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Dictionary of Contemporary Slang

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v adj British

very. Often heard in middle-class speech, as in ‘v. good’, ‘v. difficult’, etc.

vadge n

the vagina. A vulgarism (it also occurs in the form fadge) in use among adolescents in the 1990s and listed in Viz comic in 1994. Vige is an American synonym.

vagitarian n British

a lesbian. The term was posted on the b3ta website in 2004.

Vals, Valley Girls n pl American

a Californian (and later more widespread) youth culture of the early 1980s, based on the habits, mannerisms and distinctive vocabulary of teenage girls from the San Fernando Valley region of outer Los Angeles. The Vals, daughters of affluent parents working typically in the media, music industry or professions, had developed a sybaritic lifestyle in which consumerism (‘recreational shopping’) and leisure activities were elevated to a social code. Vals employed a colourful hyperbolic repertoire of slang, typically expressed in a high-pitched, breathless drawl. Their lexicon was partly invented and partly adopted or adapted from the argot of surfers, college and high-school students and other sources. (Grody, gnarly and to the max are examples). Many of these terms became teenage vogue expressions on a wider scale in the mid-1980s.

‘The greatest creative work that any Val does is trying to think of a good slogan for her [car number] plate.’

(Harpers and Queen magazine, 1983)

Valspeak n American

the jargon of Valley Girls, as spoken in California in the early 1980s, and subsequently elsewhere

‘Valspeak is an almost impossible farrago of surfer expressions, Midwesternisms

and irrational neologisms, delivered in nasal lockjawed whining tones.’

(Harpers and Queen magazine, 1983)

vamoose vb American

to leave, go away, get moving. The word, familiar since its use in cowboy-era fiction and subsequent film and TV drama, is a corruption of the Spanish vamos (‘we’re going’) or ¡vamonos! (‘let’s go!’).

OK, I think it’s time we vamoosed.

vamp vb, n

(to behave as) a seductress. The word is usually employed only semi-seriously to denote an individual (usually, but not invariably, female) affecting a languid, mysterious and predatory air. The term arose in 1918, inspired by the vampire legend as interpreted by such film stars as Theda Bara.

vamping n

showing off, behaving ostentatiously. A key term in the lexicon of club culture, hip hop, street gangs, etc. since the 1990s. It derives from the verb to vamp (from ‘vampire’), denoting the seductive displays of 1920s film stars.

vamp up vb British

a.to intensify, make more effective, improve or renovate

b.to improvise, ad-lib

These colloquial usages are from the standard informal musical sense of ‘vamp’ (an improvised accompaniment, ultimately from the archaic French avantpied) and not, as is often assumed, from the verb to vamp (to pose as a temptress).

V and T n British

(a) vodka and tonic

vanilla adj

innocuous, orthodox. The adjective was applied, from the early 1980s, to otherwise illicit behaviour such as ‘vanilla lesbian(ism)’, ‘vanilla sex’, etc.

varder, va(h)da(h), vardy, vardo vb British to see, look (at). These are forms of the Romany verb to watch (originally ren-



dered as varter), used especially in the 1950s and 1960s in the slang of the street market, fairground and theatre. The word was briefly exposed to a wider audience following its use by the camp characters Julian and Sandy in the Kenneth Horne radio comedy shows of the 1960s.

va-va-voom exclamation, n American this imitation of a revving engine or explosive take-off is used to suggest overwhelming sexual potential or allure. The word was particularly popular (among males) in the 1960s and often featured in Mad magazine, usually as the name of a starlet. The phrase was re-popularised by a TV commercial for Renault cars starring footballer Thierry Henry in 2004.

veeks, vix n British

a motor vehicle. An item of black streettalk used especially by males, recorded in 2003. It is probably an alteration of vehicle(s).

veep n American

a V.I.P., ‘very important person’

veg, vedge-out vb

to vegetate, idle or loaf. A predominantly adolescent usage, heard in the 1980s, which was first recorded almost simultaneously in the USA and Australia.

I think we’ll spend next week just vegging out in front of the TV.

veggie, vedgie n, adj

(a person who is) vegetarian velcro n

1.a lesbian. The use of the trademark term dates from the late 1980s and is derived from the supposed similarity between the lesbian practice of pressing pubic areas together and Velcro fasteners, consisting of two pieces of rough fabric.

