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Dictionary of Contemporary Slang, Third Edition; Tony Thorne (A & C Black, 2005)

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smeg, smeggy n British

a foolish and/or dirty person. These terms, deriving from smegma, are vulgarisms which have been popular with schoolboys, students, punks and other youths since the mid-1970s. Despite their origin the words do not usually indicate great distaste but rather mild contempt or even affection. Smeg and various derivatives such as ‘smeg-head’ were used in the cult British TV comedy series of the late 1980s Red Dwarf as an all-purpose swearword, a euphemism for fuck or shit.

smellie n British

a beggar or homeless person, a crustie

smok n South African

a flirtatious or unconventional female. Recorded as an item of Sowetan slang in the Cape Sunday Times, 29 January 1995. In 19th-century British slang ‘smock’ could be used to denote a ‘loose woman’.

smoke1 vb American

a.to kill. A euphemism in underworld and police usage since the 1940s, this unsentimental term was fashionable in teenage speech and crime fiction in the 1980s.

b.also smoke out, smoke off to defeat or to better (someone). In the hip jargon of the rock music business since the 1970s.

‘Out-playing the headliner is known in the trade as “smoking”…Thin Lizzy were notorious for smoking their superiors – and consequently for being mysteriously removed from bills.’

(Independent, 27 January 1989)

smoke2 n

1a. tobacco

1b. hashish or marihuana

2. the Smoke, the big Smoke London or any large town or city (in British and Australian usage). The word was first recorded in this sense in 1864 referring to London. It usually evokes the city as seen by those who are not native to it or are in temporary exile from it.

‘This is one of the things they have come for – an escape from the Smoke and a whiff of the sea.’

(Town magazine, September 1963)

smoke out vb American

to smoke cannabis. A West Coast expression in contemporary use.

smoker n British

1.an old, worn-out or mechanically unsound motor-car. A piece of jargon from the vocabulary of second-hand car dealers and enthusiasts.

2.a cannabis smoker

smoke up vb American

to smoke cannabis. An East Coast expression in contemporary use.

smokey, smoky n American

a police officer. The term derives from ‘Smokey the Bear’, a cartoon character wearing the hat of a Forest Ranger, who issued warnings against careless behaviour that could cause forest fires; it was then applied, jocularly at first, to any uniformed authority figure. Smokey became the CB (Citizens’ Band) radio code word for a highway patrol officer in the 1970s.

smoodge vb Australian

a variant form of shmooze in the sense of ingratiate oneself or flatter

Don’t try and smoodge me, it won’t work.

smooth adj

good. An all-purpose term of approbation used by adolescents.

smudger n British

1.a friend, ‘mate’

All right me old smudger?

2a. a photographer. A jocular reference to inept developing and printing.

2b. also smudge a photograph. This old item of press slang came, in the 1990s, to refer specifically to an illicit paparazzi snap of, e.g., a star en déshabille.

3. a flatulent person

All three sense of the word are from work- ing-class speech; the first and third are specific to the London area. All are now dated but not obsolete.

smuggling peanuts n

(of a female) displaying the nipples through clothing

smurf1 n

a.British a black person. A racist pejorative.

b.British an unfortunate, contemptible person or misfit, in working-class and schoolchildren’s usage

c.a smuggler of drugs, specifically a lowly courier or dupe

d.British another term for jub

The Smurfs were ugly, plump, gnome-like cartoon creatures marketed as a children’s craze in the early 1970s and revived in the late 1990s.



smurf2 vb

a.to transport illicit narcotics

b.to launder money

Both terms are from underworld usage, probably originating in North America.

smutty adj British

a.excellent, good a smutty time


a smutty fracas


well smutty music

A vogue synonym for heavy, diesel, sick. An item of black street-talk used especially by males, recorded in 2003.

snack attack n

a bout of compulsive eating, (the) munchies. A late 1980s vogue term, still in limited circulation (as is its contemporary, tack attack).

I’m afraid in the middle of the night I had a snack attack.

snafu n

an impossible situation, a foul-up, a labyrinth of incompetence. The expression, from ‘Situation Normal, All Fucked Up’ was developed in the US army in World War II (in imitation of that institution’s passion for acronyms) to describe the quotidian effects of bureaucratic stupidity.

‘I tell you, its been snafu after bloody snafu here.’

