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Found: A Lost Dictionary of Slang Written by ‘Clockwork Orange’ Author Anthony Burgess

Abyssinia!

Anthony Burgess had a thing for words.
Anthony Burgess had a thing for words. Duncan Hull/CC BY 2.0

The English author Anthony Burgess, best known for his creepily brilliant book A Clockwork Orange, was fascinated by language; he invented an original form of English, studded with Russian words, for his Clockwork Orange characters to speak. In the 1960s, Burgess was working on a dictionary of slang—he mentions it briefly in his biography—but all traces of his work were thought to be lost.

Now, though, the International Anthony Burgess Foundation has discovered Burgess’ notes for the dictionary, The Guardian reports. They were hiding under old bedsheets, in “a large cardboard box” held by the foundation.

The discovery includes note cards listing entries for the A, B, and Z sections of the unfinished dictionary; there are 153 A words, 700 B words, and 33 Z words, The Guardian says. These include entries such as:

Abfab – Obsolescent abbreviation of absolutely fabulous, used by Australian teenagers or ‘bodgies’.

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.

Arse – I need not define.

Burgess never finished the dictionary, which Penguin Books commissioned in 1965. “I’ve done A and B and find that a good deal of A and B is out of date…I could envisage the future as being totally tied up with such a dictionary,” he said.