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Throughout history, most dictionaries have served the purpose of preserving the purity of the language, usually preferring the erudite vocabulary of the affluent upper classes to the salty, constantly evolving slang of their working-class counterparts. That began to change in the early modern period, when several innovative lexicographers began publishing collections of slang terms used by particular subcultures, such as criminals. According to scholars, Francis Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue is one of the most important and complete of these early slang dictionaries. Spend some time with this fascinating volume to learn the slang definitions of words and phrases like "poisoned" (pregnant), "shooting the cat" (vomiting after excess alcohol consumption), and "snoozing ken" (a brothel).
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Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue
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; and he therefore conceived it superfluous to incorporate with his work the few examples of fashionable slang that might occur to his observation.
But our 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. 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.
But we claim not merely the praise of gratifying curiosity, or affording assistance to the ambitious; we are very sure that the moral influence of the Lexicon Balatronicum will be more certain and extensive than that of any methodist sermon that has ever been delivered within the bills of mortality. We need not descant on the dangerous impressions that are made on the female mind, by the remarks that fall incidentally from the lips of the brothers or servants of a family; and we have before observed, that improper topics can with our assistance be discussed, even before the ladies, without raising a blush on the cheek of modesty. It is impossible that a female should understand the meaning of TWIDDLE DIDDLES, or rise from table at the mention of BUCKINGER'S BOOT. Besides, Pope assures us, that "VICE TO BE HATED NEEDS BUT TO BE SEEN;" in this volume it cannot be denied, that she is seen very plainly; and a love of virtue is, therefore, the necessary result of perusing it.
The propriety of introducing the UNIVERSITY SLANG will be readily admitted; it is not less curious than that of the College in the Old Bailey, and is less generally understood. When the number and accuracy of our additions are compared with the price of the volume, we have no doubt that its editors will meet with the encouragement that is due to learning, modesty, and virtue.
DICTIONARY OF THE VULGAR TONGUE.
ABBESS, or LADY ABBESS, A bawd, the mistress of a brothel.
ABEL-WACKETS. Blows given on the palm of the hand with a twisted handkerchief, instead of a ferula; a jocular punishment among seamen, who sometimes play at cards for wackets, the loser suffering as many strokes as he has lost games.
ABIGAIL. A lady's waiting-maid.
ABRAM. Naked. CANT.
ABRAM COVE. A cant word among thieves, signifying a naked or poor man; also a lusty, strong rogue.
ABRAM MEN. Pretended mad men.
TO SHAM ABRAM. To pretend sickness.
ACADEMY, or PUSHING SCHOOL. A brothel. The Floating Academy; the lighters on board of which those persons are confined, who by a late regulation are condemned to hard labour, instead of transportation.—Campbell's Academy; the same, from a gentleman of that name, who had the contract for victualling the hulks or lighters.
ACE OF SPADES. A widow.
ACCOUNTS. To cast up one's accounts; to vomit.
ACORN. You will ride a horse foaled by an acorn, i.e. the
gallows, called also the Wooden and Three-legged Mare.
You will be hanged.—See THREE-LEGGED MARE.
ACT OF PARLIAMENT. A military term for small beer, five pints of which, by an act of parliament, a landlord was formerly obliged to give to each soldier gratis.
ACTEON. A cuckold, from the horns planted on the head
of Acteon by Diana.
ACTIVE CITIZEN. A louse.
ADAM'S ALE. Water.
ADAM TILER. A pickpocket's associate, who receives the stolen goods, and runs off with them. CANT.
ADDLE PATE. An inconsiderate foolish fellow.
ADDLE PLOT. A spoil-sport, a mar-all.
ADMIRAL OF THE BLUE, who carries his flag on the main-mast.
A landlord or publican wearing a blue apron, as
was formerly the custom among gentlemen of that vocation.
ADMIRAL OF THE NARROW SEAS. One who from drunkenness
vomits into the lap of the person sitting opposite to
him. SEA PHRASE.
ADRIFT. Loose, turned adrift, discharged. SEA PHRASE.
AEGROTAT, (CAMBRIDGE), A certificate from the apothecary that you are INDISPOSED, (i. e.) to go to chapel. He sports an Aegrotat, he is sick, and unable to attend Chapel. or Hall. It does not follow, however, but that he can STRUM A PIECE, or sport a pair of oars.
AFFIDAVIT MEN. Knights of the post, or false witnesses, said to attend Westminster Hall, and other courts of justice, ready to swear any thing for hire.
AFTER-CLAP. A demand after the first given in has been discharged; a charge for pretended omissions; in short, any thing disagreeable happening after all consequences of the cause have been thought at an end.
AGAINST THE GRAIN. Unwilling. It went much against the grain with him, i.e. it was much against his inclination, or against his pluck.
AGOG, ALL-A-GOG. Anxious, eager, impatient: from the
Italian AGOGARE, to desire eagerly.
AGROUND. Stuck fast, stopped, at a loss, ruined; like a
boat or vessel aground.
AIR AND EXERCISE. He has had air and exercise, i.e. he
has been whipped at the cart's tail; or, as it is generally,
though more vulgarly, expressed, at the cart's a-se.
ALDERMAN. A roasted turkey garnished with sausages;
the latter are supposed to represent the gold chain worn
by those magistrates.
ALDGATE. A draught on the pump at Aldgate; a bad bill
of exchange, drawn on persons who have no effects of the
ALE DRAPER. An alehouse keeper.
ALE POST. A may-pole.
ALL-A-MORT. Struck dumb, confounded. What, sweet one, all-a-mort? SHAKESPEARE.
ALL HOLIDAY. It is all holiday at Peckham, or it is all holiday
with him; a saying signifying that it is all over
with the business or person spoken of or alluded to.
ALL HOLLOW. He was beat all hollow, i.e. he had no
chance of conquering: it was all hollow, or a hollow thing,
it was a decided thing from the beginning. See HOLLOW.
ALL NATIONS. A composition of all the different spirits
sold in a dram-shop, collected in a vessel into which
the drainings of the bottles and quartern pots are emptied.
