The Dictionary Of The Vulgar Tongue: do you know your 'abbess' from your 'elbow shaker'?
It was a runaway success when published in 1811 by soldier Francis Grose, but now the Dictionary Of The Vulgar Tongue can be viewed online. Here is our round up of the best words:
ABBESS: Mistress of a brothel.
BABES IN THE WOOD: Criminals in stocks or pillory.
BLIND CUPID: Backside.
BOB TAIL: Lewd woman. Also an impotent man or a eunuch.
BREAD AND BUTTER FASHION: One upon the other. "John and his maid were caught lying bread and butter fashion."
CAT: Common prostitute.
Prostitutes such as portrayed by Romla Garai in The Crimson Petal and The White were known as cats
COLD PIG: Punishment inflicted on "sluggards" who lie too long in bed — pulling off all the bedclothes and throwing cold water on them.
DOCK: Lie with a woman.
DUGS: Woman's breasts.
ELBOW SHAKER: A dice player.
FLASH THE HASH: Vomit.
GLAZIER: Someone who breaks windows to steal goods for sale.
GOSPEL SHOP: Church.
HEMPEN WIDOW: One whose husband was hanged.
HOYDON: Romping girl.
Breeches were known as inexpressibles
JOLLY: The head.
KING'S PICTURES: Coin, money.
LEFT-HANDED WIFE: Concubine. Based on an ancient German custom where, when a man married his concubine, or a woman greatly his inferior, he gave her his left hand.
NOISY DOG RACKET: Stealing brass knockers from doors.
OVEN: Great mouth.
PIECE: Wench. A girl who is more or less active and skilful in the amorous congress.
POISONED: Big with child.
QUEER PLUNGERS: Cheats who throw themselves into the water in order that they may be taken up by their accomplices, who carry them to one of the houses appointed by the Humane Society for the recovery of drowned persons, where they are rewarded by the society with a guinea.
RESURRECTION MEN: Persons employed by the students in anatomy to steal dead bodies out of churchyards.
Body snatchers like Burke and Hare were known as Resurrection Men
RUM DOXY: Fine wench.
SHOOT THE CAT: Vomit from excess of liquor.
SHY COCK: One who keeps within doors for fear of bailiffs.
SNOOZING KEN: Brothel.
STRIP ME NAKED: Gin.
TIT: Horse or smart little girl.
TWIDDLE POOP: Effeminate-looking fellow.
UNLICKED CUB: Rude, uncouth young fellow.
Stockings were known as vampers
WINDOW PEEPER: Collector of window tax.
XANTIPPE: Socrates's wife, a shrew or scolding wife.
YELLOW BOYS: Guineas.
ZEDLAND: Great part of the West Country where the letter Z is substituted for S.
Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue from 1811 becomes online hit
It was a runaway success when published in 1811 by soldier Francis Grose, but now the Dictionary Of The Vulgar Tongue is getting tongues wagging again after being published online.
It was first available when Britain was under threat from Napoleon but it has now been re-published for free at the Project Gutenberg online digital library.
The book includes gems suchs as 'ace of spades' for a widow, 'all-a-mort' to be struck dumb, and 'angling for farthings', which means to beg out of a prison window with a cap or box.
The dictionary has already become an online hit. A selection of words can be found here.
Explaining the book in the preface at the time, the author writes "The merit of Captain Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue has been long and universally acknowledged.
"But its circulation was confined almost exclusively to the lower orders of society: he was not aware, at the time of its compilation, that our young men of fashion would at no very distant period be as distinguished for the vulgarity of their jargon as the inhabitants of Newgate.
"Or Jehus of rank have a phraseology not less peculiar to themselves, than the disciples of Barrington: for the uninitiated to understand their modes of expression, is as impossible as for a Buxton to construe the Greek Testament."
Inside the original copy
"To sport an Upper Benjamin, and to swear with a good grace, are qualifications easily attainable by their cockney imitators; but without the aid of our additional definitions, neither the cits of Fish-street, nor the boors of Brentford would be able to attain the language of whippism.
"We trust, therefore, that the whole tribe of second-rate Bang Ups, will feel grateful for our endeavour to render this part of the work as complete as possible.
"By an occasional reference to our pages, they may be initiated into all the peculiarities of language by which the man of spirit is distinguished from the man of worth.
"They may now talk bawdy before their papas, without the fear of detection, and abuse their less spirited companions, who prefer a good dinner at home to a glorious UP-SHOT in the highway, without the hazard of a cudgelling."
The work was also assisted by Cabridge scholars James Gordon and Hell-fire Dick.
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