Monday, March 18, 2013

2NHG Library: A Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue

Monday, March 18, 2013
Print edition
Loretta reports:

I’ve posted before about Francis Grose, whose slang dictionary (under various titles) is a part of many Regency-era writers’ collections.  A couple of different print editions (including the splendid one edited by Eric Partridge) sit on my bookshelves, and the online editions at Google Books make it available for free to anybody with an internet connection.  Recently, author Candice Hern let us know on Facebook that it was available as a free download for Kindle.

While not for the missish, squeamish, or politically correct, it’s highly enlightening.  As well as the bawdiness and scatological humor one expects —and which gradually goes deeper underground as we move further into the Regency, Romantic, and Victorian eras—we find a number of surprises.

Some terms that sound very modern appear, other familiar terms have changed their meaning slightly over the years.  And of course, there’s the plain fun of language used inventively or learning about old forms of humor, like Bargain.

Could my hero save somebody’s bacon?
Could my villain warn his associates to cheese it?” 
Could one of his accomplices land in the clink?
Would any of the characters refer to clothes as duds
What if my heroine threatened to darken the hero’s daylights

I invite you to peruse one of the editions, pick a term that tickles your fancy, and share it with us.  1811 edition here.     1823 (third edition, edited by Pierce Egan) here


Susan Bailey said...

Not politically correct you say? Ah, then it must be refreshingly candid!

Anonymous said...

We used to say "cheese it" when I was a child in Connecticut. Didn't know it was such an old warning.

Gaelicark said...

It's funny~ I use "GUMPTION" all the time with my children, but the meaning is the complete opposite of what it was!

Then (1811): Docility, comprehension, capacity.

Now (2013): Initiative; aggressiveness; resourcefulness.

Deb said...

Love this book! - I have the same one you picture here. I always liked the term "the blue devils" - Heyer uses it all the time [means "low spirits"] - you can also find the dictionary online here:

Thanks as always for brightening one's day!

Anonymous said...

We love Francis Grose! We especially enjoy when he takes aim at antiquarians, like this:

T.H. Gray, Director-Curator
American Hysterical Society

Cessa said...

Weirdly enough, I remember my dad's char lady, Mrs. Wilmot, used many of these phrases. This was in the 70's and she was quite ancient, but fond of daddy and he couldn't fire her. She was born in Southwark in the 1890's.

Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket