by Holly West
This post originally appeared on my own blog on December 11, 2009. I've updated it here to include a few more amusing terms.
I've collected a lot of great reference books in my research for the Mistress of Fortune series (it's set in 17th century London), but by far my favorite is A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Captain Francis Grose. First published in 1785, it is a collection of slang words from all corners of society.
Here are a few of the entertaining words and expressions found in this volume:
Bum fodder - Toilet paper
Beard splitter - A man given to "wenching"
Captain Queernabs - A shabby, ill-dressed fellow
Cast up one's accounts - To vomit
Dog's soup - Rain water
Fart catcher - A valet or footman, from his walking behind his master or mistress
Flogging Cully - One who hires girls to flog him on the posteriors, in order to procure an erection
Gobble Prick - A lustful woman
Hopper Arsed - One with large, projecting buttocks
Join Giblets - Said of a man and woman who co-habit as husband and wife without being married; also to copulate
Kettle Drums - A woman's breasts
Lazybones - An instrument like a pair of tongs, for old or very fat people, to take something from the ground without stooping
Mantrap - a woman's private parts
Marriage music - The squalling and crying of children
Nunnery - A whorehouse
Poisoned - Pregnant, big with child
Roast meat clothes - Sunday or holiday clothes
Queen Street - A man governed by his wife is said to live in Queen Street
Soul doctor - A parson
Stallion - A man kept by an old lady for "secret services."
Thingumbobs, Whirlygigs, Gingambobs - Testicles
Wap - To copulate
Wool gathering - Said to an absent-minded person, or one in reverie, as in "Your wits are gone a'wool gathering."
One thing that's also interesting about the dictionary is to see how many of the words we still use whose meanings are more or less the same as they were over 200 years ago. Expressions like elbow grease, gift of gab, hodge podge, hush money, quack, ragamuffin, white lie, and ship shape were all used during this time.
Personally, I'd like to see terms like bum fodder, Captain Queernabs, flogging cully, and dog's soup come back into common usage. Let's make that happen.