Thursday, August 20, 2009

1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue

No, not like that, you filthbeasts. 'Tis a glossary of slang

I spent the whole of yesterday morning trying to find out if having various characters in my 18th century drama thing* saying the word 'shit' was historically accurate or not. Research would seem to indicate that while it's okay to use it as a noun, using it as an exclamation is probably pushing it. Although I might change it to 'shite' and see if I can get away with it.

Anyway, one of my main references, a dictionary of "buckish slang, university wit, and pickpocket eloquence" is available for download here

I did stumble across a few fun phrases I thought I might put up here, thusly:

BALUM RANCUM. A hop or dance, where the women are all prostitutes. N. B. The company dance in their birthday suits.

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.

DEADLY NEVERGREEN, that bears fruit all the year round - The gallows, or three-legged mare. See THREE-LEGGED MARE.

FART CATCHER. A valet or footman from his walking behind his master or mistress.

FUSTY LUGGS. A beastly, sluttish woman**.

GILLY GAUPUS. A Scotch term for a tall awkward fellow.


PAD BORROWERS. Horse stealers.

PISS PROPHET. A physician who judges of the diseases of his patients solely by the inspection of their urine.

WIBBLE. Bad drink.

Anyway, there are loads, go and have a look.

* I know 1811 is the nineteenth century, but it's close enough. This should in no way be seen as symbolic of my attitude to historical accuracy for the project. Although I might put robots in it, to spice it up a bit.
** Boz knows lots of these, apparently. EDIT: oops, I was thinking of Rob, sorry to besmirch your reputation Boz.


Provincial Lady said...

Brilliant. Also very Georgette Heyer - lots of 'boxing cant' used by the young sprigs of fashion. But no actual swearing, as such.

Marsha Klein said...

Didn't Jonathin Swift use 'shit' in 'A Lady's Dressing-Room'? If you see what I mean...

Valerie said...

Those 'piss prophets' didn't just inspect people's urine. They tasted it. Just sayin'.

Bowleserised said...

Was also going to suggest Heyer. Her research was so good that Sandhurst used her novel about Waterloo as a teaching aid – she was more accurate than Thackeray.
Also, she could tell when she was being plagiarised (by, I think, Barbara Cartland) because she knew that a particular slang term was ONLY used in some private papers from the period to which she was the only person who'd had access.

james henry said...

Cor, I have unlocked a veritable treasure trove of 18th century trivia and wisdom - cheers!

Heh, I borrowed some Heyer novels off my Nan when I was a teenager, because I wanted to read something, and my Nan promptly told my mum she was 'a bit worried about me'.

Am going to look up 'shit' in Swift, hurrah!

james henry said...

*seconds later*

Found it!

Bah, still, erm, 'descriptive' rather than exclamatory. Not read the poem before though, so thanks for that!

Jayne said...

I was going to suggest Heyer but see that the whole world got there before me.

One of the many bizarre experiences in my life involves discussing Georgette Heyer in Jaipur with 6 Indians who'd learnt much of their English from reading her books...

Imo said...

Please write 'wibble' into the script!