Reference eReviews | September 15, 2013

Partridge Slang Online
Taylor & Francis; partridgeslangonline.com
By Cheryl LaGuardia

Content Based on the 2006 printed edition of the New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, which, in turn, was based on Eric Partridge’s iconic Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (published from 1937 to 1984), this online dictionary is a compendium of more than 60,000 slang and unconventional English words “used anywhere in the English-speaking world after 1945,” as well as some recently coined Internet shorthand terms such as “LOL” and “IMHO.”

Also included in this online version is access to the Partridge ebooks A Dictionary of Catch Phrases, A Dictionary of Cliches, Shakespeare’s Bawdy, Shorter Slang Dictionary, The Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang, and You Have a Point There. The Bibliographic Library section of the file holds 1,252 items and is searchable by author and title and sortable (for browsing) by author, title, headword, publishers, city, and date.

Usability The home screen of Partridge Slang Online (PSO) is one of the most attractive I’ve seen of late. The predominant colors are black, white, and red, but key features are highlighted in other colors, and the use of tabs is particularly effective here. There’s a single quick-search box in the upper half of the screen, followed by a link to advanced search. These are surmounted by tabs including browse, ebooks, and bibliography.

In the upper right corner of the screen are colored tabs to email the editors or take a video tour and for librarians to log in. “Browse by Subject” links to the categories “Bodily Functions”; “Business, Politics, Education”; “Consumables”; “Entertainment, Recreation, Travel”; “Home, Fashion, Out & About”; “Law & Order”; “Medical & Health”; “Religion”; “Science & Technology”; “Sex & Relationships”; “Society & Culture”; and “Transport.”

Out of natural curiosity, I clicked on “Bodily Functions” (not a subject you see in many files but understandable to find in a slang dictionary) and went into a hierarchical listing that showed the subheadings “Excretion & Discharges” and “Facilities & Hygiene.” Within “Home, Fashion, Out & About” is the subheading “Law & Order,” which revealed some puzzling results, combining elements of all three browse subjects I’d tried thus far. Looking more carefully, I realized that my browses were cumulative; they didn’t clear when I clicked the next subject but rather continued to filter by successive subjects added. This series of filters threw me at first, and I wonder how typical searchers will deal with it—having a simple limit feature would be better for users.

Backing out of the series of browses by closing each successive filter (easy to do, but it takes a couple of seconds to close each), I was taken to a screen showing just the bodily functions material at the top of 1,935 results, with five more filter types listed at screen left: subject, type, place of origin, part of speech, and date. Getting an error message as I closed the last filter, I clicked the title logo at screen top and went back to the home screen to try some searches.

My first quick search, for “props,” found six results: “props,” “mad props,” “bus and truck,” “against the wall,” “dog-robber,” and “spike,” the first of which was the one I sought (with the definition “proper respect; due credit”). Clicking on “props” leads to a screen that repeats the definition and adds a date (1993) and offers related filters (“Socially Admirable,” “United States,” “Noun,” “1990s”) and related entries (none of which seemed very relevant to the search term).

I was puzzled by the citation feature within definitions; it took many tries before I figured out that to see the source from which a term is cited, it’s necessary to click on the small right-facing arrow before the word “Citation.” I wonder if other users will find these. The automated suggestions of related entries within the file were not particularly relevant, and it would be better to list the sources of terms outright in each definition rather than having to link out to them.

I checked the free online Urban Dictionary (urbandictionary.com) for “props” and found the term defined as “proper recognition” and as short for “propers” as in “proper respect,” which referenced Otis Redding’s iconic song “Respect” as sung by the inimitable Ms. Aretha Franklin. Doing a comparison search for “trouble and strife” with PSO yielded “a wife” (from 1908) and “life” (from 1998), while Urban Dictionary gave me “Cockney rhyming slang for ‘wife.’ ” My last comparison search was for “turn up.” Urban Dictionary found “To let loose and have fun” (from 2011 and 2013), while PSO found “an outcome, especially a surprise” from 1964 (which was the definition I sought).

It took about two minutes to download the PDF of A Dictionary of Catch Phrases from the Partridge ebooks, and the system does not tell users how far along the download is at any point. Several times while trying to download one of these books I got the error message “Download interrupted” for no discernible reason.

Pricing Perpetual access costs $800.

Verdict As a source for the slang of Great Britain and her dominions the content here looks authoritative and extensive, and the look of the screens is attractive. I’d suggest libraries trial this file before purchasing to see if it will meet the needs of most searchers. For researchers it can provide authoritative information, especially on the slang of the UK, but individual scholars may find it just as useful to purchase a printed copy of the excellent New Partridge.