2.also velcroid American an intrusive or ‘clinging’ person, especially a neighbour. A piece of adult or family slang using the trademark name of the fabric-fastening material.

velcro-head n

a Negro. A phrase from the 1980s, deriving from the supposed likeness between Velcro (a trademark name for a fabricfastening material) and a black person’s hair. Like rag-head and towel-head as applied to Arabs, the term is invariably pejorative.

velveeta n, adj

(something) cheesy. A pun, first recorded on US campuses in the early 1990s, using the brand name of a cheese spread.

ventilate someone’s shorts vb American to give someone a severe telling-off or dressing-down. A colourful campus phrase of the 1980s invoking the image of a miscreant with their backside (and underwear) shredded by a blast of buckshot.

Vera (Lynn) n British

(a glass of) gin. Rhyming slang based on the name of the patriotic wartime singer, still heard in the 1990s, often in conjunction with supersonic.

Compare Veras

Veras n pl British

cigarette papers. This shortening of the London rhyming-slang expression ‘Vera Lynns’, meaning skins, was popular among younger cannabis smokers in the 1990s.

verbal(s) n, n pl, vb British

(to tell) a lie(s). Deputy Assistant Commissioner David Powis, in his Field Manual for Police (published in 1977), claimed that ‘a verbal is an oral statement of admission or incrimination which is invented by the arresting or interviewing officer and attributed to a suspect’. The word can also be used in the phrases ‘work the verbal’ (synonymous with work the oracle), ‘put the verbal in’ or ‘put the verbals on’. These are all items of police jargon in current use.

verboten adj

forbidden, prohibited. The German term has been used, usually facetiously, in English dialect since World War II as an intensive form of its literal translation.

Talking to his girlfriend is absolutely verboten.

very adj American

a.a term of approval, admiration, etc.

Wow, that bag is, like, very!

b.a non-commital comment or response

What was the hairdo like? Well it was, like, very.

These witticisms, formed by excluding the expected qualifying adjective for effect, occur in the affected or mocking speech of adolescents and teenagers in the US, particularly females. (Totally is employed in the same way.)



vet n American

a veteran (soldier). A term best-known in the context of the post-Vietnam War era.

vex vb

a.to anger, infuriate

Don’t vex me!

b.to become infuriated

She be vexin’?

The standard word has become modified in the slang of younger speakers since 2000, probably influenced by black usage.

vibe n

ambience, atmosphere, mood, the latest news. A shortening of vibrations popular in the hippy era, vibe was applied catholically to anything that was ‘in the air’; from an intuitive empathy (‘I like it here. There’s a really good vibe about the place’.), to an item of hot gossip (‘Hey man, what’s the vibe about Mary?’). The plural vibes was a more widespread nearsynonym.

vibe on vb American

to be sympathetic toward, understand, appreciate someone. A hippy term deriving from the notion of having good vibes about someone.

‘Some people would say things like, “Oh, that boy’s gonna really be great. You don’t know how talented that boy is”. And the others would say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, uh-uh, sure”. They didn’t really vibe on me.’

(Stevie Wonder, Musician magazine, 1984)

vibes n pl

feelings, ambience, atmosphere, mood. A key term and concept in the hippy psychic repertoire, vibes denotes the unseen and unheard, but nonetheless experienced vibrations linking individuals with each other and with the cosmos. The word originated among jazz devotees and beatniks and survives in the post-hippy era in limited and usually facetious usage.

vibrations n pl

invisible emanations or forces, experienced as psychological sensations; feelings, ambience. A word (and notion) in evidence since its use by 19th-century spiritualists, but in very limited currency until it became part of the vocabulary of jazz musicians, beatniks and, most significantly, hippies. The word was generally shortened to vibes.

vic n American

a victim, dupe. An underworld term heard in the 1990s.

vicious adj

impressive, powerful, exciting. A teenage term of approval, admiration or satisfaction on the lines of the more widespread bad and wicked.

That’s some vicious venue, know what I mean?

vige n American

the vagina. An alternative form of vadge and fadge.

village n, adj British

a. (a person who is) slow-witted, stupid. This middle-class term, often used by middle-aged speakers, is a shortening of ‘village idiot’.

