Talking Dirty

Jonathon Green, who has compiled 1,750 slang terms for sex, ponders how the tally got so high:

[W]hen a piece of slang escapes into the wider world, it leaves a gap that must be filled. So while the slang of the 16th century has mainly vanished, its descendants march on. We lose wap and get bumbaste, lose that and get trounce, lose that and get strum. And on it goes, until we have 1,750 terms for sex.

You might expect this lineage to die off. In an era of surveillance and social media, of confessionalism and dwindling taboos, why bother generating secret new words for old preoccupations? And yet take a look at the latest batch of slang I’ve compiled. Multicultural London English, as academics call it, blends elements of American rap, British grime music, Jamaican patois, and London Cockney. A vocabulary that cuts across class and color to an unprecedented extent, it’s definitely new. Or is it? Some examples: gash (women), shotting(drug-dealing), wonga (money), merk (murder), lash (intercourse). Here we go again.