The scoundrels’ dictionary revisited

scoundrelBack 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.

8 Responses to “The scoundrels’ dictionary revisited”

  1. January 31st, 2009 | 6:51 pm

    Oh my God, these are all so awesome! LOL: noozed!! “Casting up one’s accounts” made me laugh aloud and might just cure my fear of vomiting because of how funny I find it.

    I know I’ll be using “gutfoundered.” And I love that “word pecker” is itself a play on words. :)

    I especially love your statement about how the words reflect the times. Very interesting, that. I love these types of posts! Etymology ones would be good, too, and telling the origin of phrases.

  2. February 2nd, 2009 | 12:22 am

    Wow, it is weird to read these terms now where the sentiment about women just jumps off the page, eek! I’m glad some of these terms are no longer in use and I wish I could say that all the scoundrel behavior is dead too, but sadly it is not.

  3. February 2nd, 2009 | 12:54 pm

    Steph: Pretty funny, right? I imagine that after casting up one’s accounts, one would find oneself gutfoundered. As a fellow word pecker, I knew you’d get a kick out of these!

  4. February 2nd, 2009 | 12:56 pm

    Karen: Trust me, there are many more unflattering terms regarding women that I left off this list because of their vulgarity. Times have thankfully changed, but we still have a long way to go.

  5. February 4th, 2009 | 1:04 pm

    Rebecca- I love these. I’ll admit to reading a couple (cough, cough, okay a few) romances where some of these are used. I think they call it speaking cant or something like that. Hmm, very Kafka-esque imag- beetleheaded… that’s a lot of us before our morning coffee.

  6. February 4th, 2009 | 9:04 pm

    Thanks, Janice! I’m most definitely beetle-headed when I wake up — especially after an evening with the beggar maker. ;)

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  8. April 4th, 2009 | 10:16 am

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