J.E. LIGHTER and his publishers at Random...


J.E. LIGHTER and his publishers at Random House have some nerve, tempting us with the first volume of the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, but giving us only seven letters worth of entries. Entries H - R won't be available until 1996 and it is speculated that we won't be able to put our hands on S - Z until 1997.

Admittedly, the HDAS (which may become the PDR equivalent for writers, crossword puzzlers and other language lovers) is made up of 20,000-plus entries of A - G slang. Though slang has been defined as crude and lacking in meaning, the arrival of the HDAS celebrates slang's pervasiveness, linguistic flavor and significant place in our nation of diverse cultures and subcultures. From hep cats on the jazz scene to rad surfers catching a totally tubular wave, slang defines and unifies countless groups.

The HDAS highlights the social phenomenon of virtually every age group and occupation having its own lexicon to bond its members and to create an air of secrecy to outsiders. Just as the top brass may send subordinates a memo that seems to be gobbledy-gook, teens can keep their parents in the dark with the use of current lingo.

With this definitive guide we can look into the worlds and lifestyles of others without first gaining acceptance by those groups. You don't need to impress anyone by putting a cap in a rival gang member (and getting sent to the big house) or by spending a lot of money like your average fat cat. The book will set you back $50, though.

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