In the April 3, 2011 issue of the New York Times Book Review, I appraised Jonathon Green's wonderfully comprehensive three-volume reference work, Green's Dictionary of Slang (GDoS to its friends). I concluded the review essay thusly:
It's a never-ending challenge to keep up with the latest developments in the world of slang, but that is the lexicographer’s lot. Green plans to put his dictionary online for continuous revision, which is indeed the direction that many major reference works (including the O.E.D.) are now taking. In the meantime, his monument to the inventiveness of speakers from Auckland to Oakland takes its place as the pièce de résistance of English slang studies. To put it plain, it’s copacetic.
Now, at year's end, it turns out that Green's plan to make GDoS available online has run into some trouble. He asked me to post the following appeal on Language Log, responses to which should be directed to him (email address below).
Around twelve months ago Chambers/Hodder in the UK published my 3-volume, 6,200-page dictionary of 500 hundred years of worldwide anglophone slang: Green's Dictionary of Slang. It has been distributed in N. America by OUP/US. It received a variety of gratifyingly appreciative reviews but while a number of these termed it my 'life's work', the reality is that my life continues and so does the work. In the last year the database has increased by some 6,000 new citations, headwords and senses of existing terms; in many cases these provide earlier examples of use. I have every intention of carrying on expanding, revising and correcting, even if the ever-widening range of sources available on the net mean that I can never achieve complete coverage of what is on offer.
The net, of course, has changed everything, nowhere more than as regards reference publishing, for which it provides a natural home. For reasons that need not be detailed, I do not have a publisher willing to partner me in this. I have, on the other hand, the digital rights.
My primary aim now is to get my work on line. I wish to provide a 'front-end' to the research database, taking advantage of the sophisticated search functions that a digital version of the work can offer, and making that work available to a far wider audience than is currently the case. I do not have a 'business plan' as such, but would see a two-tier format: a version without citations that would be free to all (an approximate, but of course much-improved equivalent of my one-volume uncited Chambers Dictionary of Slang which appeared in 2008), and a version that offered citations, and a regular update based on continuing research, for a subscription. (The fruits of that research would also be included in updates of the free version). I would welcome user input, but that material would necessarily be properly mediated prior to inclusion. I believe the dictionary could work as an app for tablets, and that there are a variety of alternative formats in which it could be presented.
I cannot do this alone and I am looking for some form of a partner, sponsor or, to tip my hat to Samuel Johnson, patron. Whether this would be an academic institution – I have interest there but it is far from resolved – a publisher or simply an organisation that sees the value of the work in a digital form even if it has no knowledge of reference in general and slang in particular, I do not know. It may be that the last would be the most suitable. I can, after all, provide the scholarship; what I need, and what I cannot do myself, is to offer expertise in managing an on line work nor in promoting/marketing it. Nor do I have the skills to administer the technology.
So I know what I want, but I do not know where to find it. The possibilities are vast and I have to admit that faced by them all I become something of a babe in the digital woods. The one thing of which I am wholly certain is that the work should be sustained and that I am continuing to do so. Any suggestions, advice or introductions would be gratefully received.