squat, a word used typically in country areas of the USA, is also used to mean nothing or a worthless thing. Doodly squat is an elaboration.

It ain’t worth squat. squawk1 vb

1.to complain noisily or raucously

2.to inform (on someone). A rarer synonym of squeal.

squawk2 n

a radio message. A term used especially by police officers or military personnel for a short burst of information coming into a walkie-talkie radio or field telephone.

squawker n British

a.a walkie-talkie as used by police officers or security guards

b.a mobile telephone

Both terms were commonly used from the early 1990s.

squeak n British

a young naive teenager. A term applied by older adolescents to would-be members of the fashionable circles of London in the late 1980s. The term usually

referred to a girl of the sort previously designated as a teenybopper.

‘The bouncer gets a bit heavy demanding ID from a group of squeaks who look like they have given their babysitter the slip.’

(Evening Standard magazine, May 1989)

squeal vb

to inform (on someone). The usage arose in early 19th century dialect, spreading to underworld argot first in Britain and subsequently in the USA.

squeeze n

1.American a girlfriend or boyfriend, a sweetheart. The word is inspired by the squeeze of an embrace and is often heard in the form main squeeze (which has the added meaning of ‘most important person’).

2.British money, cash. The word often has overtones of hard-earned or reluctantly paid money.

squid n American

a swot. A high school and campus term, perhaps suggesting oiliness or the emission of quantities of ink.

squidgy n British

an amateur windscreen cleaner. ‘Squeegee’ is an alternative form.

squidlet n British

1.a child

2.a pound coin or other amount of money

squids n British

money. A term of middle-class slang common since the later 1990s. It is an alteration of quid.

squiff n Australian

a.a drunkard

b.a drinking bout

Both terms are back formations from the adjective squiffy.

squiffy adj

(slightly) drunk, merry or inebriated. An inoffensive, lighthearted word suggesting slight disorientation, squiffy has been in use since the 19th century.

squiffy doo adj British

dubious, doubtful, suspect. A middleclass expression heard in the 1980s. It derives from the notion of ‘askew’ and ‘out of true’ expressed by the adjective squiffy.

squillion n British

a hyperbolically huge number. A pseudo-nursery word, typically used by condescending or ingratiating journal-



ists in teenage magazines, that became a teenage vogue term of the 1980s.

‘Last week we got thirteen squillion letters asking which video company brought out Star Trek IV, our fab giveaway. Well it was CIC. So there.’

(Just Seventeen, teenage girls’ magazine, December 1987)

squirly adj American

restless, agitated. A word with rustic overtones which is probably a form of ‘squirrely’ (which itself was not only a metaphor, but formerly a punning synonym for nuts).

‘We can’t afford to let him go and get squirly on us.’

(Recorded, US executive, London 2002) squirt n

1.an insignificant, diminutive and/or impudent and annoying individual (usually male). This figurative use of the standard word dates from the mid-19th century. It is not certain whether it originated in British or American speech.

2.British money, cash, funds. The term is probably based on the idea of a squirt of oil lubricating the system, or a squirt of spirit igniting a fire or engine.

We just need a bit more squirt and we can go ahead with our plans.

squirts, the n

a case of diarrhoea. An alternative form of the squits.

squit n British

an insignificant, small and/or irritating person. The word is a variant form of the synonymous squirt and has been heard since the 1880s.

‘There are 5 squits, 9 snekes, 19 cribbers, 2 maniaks, 4 swots.’

(Back in the Jug Agane, Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle, 1959)

squits, the n

a case of diarrhoea. Both words are onomatopoeic.

‘No thanks, love, olive oil doesn’t agree with me.

Gives you the squits, does it, Grandad?’

(Nice Work, David Lodge, 1988)

squiz, squizz n

a look, glance. Perhaps influenced by squint and/or quiz(zical), the term is heard in Australasia and the UK.

‘Let’s take a squizz at the new place.’