ALLS. The five alls is a country sign, representing five human figures, each having a motto under him. The first is a king in his regalia; his motto, I govern all: the second, a bishop in pontificals; motto, I pray for all: third, a lawyer in his gown; motto, I plead for all: fourth: a soldier in his regimentals, fully accoutred; motto, I fight for all: fifth, a poor countryman with his scythe and rake; motto, I pay for all.
ALTAMEL. A verbal or lump account, without particulars, such as is commonly produced at bawdy-houses, spunging-houses, &c. Vide DUTCH RECKONING.
ALTITUDES. The man is in his altitudes, i.e. he is drunk.
AMBASSADOR. A trick to duck some ignorant fellow or landsman, frequently played on board ships in the warm latitudes. It is thus managed: A large tub is filled with water, and two stools placed on each side of it. Over the whole is thrown a tarpaulin, or old sail: this is kept tight by two persons, who are to represent the king and queen of a foreign country, and are seated on the stools. The person intended to be ducked plays the Ambassador, and after repeating a ridiculous speech dictated to him, is led in great form up to the throne, and seated between the king and queen, who rising suddenly as soon as he is seated, he falls backwards into the tub of water.
AMBASSADOR OF MOROCCO. A Shoemaker. (See Mrs.
AMBIDEXTER. A lawyer who takes fees from both plaintiff and defendant, or that goes snacks with both parties in gaming.
AMEN CURLER. A parish clerk.
AMEN. He said Yes and Amen to every thing; he agreed to every thing.
AMINADAB. A jeering name for a Quaker.
AMES ACE. Within ames ace; nearly, very near.
TO AMUSE. To fling dust or snuff in the eyes of the person intended to be robbed; also to invent some plausible tale, to delude shop-keepers and others, thereby to put them off their guard. CANT.
AMUSERS. Rogues who carried snuff or dust in their pockets, which they threw into the eyes of any person they intended to rob; and running away, their accomplices (pretending to assist and pity the half-blinded person) took that opportunity of plundering him.
ANABAPTIST. A pickpocket caught in the fact, and punished with the discipline of the pump or horse-pond.
ANCHOR. Bring your a-se to an anchor, i.e. sit down. To let go an anchor to the windward of the law; to keep within the letter of the law. SEA WIT.
ANGLERS. Pilferers, or petty thieves, who, with a stick having a hook at the end, steal goods out of shop-windows, grates, &c.; also those who draw in or entice unwary persons to prick at the belt, or such like devices.
ANGLING FOR FARTHINGS. Begging out of a prison window with a cap, or box, let down at the end of a long string.
ANKLE. A girl who is got with child, is said to have sprained her ankle.
ANODYNE NECKLACE. A halter.
ANTHONY or TANTONY PIG. The favourite or smallest pig in the litter.—To follow like a tantony pig, i.e. St. Anthony's pig; to follow close at one's heels. St. Anthony the hermit was a swineherd, and is always represented with a swine's bell and a pig. Some derive this saying from a privilege enjoyed by the friars of certain convents in England and France (sons of St. Anthony), whose swine were permitted to feed in the streets. These swine would follow any one having greens or other provisions, till they obtained some of them; and it was in those days considered an act of charity and religion to feed them.
TO KNOCK ANTHONY. Said of an in-kneed person, or one whose knees knock together; to cuff Jonas. See JONAS.
APE LEADER. An old maid; their punishment after
death, for neglecting increase and multiply, will be, it is
said, leading apes in hell.
APOSTLES. To manoeuvre the apostles, i.e. rob Peter to
pay Paul; that is, to borrow money of one man to pay
APOSTLES. (CAMBRIDGE.) Men who are plucked, refused
APOTHECARY. To talk like an apothecary; to use hard or gallipot words: from the assumed gravity and affectation of knowledge generally put on by the gentlemen of this profession, who are commonly as superficial in their learning as they are pedantic in their language.
APOTHECARY'S BILL. A long bill.
APOTHECARY'S, or LAW LATIN. Barbarous Latin, vulgarly
called Dog Latin, in Ireland Bog Latin.
APPLE CART. Down with his apple-cart; knock or throw
APPLE DUMPLIN SHOP. A woman's bosom.
APPLE-PYE BED. A bed made apple-pye fashion, like what is called a turnover apple-pye, where the sheets are so doubled as to prevent any one from getting at his length between them: a common trick played by frolicsome country lasses on their sweethearts, male relations, or visitors.
APRIL FOOL. Any one imposed on, or sent on a bootless errand, on the first of April; which day it is the custom among the lower people, children, and servants, by dropping empty papers carefully doubled up, sending persons on absurd messages, and such like contrivances, to impose on every one they can, and then to salute them with the title of April Fool. This is also practised in Scotland under the title of Hunting the Gowke.
APRON STRING HOLD. An estate held by a man during his wife's life.
AQUA PUMPAGINIS. Pump water. APOTHECARIES LATIN.
ARBOR VITAE. A man's penis.
ARCH DUKE. A comical or eccentric fellow.
ARCH ROGUE, DIMBER DAMBER UPRIGHT MAN. The
chief of a gang of thieves or gypsies.
ARCH DELL, or ARCH DOXY, signifies the same in rank
among the female canters or gypsies.
ARD. Hot. CANT.
ARMOUR. In his armour, pot valiant: to fight in armour;
to make use of Mrs. Philips's ware. See C—D—M.
ARK. A boat or wherry. Let us take an ark and winns, let
us take a sculler. CANT.
ARK RUFFIANS. Rogues who, in conjunction with watermen, robbed, and sometimes murdered, on the water, by picking a quarrel with the passengers in a boat, boarding it, plundering, stripping, and throwing them overboard, &c. A species of badger. CANT.
ARRAH NOW. An unmeaning expletive, frequently used by the vulgar Irish.
ARS MUSICA. A bum fiddle.
ARSE. To hang an arse; to hang back, to be afraid to advance. He would lend his a-e and sh-te through his ribs; a saying of any one who lends his money inconsiderately. He would lose his a-e if it was loose; said of a careless person. A-e about; turn round.
ARSY YARSEY. To fall arsy varsey, i.e. head over heels.
