If you’ve read Anthony Burgess’ 1962 dystopian masterpiece A Clockwork Orange, then you’re probably familiar with Nadsat: a futuristic fictional slang spoken by the novel’s hooligan protagonist Alex and his friends. By using this chopped-up mix of Russian, Cockney rhyming slang, and more, Burgess future-proofed his novel’s youth culture and ensured his novel’s timeless appeal.
Burgess intended for readers of A Clockwork Orange to decipher Nadsat by context, and was very much against including a glossary in the novel. Despite that, there have been editions of the book that included one, among them this edition commonly found on American bookshelves.
A new chapter in the book’s long and controversial history was revealed this week when the International Anthony Burgess Foundation announced that it had uncovered a lost dictionary of Nadsat slang begun and abandoned over 50 years ago.
According to The Guardian, the dictionary was commissioned by Burgess’ British publisher, Penguin. Burgess created 886 entries for A, B, and Z in total before discontinued the project, explaining that it would take up too much time to complete.
Slang lexicographer Jonathon Green is scheduled to give a talk about the exciting new discovery on July 4 as part of the foundation’s annual conference. In the meantime, here are couple of samples from the uncompleted dictionary, courtesy of The Guardian. You can find more here.
Abdabs (the screaming) – Fit of nerves, attack of delirium tremens, or other uncontrollable emotional crisis. Perhaps imitative of spasm of the jaw, with short, sharp screams.
Abyssinia – I’ll be seeing you. A valediction that started during the Italo-Abyssinian war. Obsolete, but so Joyceanly satisfying that it is sometimes hard to resist.