(Recorded, businessman, London, 1987)

snag vb American

to steal, appropriate. A term from street slang that was adopted by middle-class adolescents during the 1990s, often to describe the seduction of another’s partner.

snags n pl Australian

sausages. A word in use since the 1940s and still heard, particularly at barbies.

snake1 n South African

an unfaithful female. Recorded as an item of Sowetan slang in the Cape Sunday Times, 29 January 1995.

snake2 vb American

to seduce and/or have sex with. The term’s recent usage may have originated in black slang, but the same word was employed with the sense of ‘steal surreptitiously’ in British slang of the 19th century.

‘He goddam tried to snake my old lady.’

(Recorded, Californian male, September 1995)

snakes n Australian

a.urine or an act of urination. The word is native Australian rhyming slang from ‘snake’s hiss’: piss.

b.a toilet

snakey adj Australian

angry. The usage may derive from the old phrase ‘as mad as a cut snake’.

snanny n, adj British

(someone) insincere, untrustworthy, ‘slimy’. The term was used by teenage girls in 2001.

snap n British

food. Formerly a dialect term for a packed lunch or snack, since 2000 the word has been generalised in teenage parlance to refer to any food.

snap one’s gums vb American

to talk. An alternative form of bump/flap one’s gums.

snapper n

1.British, Irish a child. The term, popularised by the Irish writer Roddy Doyle’s story and 1993 film of the same name, may have originated as a shortening of ‘whippersnapper’ or ‘bread-snapper’.

2.a male homosexual, in armed-forces’ usage

snarf vb

a.to eat, devour

b.to appropriate, adopt wholesale. In the language of cyberpunks and net-heads, the term refers to incorporating information from elsewhere into one’s own documents and files, etc. It is probably a blend of ‘snort’ or snag and scarf (up/down).

snart vb, n British

a.(to) snigger or snort (with derision)

b.(to) sniff or inhale. (In the latter sense, ‘snart up’ is an alternative form.)

c.(to) sneeze

A rare expression heard among students and others since the early 1970s. It is a humorous corruption of snort in both its standard and slang senses.

snash n British

money. The usage has been recorded among schoolchildren, students and army cadets since 2000. Smash is a contemporary synonym.

snatch n

1a. the vagina

1b. women in general. In the 16th century this word was used to denote an



impromptu and/or hasty (‘snatched’) sexual encounter. The meaning was transferred to the female pudenda, and in the 20th century extended to refer to females as sex objects. The use of snatch in these senses has never been common but enjoyed a brief vogue in the late 1960s and early 1970s, first in the US and Canada, subsequently in Britain.

2. British an instance of bag-snatching, in the argot of teenage muggers

‘The child muggers told with chilling frankness how and why they resorted to muggings or “snatches” as they are sometimes called.’

(Observer, 22 May 1988)

3. a kidnap or abduction, in underworld jargon

snazz n

elegance, smart showiness, élan. The noun, most commonly encountered in American speech, is a back-formation from the adjective snazzy.

snazzed-up adj

smart, elegant, dressed-up, embellished or enhanced. A more recent derivation of snazzy.

sneaks n pl American

trainers, sneakers. A teenage abbreviation heard in the 1990s.

sneeze n

cocaine. A term used by yuppies in the late 1980s.

snide adj British

illegal, counterfeit, dishonest or unacceptable. The word’s exact origins are obscure but it is related to the German schneiden (or its Dutch or Yiddish equivalent), meaning clip, and was used in the context both of coin-cutting and of cutting remarks. The former sense gives rise to the modern slang usage and the latter to the standard English meaning. Snide was first heard in Britain in the mid-19th century. Interestingly, young speakers have begun to revert to a Yiddish or Germanic pronunciation of the word as shnide.

‘Are you accusing me of selling snide gear?’

(Recorded, street trader, Portobello Road, London, 1986)

snip n

a small, insignificant and/or irritating person. The word usually implies

aggression and pettiness. It is derived from the notion of snip meaning to cut.

some little snip throwing her weight around

snippy adj

irritatingly critical, brusque or presumptuous. Snippy is a dialect word for ‘cutting’ in origin.

She struck me as a little snippy snitch.

snit n

1a. a small, obnoxious or devious person. The term is typically used of a smug or devious child.

1b. an insignificant person. The word is an invention influenced by snip, snitch and possibly snot.