ARTHUR, KING ARTHUR, A game used at sea, when near the line, or in a hot latitude. It is performed thus: A man who is to represent king Arthur, ridiculously dressed, having a large wig made out of oakum, or some old swabs, is seated on the side, or over a large vessel of water. Every person in his turn is to be ceremoniously introduced to him, and to pour a bucket of water over him, crying, hail, king Arthur! if during this ceremony the person introduced laughs or smiles (to which his majesty endeavours to excite him, by all sorts of ridiculous gesticulations), he changes place with, and then becomes, king Arthur, till relieved by some brother tar, who has as little command over his muscles as himself.
ARTICLES. Breeches; coat, waistcoat, and articles.
ARTICLE. A wench. A prime article. A handsome girl.
She's a prime article (WHIP SLANG), she's a devilish good
piece, a hell of a GOER.
ASK, or AX MY A-E. A common reply to any question;
still deemed wit at sea, and formerly at court, under the
denomination of selling bargains. See BARGAIN.
ASSIG. An assignation.
ATHANASIAN WENCH, or QUICUNQUE VULT. A forward girl, ready to oblige every man that shall ask her.
AUNT. Mine aunt; a bawd or procuress: a title of eminence for the senior dells, who serve for instructresses, midwives, &c. for the dells. CANT. See DELLS.
AVOIR DU POIS LAY. Stealing brass weights off the counters of shops. CANT.
AUTEM. A church.
AUTEM BAWLER. A parson. CANT.
AUTEM CACKLERS, AUTEM PRICKEARS. Dissenters of every
AUTEM CACKLETUB. A conventicle or meeting-house for
AUTEM DIPPERS. Anabaptists. CANT.
AUTEM DIVERS. Pickpockets who practice in churches; also churchwardens and overseers of the poor. CANT.
AUTEM GOGLERS. Pretended French prophets. CANT.
AUTEM MORT. A married woman; also a female beggar with several children hired or borrowed to excite charity. CANT.
AUTEM QUAVERS. Quakers.
AUTEM QUAVER TUB. A Quakers' meeting-house. CANT.
AWAKE. Acquainted with, knowing the business. Stow the books, the culls are awake; hide the cards, the fellows know what we intended to do.
BABES IN THE WOOD. Criminals in the stocks, or pillory.
BABBLE. Confused, unintelligible talk, such as was used at the building the tower of Babel.
BACK BITER. One who slanders another behind his back,
i.e. in his absence. His bosom friends are become his back
biters, said of a lousy man.
BACKED. Dead. He wishes to have the senior, or old
square-toes, backed; he longs to have his father on six
men's shoulders; that is, carrying to the grave.
BACK UP. His back is up, i.e. he is offended or angry; an expression or idea taken from a cat; that animal, when angry, always raising its back. An allusion also sometimes used to jeer a crooked man; as, So, Sir, I see somebody has offended you, for your back is up.
BACON. He has saved his bacon; he has escaped. He has a good voice to beg bacon; a saying in ridicule of a bad voice.
BACON FED. Fat, greasy.
BACK GAMMON PLAYER. A sodomite.
BACK DOOR (USHER, or GENTLEMAN OF THE). The same.
BAD BARGAIN. One of his majesty's bad bargains; a worthless soldier, a malingeror. See MALINGEROR.
BADGE. A term used for one burned in the hand. He has got his badge, and piked; he was burned in the hand, and is at liberty. Cant.
BADGE-COVES. Parish Pensioners. Cant.
BADGERS. A crew of desperate villains who robbed near rivers, into which they threw the bodies of those they murdered. Cant.
BAG. He gave them the bag, i.e. left them.
BAG OF NAILS. He squints like a bag of nails; i. e. his eyes are directed as many ways as the points of a bag of nails. The old BAG OF NAILS at Pimlico; originally the BACCHANALS.
BAGGAGE. Heavy baggage; women and children. Also a familiar epithet for a woman; as, cunning baggage, wanton baggage, &c.
BAKERS DOZEN. Fourteen; that number of rolls being allowed
to the purchasers of a dozen.
BAKER-KNEE'D. One whose knees knock together in
walking, as if kneading dough.
BALDERDASH. Adulterated wine.
BALLOCKS. The testicles of a man or beast; also a vulgar
nick name for a parson. His brains are in his ballocks,
a cant saying to designate a fool.
BALUM RANCUM. A hop or dance, where the women are
all prostitutes. N. B. The company dance in their
BAM. A jocular imposition, the same as a humbug. See
TO BAM. To impose on any one by a falsity; also to
jeer or make fun of any one.
TO BAMBOOZLE. To make a fool of any one, to humbug or
impose on him.
BANAGHAN. He beats Banaghan; an Irish saying of one
who tells wonderful stories. Perhaps Banaghan was a
minstrel famous for dealing in the marvellous.
BANDBOX. Mine a-se on a bandbox; an answer to the
offer of any thing inadequate to the purpose for which
it is proffered, like offering a bandbox for a seat.
BANBURY STORY OF A COCK AND A BULL. A roundabout,
BANDOG. A bailiff or his follower; also a very fierce
mastiff: likewise, a bandbox. CANT.
BANG UP. (WHIP.) Quite the thing, hellish fine. Well done. Compleat. Dashing. In a handsome stile. A bang up cove; a dashing fellow who spends his money freely. To bang up prime: to bring your horses up in a dashing or fine style: as the swell's rattler and prads are bang up prime; the gentleman sports an elegant carriage and fine horses.
TO BANG. To beat.
BANGING. Great; a fine banging boy.
BANG STRAW. A nick name for a thresher, but applied to all the servants of a farmer.
BANKRUPT CART. A one-horse chaise, said to be so
called by a Lord Chief Justice, from their being so
frequently used on Sunday jaunts by extravagant
shop-keepers and tradesmen.
BANKS'S HORSE. A horse famous for playing tricks, the
property of one Banks. It is mentioned in Sir Walter
Raleigh's Hist. of the World, p. 178; also by Sir
Kenelm Digby and Ben Jonson.
BANTLING. A young child.
