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New OUP book captures storytelling’s naughty words
07 March 2019
OUP has been the home of dictionaries for centuries and the Oxford English Dictionary aims to record every word in the English language, whether rude or not. For the first time, we have collated the cheekiest words used by the world’s number one storyteller and published them in Roald Dahl’s Rotsome & Repulsant Words.
Naughty words have been making their way into dictionaries since the eighteenth century, but Roald Dahl made up more rude words than any other children’s writer and his stories are full of colourful insults and creative putdowns.
Adults often use a handful of rude words over and over again and tend to develop favourites, but Dahl played with language to create a whole world of rotsome and repulsant words. In this new collection, hundreds of real words sit alongside Dahl’s invented words (or ‘gobblefunk’), and have been researched, analysed, and explained by lexicographer Dr Susan Rennie, accompanied by illustrations by Sir Quentin Blake.
The collection also shows how the meaning of words to describe rudeness has changed over time. 'Naughty' is related to the word nought and originally meant very poor. Only later did it come to mean wicked and then badly behaved. In the Middle Ages, 'silly' meant very good or worthy and was also used as a surname, whereas 'nice' originally meant foolish. The word 'bottom' (in the anatomical sense) now seems very mild, but was considered quite rude a century ago.
Rennie explains: ‘Roald Dahl’s sense of mischief is nowhere more evident than in the wicked humour of his language. He knew instinctively what would make children griggle, and even his nastiest characters use wickedly funny insults and made-up curse words that are fun to say aloud, but never cross the line into being truly offensive. Children can also learn a lot from Dahl about how words are constructed and how meanings change over time.’
Helen Freeman, Director of Publishing Operations and Home Sector at OUP adds: ‘OUP’s ongoing research into children’s language shows the incredible influence Roald Dahl continues to have on children’s vocabulary and writing and we couldn’t be more excited to publish this splendiferous book with the Roald Dahl Story Company. Children will love foxing grown-ups with Roald Dahl’s anarchic words, while discovering etymologies, definitions, and fascinating language facts along the way.’