2. a fit of irritation, a tantrum

snitch1 vb

to inform on (someone). Snitch was originally a slang term for the nose, which was itself used to signify a police spy or grass in the 18th century (as was nark). Snitch began to be used in the verb form in the 19th century and is still in use in the USA, although in Britain it survives mainly in children’s speech, meaning to ‘tell tales’.

snitch2 n

an informer. The word (like nark, originally meaning nose) was first used in this sense in the 18th century. It is still used in the USA to mean a paid police informer, whereas in Britain it is largely confined to the language of children, in which it denotes a ‘tell-tale’.

snockered adj

1.an alternative form of schnockered

2.American completed, finalized, solved. A term heard particularly among schoolchildren, students and parents.

snog1 vb

to kiss (‘snog up’, used transitively, is a racier late 1980s version). This lighthearted word, used typically by children and adolescents, first appeared in Britain before World War II. It is probably a variant of ‘snug’ and ‘snuggle (up)’. In the 1950s, particularly in the USA, snog took on a more general sense of flirt. It retains its specific sense in Britain.

‘And I expect she’s seen you walking out with Dolly Clackett, and snogging on the front porch.’

(Hancock’s Half-hour, BBC radio comedy, May 1960)



snog2 n British

a kissing session. (For the origin of the term, see the verb form.)

They were having a quick snog while the lights were out.

snoot1 n

1. the nose. A humorous variant form of ‘snout’. (In Middle English ‘snout’ was written as snute and pronounced ‘snooter’.)

a punch on the snoot

2. a snooty person

snoot2 adj British

showy, expensive, luxurious. The word is a shortening of the colloquial ‘snooty’. An item of student slang in use in London and elsewhere since around 2000.

Look at all his snoot gear, I bet that guy doesn’t do Byrite.

snooze n

something boring or tedious. A synonym of yawn.

‘I must admit that last Tuesday’s board meeting was a bit of a snooze.’

(Maid to Order, US film, 1987)

snore n

a boring experience. A synonym of snooze and yawn, typically used by adolescents.

A three hour talk on the EU; God, what a snore!

snork1 n Australian

1.a baby or immature person. The word is said to be a distortion of ‘stork’, but may also be influenced by such words as ‘snort’, ‘snicker’, ‘snit’, ‘snot’ and the following sense of the word.

2.a sausage. This rare use of the word may be related to the synonymous snag.

snork2 vb

to kiss. An imitative term from adolescent usage.

snorker n Australian

a.a sausage

b.the penis

The term is obviously related to the Australian snork, and perhaps to snag, but the exact origin of all of these terms is obscure.

snort vb

to sniff or inhale (illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, etc.) An Americanism which spread to Britain and Australia in the 1960s. The word supplanted the more sedate ‘sniff’, used previously.

‘And am I dreary if I think that showing someone snorting coke on the telly is not such a great idea?’

(Janet Street-Porter, Today, 19 March 1988)

snot n

1. mucus from the nose. The word is from the Middle English snotte, itself from the Old English gesnot, variant forms of which existed in all Germanic languages. These terms are related either to ‘snout’ or to an Indo-European root meaning to flow. Snot is a widespread term but, because of its distasteful context, is considered a vulgarism.

Wipe the snot off your face and cheer up.

2. an obnoxious person, usually a young or diminutive and self-important individual

That little snot.

snot-nosed, snotty-nose(d) adj obnoxious and immature; young and over-confident

I’m not letting some snot-nosed kid tell me what to do!

snot-rag n British a handkerchief

snotted adj American intoxicated, drunk

snotty adj

1.suffering from catarrh, afflicted with a runny nose

2.obnoxious, self-important, snooty

snout1 n British

1.the nose

2.a paid police informer. ‘Nose’ was used to denote a police spy or informer and so were slang synonyms such as nark, snitch and snout. Snout is of more recent origin than the other terms, dating from between the world wars.

3.tobacco, a cigarette. The use of snout to mean tobacco dates from the end of the 19th century when it originated among prison inmates. It was inspired by convicts touching their noses, either while cupping a surreptitious smoke or as a silent sign requesting tobacco. (The explanations are not mutually exclusive, one may have given rise to the other.) In the 1950s the use of ‘a snout’ for a cigarette became widespread in workingclass speech.

snout2 vb British

to inform, especially regularly in return for pay. The verb is derived from the earlier noun form.



‘Naff ways of making money – snouting for a gossip columnist (esp. Nigel Dempster).’