BANYAN DAY. A sea term for those days on which no meat is allowed to the sailors: the term is borrowed from the Banyans in the East Indies, a cast that eat nothing that had life.
BAPTIZED, OR CHRISTENED. Rum, brandy, or any other
spirits, that have been lowered with water.
BARBER'S CHAIR. She is as common as a barber's chair, in
which a whole parish sit to be trimmed; said of a prostitute.
BARBER'S SIGN. A standing pole and two wash balls.
BARGAIN. To sell a bargain; a species of wit, much in vogue about the latter end of the reign of Queen Anne, and frequently alluded to by Dean Swift, who says the maids of honour often amused themselves with it. It consisted in the seller naming his or her hinder parts, in answer to the question, What? which the buyer was artfully led to ask. As a specimen, take the following instance: A lady would come into a room full of company, apparently in a fright, crying out, It is white, and follows me! On any of the company asking, What? she sold him the bargain, by saying, Mine a-e.
BARGEES. (CAMBRIDGE.) Barge-men on the river.
BARKER. The shopman of a bow-wow shop, or dealer in second hand clothes, particularly about Monmouth-Street, who walks before his master's door, and deafens every passenger with his cries of—Clothes, coats, or gowns—what d'ye want, gemmen?—what d'ye buy? See BOW-WOW SHOP.
BARKSHIRE. A member or candidate for Barkshire, said of
one troubled with a cough, vulgarly styled barking.
BARKING IRONS. Pistols, from their explosion resembling
the bow-wow or barking of a dog. IRISH.
BARN. A parson's barn; never so full but there is still room,
for more. Bit by a barn mouse, tipsey, probably from an
allusion to barley.
BARNABY. An old dance to a quick movement. See Cotton,
in his Virgil Travesti; where, speaking of Eolus he has
Bounce cry the port-holes, out they fly,
And make the world dance Barnaby.
BARNACLE. A good job, or snack easily got: also shellfish growing at the bottoms of ships; a bird of the goose kind; an instrument like a pair of pincers, to fix on the noses of vicious horses whilst shoeing; a nick name for spectacles, and also for the gratuity given to grooms by the buyers and sellers of horses.
BARREL FEVER. He died of the barrel fever; he killed himself by drinking.
BARROW MAN. A man under sentence of transportation; alluding to the convicts at Woolwich, who are principally employed in wheeling barrows full of brick or dirt.
BARTHOLOMEW BABY. A person dressed up in a tawdry manner, like the dolls or babies sold at Bartholomew fair.
BASKET. An exclamation frequently made use of in cock-pits, at cock-fightings, where persons refusing or unable to pay their losings, are adjudged by that respectable assembly to be put into a basket suspended over the pit, there to remain during that day's diversion: on the least demur to pay a bet, Basket is vociferated in terrorem. He grins like a basket of chips: a saying of one who is on the broad grin.
BASKET-MAKING. The good old trade of basket-making; copulation, or making feet for children's stockings.
BASTARD. The child of an unmarried woman.
BASTARDLY GULLION. A bastard's bastard.
TO BASTE. To beat. I'll give him his bastings, I'll beat him heartily.
BASTING. A beating.
BASTONADING. Beating any one with a stick; from baton,
a stick, formerly spelt baston.
BAT. A low whore: so called from moving out like bats in
the dusk of the evening.
BATCH. We had a pretty batch of it last night; we had a
hearty dose of liquor. Batch originally means the whole
quantity of bread baked at one time in an oven.
BATTNER. An ox: beef being apt to batten or fatten those
that eat it. The cove has hushed the battner; i.e. has
killed the ox.
BATCHELOR'S FARE. Bread and cheese and kisses.
BATCHELOR'S SON. A bastard.
BATTLE-ROYAL. A battle or bout at cudgels or fisty-cuffs, wherein more than two persons are engaged: perhaps from its resemblance, in that particular, to more serious engagements fought to settle royal disputes.
BAWBEE. A halfpenny. Scotch.
BAWBELS, or BAWBLES. Trinkets; a man's testicles.
BAWD. A female procuress.
BAWDY BASKET. The twenty-third rank of canters, who carry pins, tape, ballads, and obscene books to sell, but live mostly by stealing. Cant.
BAWDY-HOUSE BOTTLE. A very small bottle; short measure being among the many means used by the keepers of those houses, to gain what they call an honest livelihood: indeed this is one of the least reprehensible; the less they give a man of their infernal beverages for his money, the kinder they behave to him.
BAY FEVER. A term of ridicule applied to convicts, who
sham illness, to avoid being sent to Botany Bay.
BAYARD OF TEN TOES. To ride bayard of ten toes, is to
walk on foot. Bayard was a horse famous in old romances,
BEAK. A justice of-peace, or magistrate. Also a judge or chairman who presides in court. I clapp'd my peepers full of tears, and so the old beak set me free; I began to weep, and the judge set me free.
BEAN. A guinea. Half bean; half a guinea.
BEAR. One who contracts to deliver a certain quantity of sum of stock in the public funds, on a future day, and at stated price; or, in other words, sells what he has not got, like the huntsman in the fable, who sold the bear's skin before the bear was killed. As the bear sells the stock he is not possessed of, so the bull purchases what he has not money to pay for; but in case of any alteration in the price agreed on, either party pays or receives the difference. Exchange Alley.
BEAR-GARDEN JAW or DISCOURSE. Rude, vulgar language, such as was used at the bear-gardens.
BEAR LEADER. A travelling tutor.
BEARD SPLITTER. A man much given to wenching.
BEARINGS. I'll bring him to his bearings; I'll bring him to reason. Sea term.
BEAST. To drink like a beast, i.e. only when thirsty.
BEAST WITH TWO BACKS. A man and woman in the act of copulation. Shakespeare in Othello.
BEATER CASES. Boots. Cant.
BEAU-NASTY. A slovenly fop; one finely dressed, but dirty.
BEAU TRAP. A loose stone in a pavement, under which water lodges, and on being trod upon, squirts it up, to the great damage of white stockings; also a sharper neatly dressed, lying in wait for raw country squires, or ignorant fops.
