07/19/17

Victorian slang

An amusing list of Victorian slang from Passing English of the Victorian era, a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase, 1909, by James Redding Ware (who, incidentally, under the pen name of Andrew Forrester, created one of the first fictional female detectives.)

I especially like Afternoonified: A society word meaning “smart”, e.g. “The goods are not ‘afternoonified’ enough for me.”

and Podsnappery: Wilful determination to ignore the objectionable or inconvenient, at the same time assuming airs of superior virtue and noble resignation.

Dipping into the Passing English dictionary:

Flapper, which I’d always thought of as a 1920s term, was in use as early as 1892 for “A very immoral young girl in her early ‘teens’.”

Flash dona: A high-class low-class lady (thieves’ word).

Gospel of Gloom: Satirical description of aestheticism which tended to doleful colours, gloomy houses, sad limp dresses, and solemn, earnest behaviour.
Were these Victorian goths?

Fit in the arm: A blow. In June 1897 one Tom Kelly was given into custody by a woman for striking her. His defence before the magistrate took the shape of the declaration that ‘a fit had seized him in the arm’, and for months afterwards back street frequenters called a blow a fit.

He worships his creator: Said of a self-made man who has a good opinion of himself.

Who took it out of you? Meaning wholly unknown to people not absolutely of lower class.

An interesting find– Deuce: Dusius–the erotic God of Nightmare, passing (15th century in England) into Robin Goodfellow.
The most familiar shape of Deuce is Robin Goodfellow, whose pictorial representation has long since been turned out of good society. If any curious reader is desirous of seeing him in his habit as he lived, he must be prepared to pay him five pounds for a copy of Mr Thomas Wright’s remarkable little book upon Phallic worship. Its study will enable him to comprehend Shakespeare’s allusions to this alarming personage–probably Robin Goodfiller.

The internet seems to have nothing on Robin Goodfiller outside of this dictionary. According to Wiktionary, dusius is “a kind of evil spirit”, from  Gaulish *dusios (incubus, monster), probably from Proto-Indo-European *dʰeus- (spirit). Compare Czech duše (soul).

Dusius exists today as an Italian folk/viking metal band.

And Whitechapel Warriors: Militia of the Aldgate district; and
White Army, The: A band of men who formed themselves together to combat social evil.
Was Victorian London adorned with roaming bands of vigilantes and do-gooders? The only other reference I can find to Whitechapel warriors is in a dialogue, Bon Gaultier and his Friends, in Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine, 1844. Bon Gaultier was a nom de plume of the writers William Edmondstoune Aytoun and Sir Theodore Martin, and their Whitechapel warriors seems to be an epithet for an invented regiment, the Ninth Poltroons, after whom we hear about “the Black Skulkers, a fine cavalry regiment, which made war principally upon its own account.” I may want to borrow them.
(I drift, but I’ll forget this if I don’t write it down — I read somewhere that the tradition of natty cavalry uniforms got started when mounted soldiers would raid the baggage trains and dress in what they seized. And now I can’t find the article again, chiz.)

As for the White Army (of London), I can’t find any other record of it.

 

A few more from The Art of Manliness, Manly Slang from the 19th Century:

Bully Trap: A brave man with a mild or effeminate appearance, by whom the bullies are frequently taken in.

Fart Catcher: A valet or footman, from his walking behind his master or mistress.

Gullyfluff: The waste — coagulated dust, crumbs, and hair — which accumulates imperceptibly in the pockets of schoolboys.

Half-mourning: To have a black eye from a blow. As distinguished from ” whole-mourning,” two black eyes.

Out of Print: Slang made use of by booksellers. In speaking of any person that is dead, they observe, “he is out of print.”

Tune the Old Cow Died Of: An epithet for any ill-played or discordant piece of music.