(Brain Dead, New Zealand film, 1993)

‘Have a squiz at the back pages of a society magazine…’

(Daily Telegraph magazine, 9 November 2002)

stabber n British

a male homosexual. The term was applied to supposedly active gay males as opposed to the passive stooper. The pejorative, supposedly humorous designations were in use among heterosexual Fleet Street/Wapping journalists in the early 1990s. Stabber is said to be a shortening of ‘suit-stabber’.

stack1 adj

1. excellent, fantastic. A teenage vogue word of the late 1980s, used as an exclamation of approval or delight. The term spread from the language of hip hop in New York to London aficionados.

‘Just forget about using the word mega to express your delight. The latest expression is stack!’

(Daily Mirror, September 1987)

2. inferior, negative, ‘no way’, etc. The word, like many similar vogue terms, is also used to mean its virtual opposite

‘Stack (meaning: not at all, i.e. Samantha Fox is immensely talented … STACK!) is now the only logo to be seen with (we know, we invented it).’

(Advertisement in I-D magazine, November 1987)

stack2 vb

to crash (a vehicle), destroy. The word is used in this sense throughout the Eng- lish-speaking world. For skateboarders and schoolchildren since the late 1990s it refers to falling over or tripping up.

stacked adj

(of a woman) having large breasts, ‘wellendowed’. A male term of approbation which is now offensive to most women. The expression, first popular in the USA, is a shortening of ‘well-stacked’.

‘When one person is important and the other person is stacked and/or wellhung.’

(Sub-heading in P. J. O’Rourke’s Modern Manners, 1983)

stack some zees/zeds vb

to sleep. The phrase, originating in the USA, is synonymous with the more common cop/bag some zees.

stain1 n British

an unfashionable, tedious individual or a swot. This term of contempt was in use among university students in the late



1980s. It is usually a synonym of anorak; unbeknown to most users it is short for wank stain, i.e. a despicable nonentity.

‘“Stains” are “replete with acne and anoraks”.’

(Evening Standard, 16 June 1988)

stain2 adj British

bad, unpleasant, disappointing. The adjectival usage dates from around 2000.

stalk n

a.an erection or the penis. This British and Australian sense of the word principally survives in the phrases ‘stalk fever’ and stalk-on.

b.effrontery (in a male), cheek, bottle. A rare working-class usage (recorded in

The Signs of Crime, A Field Manual for Police by Deputy Assistant Commissioner David Powis, 1977).

stalk-on n

an erection. A vulgarism heard since the 1950s.

stallion n

a stud. The term has been used figuratively in this way since the 14th century.

stan n British

1.a Pakistani. The ‘a’ is long, the term is usually neutral not pejorative.

2.a curry

stand, stand-on n an erection

standard adj British


b.an all-purpose exclamation of approval or agreement

‘Standard in East London means like definitely, for sure.’

(Posting on www.blackchat.co.uk, March 2004)

The term has acquired these specialised senses in black British speech since 2000, and in 2004 was reported as a vogue term among chavs.

stand-up adj American

honourable, reliable, steadfast. A term of (mainly male) approbation or admiration in such clichés as ‘a stand-up guy’. It derives from the notion of ‘standing up for someone’ or being willing to ‘stand up and be counted’.

‘It’s funny that priest going AWOL. I always thought he was a real standup guy.’

(V, US TV film, 1983)

stank adj American a. unpleasant

b.in poor taste, inappropriate

That girlfriend’s outfit is stank.

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

stanky n American

an unstylish person. A more recent variation of skank(y) and scangey.

star exclamation British

an all-purpose intensifier placed at the end of an utterance

‘Hey, I’m the king at table tennis – star!’