BECALMED. A piece of sea wit, sported in hot weather. I am becalmed, the sail sticks to the mast; that is, my shirt sticks to my back. His prad is becalmed; his horse knocked up.
BECK. A beadle. See HERMANBECK.
BED. Put to bed with a mattock, and tucked up with a spade; said of one that is dead and buried. You will go up a ladder to bed, i.e. you will be hanged. In many country places, persons hanged are made to mount up a ladder, which is afterwards turned round or taken away, whence the term, "Turned off."
BEDFORDSHIRE. I am for Bedfordshire, i.e. for going to bed.
BEDIZENED. Dressed out, over-dressed, or awkwardly ornamented.
BED-MAKER. Women employed at Cambridge to attend on the Students, sweep his room, &c. They will put their hands to any thing, and are generally blest with a pretty family of daughters: who unmake the beds, as fast as they are made by their mothers.
BEEF. To cry beef; to give the alarm. They have cried beef
on us. Cant.—To be in a man's beef; to wound him with
a sword. To be in a woman's beef; to have carnal
knowledge of her. Say you bought your beef of me, a jocular
request from a butcher to a fat man, implying that he
credits the butcher who serves him.
BEEF EATER. A yeoman of the guards, instituted by Henry
VII. Their office was to stand near the bouffet, or
cupboard, thence called Bouffetiers, since corrupted to Beef
Eaters. Others suppose they obtained this name from the
size of their persons, and the easiness of their duty, as
having scarce more to do than to eat the king's beef.
BEETLE-BROWED. One having thick projecting eyebrows.
BEETLE-HEADED. Dull, stupid.
BEGGAR MAKER. A publican, or ale-house keeper.
BEGGAR'S BULLETS. Stones. The beggar's bullets began to fly, i.e. they began to throw stones.
BEILBY'S BALL. He will dance at Beilby's ball, where the sheriff pays the music; he will be hanged. Who Mr. Beilby was, or why that ceremony was so called, remains with the quadrature of the circle, the discovery of the philosopher's stone, and divers other desiderata yet undiscovered.
BELCH. All sorts of beer; that liquor being apt to cause eructation.
BELCHER. A red silk handkerchief, intermixed with yellow and a little black. The kiddey flashes his belcher; the young fellow wears a silk handkerchief round his neck.
BELL, BOOK, AND CANDLE. They cursed him with bell, book, and candle; an allusion to the popish form of excommunicating and anathematizing persons who had offended the church.
TO BEAR THE BELL. To excel or surpass all competitors, to be the principal in a body or society; an allusion to the fore horse or leader of a team, whose harness is commonly ornamented with a bell or bells. Some suppose it a term borrowed from an ancient tournament, where the victorious knights bore away the BELLE or FAIR LADY. Others derive it from a horse-race, or other rural contentions, where bells were frequently given as prizes.
BELLOWS. The lungs.
BELLOWER. The town crier.
BELLOWSER. Transportation for life: i.e. as long.
BELLY. His eye was bigger than his belly; a saying of a
person at a table, who takes more on his plate than he
BELLYFULL. A hearty beating, sufficient to make a man
yield or give out. A woman with child is also said to
have got her belly full.
BELLY CHEAT. An apron.
BELLY PLEA. The plea of pregnancy, generally adduced by female felons capitally convicted, which they take care to provide for, previous to their trials; every gaol having, as the Beggar's Opera informs us, one or more child getters, who qualify the ladies for that expedient to procure a respite.
BELLY TIMBER. Food of all sorts.
BELL SWAGGER. A noisy bullying fellow.
BELLWETHER. The chief or leader of a mob; an idea taken from a flock of sheep, where the wether has a bell about his neck.
BENE. Good—BENAR. Better. Cant.
BENE BOWSE. Good beer, or other strong liquor. Cant.
BENE COVE. A good fellow. Cant.
BENE DARKMANS. Goodnight. Cant.
BENE FEARERS. Counterfeiters of bills. Cant.
BENE FEAKERS OF GYBES. Counterfeiters of passes. Cant.
BENESHIPLY. Worshipfully. Cant.
BEN. A fool. Cant.
BENISON. The beggar's benison: May your ***** and purse never fail you.
BERMUDAS. A cant name for certain places in London, privileged against arrests, like the Mint in Southwark, Ben. Jonson. These privileges are abolished.
BESS, or BETTY. A small instrument used by house-breakers to force open doors. Bring bess and glym; bring the instrument to force the door, and the dark lantern. Small flasks, like those for Florence wine, are also called betties.
BESS. See BROWN BESS.
BEST. To the best in Christendom: i.e. the best **** in
Christendom; a health formerly much in vogue.
BET. A wager.—TO BET. To lay a wager.
BETTY MARTIN. That's my eye, Betty Martin; an answer
to any one that attempts to impose or humbug.
BETWATTLED. Surprised, confounded, out of one's senses;
BEVER. An afternoon's luncheon; also a fine hat; beaver's
fur making the best hats,
BEVERAGE. Garnish money, or money for drink, demanded
of any one having a new suit of clothes.
BIBLE. A boatswain's great axe. Sea term.
BIBLE OATH. Supposed by the vulgar to be more binding than an oath taken on the Testament only, as being the bigger book, and generally containing both the Old and New Testament.
BIDDY, or CHICK-A-BIDDY. A chicken, and figuratively a young wench.
BIDET, commonly pronounced BIDDY. A kind of tub, contrived for ladies to wash themselves, for which purpose they bestride it like a French poney, or post-horse, called in French bidets.
BIENLY. Excellently. She wheedled so bienly; she coaxed
or flattered so cleverly. French.
BILL AT SIGHT. To pay a bill at sight; to be ready at all
times for the venereal act.
BILBOA. A sword. Bilboa in Spain was once famous for
well-tempered blades: these are quoted by Falstaff, where
he describes the manner in which he lay in the buck-basket.
Bilboes, the stock; prison. Cant.
TO BILK. To cheat. Let us bilk the rattling cove; let us
cheat the hackney coachman of his fare. Cant. Bilking a
coachman, a box-keeper, and a poor whore, were formerly,
among men of the town, thought gallant actions.
