Before jumping to the final question, a few thoughts –
- I spend $3.50 on a large Red Sea (coffee) at Philz a couple times a week. The Dictionary of Slang retails for $450, though Amazon has shaved 3 percent off the retail price (to encourage impulse buys?). If I can abstain from Philz for 62 weeks, assuming Amazon keeps the “discounted” price, I think I can rationalize to the wife purchasing the Dictionary of Slang. I promise to report back in June 2012 if I made it to the finish line.
- When I decided to break up Jonathon’s answers into three consecutive posts, he wondered whether the individual answers would have enough depth, noting, “When you’re used to putting together 10.6 million-word dictionaries (well, one dictionary) everything seems a bit short in comparison.” Now, that’s context.
- Finally, it always comes down to passion, doesn’t it? Whether you’re brewing coffee at Philz, rehabbing old chairs (my wife’s endeavor) or writing a dictionary on slang, if you love what you’re doing that passion comes through.
Without further ado, here’s how Jonathon explains his passion for language:
Q: The type of person who devotes 17 years to creating the Dictionary of Slang must like words. Going back to your childhood and school, did you have a natural affinity for words? What cultivated your love for language?
A: I have no real answer to this other than ‘of course I like words and I never feel happier than when tussling with them in one way or another’. I regularly feel quite consciously that ‘yes, you should be doing what you do’, which is of course a great privilege. I call GDoS a ‘life’s work’ not on chronological grounds – it took only 17 of my near 63 years (and I have worked on slang for 27 in all) – but insofar as slang and its collection and analysis seems to play so central a role in my consciousness, then it is indeed my life. As to what cultivated my love for language, I cannot say since I do not know. I have always loved reading, far beyond any other ‘hobby’; indeed I have never had hobbies, other than, unsurprisingly, collecting books – once the work of PG Wodehouse, more recently dictionaries of slang. I see slang as subversive and contrary and its collection is perhaps my proxy attempt at a personal subversion. The reality is of course a middle-aged, middle-class, white European male working in a study or in libraries. A voyeur, perhaps, on lives that he could never essay and which would most likely terrify him if he did. No matter: outside of certain human beings, it has provided me with the greatest satisfactions of my life. There are no boxes I can tick to explain why. Other than that which, in very large letters, says ‘Luck’.
Thank you, Jonathon, for allowing a look behind the book.