I was surfing the internet and chanced upon "The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English" edited by one Tom Dalzell. Notwithstanding the praise for the book itself, I couldn't find much about the author.

Anyhow, the books appears to be an interesting find for a linguaphile. For example, abercrombie is defined as:

  1. a person devoted to prep-school fashions and style

    (An Abercrombie is a gorgeous but terminally preppy boy (often blond) who looks like he just stepped out of the pages of A&F Quarterly.)

  2. someone who strives at creating the impression of knowing all.

And I'm pretty sure the book teems with many more such colorful descriptions.

But when I searched the above word in other online dictionaries none of them seemed to define the word in such a colorful way.

Which then, instead of giving me goosebumps, leaves me doubtful as to the authenticity and merit of the book.

Any word maven here to comment on the merit of the book? And is this one those books that should be on every linguaphile's shelf? Thanking you in advance!

Further research gives:

The Routledge website has a potted Biography:

Tom Dalzell – Senior Editor -- Recognized as one of the leading expert on American slang,  Tom Dalzell’s most recent publications include Damn the Man: Slang of the Oppressed (2011), Far Out Depends on Where You’re Standing (2012) and Vietnam War Slang: A Dictionary on Historical Principles (also published by Routledge, 2014).

His books, all slang related, can be found here https://www.routledge.com/search?author=Tom%20Dalzell.

  • 1
    Could you sort out the italic sentence between 1 and 2, please? Is that part of the quote? (If so, that line and the blank lines either side of it need a > at the start.) And you should use the Markdown <li> syntax of > * _An Abercrombie... rather than an explicit bullet. Also: does Abercrombie have a capital letter? Your text indicates it doesn't, but the descriptive sentence uses one.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Mar 14, 2021 at 11:22
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    Amazon are offering a used 2nd Edition copy for $287.55 (plus $52.86 shipping from the US to the UK), so presumably it's highly valued by at least some people. We used to have lots of "quaint" definitions in Chambers (for example, eclair - a cake that is long in shape but short in duration), but they've been weeding those out over recent decades. Mar 14, 2021 at 11:45
  • @Andrew Leach: I copied the text from the book itself. And this is how it appears in the book. (I have edited it here, nonetheless.)
    – user405662
    Mar 14, 2021 at 12:16
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    @user405662 If you are quoting, please use the quote Markdown to indicate that. At the moment, it looks like the italicised words are yours, not Dalzell's. I don't know whose they are.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Mar 14, 2021 at 12:21
  • @Andrew Leach: By "edited" I mean I've removed the "explicit bullet" you pointed out previously. Rest, everything about abercrombie there is Dalzell's. :)
    – user405662
    Mar 14, 2021 at 12:28
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    As per how it looks now?
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Mar 14, 2021 at 12:33
  • Yes, including the capitalized Abercrombie.
    – user405662
    Mar 14, 2021 at 12:37
  • This is the entire thing: abercrombie noun 1 a person devoted to prep-school fashions and style US, 2004 • An Abercrombie is a gorgeous but terminally preppy boy (often blond) who looks like he just stepped out of the pages of A&F Quarterly. — Brittany Kent, O.C. Undercover, p. 137, 2004 2 someone who strives at creating the impression of knowing all US, 1945 • — Lou Shelly, Hepcats Jive Talk Dictionary, p. 7, 1945
    – user405662
    Mar 14, 2021 at 12:38
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    Why would you expect “Modern American slang and unconventional English” to show up in conventional dictionaries?
    – Jim
    Mar 14, 2021 at 14:49
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    Abercrombie comes from the clothing line, known to be preppy, and prior to that: Abercrombie & Fitch which sold sporting goods and equipment, as early as 1900. It was all very preppy even then. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abercrombie_%26_Fitch
    – Lambie
    Mar 14, 2021 at 15:40
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    An authoritative volume on non-standard usages is, as Jim implies, almost a contradiction in terms. If usages occur frequently enough, they're picked up by respectable dictionaries. 'Wiktionary' is often first (after the Urban Dictionary) to list such items. If a usage has been around for a long time and not made it into a respectable dictionary, it is usually best to regard it as non-standard, not in the lexis. How can a collection of such terms be judged 'authoritative'? ... "I heard Alec Abercrombie use this candidate three years ago!" Should it be included? Mar 14, 2021 at 16:04
  • Thank you all for your valuable inputs. Thanks @Greybeard for providing a thumbnail sketch of Tom Dalzell.
    – user405662
    Mar 15, 2021 at 4:14