(The Complete Naff Guide, Bryson et al, 1983)

snow1 n

1. cocaine. The white crystalline drug resembles snow and its anaesthetic effect numbs like cold. The slang term dates from the turn of the 20th century. (‘Snowbird’ and ‘snowball’ were elaborations used in some circles.)

‘A little snow at Christmas never did anyone any harm.’

(Legend on a 1969 Christmas card sent out by the record producer Phil Spector, featuring a still from the film Easy Rider, in which he had a cameo role as a cocaine dealer)

2.a snow job

3.Australian a nickname for a blond male, usually used pejoratively

snow2 vb

to fool, cheat, bamboozle, especially by overloading someone with information. This Americanism (now occasionally heard in Britain) is based on the notion of ‘snowing someone under’ in order to deceive or manipulate them. It may also have originally evoked a ‘snowstorm’ of documentation.

‘When you go into town on a false pass who do you think you’re snowing?’

(Battle Cry, US film, 1954)

snowdrop vb

to steal clothes, typically underwear, from a clothes line. The underworld and police term may refer to a fetishistic practice or the actions of vagrants.

‘We busked on street corners and snowdropped clothes from the backyard Hills Hoists of trendy Paddington.’

(Girls’ Night Out, Kathy Lette, 1989)

snowdropper n British

someone who steals clothing, usually lingerie from washing lines, in the language of vagrants, police and prisoners. The term first referred (in the early 19th century) to the theft of clothes due to poverty; it now often denotes the act of a fetishist.

snow job n American

a case of deceit, browbeating or manipulation, particularly by means of glib or overwhelming persuasion or flattery. The phrase has been common since World War II.

Snow White n American

a white female or the personification of white womanhood. A black term almost always used pejoratively or facetiously.

snuff1 vb

1. to kill. An old term, derived from the notion of extinguishing a candle. The curt ‘tough guy’ use of the word remains popular in street slang and crime fiction, particularly in the USA.

See also snuff movie

2. to sniff cocaine. An item from the drug user’s vocabulary.

snuff2 n cocaine

snuff it vb British

to die. Inspired by the snuffing out of a candle, this expression has been heard in British English, particularly in work- ing-class usage, since the turn of the 20th century.

snuff movie n

a violent, hardcore pornographic film supposedly featuring the actual death of one of the actors. Rumoured to have been made in the early 1970s, the actual existence of such a movie has never been proved. In the 1980s the term began to be applied to splatter movies, where the death and mayhem is indisputably faked.

snufty n British

an individual who derives sexual excitement from sniffing (clothing, bicycle saddles, etc.)

snyster n British

a snack. A dialect term from Lowland Scotland occasionally heard in other parts of the country.

soap-dodger n British

a dirty, unkempt or smelly person, a ‘scruffbag’ or dosser. An expression of disapproval among adults. Bath-dodger is a synonym.

soap (someone) up vb American

to flatter, cajole. A phrase used especially by adolescents since 2000. It may derive from the earlier phrase ‘to soft-soap someone’.

S.O.B., s.o.b. n American

son of a bitch. The initial letters are often used in order to moderate the strength of the phrase, which is highly offensive in American usage.

Some S.O.B. walked off with her purse.



social handbag n British

an escort for a social occasion, arm candy. An item of student slang in use in London and elsewhere since around 2000.

sock (someone) vb British

to have sex with. An item of black street-talk used especially by males, recorded in 2003, often in the form of the taboo insult or provocation ‘sock yer mom!’.

sod1 n British

1a. an unpleasant person (of either sex, but more often male). The word often implies unfair or cruel behaviour on the part of the person described.

I’m sorry I was such a sod to you.

1b. an individual. Like bugger, the term is used when referring to someone with pity, irony or mild contempt.

‘And that was another coincidence because he was the bloke I’d met earlier in the boozer, so I gave him my last £20 note because I thought, poor sod, he’ll soon be dead.’

(William Donaldson, Independent, 26 August 1989)

1c. a nuisance or annoyance

That lid’s a real sod to get off.