BILL OF SALE. A widow's weeds. See HOUSE TO LET.
BILLINGSGATE LANGUAGE. Foul language, or abuse. Billingsgate is the market where the fishwomen assemble to purchase fish; and where, in their dealings and disputes, they are somewhat apt to leave decency and good manners a little on the left hand.
BING. To go. Cant. Bing avast; get you gone. Binged avast in a darkmans; stole away in the night. Bing we to Rumeville: shall we go to London?
BINGO. Brandy or other spirituous liquor. Cant.
BINGO BOY. A dram drinker. Cant.
BINGO MORT. A female dram drinker. Cant.
BINNACLE WORD. A fine or affected word, which sailors jeeringly offer to chalk up on the binnacle.
BIRD AND BABY. The sign of the eagle and child.
BIRD-WITTED. Inconsiderate, thoughtless, easily imposed on.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER. Rogues of the same gang.
BIRTH-DAY SUIT. He was in his birth-day suit, that is, stark naked.
BISHOP. A mixture of wine and water, into which is put a roasted orange. Also one of the largest of Mrs. Philips's purses, used to contain the others.
BISHOPED, or TO BISHOP. A term used among horse-dealers, for burning the mark into a horse's tooth, after he has lost it by age; by bishoping, a horse is made to appear younger than he is. It is a common saying of milk that is burnt too, that the bishop has set his foot in it. Formerly, when a bishop passed through a village, all the inhabitants ran out of their houses to solicit his blessing, even leaving their milk, &c. on the fire, to take its chance: which, went burnt to, was said to be bishoped.
TO BISHOP the balls, a term used among printers, to water them.
BIT. Money. He grappled the cull's bit; he seized the man's money. A bit is also the smallest coin in Jamaica, equal to about sixpence sterling.
BITCH. A she dog, or doggess; the most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman, even more provoking than that of whore, as may he gathered from the regular Billinsgate or St. Giles's answer—"I may be a whore, but can't be a bitch."
TO BITCH. To yield, or give up an attempt through fear. To stand bitch; to make tea, or do the honours of the tea-table, performing a female part: bitch there standing for woman, species for genius.
BITCH BOOBY. A country wench. Military term.
BITE. A cheat; also a woman's privities. The cull wapt the mort's bite; the fellow enjoyed the wench heartily. Cant.
TO BITE. To over-reach, or impose; also to steal.—Cant.—Biting was once esteemed a kind of wit, similar to the humbug. An instance of it is given in the Spectator: A man under sentence of death having sold his body to a surgeon rather below the market price, on receiving the money, cried, A bite! I am to be hanged in chains.—To bite the roger; to steal a portmanteau. To bite the wiper, to steal a handkerchief. To bite on the bridle; to be pinched or reduced to difficulties. Hark ye, friend, whether do they bite in the collar or the cod-piece? Water wit to anglers.
BITER. A wench whose **** is ready to bite her a-se; a lascivious, rampant wench.
BLAB. A tell-tale, or one incapable of keeping a secret
BLACK AND WHITE. In writing. I have it in black and white; I have written evidence.
BLACK ART. The art of picking a lock. Cant.
BLACK A-SE. A copper or kettle. The pot calls the kettle black a-se. Cant.
BLACK BOOK. He is down in the black book, i.e. has a stain in his character. A black book is keep in most regiments, wherein the names of all persons sentenced to punishment are recorded.
BLACK BOX. A lawyer. Cant.
BLACK EYE. We gave the bottle a black eye, i.e. drank it almost up. He cannot say black is the white of my eye; he cannot point out a blot in my character.
BLACK FLY. The greatest drawback on the farmer is the black fly, i.e. the parson who takes tithe of the harvest.
BLACK GUARD. A shabby, mean fellow; a term said to be derived from a number of dirty, tattered roguish boys, who attended at the Horse Guards, and Parade in St. James's Park, to black the boots and shoes of the soldiers, or to do any other dirty offices. These, from their constant attendance about the time of guard mounting, were nick-named the black-guards.
BLACK JACK. A nick name given to the Recorder by the
BLACK JACK. A jug to drink out of, made of jacked leather.
BLACK JOKE. A popular tune to a song, having for the burden, "Her black joke and belly so white:" figuratively the black joke signifies the monosyllable. See MONOSYLLABLE.
BLACK INDIES. Newcastle upon Tyne, whose rich coal mines prove an Indies to the proprietors.
BLACKLEGS. A gambler or sharper on the turf or in the cockpit:
so called, perhaps, from their appearing generally in
boots; or else from game-cocks whose legs are always black.
BLACK MONDAY. The first Monday after the school-boys
holidays, or breaking up, when they are to go to school,
and produce or repeat the tasks set them.
BLACK PSALM. To sing the black psalm; to cry: a saying
used to children.
BLACK SPICE RACKET. To rob chimney sweepers of
their soot, bag and soot.
BLACK SPY. The Devil.
BLACK STRAP. Bene Carlo wine; also port. A task of labour imposed on soldiers at Gibraltar, as a punishment for small offences.
BLANK. To look blank; to appear disappointed or confounded.
BLANKET HORNPIPE. The amorous congress.
BLARNEY. He has licked the blarney stone; he deals in the wonderful, or tips us the traveller. The blarney stone is a triangular stone on the very top of an ancient castle of that name in the county of Cork in Ireland, extremely difficult of access; so that to have ascended to it, was considered as a proof of perseverance, courage, and agility, whereof many are supposed to claim the honour, who never atchieved the adventure: and to tip the blarney, is figuratively used telling a marvellous story, or falsity; and also sometimes to express flattery. Irish.
A BLASTED FELLOW or BRIMSTONE. An abandoned rogue or prostitute. Cant.
To BLAST. To curse.
BLATER. A calf. Cant.
BLEACHED MORT. A fair-complexioned wench.
BLEATERS. Those cheated by Jack in a box. CANT.—See
JACK IN A BOX.
BLEATING CHEAT. A sheep. Cant.
BLEATING RIG. Sheep stealing. Cant.
BLEEDERS. Spurs. He clapped his bleeders to his prad;
be put spurs to his horse.