I’ve always considered her rather village. b. inferior, of poor quality. A middle-class term, used by schoolchildren and college students but probably borrowed from parents, said to be based on notions such as ‘village cricket’.

villager n British

an unsophisticated person, chav. The term has been popular since the late 1990s.

villain n British

a criminal. The standard police slang designation of a lawbreaker, villain has been used in this way since the interwar years.

‘He found two villains in possession of stolen goods. They offered him a substantial bribe and he devised a way to get them out of trouble.’

(Former detective, Inside the Brotherhood, Martin Short, 1989)

-ville suffix

a termination used in hip talk, beatnik slang and later teenage usage. It denotes a place, situation or state of affairs. Endsville (the ultimate in either boredom or pleasure) and ‘Dullsville’ (boredom only) are typical examples. The French form ville (a town, from the Latin villa) was used by early American settlers, like ‘- city’ or ‘-burg’, to create placenames.

Compare -city

vinegar strokes n pl British

the pelvic thrusting just before the achieving of male orgasm. An item of sexual slang which has been common in armed-forces’ usage since World War II, though it has recently been given more widespread prominence by alternative



comedians such as Frank Skinner, as well as by references in Viz comic.

‘Aye, he’d just got to the vinegar strokes when he were interrupted.’

(The Viz Big Fat Slags Book, 1994)

vines n pl American

clothes. A term which probably arose in the beatnik era and was still heard among adolescents in the 1990s. Rags, threads and, more recently, garms are synonyms.

Hey, tasty vines.

vino n

wine. This is the Italian and Spanish translation of the English word.

vogu(e)ing n American

showing off, behaving ostentatiously. The term, which probably originated in black street slang, denoted a particular style of imitation catwalk posing adopted by hip hop aficionados and later by the singer Madonna in the 1980s.

Compare profiling; styling voice n See throw one’s voice

vom vb, n

(to) vomit. A shortening typically used by teenagers and students.

vung n South African a car


wabblefats n American

an alternative spelling of wobblefats

wabs n pl British

female breasts. A term, like the synonymous waps, baps, smams and chebs, popular among younger speakers since 2000.

wack1 adj

inferior, worthless, unpleasant. A vogue term in use in the black hip hop and rap subcultures in the early 1980s. The term is probably derived from whacky. By the 1990s it was employed as an all-purpose pejorative, also in use among British and Australian adolescents.

wack2, wacker n British

a term of address between males in the working-class speech of the Liverpool area. The word may be connected with whack, meaning a share or portion (as in ‘pay one’s whack’).

See also whacker wacko n See whacko

wackser, waxa n, adj British

(something or someone) excellent, impressive. A vogue term among teenage gang members in provincial England since 2000, sometimes used as an exclamation.

wacky adj See whacky

wacky baccy n British See whacky baccy

wad n

a. a bundle of banknotes, a large quantity of money. Wad had been used in this sense all over the English-speaking world since the end of the 19th century. In Britain the word was heard principally in working-class speech before being adopted as a vogue term in 1988 following its use by the alternative comedian Harry Enfield. One of his Loadsamoney character’s catchphrases was ‘wanna see my wad?’, shouted before brandishing a roll of notes.

b. British a bun or (thick) slice of bread

-wad combining form American

a termination (denoting a despicable and/or disgusting person) seen in such compounds as jerkwad, dick-wad and butt-wad. The wad in question originally referred to tissues used as a receptacle for bodily excrescences. -weed is a disguised version of the same suffix.

wadge n British

a variant spelling of wodge 1

wag vb Australian

to play truant. A variant of the older British form ‘hop the wag’, in which the wag in question is a shortening of waggon.

‘And don’t you go wagging school this afternoon either – I might be bringing Frank round.’

(Richmond Hill, Australian TV series, 1988)

WAG n British

a spendthrift, vacuous, glamorous young female. The term is formed from the initials of ‘wives and girlfriends’ and was inspired by the behaviour of the England football team’s partners during the 2006 World Cup. A media invention, the word subsequently passed into colloquial speech.

wag it vb British

to play truant. A modern version of the phrase ‘hop the wag’, in which the wag in question is a shortening of waggon. The Australian term wag and its extension wag off are other modern derivations.

‘“All these kids”, says Marjorie disapprovingly. “Wagging it, I suppose”.’

(David Lodge, Nice Work, 1988)

wag off vb

to bunk off, play truant. This 1980s variant on the old phrases ‘hop the wag’ and ‘on the wag’, used by schoolchildren, is heard in Britain and Australia. (The word was defined for viewers in a



report on Newsround, a BBC TV children’s programme, in June 1988.)

