200 Year Old Vulgar Dictionary is a Modern HitWe all know that the primary use of dictionaries is in the looking up of naughty words. So it makes perfect sense that dictionaries would eventually be published leaving out all the non rude parts and being solely dedicated to the profane and offensive.

In 1785 author and military captain Francis Grose released his ‘A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue’. It details much of the slang of the time and offers modern readers an interesting new look at the lifestyles of the people of the day.

The book went through a number of revisions with Grose (aptly named for his weight) being assisted by a number of scholars including Tom Cocking, Hell-Fire Dick and the less excitingly named James Gordon. The 1811 edition is a much bigger work and has recently been made available for free at Project Gutenberg.

It is quite interesting to see that some of the words are still in use today such as ‘pig’ in referring to a policeman, ‘quack’ for an unqualified doctor and ‘shag’ for copulation. Or maybe even the slang for a shark: A Sea Lawyer.

Here’s a sample of some of the best words:

ABBESS: Mistress of a house of ill fame.
A HOUSE OF ILL FAME: A brothel.
ACE OF SPADES: A widow.
ADMIRAL OF THE NARROW SEAS: One who from drunkenness vomits into the lap of the person sitting opposite him.
ANCHOR: Bring your a-se to an anchor i.e. sit down.
ANGLING FOR FARTHINGS: Begging out of a prison window with a cap, or box, let down at the end of a long string.
APPLE DUMPLING SHOP: A woman’s bosom.
BABES IN THE WOOD: Criminals in stocks or pillory.
BLIND CUPID: Backside.
BOB TAIL: Lewd woman. Also an impotent man or a eunuch.
BOG LANDER: An Irishman; Ireland being famous for its large bogs
BOG TROTTER: The same.
BREAD AND BUTTER FASHION: One upon the other. “John and his maid were caught lying bread and butter fashion.”
CACKLER: A hen.
CACKLING FARTS: Eggs.
COLD PIG: Punishment inflicted on “sluggards” who lie too long in bed – pulling off all the bedclothes and throwing cold water on them.
COW-HEARTED: Fearful.
DOCK: Lie with a woman.
DUGS: Woman’s breasts.
ELBOW SHAKER: A dice player.
FLASH THE HASH: Vomit.
FRENCH LEAVE: A saying frequently applied to persons who have run away from their creditors.
GLAZIER: Someone who breaks windows to steal goods for sale.
GOLDFINCH: One who has commonly a purse full of gold.
GOLLUMPUS: A large clumsy fellow.
GOSPEL SHOP: Church.
HEMPEN WIDOW: One whose husband was hanged.
HOYDON: Romping girl.
INEXPRESSIBLES: Breeches.
KING’S PICTURES: Coin, money.
LEFT-HANDED WIFE: Concubine. Based on an ancient German custom where, when a man married his concubine, or a woman greatly his inferior, he gave her his left hand.
NOISY DOG RACKET: Stealing brass knockers from doors.
OVEN: Great mouth.
PIECE: Wench. A girl who is more or less active and skilful in the amorous congress.
POISONED: Big with child.
QUEER AS DICK’S HATBAND: Out of order, without knowing one’s disease.
QUEER PLUNGERS: Cheats who throw themselves into the water in order that they may be taken up by their accomplices, who carry them to one of the houses appointed by the Humane Society for the recovery of drowned persons, where they are rewarded by the society with a guinea.
RESURRECTION MEN: Persons employed by the students in anatomy to steal dead bodies out of churchyards.
RUM DOXY: Fine wench.
SCANDAL BROTH: Tea.
SH-T-NG THROUGH THE TEETH: Vomiting. Hark ye, friend, have you got a padlock on your a-se, that you sh-te through your teeth?
SHOOT THE CAT: Vomit from excess of liquor: Called, also, catting.
SHY COCK: One who keeps within doors for fear of bailiffs.
SNOOZING KEN: Brothel.
STRIP ME NAKED: Gin.
TIT: Horse or smart little girl.
TWIDDLE-DIDDLES: Testicles.
TWIDDLE POOP: Effeminate-looking fellow.
UNLICKED CUB: Rude, uncouth young fellow.
VAMPER: Stockings.
WASP: An infected prostitute, who, like a wasp, carries a sting in her tail.
WINDOW PEEPER: Collector of window tax.
XANTIPPE: Socrates’s wife, a shrew or scolding wife.
YELLOW BOYS: Guineas.

By Lewis Roe

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