2 Answers 2


My earliest acquaintance with Tom Dalzell's work involved two books he wrote for Merriam-Webster: Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang (1996) and The Slang of Sin (1998). Both are rather scattershot presentations of their subjects, with little documentation of early print occurrences of the slang terms listed. As a result, I very rarely cite either of these books in my EL&U research.

A much more impressive work is The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (2006), co-edited by Dalzell and Terry Victor. This is a massively researched resource—it's more than 2,000 pages long, with citations to print occurrences of virtually every term listed and with years of first occurrence for most. Although this work invokes Eric Partridge's A Dictionary of Snag and Unconventional English, which went through eight editions from 1937 to 1984, it is not really a revision of Partridge's dictionary but a companion piece to it, focusing on slang from the past 60 years (Partridge died in 1979).

The New Partridge Dictionary is encyclopedic and quite useful. For the word and phrase origin research that I tend to focus on, I find it less helpful than J.E. Lighter's Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang (1994/1996, which consistently includes citations to the earliest print occurrence of each slang term it covers, but which also has the grave shortcoming that it covers only the letters A through O of the alphabet, evidently owing to some sort of dispute between Lighter and the publisher), but it is a valuable resource that I regularly consult along with Jonathon Green's excellent Chambers Dictionary of Slang (2008), the eighth edition of Partridge (1984), and the Wentworth & Flexner/Chapman & Kipfer editions of Dictionary of American Slang (1960–2007). Green has an even larger dictionary of slang that I can't afford to buy.

For older slang, I recommend Farmer & Henley's voluminous Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present (1890–1904) and the resources listed in the slang portion of the "Historical Resources" answer to the EL&U Meta question What good reference works on English are available?.

This question reminded me of a question that I asked on the main EL&U site back in April 2014: Can anyone authenticate the claim that "grungy" was used to mean "envious or jealous" in 1920s slang? In attempting to answer that question, I found that one of the earliest authorities to assert the 1920s "envious or jealous" meaning of grungy was Dalzell's Flappers 2 Rappers. Although I tried to check all of the sources that Dalzell identified for the Flapper slang portion of that reference work, I couldn't find a relevant entry for grungy in any of them.

Interestingly, the much better-documented New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English makes no mention of the supposed 1920s slang usage of grungy, either because that dictionary doesn't cover old slang or because the editors revisited their original sources of Flapper slang and found no corroboration of the old usage. Whatever their reason may have been, they give a first occurrence date for grungy of 1965.

  • Thank you very much for a superb and helpful answer, @Sven Yargs! :)
    – user405662
    Mar 23, 2021 at 16:42

You should probably avoid the entire question.

"Slang and unconventional English" is a notoriously slippery and mutable subject. Slang constantly changes, and by its nature is not universal. Individual communities constantly adopt their own usages.

At best, any attempt at recording and explicating slang will be a snapshot of usage at a particular time, and usually of a particular community or clique. As an obvious example, slang within the white community is generally different from slang within the black community, although the widespread popularity of rap and hip-hop tends to provide a certain amount of levelling between the groups. Likewise, slang among rich and poor tends to be different.

With a publication date of 2008, the Routledge dictionary is almost certainly hopelessly out of date.

  • 2
    Can you add anything to your answer that is about the author or text from your experience with them?
    – Mitch
    Mar 14, 2021 at 15:37
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    Indeed, A&F has not been popular for a number of years, and I doubt anyone under 30 in 2021 would understand the reference.
    – choster
    Mar 15, 2021 at 14:30

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