2. a sodomite. The original sense of the word is almost never heard in current English, it was last used in this way in the early 1960s. (The inhabitants of Sodom were, according to the book of Genesis, guilty of unnatural sexual practices.)

sod2 vb British

the verb usually occurs as part of expletives such as ‘sod you!’ (indicating indifference, rejection, etc.) or ‘sod it!’ (indicating irritation or anger). Unlike its synonym bugger, the word is not used to mean sodomise.

soda n American

cocaine or crack. A term current among police and drug users in the late 1980s. From the resemblance and volatile effects of the drug(s).

sod-all n British nothing, bugger-all

He got the profit and I got sod-all.

sodding adj British

an intensifying adjective like bloody, bleeding, etc. Sodding usually carries overtones of extreme irritation, impatience, etc.

sod off vb British

to leave, go away. The phrase is almost always an imperative, sometimes conveying only mild annoyance or aggression.

I told them to sod off and leave me alone.

sofa spud n American

a lazy, inert person. The term is a jocular variant of couch potato.

soft boy n Jamaican

a male homosexual or an effete or effeminate man. This phrase from Jamaican patois was adopted ironically as a name by the Soft Boys, a London rock group of the 1970s.

softshoe vb

to move or behave surreptitiously or in a manner both cautious and devious. Like tap-dance the metaphor is applied in raffish or hip talk to someone manoeuvring cleverly in social or professional situations. The expression is of course from the ‘softshoe shuffle’ dance step.

The guy managed to softshoe his way out of trouble again.

soggies n British

breakfast cereal. A middleand upperclass term of the late 1970s and early 1980s inspired by the trademark names of cereals such as Shreddies and Frosties and their eventual consistency.

soixante-neuf n See sixty-nine soldier n See dead soldier

solid1 n British

hashish (as opposed to loose-leaf marihuana)

solid2 adj

excellent, exciting. The slang term, still used by younger speakers in 2004, originated as part of pre-World War II jive talk, based on the colloquial sense of solid as denoting dependable, satisfactory.

something else n

something or someone outstanding, excellent, exceptional. An enduring phrase from the hip lexicon of the 1950s.

‘She goes with all the guys from out of my class

But that can’t stop me from thinking to myself,

“She’s sure fine looking, man, she’s something else”.’

(‘Something Else’, written by Sharon Sheeley and Eddie Cochran, recorded by Eddie Cochran, 1959)

sometimeish adj Caribbean moody and unreliable

son of a bitch


son of a bitch, sonofabitch n American an unpleasant, obnoxious or despicable person. The expression is roughly the equivalent of the British bastard or sod, and often implies active nastiness, although it may be used with pity (‘poor son of a bitch’) or annoyance (‘that engine’s a son of a bitch!’). The epithet fell out of use in British speech around the middle of the 19th century. (The British Reverend Benjamin Newton records in his diary for 1818 how a wealthy fellow clergyman who had two sons called the one born out of wedlock ‘son of a whore’ and the one born within ‘son of a bitch’.) In American speech the phrase son of a bitch was until recently considered too offensive for ‘polite company’ or broadcasting and would often be reduced to


‘Wherever he went, Andy would have to be the nice guy and I had to be the sonofabitch.’

(Fred Hughes on Andy Warhol, Observer magazine, March 1988)

sook, sooky n Australian

a ‘cry-baby’. The noun probably postdates the adjective sooky, but the origins of both forms are uncertain.

sooky adj Australian

a.sulky, sullen

b.sentimental, ‘soft’ or ‘unmanly’

The word may be a corruption or nursery version of ‘sulky’ itself, but the etymology is obscure. It has been suggested that it may derive from an archaic diminutive of ‘Susan’.

sooty n British

a black or coloured person, an Arab. The racist epithet is derived from the colour of soot and the name of a glove puppet of a yellow bear, a popular figure in children’s entertainment, especially television, since the 1950s. Although sooty does not sound unaffectionate, in actuality it is often used highly offensively. (In 1745 Henry Fielding referred to Jews as ‘the Sooty Tribe’ in his Covent Garden Tragedy.)

‘We’re pretty liberal really, we’ve only got one rule: no sooties.’

(Recorded, proprietor of Sloane Rangers’ nightclub, 1986)

soppo adj British

fashionable, exciting. This term of unknown origin, recorded among London’s schoolchildren in the early 1990s,

was defined by one user as ‘funky or groovy’. It is unlikely to be related to the negative ‘soppy’, but might be an alteration of ‘sophisticated’.

sort n

a girl or woman. This specific sense of the word as used in working-class British and Australian speech may derive from the archaic ‘salt’.

sort (out) vb British

1. to beat up. An innocuous euphemism describing a brutal reality, in keeping with a tendency of London working-class slang toward menacing understatement.