06/11/17

“Mr Darcy strips off…”

Some informative and entertaining notes on Regency men’s fashion, by M.M. Bennetts:

https://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2012/02/mr-darcy-strips-off.html

“Just as important was a gentleman’s fitted waistcoat, which would have been made of white or skin-toned fabric–the idea being that if a gentleman were to remove his coat, in his shirtsleeves and from a distance, he would resemble nothing so much as a naked Greek god, muscular, beautiful, carved from marble or stone.”

04/9/17

No scurvy on ships of the desert

“At Bilbarka on the Darling, Burke and his second-in-command, Landells, argued after Burke decided to dump the 60 gallons (≈270 litres) of rum that Landells had brought to feed to the camels in the belief that it prevented scurvy.” (Context)

04/5/17

Wilson, Keppel and Betty

The things you find when researching — from the V&A:

The term ‘eccentric dance’ on a music hall programme hid a wide range of styles. One emphasised the dancers’ legs, high kicking or out of control, often referred to as ‘legmania’.

In the 20th century Max Wall was known for his out of control lanky legs. Wilson, Keppel and Betty, also qualified as eccentric dancers. They were two decrepit, extremely thin men who performed a spoof sand dance, in vaguely Egyptian or Oriental style, wearing what appeared to be short nightshirts with tea towel headdresses or a fez.

When they performed in Berlin in the 1930s, wearing shorter skirts, Goebbels complained that their bare legs were undermining the morals of Nazi youth. There were several Bettys (the original, her daughter and her daughter) who always had to appear glamorous, but Wilson and Keppel became more and more decrepit.

 

12/6/15

Anglo-Saxon words (of more than four letters)

20 lost or almost-lost Old English words.

My favourites:

2. BREÓST-HORD

Breóst-hord literally means “breast-treasure,” and was used in Old English literature to refer to what we might call the heart, the mind, or the soul today—namely, a person’s inner workings and feelings.

6. EARSLING

No, not another name for a ear bandage. Earsling actually brings together the Old English equivalent of “arse,” ears or ærs, and the suffix –ling, which is related to the –long of words like livelong, headlong and endlong. It ultimately means “in the direction of your arse”—or, in other words, backwards. Just like attercop, happily arseling also still survives in a handful of English dialects.

9. FRUMBYRDLING

As far as words that should have never left the language go, frumbyrdling is right up there at the top of the list: it’s an 11th century word for a young boy growing in his first beard.

10. GESIBSUMNES

Gesibsumnes (the ge– is roughly pronounced like “yeah”) literally means something along the lines of “collective peacefulness.” It referred to the general feeling of friendship, companionship, or closeness between siblings or members of the same family.

08/6/15

Passing English of the Victorian Era

Passing English of the Victorian era : a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase by James Redding Ware (who also wrote as Andrew Forrester), 1909, at archive.org, found via The Public Domain Review. “Here,” begins the preface, “is a numerically weak collection of instances of ‘Passing English’. It may be hoped that there are errors on every page, and also that no entry is ‘quite too dull’.”

A few examples:

Blue o’clock in the morning: Pre-dawn, when black sky gives way to purple
Cartocracy: People distinguished enough to keep carts — especially dog-carts
Double-breasted water-butt smasher: A man of fine bust — an athlete
Introduce shoemaker to tailor: Evasive metaphor for fundamental kicking
Left the minority: No longer with the living
Little Go: First imprisonment, first invented by a fallen university man
O Gomorrah to you! : Play of a word upon “to-morrow”, and said either savagely or jocularly
Rank and smell: common person

Some entries are still familiar, like “lead poisoning” for gunshot wounds, and “squeejee” (yes, the rubber mop — I had no idea the word was so old.)

06/10/13

Badass of the Week: women

I think I’ve pointed out Badass of the Week before, but I want to mention it again — not just for general afficionados of badassery, but to anyone interested in women’s history and lives. The site’s archive features a fair few badass women  — some fictional or legendary, but mostly real, including soldiers and revolutionaries, pirates, pilots, warrior queens, tyrants, doctors, frontierswomen, and ordinary women and girls who fought attackers or otherwise acted with awesome bravery. Lots of inspiring material, told in rip-roaring and salty style.