Magazine article The Spectator

Ending Up on the Zulu Express

Magazine article The Spectator

Ending Up on the Zulu Express

Article excerpt

Ware's Victorian Dictionary of Slang and Phrase by J. Redding Ware Bodleian Library, £25, pp. 382 ISBN 1851242627 James Redding Ware, with his idiosyncratic treatment of slang, plunges the reader straight into the late 19th-century Bartholomew Fair of undeserving paupers, loafers, Ally Slopers, theatrical types and demi-mondaines.

He drew on his own Grub Street life for this discursive lexicon, from A .D. ('a drink') to Zulu Express (the nickname for a Great Western service), published, days before his death in 1909, as Passing English of the Victorian Era: A Dictionary of Heterodox English, Slang and Phrase. The Bodder has faked it up nicely in smudgy facsimile, with burgundy end-papers, a new title and an introduction by John Simpson of the OED, who devours dictionaries with his morning porridge.

Ware, born in 1832, served time for threatening his father, a Southwark cheesemonger, with a bacon-knife. …

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