BLEEDING CULLY. One who parts easily with his money,
or bleeds freely.
BLEEDING NEW. A metaphor borrowed from fish, which
will not bleed when stale.
BLESSING. A small quantity over and above the measure, usually given by hucksters dealing in peas, beans, and other vegetables.
BLIND. A feint, pretence, or shift.
BLIND CHEEKS. The breech. Buss blind cheeks; kiss mine a-se.
BLIND EXCUSE. A poor or insufficient excuse. A blind ale-house, lane, or alley; an obscure, or little known or frequented ale-house, lane, or alley.
BLIND HARPERS. Beggars counterfeiting blindness, playing on fiddles, &c.
BLINDMAN'S BUFF. A play used by children, where one being blinded by a handkerchief bound over his eyes, attempts to seize any one of the company, who all endeavour to avoid him; the person caught, must be blinded in his stead.
BLIND CUPID. The backside.
BLINDMAN'S HOLIDAY. Night, darkness.
BLOCK HOUSES. Prisons, houses of correction, &c.
BLOCKED AT BOTH ENDS. Finished. The game is blocked at both ends; the game is ended.
BLOOD. A riotous disorderly fellow.
BLOOD FOR BLOOD. A term used by tradesmen for bartering the different commodities in which they deal. Thus a hatter furnishing a hosier with a hat, and taking payment in stockings, is said to deal blood for blood.
BLOOD MONEY. The reward given by the legislature on the
conviction of highwaymen, burglars, &c.
BLOODY BACK. A jeering appellation for a soldier, alluding
to his scarlet coat.
BLOODY. A favourite word used by the thieves in swearing,
as bloody eyes, bloody rascal.
BLOSS or BLOWEN. The pretended wife of a bully, or
TO BLOT THE SKRIP AND JAR IT. To stand engaged or
bound for any one. Cant.
BLOW. He has bit the blow, i.e. he has stolen the goods.
BLOWEN. A mistress or whore of a gentleman of the scamp. The blowen kidded the swell into a snoozing ken, and shook him of his dummee and thimble; the girl inveigled the gentleman into a brothel and robbed him of his pocket book and watch.
BLOWER. A pipe. How the swell funks his blower and lushes red tape; what a smoke the gentleman makes with his pipe, and drinks brandy.
TO BLOW THE GROUNSILS. To lie with a woman on the
TO BLOW THE GAB. To confess, or impeach a confederate.
BLOW-UP. A discovery, or the confusion occasioned by one.
A BLOWSE, or BLOWSABELLA. A woman whose hair is dishevelled, and hanging about her face; a slattern.
BLUBBER. The mouth.—I have stopped the cull's blubber; I have stopped the fellow's mouth, meant either by gagging or murdering him.
TO BLUBBER. To cry.
TO SPORT BLUBBER. Said of a large coarse woman, who
exposes her bosom.
BLUBBER CHEEKS. Large flaccid cheeks, hanging like
the fat or blubber of a whale.
BLUE, To look blue; to be confounded, terrified, or disappointed.
Blue as a razor; perhaps, blue as azure.
BLUE BOAR. A venereal bubo.
BLUE DEVILS. Low spirits.
BLUE FLAG. He has hoisted the blue flag; he has commenced
publican, or taken a public house, an allusion to
the blue aprons worn by publicans. See ADMIRAL OF
BLUE PIGEONS. Thieves who steal lead off houses and
churches. Cant. To fly a blue pigeon; to steal lead
off houses or churches.
BLUE PLUMB. A bullet.—Surfeited with a blue plumb;
wounded with a bullet. A sortment of George R—'s
blue plumbs; a volley of ball, shot from soldiers' firelocks.
BLUE SKIN. A person begotten on a black woman by a white man. One of the blue squadron; any one having a cross of the black breed, or, as it is termed, a lick of the tar brush.
BLUE TAPE, or SKY BLUE. Gin.
BLUE RUIN. Gin. Blue ribband; gin.
BLUFF. Fierce, surly. He looked as bluff as bull beef.
BLUFFER. An inn-keeper. Cant.
BLUNDERBUSS. A short gun, with a wide bore, for carrying slugs; also a stupid, blundering fellow.
BLUNT. Money. Cant.
TO BLUSTER. To talk big, to hector or bully.
BOARDING SCHOOL. Bridewell, Newgate, or any other
prison, or house of correction.
BOB. A shoplifter's assistant, or one that receives and carries
off stolen goods. All is bob; all is safe. Cant.
BOB. A shilling.
BOBBED. Cheated, tricked, disappointed.
BOBBISH. Smart, clever, spruce.
BOB STAY. A rope which holds the bowsprit to the stem or cutwater. Figuratively, the frenum of a man's yard.
BOB TAIL. A lewd woman, or one that plays with her tail; also an impotent man, or an eunuch. Tag, rag, and bobtail; a mob of all sorts of low people. To shift one's bob; to move off, or go away. To bear a bob; to join in chorus with any singers. Also a term used by the sellers of game, for a partridge.
BODY SNATCHERS. Bum bailiffs.
BODY OF DIVINITY BOUND IN BLACK CALF. A parson.
BOG LANDER. An Irishman; Ireland being famous for its large bogs, which furnish the chief fuel in many parts of that kingdom.
BOG TROTTER. The same.
BOG HOUSE. The necessary house. To go to bog; to go to
BOG LATIN. Barbarous Latin. Irish.—See DOG LATIN,
and APOTHECARIES LATIN.
BOGY. Ask bogy, i.e. ask mine a-se. Sea wit.
BOH. Said to be the name of a Danish general, who so terrified his opponent Foh, that he caused him to bewray himself. Whence, when we smell a stink, it is custom to exclaim, Foh! i.e. I smell general Foh. He cannot say Boh to a goose; i.e. he is a cowardly or sheepish fellow. There is a story related of the celebrated Ben Jonson, who always dressed very plain; that being introduced to the presence of a nobleman, the peer, struck by his homely appearance and awkward manner, exclaimed, as if in doubt, "you Ben Johnson! why you look as if you could not say Boh to a goose!" "Boh!" replied the wit.
