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Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue

[ 48 ] February 22, 2012 |

It’s probably been more or less proven by now that I spend my days a) finding weird stuff in the past, b) getting angry at the past, and 3) teaching my students about weird stuff or evil people in the past. And that’s more or less true, along with writing about weird stuff and evil people in the past. The advantage of having this blog platform is that now I can force more people to listen to me go on like Texas about this stuff.

And this leads me to tonight’s joy, Francis Grose’s 1811 Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue, produced by those saints at the Gutenberg Project who should all make $250,000 a year but probably make more like $2500. This is amazing. A few of these very English entries for your nightly pleasure. Actually, let’s go for an even 10.

1. “ADMIRAL OF THE NARROW SEAS. One who from drunkenness vomits into the lap of the person sitting opposite to him. SEA PHRASE.”

2. “HORSE’S MEAL. A meal without drinking.” Is this like vegetarianism or something?

3. “GAP STOPPER. A whoremaster.”

4. “HUCKLE MY BUFF. Beer, egg, and brandy, made hot.”

5. “IRISH LEGS. Thick legs, jocularly styled the Irish arms. It is said of the Irish women, that they have a dispensation from the pope to wear the thick end of their legs downwards.” There are a good number of anti-Irish bits in this.

6. “MACCARONI. An Italian paste made of flour and eggs. Also a fop: which name arose from a club, called the Maccaroni Club, instituted by some of the most dressy travelled gentlemen about town, who led the fashions; whence a man foppishly dressed, was supposed a member of that club, and by contraction styled a Maccaroni.”

7. “LOUSE LAND. Scotland.”

8. “TOKEN. The plague: also the venereal disease. She tipped him the token; she gave him a clap or pox.”

9. “MELTING MOMENTS. A fat man and woman in the amorous congress.”

10. And last, but most definitely not least: “GAYING INSTRUMENT. The penis.”

This may actually be the greatest book ever published.


Comments (48)

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  1. BrettB says:

    I remember running into the Gutenberg Project like FOREVER AGO and forgot about them until you posted this tonight.

  2. commie atheist says:

    “GAYING INSTRUMENT. The penis.”

    Thi explains everything. We are all Gay Americans now.

  3. S. Tarzan says:

    Is that why Yankee Doodle Dandy “stuck a feather in his cap/And called it macaroni”?

  4. He Dog says:

    I am a…pupil monger? Cool. Now I know!

  5. genjirama says:

    Grose, not Gose, methinks.

  6. Elizabeth GM says:

    @S. Tarzan: Yes, Americans loved mocking aristocratic European fashion — OK, well, we still do — and the Macaronis (big wigs, etc.) we’re a favorite target.


    Stannis Baratheon?

  8. McKingford says:

    So basically, is a lot older than we thought…

  9. wengler says:

    BARBER’S CHAIR. She is as common as a barber’s chair, in which a whole parish sit to be trimmed; said of a prostitute.


  10. Nathan of Perth says:

    BURNING SHAME. A lighted candle stuck into the parts of a
    woman, certainly not intended by nature for a candlestick.

    Well that’s creative.

  11. Manju says:

    It’s that the Police have used an unreasonable power; not that the Corporation has had a “right” violated.

    According to the 4th, people have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    That means the the Govt may not conduct an unreasonable search of Soros Fund Management, Inc in order to find out if the firm is trading on inside info…since George Soros retains these rights.

    Ergo, the Govt may not restrict Citizens United or the NYTimes from running ads claiming that Hillary is a FemiNazi or Santorum is a Christo-fascist. The people within these organizations retain first ammendment rights.

  12. Rohan says:

    The Straight Dope website suggested that “macaroni” was a slang term for Italian finery, so “stuck a feather in his cap/ and called it maccaroni” just meant “considered it the height of fashion”.

    It’s interesting if there is a topical reference for the term, though.

  13. c u n d gulag says:

    How about “ANKLE:”
    A girl who is got with child, is said to have sprained her ankle.

    I bet the Conservatives of that time, were against crutches and braces to help her.

    “Let that “ankle” heal on its own terms – in 9 months! Har-har!!!”

  14. S-Curve says:

    So George H. W. Bush was an Admiral of the Narrow Seas with the Japanese minister? Only with Halcion instead of grog?

  15. Halloween Jack says:

    Beer, egg, and brandy, made hot.


  16. Julia Grey says:

    Beer, egg, and brandy, made hot.


    A drink calculated to make an Admiral of the Narrow Seas of any man.

  17. Professor Fate says:

    I remember reading a copy of this years and years ago in our college’s english Department office.
    The one I remembered from the book was

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

    which I find works well discribing say David Brooks or the other sycophnats in the national press.
    thanks for reminding me of this.

  18. I wonder if Ambrose Bierce was familiar with this publication.

  19. APPLE DUMPLIN SHOP. A woman’s bosom.

  20. Steven desJardins says:

    Project Gutenberg does not produce books, they distribute books produced by others.

    A Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was produced by Distributed Proofreaders, which is an independent organization closely affiliated with PG. Nobody at DP, not even the board members or the general manager, is paid anything other than expenses. (And most of us pay our own expenses–I’ve personally spent thousands of dollars on books which I’ve scanned for PG.)

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