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Happy Birthday, Walt Whitman, you old bard and…politician. Clearly you like to sing to yourself, but let us join the chorus and share this essay on slang from The North American Review.

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Slang in America

“Slang, profoundly considered is the lawless germinal element, below all words and sentences, and behind all poetry, and proves a certain freedom and perennial rankness and protestantism in speech. … Language, be it remembered, is not an abstract construction of the learned, or of dictionary-makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground. Its final decisions are made by the masses, people nearest the concrete, having most to do with actual land and sea.”

And…this stellar 1856 review of Leaves of Grass, which is “well worth going twice to the bookstore to buy.”


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The North American Review, Vol. 141, No. 348 (Nov., 1885), pp. 431-435
University of Northern Iowa
The North American Review, Vol. 82, No. 170 (Jan., 1856), pp. 275-277
University of Northern Iowa