Anthony Burgess’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ Slang Dictionary Found

Over 50 years ago, A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess began working on a dictionary of futuristic slang terms that he’d invented for his dystopian classic. Now the dictionary, assumed lost by archivists and those close to Burgess, has been found, The Guardian reports.

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

A Clockwork Orange was published in 1962 and adapted into a film by legendary director Stanley Kubrick in 1971. The book is known for its violent portrayal of youth revolting against social norms, as well as for the unique language its characters use.

The dictionary is only partially completed. It was discovered in an archive of Burgess’s papers and belongings at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester. According to The Guardian, archivist Anna Edwards said, “We’re thrilled to be making such exciting and important discoveries as we’re cataloguing the collection… We found the surviving fragments of the dictionary at the bottom of a large cardboard box, packed underneath some old bedsheets.”

Researcher Graham Foster added, “Burgess … valued language above almost everything else … He was also fascinated by the slang he heard in his school days, his time in the army during the second world war and when he lived in Malaya during the 1950s… This interest influenced almost all of his novels, most famously in A Clockwork Orange, in which he invents a new language called Nadsat. This is not slang, but it shows a developed and sophisticated interest in exploring the possibilities of language.”

Source: Open Culture

Source: Open Culture

The partial dictionary includes hundreds of entries, but only for letters A, B, and Z. The foundation is currently working on the entries with Jonathon Green, a slang lexicographer. Examples include:

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.”

YouTube Channel: CineFix


Featured image via YouTube

h/t The Guardian