Compare wag; wag it

wa’ gwan? exclamation See whagwan?

wake adj

an alternative spelling of wayk

waldo n American

a fool. An American personification, similar to the British wally, in use among teenagers and college students.

walk vb

1. to go free. A term popularised by its use in US TV crime dramas and the like.

Just give us the names we want and we’ll let you walk.

2.to escape, leave, disappear

‘And the guy walked. (He walked with twenty million dollars but he walked.)’

(Serious Money, play by Caryl Churchill, 1987)

walkabout n, adv See go walkabout

walk of shame n

a journey home after a night of supposed debauchery. The phrase, popular on US campuses, has been in UK use since around 2000. It typically describes someone sneaking back to their room after surreptitiously spending the night with a sexual partner.

wall exclamation

a statement of incomprehension or bafflement. In use among cyberpunks and net-heads, it originated in the jargon of professional computer specialists.

wallop n

strong alcoholic drink. A light-hearted term inspired by the supposed effect of alcohol (although, until recently, the word more often denoted beer than spirits).

a pint of wallop

wallopers n pl British

police officers. A nickname from the 1950s, now obsolete in Britain but occasionally heard in Australia.

‘Please, please Sid. You’ll have the wallopers in here in a minute.’

(Hancock’s Half Hour, British comedy series, October 1959)

wally, wallie n British

1. a pickled gherkin. This old workingclass name for a bottled delicacy is still heard in London. It may be a variation of ‘olly’, a corruption of ‘olives’, to which the gherkins were likened by earlier unsophisticated eaters.

‘Want a gherkin, Doll?… Charlie calls them Wallys, I call them gherkins.’

(East Ender, Sunday Times colour supplement, 2 June 1968)

2. a foolish, ridiculous, clumsy and/or unsophisticated person. This word emerged from obscurity into great popularity between 1976 and 1978 and many theories as to its origin have since been advanced. What seems certain is that the word originated in working-class London usage. The word began to be used in the school playground and in the media from about 1978 (with a meaning very similar to its almost contemporary American counterpart, nerd). The term may derive from the earlier sense of a pickled gherkin (dill is a synonym in both senses) or from an obscure dialect origin (the archaic Scottish dialect waly draigle, meaning a weakling, has been proposed). Punks, who helped to popularise the expression, cited an eponymous Wally, a friend and fan of the Sex Pistols and other coevals; it also seems possible that the usage simply arose because of what was felt to be the inherent comicality of the Christian name.

‘The George Formby Appreciation Society in plenary session. Until you have seen this herd of wallies, all long past their sell-by dates and playing their ukeleles in time to a film of their diminutive hero, you haven’t lived.’

(John Naughton, Observer, 15 January 1989)

3. a cry or chant, heard e.g. at rock concerts (particularly of the punk, post-punk, hardcore variety). This phenomenon recalls the street and playground cry ‘ollie, ollie, ollie!’ heard in London in the 1950s and 1960s and recorded in cockney use as long ago as the 1870s as a shout of recognition or derision.

wamba, womba n British

money. A vogue word in 1988 and 1989, emerging from London working-class argot into more general usage. Wamba, like many other obscure or dated synonyms (rhino, moolah, spondulicks, etc.), came into use in the financially-oriented atmosphere of the later 1980s. The word is most probably an alteration or mishearing of wonga, perhaps in imitation of an exotic ‘tribal-sounding’ word such as the archaic Amerindian ‘wampum’.



wand-waver n American

a male sexual exhibitionist, a flasher. A term in use among police officers, prostitutes, etc. Wienie-wagger is an alternative.

wang, wanger n

the penis. These are more recent spellings of whang and whanger; words which emerged around the turn of the 20th century. They probably derive from an echoic British dialect word meaning beat, hit or slap, with a secondary meaning of strike in the figurative sense of impress or surprise. Although a vulgarism, wang is often considered less offensive than prick (but probably more offensive than synonyms such as dong, willie, etc.) Unlike many similar terms, wang does not have the additional sense of a fool.

wanger, wanga n British

a schoolchildren’s euphemism for wanker. This expression from the late 1980s is apparently sufficiently disguised to allow its use in the presence of adults or even on broadcasts such as the British children’s TV series Grange Hill.

wank vb British

1.to masturbate. This very widespread vulgarism (with some recent exceptions, still taboo in the printed and broadcast media) is, perhaps surprisingly, of obscure origin. It seems to have entered the spoken language in the late 19th century, significantly at a time when the word whang was emerging as a vulgar term for the penis. Wank (earlier spelled ‘whank’) is probably derived from the same source; ‘whang’ as a dialect word first meaning hit, beat or slap. Wank may simply be a variant pronunciation or a development of the earlier word, influenced by ‘whack’ and ‘yank’. Since the 1960s the word has been used of and by women as well as men.