Cheryl LaGuardia is a Research Librarian for the Widener Library at Harvard University and author of Becoming a Library Teacher (Neal-Schuman, 2000). Readers can contact her at claguard@fas.harvard.edu

 

Academic Charts Online: International Popular Music
Academic Charts Online; academiccharts.com
By Bonnie J.M. Swoger

content Naturally, the first question to answer when exploring 60 years of international pop-music-chart data from Academic Charts Online is “What were the top singles the week I was born?” After reacquainting myself with some BeeGees’ tunes and Eric Clapton’s “Lay Down Sally” from the Billboard Top 100 and listening to a clip from the German top hit “Das Lied der Schlümpfe” (“The Song of the Smurfs”) by Vader Abraham, I was able to get serious and explore the database in more detail.

Academic Charts Online offers detailed music chart data from the United States (since 1958), the UK (since 1952), Canada (since 1996), Australia (since 1988), Switzerland (since 1983), Austria (since 1991), Germany (since 1977), Spain (since 2003), and Mexico (since 1999). Chart data from France, Sweden, Japan, China, Brazil, and Finland was scheduled for availability in the second quarter of 2013 according to information on the Academic Charts Online website but was not yet available at the time of this review.

Data come from the companies that track sales in each country, including Billboard (the United States and Canada), Media Control GfK International (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Spain), and ARIA Charts (Australia). The years of data availability vary, and there are some notable absences in chart coverage. While users can explore the UK weekly top 20 country albums from 1994, the Billboard genre charts are not available on this platform. Brief music clips are available for many singles and albums on the charts allowing users to quickly answer the question, “Have I heard this song before?”

In addition to basic chart data, Academic Charts Online provides links to third-party databases and journals for more information on artists, albums, and singles. Links are given to the Cambridge journals Popular Music and the Journal of the Society for American Music, Wiley’s Journal of Popular Music Studies, the Taylor and Francis journal Popular Music and Society, the music journalism resource Rock’s Backpages, and the EBSCO version of RILM (Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale). Academic Charts Online has some technical issues to fix as I was unable to get any information to load in my browser from either of the Cambridge Journals. Subscriptions are necessary to see search results in RILM. However, I was able to see results lists for the Wiley, Taylor and Francis, and Rock’s Backpages content, even though my library did not have a subscription to those journals.

Academic Charts Online also provides links to a resource currently in beta called Music Web. Produced by Academic Charts Online, it is intended as a reference source for artist biographical information, and it links to other resources on the web related to an artist. Because it is still in beta, some technical challenges are expected; however, I was only able to pull up complete information for those artists listed as examples in the Music Web documentation available on their website. For the examples given, I viewed a biographical sketch (uncredited text directly from Wikipedia), links to audio files, embedded YouTube videos, lists of other related artists, and recommendations from Echonest and Last.FM.

usability Basic functions of the database are fairly straightforward and accessible, but more advanced analysis and comparisons can be tricky to accomplish. For example, searching for charts on a particular date is fun and easy to accomplish using a guided search on the homepage. Searching for particular albums, singles, and artists is simple using the “keyword search” but can be complicated by authority control issues. For example, finding complete data on Simon and Garfunkel is complicated by the fact that they are listed as both “Simon and Garfunkel” and “Simon & Garfunkel.”

Users can create graphs illustrating how albums and singles climbed the charts and compare albums to each other, illustrating marketing trends. A search for Bon Jovi albums pulls up a list of 22 albums (including live albums and rereleases) charted in the United States. The user can click on each album to add a line to the graph at the top of the page. For example, a quick graphical look at Bon Jovi’s top two albums 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit and Slippery When Wet demonstrates how the success of the latter led to increased sales of the former after it had fallen off the chart. Ideally, I could export this graph and the data used to create it. Unfortunately, the export function produces practically unusable PNG images—a screen shot is much clearer—and data are not available for download and later analysis, limiting the usefulness of the resource.

Since Academic Charts Online contains so much international data, I wanted to create charts illustrating the progress on the charts of particular albums or singles around the world. This was not as straightforward as I had hoped, requiring me to add an album to the graph, then switch the country of origin to find its chart record from another country and add that to the graph. Custom charts like this can be saved for registered users, although the registration process is not obvious. In addition, the multiple methods of creating graphs (some that may be saved, others that may not be) are confusing.

pricing Annual pricing costs $2,250 or $1,250 for smaller institutions. Perpetual ­license price upon request.

verdict The data included in Academic Charts Online is interesting and fun to explore, but the interface still feels like a beta release and could use some improvements. This could be an incredibly useful product for an extremely small audience. Academic institutions with degree programs related to the music business or the history of popular music may find the information helpful. For the rest of us, the database is fun to explore but not worth the cost of a subscription.


Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, undergraduatesciencelibrarian.org. Readers can contact her at swoger@geneseo.edu

 

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