‘I’ll go and sort this Daley geezer.’

(Minder, British TV series, 1987)

See also bother; seeing-to

2. to have sex with. A masculine vulgarism with overtones of depersonalisation and brusqueness.

sorted adj British

a. in a satisfactory situation, comfortable and content

I reckon if you’ve got a girl, a car and a few bob, you’re sorted.

‘Sorted for E’s and Whizz.’

(Title of song by Pulp, 1995)


‘Let’s finish up and get going.’ ‘Sorted.’

This use of the word (a clipping of the phrase ‘sorted out’), which originated in criminal circles, meaning ‘safely arranged’ or ‘adequately supplied’, became one of the most popular vogue terms of the 1990s, beginning as a catchphrase among drug-dealers and eventually finding its way into the colloquial speech of middle-class adults.

sound adj British

excellent. A vogue term of approbation, generalised from the standard sense of ‘reliable’ for use among adolescents from the early 1990s. The word was particularly popular in the speech of the Merseyside area and often used as an exclamation.

soup (someone) up vb American

to flatter, cajole. The phrase, which probably derives from a mis-hearing or alteration of soap (someone) up, was used in the US film Glitters, a 2001 vehicle for the singer Mariah Carey.

soused adj

drunk, from the standard use of the word to mean soaked or drenched



‘The Case of The Soused Superintendent’

(Headline of online article at www.ethics scoreboard.com, 2 May 2004)

sov n British

one pound. The word is a shortening of ‘sovereign’ and was used to designate that gold coin (worth one pound) until its discontinuance in 1914. Sov was popularised by its copious use in the popular TV series Minder, set among the working-class and criminal population of London.

‘Eric Idle sounds as though he might just have relieved a punter of 500 sovs for a second-hand motor.’

(Independent, 17 March 1989)

sow n British

an unpleasant woman. The (fairly rare) term of abuse usually implies real distaste or bitter recrimination.

S.P. n British

starting price, the odds on a horse. Hence essential information, a basis for judgment, the known form. A term fashionable in working-class and raffish circles since the later 1980s. It has been in underworld and gambling use since the 1950s.

‘What’s the S.P. on Murphy? Dead from the neck up!’

(‘Arthur Daley’ in Minder, British TV series, 1984)

spa n British

a good friend. The term has been in use among London teenagers since the 1990s and before that was heard in Wales. It may derive from ‘sparring-part- ner’. Star-spa is a variant form.

space vb American

to daydream, lose concentration or enter a euphoric state. An adolescents’ expression based on the earlier spaced out and spacy.

She puts on the headphones and just starts to space.

space cadet n American

an eccentric, mad or spaced out person. A popular expression since the later 1970s, which has entered British and Australian usage. The term is inspired by the expression ‘spaced out’ and the 1950s science fiction TV series, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. ‘Space-case’ is a synonymous term.

space-case n American See space cadet

spaced out adj

under the influence of drugs or behaving in an eccentric or insane fashion. A term that originated in America and spread to Britain with the drug-culture of the 1960s. The term is based on the notion of being extremely high and disconnected from earthly realities.

spack1 adj Australian

an all-purpose term of disapproval or doubt, in use among schoolchildren in the late 1980s. The word, of uncertain origin, is used as an adjective or exclamation.

spack2, spac n British

an unfortunate, weak or slow-witted person. A more recent synonym of spanner.

spacy, spacey adj

a. producing euphoria or evoking a dream-like state

Spacy music.

This is spacy dope.

b. behaving in a distracted, euphoric or spaced out way

spade n

1. a black person. The term comes from the expression ‘as black as the ace of spades’ and originated sometime before the 1920s. Spade has almost never been used with racist connotations; it was the word used by white devotees of West Indian culture and music in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, notably in the title of Colin Wilson’s landmark novel, City of Spades, published in 1959.

‘A constable said to me, as he left the canteen, “I’m going to get a spade now, sarge”. He punched a fist in the palm of his hand.’

(Simon Holdaway, Inside the British Police, 1983)

2. South African a gun, in particular an AK-47 rifle

spaghetti-eater, spaghetti-bender, spag n

an Italian. These are derogatory terms heard predominantly in Australia, referring to immigrants. The equivalent American term is usually simply ‘spaghetti’.

spakker n British

a handicapped or slow-witted person. A variant form of spack.

spam vb

to flood another’s computing system with redundant or meaningless information.



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.

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