2.to behave in an ostentatious, selfindulgent and/or futile manner. A usage deriving from the interpretation of masturbation as purposeless and/or offensive.

wanker n British

1.a masturbator. For the probable etymology of the word see wank.

2.an inconsequential, feeble, self-indul- gent or otherwise offensive person. The term of abuse or disapproval (most frequently applied to males) has been in use since the early 20th century, but became extremely common in the

1970s. In the USA the word is known, but its force as a taboo term in Britain is often underestimated by American speakers.

wankered adj British

extremely drunk. A popular word with students and other adolescents in the 1990s.

wank off vb British

to masturbate. A longer version of the more widespread term wank.

wankshaft n, adj British

(something or someone) unpleasant, obnoxious. In playground usage.

wank stain n British

a tedious, insignificant and/or obnoxious person. This vulgarism seems to have arisen in the 1970s among adolescents; in the 1980s it became a popular term of abuse, particularly among students. The less offensive shortening, stain, was a vogue term from the late 1980s.

wanky adj British

meagre, inadequate, disappointing. A popular term amongst schoolchildren, also used in the TV comedy Men Behaving Badly in 1995, formed from wank(er) and possibly influenced by manky.

wannabe n

an aspirant or imitator. A fashionable Americanism of 1986 and 1987 which was quickly adopted in the UK. The wannabe, typically a teenager or young adult, exhibits an envious or ambitious desire, characterised by phrases such as ‘I wannabe like Madonna’, ‘I wannabe thin’, ‘I wannabe in the Seychelles’, etc.

‘There are two types of Wannabee. The first kind are the clones – the stagedoor Georges, the Cindy Lauperettes, the Apple scruffs, the Madonna Wannabees (aka Wannabes) – the devoted fans who ape their idols as closely as possible. The other kind are the young urban upstarts with a desperate lust for fame.’

(I-D magazine, November 1987)

waps n pl British

female breasts. A term popular among younger speakers since 2000.

warby n, adj Australian

(something or someone) filthy, inferior or defective, coarse. This Australianism is a survival of a Scottish dialect term for a maggot, archaic in Britain since the 19th century.

warehouse vb British

to hold or attend an acid house party



‘The philologically inclined will note that in Tony’s world the word “warehouse” has turned into a verb. “Yea”, says Tony, “I warehouse, you warehouse… we was warehoused…” Essentially what it means is this: to overwhelmingly swamp with people.’

(Evening Standard, 9 October 1989)

See also warehousing

warehousing n British

the practice of arranging or attending acid house parties, also known as orbital raves; a youth subculture phenomenon of 1988 and 1989

wark adj

an alternative spelling of wayk

warm fuzzies n American

affection, comfort, friendliness, compliments. A light-hearted phrase from the 1970s, adopted by the business community to denote praise applied deliberately as a motivator. The notion is that of something warm, and perhaps furry, to be nuzzled as a reward or consolation.

warm the bed vb British

to mobilise personal contacts to ensure a deal. The phrase occurred in the slang of City of London financial traders in the 1990s.

war-paint n

make-up, female (earlier theatrical) cosmetics. A humorous usage heard all over the English-speaking world since the mid-19th century.

