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38 Slang Terms From Colonial Times That Need to Be Brought Back

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By Cooper Fleishman on February 23, 2012


Francis Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence (“considerably altered and enlarged, with the modern changes and improvements, by a member of the Whip Club. Assisted by Hell-Fire Dick, and James Gordon, Esqrs. of Cambridge”), published in 1811, is what UrbanDictionary.com would’ve been 200 years ago.

No dignified wig-wearing fellow would deign to throw around such “bear-garden jaw” with his countrymen, but you can bet the scamps and scoundrels — common folk like us — sure did. Some of the terms are so marvelous and timeless that they deserve a renaissance. Read the thing in its full Irish-bashing glory (see “URINAL OF THE PLANETS”) on Project Gutenberg — and check out our A–Z favorites below.
 

1. APPLE DUMPLIN SHOP. A woman’s bosom.

 

2. BACK GAMMON PLAYER. A sodomite.

Possibly closeted right-wing firebrands would have another excuse for visiting gay bars (besides the cold, cold beer): “Honest, I just really love backgammon! I didn’t know that’s what it meant!”

See also: WINDWARD PASSAGE, MADGE CULLS, INDORSER.
 

3. BEAR-GARDEN JAW. Rude, vulgar language, such as was used at the bear-gardens.

 

4. CHALKERS. Men of wit, in Ireland, who in the night amuse themselves with cutting inoffensive passengers across the face with a knife. They are somewhat like those facetious gentlemen some time ago known in England by the title of Sweaters and Mohocks.

That’s horrifying! Aren’t you glad you don’t live in King George III’s time, when people just did that shit for laughs, like egging cars or playing Call of Duty? “Hey, Ben, you up for a rousing round of slicing people’s faces?” “Nah, not tonight, I’ve got the consumption.” Also, we should start calling all petty criminals “facetious gentlemen.”
 

5. COCK ROBIN. A soft, easy fellow.


 

6. CRINKUM CRANKUM. A woman’s commodity.

This would make for some epic porn dialogue.
 

7. DANDY PRAT. An insignificant or trifling fellow.


 

8. DEMANDERS FOR GLIMMER OR FIRE, BAWDY BASKETS, MORTS, AUTEM MORTS, WALKING MORTS, DOXIES, DELLES, KINCHING MORTS, KINCHING COES. A crew of women.

“Girls” is so boring.
 

9. DILBERRY MAKER. The fundament.

 

10. DILBERRIES. Small pieces of excrement adhering to the hairs near the fundament. See also: FARTLEBERRIES.

“Dingleberries” is, amazingly, still in the lexicon, but “dilberries” has such a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Plus, with this we get a bonus, the tremendous and all-inclusive “fundament.”
 

11. DISGUISED. Drunk.

Somewhere between tipsy and hammered. “My dear, normally I lack the courage to approach wenches as pretty as thee, but tonight I am disguised! … Where are you going?”
 

12. FART CATCHER. A valet or footman from his walking behind his master or mistress.


 

13. FLAYBOTTOMIST. A bum-brusher, or schoolmaster.

School would be so much more fun (and painful) if teachers were called flaybottomists instead.
 

14. GAYING INSTRUMENT. The penis.

This could catch on in some circles.
 

15. GILLY GAUPUS. A Scotch term for a tall, awkward fellow.


 

16. GOLLUMPUS. A large, clumsy fellow.


 

17. HUBBLE-BUBBLE. Confusion. A hubble-bubble fellow; a man of confused ideas, or one thick of speech, whose words sound like water bubbling out of a bottle.


 

18. JERRYCUMMUMBLE. To shake, towzle, or tumble about.


 

19. TO KNUCKLE ONE’S WIPE. To steal his handkerchief.

No one carries around a handkerchief anymore — but there sure is a lot of iPhone theft.
 

20. LEAPING OVER THE SWORD. An ancient ceremonial … a military marriage. A sword being laid down on the ground, the parties to be married joined hands, when the corporal or serjeant of the company repeated these words: “Leap rogue, and jump whore / And then you are married for evermore.”

So much better than a traditional wedding.
 

21. MELTING MOMENTS. A fat man and woman in the amorous congress.


 

22. NIFFYNAFFY FELLOW. A trifler.


 

23. OWL IN AN IVY BUSH. “He looks like an owl in an ivy bush”; frequently said of a person with a large frizzled wig, or a woman whose hair is dressed a-la-blowze.


 

24. POMPKIN. A man or woman of Boston in America: from, the number of pompkins raised and eaten by the people of that country.

I’m all for renaming the Celtics.
 

25. QUEER BUNG. An empty purse.

Since the recession, lots of bungs have been queerer than usual. (This could catch on in some circles.)
 

26. RUFFLERS, UPRIGHT MEN, HOOKERS OR ANGLERS, ROGUES, WILD ROGUES, PRIGGERS OF PRANCERS, PALLIARDES, FRATERS, JARKMEN OR PATRICOES, FRESH WATER MARINERS, WHIP JACKETS, DRUMMERERS, DRUNKEN TINKERS, SWADDERS OR PEDLARS, ABRAMS. A crew of men.

“Guys” is so boring.
 

27. REMEDY CRITCH. A chamber pot, or member mug.

 

28. SHITTING THROUGH THE TEETH. Vomiting. “Hark ye, friend, have you got a padlock on your arse, that you shite through your teeth?”

Classic.
 

29. SLUICE YOUR GOB. Take a hearty drink.

 

30. SQUEEZE CRAB. A sour-looking, shrivelled, diminutive
fellow.


 

31. TWIDDLE-DIDDLES. Testicles.

From the dictionary’s introduction: “It is impossible that a female should understand the meaning of TWIDDLE DIDDLES.” See also: TWIDDLE POOP, “an effeminate fellow.”
 

32. VENERABLE MONOSYLLABLE. Pudendum muliebre.

Ladyparts.
 

33. VICE ADMIRAL OF THE NARROW SEAS. A drunken man that pisses under the table into his companions’ shoes.

 

34. VICTUALLING OFFICE. The stomach.

 

35. WHIFFLES. A relaxation of the scrotum.

This is before boxers changed everything.
 

36. WIBBLE. Bad drink.

Dennis Hopper knows what I’m talking about.
 

37. WRAPT UP IN WARM FLANNEL. Drunk with spirituous liquors. He was wrapt up in the tail of his mother’s smock; saying of any one remarkable for his success with the ladies.

Drunk? No, milady, I’m merely wrapt up in warm flannel.
 

38. ZEDLAND. Great part of the west country, where the letter Z is substituted for S; as zee for see, zun for sun.


 

(via BoingBoing, with help from Nina Holmberg and Nicko Margolies)

 


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