(Recorded, London student, 2000)

starkers adj British

naked. A characteristic public-school or Oxbridge version of ‘stark naked’ which has become a common colloquialism. (It is sometimes elaborated to harry-stark- ers.)

star-spa n British

a friend, fellow gang member. The term was used as an indicator of solidarity by adolescent gang members and as a term of address. It was recorded in use among North London schoolboys in the 1990s.

startin’ n British

fighting. From black speech. Synonyms are mixin’, regulatin’, tanglin’.

stash vb

to hide, put away. The word, which spread from America to the rest of the English-speaking world at the turn of the 20th century, was probably originally a blend of ‘stow’, ‘store’ and ‘cache’. It was formerly often spelled ‘stache’.

state n British

a mess, disaster. This word became an all-purpose vogue term in London work- ing-class speech of the early 1970s. The original notion of ‘to be in a (bit of a) state’ was transformed so that state (two and eight in rhyming slang) came to refer to the individual rather than the situation.

He looks a right old state, doesn’t he?

static n American

criticism or hostile interference. A respectable slang term inspired by the standard sense of an electrical disturbance or interference. The suggestion is typically of opposition from various quarters that threatens to frustrate a scheme.

We’re getting a lot of static from higher up now that the powers that be have been informed.



staunch adj South African

tough, strong, attractively fit. A vogue term in youth slang.

stay loose vb American

an alternative version of hang loose

steamboats adj British

drunk. A lighthearted term of uncertain derivation. It may have something to do with the use of a name such as ‘Steamboat Bill’, possibly in a lost rhymingslang expression.

He was completely steamboats by midday.

steamed adj American

furious. A 1980s variation on the more generalised ‘steamed-up’.

steamer n British

a bout of heavy drinking. Often heard in the phrase ‘on/in a steamer’.

steamers n pl British

gangs of muggers who enter a shop, train compartment, etc. en masse and overwhelm their victims with some force. From the colloquial ‘steam (in)’, meaning to move forcefully and quickly. The term arose in London in 1985 among black street gangs.

steaming1 n British the activity of steamers

‘Steaming is very modern, a term for mob-handed theft often by joeys, young criminals.’

(James Morten, Independent, 23 December 1988)

steaming2 adj British

1.an otherwise meaningless intensifying adjective, almost invariably used in the now dated expression ‘(a) steaming nit’, which was briefly popular in the early 1960s


‘You’ve only had two cans and you’re steaming.’

(Red Dwarf IV, BBC comedy, 1994)

steek n British

a synonym of chav, in vogue in 2004. It may be an altered form of stig.

stem n

a knife, particularly when carried or used for criminal purposes. An item of New York street slang that spread to other English-speaking areas in the early 1990s.

step! exclamation don’t try it!

stepford adj American

dully conformist, android-like. The term is inspired by the 1975 cult film The Stepford Wives, depicting a suburb in which women are turned by men into placid robot hausfraus. Devo carries the same connotations.

step off, step vb American

1.to opt out, desist, stop

2.to lose one’s temper, become aggressive

Both usages originated in black street slang and may refer to the figurative sense of stepping off the straight and narrow, or the physical sense of leaving a path, sidewalk, escalator, etc., in order to launch an attack.

step on adj

to adulterate, cut (a drug). The term has been used by drug users and dealers since the end of the 1960s, particularly in reference to cocaine or heroin; occasionally it is used of amphetamines, but not of cannabis or other organic substances.

‘You expect a cut at this level, but this stuff has been stepped on by a gang of navvies in hob-nailed boots.’

(Recorded, cocaine user, London, 1982)

step on one’s dick vb American

to make a blunder. A term used particularly in the context of the workplace or the armed forces.

Just give those guys some slack and pretty soon one of them will step on his dick.

Steve McQueens n British

jeans. Rhyming slang using the name of the late Hollywood star.

stick n

1.a joint, reefer (cannabis cigarette). A term which was fairly widespread among smokers of the drug (beatniks, prisoners, etc.) until the mid-1960s, when joint and spliff largely supplanted it.

2.British chastisement, physical or verbal punishment. Originally implying a literal thrashing with a stick or cane, then generalised to any violent assault, the expression is now used, especially by middle-class speakers, to encompass verbal abuse, denigration or nagging.

You’ve done nothing but snipe at me since I got home – what have I done to deserve all this stick?

3. British a police truncheon

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