She’s next door putting on her war-paint.

wart n

an irritating, bumptious or unpleasant person. A term often applied by schoolchildren to younger pupils.

wash n British

crack. Washing refers to the chemical purifying of cocaine (with ether for instance) for freebasing or in order to produce the more potent crack.


a ‘white Anglo-Saxon Protestant’, a member of the traditionally dominant ethnic group in the US establishment. This was probably the first of many acronyms, first denoting ethnic subgroups (such as JAP), and later social subcultures (yuppie, etc.) The term WASP originated in the 1960s.

waste (someone) vb

to kill (someone). A euphemism inspired by ‘lay waste’. In the 1950s US street gangs used the word to mean

defeat, while criminals used it to mean kill. In the Vietnam War era the term first signified to devastate and then to annihilate and kill someone.

wasted adj

a.exhausted, drained of energy

b.intoxicated by drugs (or, occasionally, alcohol), stoned. This is an extension of the sense of to devastate or annihilate (arising in the late 1960s), on the pattern of synonymous terms such as wrecked, smashed, blitzed, etc.

c.American penniless, broke. A now obsolescent sense of the term, heard in the 1950s.

water sports n pl

urination as part of sex play. A euphemism from the repertoire of pornographers and prostitutes.

wax (out/up) vb Australian

to share. The verb, heard in the early 1990s, probably derives from the notion of whack, meaning a portion or share. A synonym is whack-up.

waxa n, adj See wackser

wax the dolphin vb American

(of a male) to masturbate. A humorous euphemism employed by adolescent males since the 1990s.

way! exclamation

a contradiction of ‘no way!’, popularised by the cult US film Wayne’s World in 1992

way- combining form

this intensifier, signifying ‘extremely’, was fashionable in youth subcultures in the late 1980s and early 1990s, particularly in the catchphrase way-cool

way-cool adj

admirable, fashionable. A catchphrase whose usage followed the usual course in moving from street subcultures in the early 1980s to pubescent schoolchildren in the mid-1990s.

wayk, wake, wark adj British abbreviated forms of the catchphrase term of approbation way-cool, in use among teenagers in the later 1990s, often in the form of an exclamation

Wayne n British

an alternative personification to Kevin. Wayne and his female counterpart, usually Sharon, supposedly embody crassness, bad taste, etc. Generic epithets deriving from the late 1970s and popular in the 1980s, the names were generally thought to epitomise working-class ado-



lescents or young adults and were used derisively by those who considered themselves socially superior or more sophisticated. Trev and Darren are more recent versions.

way-out adj

extreme, excessive, exotic, eccentric. A vogue term first among pre-World War II jazz aficionados, later among beatniks. The phrase was picked up by more conventional speakers to refer to unorthodox behaviour and has become a fairly common, if dated expression.

wazoo n American

the anus. This humorous euphemism, usually used figuratively rather than literally, is most often heard in the phrase ‘up the wazoo’.

I wasn’t expecting it but I got it right up the wazoo.

wazz1 n British

an act of urination. A variant form of the more common wizz.

‘I’ve got to go for a wazz.’

(London cab driver, Guardian, February 1994)

wazz2 vb British

to urinate. The word also occurs in the phrase ‘it’s wazzing (it) down’, i.e. it is raining hard.

wazz3 adj British

inferior, worthless, disappointing. Teenagers have used the term since around 2000.

The stuff they sell is, like, truly wazz.

wazzed adj British

drunk. A more recent coinage by analogy with pissed.

wazzock n British

a fool, buffoon. A term widespread outside the London area in the late 1990s.

weasel1 n

1. a sly, devious, unprincipled and/or vicious person

2a. British a dodge, stratagem or halftruth

2b. British a tip, a reward achieved by trickery

The weasel is used as a by-word for deviousness in all English-speaking areas. Historically, even its name embodies this; the Old English weosule is related to the Latin virus and originally meant a slimy liquid or poison.

weasel2 vb British

a. to behave in a devious, sly or underhand way

b. to carry luggage in order to earn or extract a tip

The verb sub-senses are specific instances of the more prevalent notion of untrustworthiness and unscrupulousness associated with the animal.

weasel words n

insincere, devious or unscrupulous talk. This well-established usage probably derives from the weasel’s claimed ability to suck the contents from an egg without shattering the shell, hence the notion of evasion.

wedding tackle n British

the male genitals. A humorous phrase which is an elaboration of the earlier ‘tackle’, heard in this context since the 18th century. Wedding tackle is a euphemism which is considered inoffensive enough to be broadcast and printed, as well as used in conversational contexts. It was popular during the 1980s but probably dates from much earlier. (Partridge dates the synonym ‘wedding kit’ to 1918.)

wedge n

money, wealth. In the 18th century wedge specifically referred to silver, which criminals melted down and reconstituted as ‘wedges’ (ingots or bars). The term was used throughout the 20th century by working-class speakers, including street traders and criminals. Perhaps unconsciously influenced by wad and ‘edge’, the word has enjoyed a renewed popularity, like most of its synonyms, in the money-conscious environment of the 1980s.