BOLD. Bold as a miller's shirt, which every day takes a rogue by the collar.
BOLT. A blunt arrow.
BOLT UPRIGHT. As erect, or straight up, as an arrow set on its end.
TO BOLT. To run suddenly out of one's house, or hiding place, through fear; a term borrowed from a rabbit-warren, where the rabbits are made to bolt, by sending ferrets into their burrows: we set the house on fire, and made him bolt. To bolt, also means to swallow meat without chewing: the farmer's servants in Kent are famous for bolting large quantities of pickled pork.
BONE BOX. The mouth. Shut your bone box; shut your mouth.
BONE PICKER. A footman.
BONED. Seized, apprehended, taken up by a constable. CANT.
BOLUS. A nick name for an apothecary.
BONESETTER. A hard-trotting horse.
BOOBY, or DOG BOOBY. An awkward lout, clodhopper, or country fellow. See CLODHOPPER and LOUT. A bitch booby; a country wench.
BOOBY HUTCH. A one-horse chaise, noddy, buggy, or
BOOKS. Cards to play with. To plant the books; to place
the cards in the pack in an unfair manner.
BOOK-KEEPER. One who never returns borrowed books. Out of one's books; out of one's fevor. Out of his books; out of debt.
BOOT CATCHER. The servant at an inn whose business
it is to clean the boots of the guest.
BOOTS. The youngest officer in a regimental mess, whose duty it is to skink, that is, to stir the fire, snuff the candles, and ring the bell. See SKINK.—To ride in any one's old boots; to marry or keep his cast-off mistress.
BOOTY. To play booty; cheating play, where the player purposely avoids winning.
BO-PEEP. One who sometimes hides himself, and sometimes appears publicly abroad, is said to-play at bo-peep. Also one who lies perdue, or on the watch.
BORACHIO. A skin for holding wine, commonly a goat's; also a nick name for a drunkard.
BORDE. A shilling. A half borde; a sixpence.
BORDELLO. A bawdy house.
BORE. A tedious, troublesome man or woman, one who
bores the ears of his hearers with an uninteresting tale;
a term much in fashion about the years 1780 and 1781.
BORN UNDER A THREEPENNY HALFPENNY PLANET, NEVER TO BE WORTH A GROAT.
Said of any person remarkably unsuccessful in his attempts or
BOTCH. A nick name for a taylor.
BOTHERED or BOTH-EARED. Talked to at both ears by different persons at the same time, confounded, confused. IRISH PHRASE.
BOTHERAMS. A convivial society.
BOTTLE-HEADED. Void of wit.
BOTTOM. A polite term for the posteriors. Also, in the sporting sense, strength and spirits to support fatigue; as a bottomed horse. Among bruisers it is used to express a hardy fellow, who will bear a good beating.
BOTTOMLESS PIT. The monosyllable.
BOUGHS. Wide in the boughs; with large hips and posteriors.
BOUGHS. He is up in the boughs; he is in a passion.
TO BOUNCE. To brag or hector; also to tell an improbable story. To bully a man out of any thing. The kiddey bounced the swell of the blowen; the lad bullied the gentleman out of the girl.
BOUNCER. A large man or woman; also a great lie.
BOUNCING CHEAT. A bottle; from the explosion in drawing the cork. CANT.
BOUNG. A purse. CANT.
BOUNG NIPPER. A cut purse. CANT.—Formerly purses were worn at the girdle, from whence they were cut.
BOOSE, or BOUSE. Drink.
BOWSING KEN. An ale-house or gin-shop.
BOWSPRIT. The nose, from its being the most projecting
part of the human face, as the bowsprit is of a ship.
BOW-WOW. The childish name for a dog; also a jeering
appellation for a man born at Boston in America.
BOW-WOW MUTTON. Dog's flesh.
BOW-WOW SHOP. A salesman's shop in Monmouth-street;
so called because the servant barks, and the master bites.
BOWYER. One that draws a long bow, a dealer in the marvellous,
a teller of improbable stories, a liar: perhaps from
the wonderful shots frequently boasted of by archers.
TO BOX THE COMPASS. To say or repeat the mariner's compass, not only backwards or forwards, but also to be able to answer any and all questions respecting its divisions. SEA TERM.
TO BOX THE JESUIT, AND GET COCK ROACHES. A sea term for masturbation; a crime, it is said, much practised by the reverend fathers of that society.
BRACE. The Brace tavern; a room in the S.E. corner of the King's Bench, where, for the convenience of prisoners residing thereabouts, beer purchased at the tap-house was retailed at a halfpenny per pot advance. It was kept by two brothers of the name of Partridge, and thence called the Brace.
BRACKET-FACED. Ugly, hard-featured.
BRAGGET. Mead and ale sweetened with honey.
BRAGGADOCIA. vain-glorious fellow, a boaster.
BRAINS. If you had as much brains as guts, what a clever fellow you would be! a saying to a stupid fat fellow. To have some guts in his brains; to know something.
BRAN-FACED. Freckled. He was christened by a baker, he carries the bran in his face.
BRANDY-FACED. Red-faced, as if from drinking brandy.
BRANDY. Brandy is Latin for a goose; a memento to prevent the animal from rising in the stomach by a glass of the good creature.
BRAT. A child or infant.
BRAY. A vicar of Bray; one who frequently changes his principles, always siding with the strongest party: an allusion to a vicar of Bray, in Berkshire, commemorated in a well-known ballad for the pliability of his conscience.
BRAZEN-FACED. Bold-faced, shameless, impudent.
BREAD AND BUTTER FASHION. One slice upon the other. John and his maid were caught lying bread and butter fashion.—To quarrel with one's bread and butter; to act contrary to one's interest. To know on which side one's bread is buttered; to know one's interest, or what is best for one. It is no bread and butter of mine; I have no business with it; or rather, I won't intermeddle, because I shall get nothing by it.
BREAK-TEETH WORDS. Hard words, difficult to pronounce.
BREAKING SHINS. Borrowing money; perhaps from the figurative operation being, like the real one, extremely disagreeable to the patient.
BREAD. Employment. Out of bread; out of employment.
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