January 30, 2009
Back in September, I posted some of my favorite bawdy terms from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence (Digest Books, Inc.), a collection of late 18th- and early 19th-century British slang and colloquialisms.
Since we all got such a kick out of the first batch, I’ve gone ahead and pulled a few more crude yet comical entries:
Beetle-headed: Dull, stupid.
Beggar maker: A publican or ale-house keeper.
Clack: A tongue; chiefly applied to women; a simile drawn from the clack of a water-mill.
Gutfoundered: Exceeding hungry.
Knowledge box: The head.
Low tide: When there is no money in a man’s pocket.
Morning drop: The gallows.
One of my cousins: A woman of the town; a harlot.
Pompkin: A man or woman of Boston in America; from the number of pompkins raised and eaten by the people of that country.
Resurrection men: Persons employed by the students in anatomy to steal dead bodies out of church-yards.
Word pecker: A punster; one who plays upon words.
A large volume of words in the dictionary are denigrative to women, signifying the inferior role of women in that culture (and the prevalence of prostitution). For example, the term “noozed” means both “married” and “hanged”—not the most positive view of marriage.
Likewise, the book contains dozens of terms about drinking and gluttony. “Barrel fever” is when one kills oneself by drinking, and “casting up one’s accounts” means vomiting. Clearly, debauchery was rampant in this society.
Read my original scoundrels’ dictionary post.