‘I’ve come into a bit of wedge.’

(Budgie, British TV series, 1971)

wedged(-up) adj British

financially well-endowed, wealthy or ‘flush’. A racy working-class back-forma- tion from wedge, meaning money. Wedged(-up) or ‘well-wedged’ were adopted in the yuppie era by middleclass speakers.

‘… the senior partner who spends his lunch hours not at a sandwich bar but at a casino, and every so often comes back “wedged up with more than just a round of tuna mayonnaise”.’

(Sunday Times, 15 December 1996)

wee1, wee-wee n

urine or an act of urination. A nursery term in use for the last 90 or so years. The word is an invention, probably influenced by pee, ‘wet’, the word ‘wee’,



meaning small (as opposed to big jobs), and the sound of urination.

wee2, wee-wee vb

to urinate. An inoffensive nursery term, often used facetiously by adults.

weed, the weed n

1. marihuana. The plant cannabis sativa, which yields marihuana leaves, grows like a weed in warm dry climates and somewhat resembles nettles.

‘They get a £10 bag of weed and put it all in the spliff, then they get catatonic.’

(Panorama, BBC TV, 19 June 2005)

2a. tobacco. When preceded by ‘the’, the word is often used when referring to the harmful nature of the plant and its derivatives.

Back on the weed again?

2b. a cigarette. A usage popular among American teenagers.

3.British a weak, ineffectual person. This usage, beloved of schoolboys in the 1950s and 1960s, is inspired by the visual comparison with a thin etiolated plant.

4.the weed British a system of extra, unofficial work or a scheme yielding unofficial or illicit income. This sense of the word, used by workers and fairground employees among others, is probably obsolete now. It is related to the following verb form.

-weed combining form American

a disguised or milder version of -wad, attached to the same words, as in dickweed, puss-weed, etc.

weedy adj British weak and ineffectual

weenie n American

an alternative spelling of wienie

weenie-wagger n American See wieniewagger

weezer n American

a weak, eccentric and/or infirm person. The word, perhaps a combination of wimp and geezer, was adopted as the name of a US rock band in the early 1990s.

weight n

1. British one pound of hashish or marihuana. The drug dealers’ and users’ jargon term since the early 1960s; it is a shortening of ‘pound weight’.

He sold them a weight of black.

2. American narcotics. The word in this context originally had the sense of a nec-

essary or measured amount, but is often generalised to mean heroin or, more recently, marihuana, cocaine, etc.

I need some weight.

weighted off adj British

imprisoned. This synonym for sent down has been recorded in this form since at least the 1980s. In the form ‘weighed off’ it is much older, referring to the assessing of the criminal and subsequent passing of the sentence carried out by the judge or prison governor.

weirdie, weirdo n

a non-conformist, eccentric, a beatnik or hippy. The terms have been used, typically by disapproving adults, since the end of the 1950s; weirdie was the standard British version (‘bearded weirdie’ was an elaboration) until about 1966 when the American equivalent weirdo became more prevalent. The standard English word ‘weird’ (from the Old English wyrd, meaning fate) not only describes the appearance and behaviour of ‘deviants’ but was a vogue word among beatniks themselves, meaning impressive and acceptable as well as bizarre.

weirding n British

a more recent version of the American weird(ing) out

weird out vb American

to behave eccentrically, undergo a disturbing change of mood. An extension of the use of ‘weird’ in hipster, beatnik, hippy and later teenage parlance, originally frequently used in a drug context, the phrase currently more often refers to unpredictable or temperamental displays by children, parents, etc. To ‘weird someone out’ is to disorientate or confuse them.

weisenheimer n American

a know-all, ‘wise-guy’, wiseacre or wiseass. The word, dating from the first decade of the 20th century, is an elaboration of the standard term ‘wise’ into a quasi-German or Yiddish surname (on the lines of Oppenheimer, etc.)

welch, welsh vb

to fail to repay a loan or wager or to evade another obligation. Now virtually standard English, this term originated as 19th-century racecourse slang inspired by the archaic belief concerning the dishonesty or meanness of the inhabitants of Wales.

I knew he’d welch on the deal.

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