Archivists Have Rediscovered a 'Lost' Slang Dictionary Written by Anthony Burgess

Evening Standard/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Getty Images

Fans of Anthony Burgess know that the famed English author loved playing with language. While writing his seminal novel A Clockwork Orange (1962)—which director Stanley Kubrick later adapted into a 1971 film—Burgess invented a teenage slang called Nadsat, which he peppered with anglicized Russian words. Now, more than 20 years after Burgess’s death, The Guardian reports that archivists in Manchester, England have rediscovered another sign of his fascination with words: an unfinished slang dictionary.

First commissioned by Penguin Books in 1965, the dictionary contains several hundred entries. The International Anthony Burgess Foundation—an educational charity in Burgess’s birth city of Manchester that celebrates the author’s career and life—rediscovered the work among the author’s personal objects, at the bottom of a box containing old bed sheets.

Working on the dictionary was both time-consuming and linguistically challenging, so Burgess abandoned the project instead of completing it as a full-length reference work. What remained of the endeavor were hundreds of 6x4-inch slips of paper, on which Burgess had typed each entry. Examples include abdabs (“fit of nerves, attack of delirium tremens, or other uncontrollable emotional crisis”) and abortion (“anything ugly, ill-shapen, or generally detestable”).

The work offers insight into Burgess’s interest in language, and tells us about his life experiences. But it’s simply not a great dictionary, according to slang lexicographer Jonathon Green.

“Terms like ‘writer’s block’ are not slang,” Green, who has teamed up with the Burgess Foundation to analyze the work, told The Guardian. “Proper names like the Beatles are not slang. Meanwhile, one cannot, as in ‘arse’, begin a definition with the statement ‘I need not define.' Nor throw in personal assessments (‘Arse is a noble word; ass is a vulgarism).”

Green theorizes that Burgess soon realized he was in over his head, and chose to abandon the project instead of setting himself up for failure. “Slang is a very slippery customer,” Green concluded.“I get the feeling that Burgess thought it was much easier than it actually is … Smart as he was, with an understanding of linguistics and language, I don’t think he could have allowed himself to do a second-rate [dictionary]. If he didn’t stop everything else, that’s what he would have turned out with.”

[h/t The Guardian]

Patrick Stewart Is Reading a Different Shakespeare Sonnet Live Every Day

Jack Taylor/Stringer/Getty Images
Jack Taylor/Stringer/Getty Images

While they're stuck inside during the novel coronavirus pandemic, some celebrities are connecting with fans through reading. Sir Patrick Stewart has joined the trend, and as Lithub reports, the classically trained actor is bringing a Shakespearean twist to his virtual live-reads.

Since March 22, Stewart has been a reciting a sonnet a day for his Instagram followers. He started with William Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, and after receiving such a positive response, he vowed to continuing reading through the Bard's body of 14-lined poems.

"When I was a child in the 1940s, my mother would cut up slices of fruit for me (there wasn't much) and as she put it in front of me she would say: 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away,'" he wrote in one video caption. "How about, 'A sonnet a day keeps the doctor away'?"

In addition to Sonnet 116, the Star Trek and X-Men actor has read through sonnets 1 through 17 of Shakespeare's 154. After they're broadcast over his IGTV feed, each reading is available on his Instagram profile.

The internet is currently rife with celebrity readings to suit every literary taste. Dolly Parton has been reading children's bedtime stories every Thursday night, while LeVar Burton is hosting readings three times a week for kids, teenagers, and adults. Here are more virtual ways to stay entertained in quarantine.

[h/t Lithub]

Audible Makes Hundreds of Audiobooks Available for Free While Schools Are Closed

This gleeful teen is probably not listening to Victor Hugo's Les Misérables.
This gleeful teen is probably not listening to Victor Hugo's Les Misérables.
max-kegfire/iStock via Getty Images

To keep kids occupied and educated at home, Audible recently launched “Audible Stories,” a completely free online library with hundreds of audiobooks that’ll stay “open” for as long as schools are closed.

The stories are split into categories like “Littlest Listeners,” “Elementary,” “Tween,” and “Teen,” so parents can easily choose an age-appropriate bedtime story for their toddlers, and high-schoolers can automatically bypass titles like ABC: Learn Your Alphabet With Songs and Rhymes. And while the platform might’ve been created mainly for the benefit of housebound schoolchildren, you definitely don’t have to be a kid to appreciate the calming adventures of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. There’s even a “Literary Classics” section with audiobooks that appeal to listeners of any age, like Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Some of the audiobooks even feature the familiar voices of top-notch talent from your favorite films and television series. Westworld’s Thandie Newton narrates Jane Eyre, Scarlett Johansson lends her versatile voice to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Rachel McAdams brings her own spirited spin to Anne of Green Gables. The crown jewel of the site is probably Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, read by Stephen Fry.

You don’t need an Audible account or the Audible app to access the platform. Just open "stories.audible.com" in any web browser on any device. And if you want to take a break from listening, Audible will save your spot (but only for the most recent audiobook you’ve played).

The digital library is not just for English-speaking users—there are titles narrated in French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese, too, including foreign-language versions of classics like Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. If you're interested in Audible's full offering, you can try out a 30-day free trial.

Looking for something to do while you listen? Here’s how to grow your own yeast for sourdough bread.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER