Saturday, 17 April 2010

Rough talk

American authors Brett and Kate Mackay have written a book about The Art of Manliness and have included examples of manly vernacular from the nineteenth century. Here are some of them:

Admiral of the Red: A person whose very red face evinces a fondness for strong potations.
Bellows to Mend: A person out of breath; especially a pugilist is said to be “bellows to mend” when winded.
Blind Monkeys: An imaginary collection at the Zoological Gardens, which are supposed to receive care and attention from persons fitted by nature for such office and for little else. An idle and useless person is often told that he is only fit to lead the Blind Monkeys to evacuate. Another form this elegant conversation takes is for one man to tell another that he knows of a suitable situation for him. “How much a week? and what to do?” are natural questions, and then comes the scathing and sarcastic reply, “Five bob a week at the doctor’s— you’re to stand behind the door and make the patients sick. They won’t want no physic when they sees your mug.”
Blinker: A blackened eye. Also a hard blow in the eye.
Bone Box: The mouth. Shut your bone box; shut your mouth.
Bully Trap: A brave man with a mild or effeminate appearance, by whom the bullies are frequently taken in.
Bunch Of Fives: The fist. Pugilistic. [still in use]
Cat-heads. A woman’s breasts. Sea phrase.
Colt’s Tooth. Elderly persons of juvenile tastes are said to have a Colt’s Tooth, i.e., a desire to shed their teeth once more, to live life over again.
Drumstick cases: pants
Earth Bath: a grave.
Eternity Box: A coffin.
Fart Catcher: A valet or footman, from his walking behind his master or mistress.
Fimble-Famble: A lame, prevaricating excuse.
Fizzing: First-rate, very good, excellent; synonymous with “stunning.”
Flag of Distress: Any overt sign of poverty; the end of a person’s shirt when it protrudes through his trousers.
Floorer: A blow sufficiently strong to knock a man down, or bring him to the floor. Often used in reference to sudden and unpleasant news.
Follow-me-lads: Curls hanging over a lady’s shoulder.
Gentleman of Four Outs: When a vulgar, blustering fellow asserts that he is a gentleman, the retort generally is, ” Yes, a Gentleman Of Four Outs”—that is, without wit, without money, without credit, and without manners.
Go By The Ground: A little short person, man or woman.
Gunpowder: An old woman.
Half-mourning: To have a black eye from a blow. As distinguished from "whole-mourning”, two black eyes.
Heavy Wet: Malt liquor—because the more a man drinks of it, the heavier and more stupid he becomes.
How’s Your Poor Feet!: An idiotic street cry with no meaning, much in vogue a few years back.
Keep a Pig: An Oxford University phrase, which means to have a lodger. A man whose rooms contain two bedchambers has sometimes, when his college is full, to allow the use of one of them to a Freshman, who is called under these circumstances a PIG. The original occupier is then said to Keep A Pig.
Ladder: “Can’t see a hole in a Ladder,” said of any one who is intoxicated. It was once said that a man was never properly drunk until he could not lie down without holding, could not see a hole through a Ladder, or went to the pump to light his pipe.
Monkey with a Long Tail: A mortgage.
Muckender: A pocket handkerchief, snottinger. Nose-ender. A straight blow delivered full on the nasal promontory.
Nose in the Manger: To put one’s nose in the manger, to sit down to eat. To “put on the nose-bag” is to eat hurriedly, or to eat while continuing at work.
Perpendicular: A lunch taken standing-up at a tavern bar. It is usual to call it lunch, often as the Perpendicular may take the place of dinner.
Pot-hunter: A man who gives his time up to rowing or punting, or any sort of match in order to win the “pewters” which are given as prizes. The term is now much used in aquatic and athletic circles; and is applied, in a derogatory sense, to men of good quality who enter themselves in small races they are almost sure to win, and thus deprive the juniors of small trophies which should be above the attention of champions, though valuable to beginners. Also an unwelcome guest, who manages to be just in time for dinner.
Sneeze-lurker: A thief who throws snuff in a person’s face, and then robs him.
Rumbumptious: Haughty, pugilistic.
Rusty Guts: A blunt, rough, old fellow.
Saucebox: A pert young person, in low life also signifies the mouth.
Saw Your Timber: Be off!” equivalent to “cut your stick.” Occasionally varied, with mock refinement, to “amputate your mahogany.”
Scandal-water: Tea; from old maids’ tea-parties being generally a focus for scandal.
Sit-upons: Trousers.
Smeller: The nose; “a blow on the Smeller” is often to be found in pugilistic records.
Sober-water: A jocular allusion to the uses of soda-water.
Tune the Old Cow Died of: An epithet for any ill-played or discordant piece of music.


Lynn said...

Thank you for these, Tony.

I am suitably armed now for any and all random verbal anarchy.

Off I go to try them out...

Tony said...

Lynn: Just as well I omitted the really lewd ones, then.