Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Glossary of Edwardian Slang

Baize – A coarse, woolen material resembling felt.

Balmy on the Crumpet – Crazy, insane.

Barnbrack (Barmbrack) – A spice cake-like bread usually made with currants.

Blackavised – Dark faced, to have a dark complexion, swarthy.

Blottesque – Blotted or blotchy.

Blotto – Drunk.

Blue Devils – To feel sad or depressed, to be in low spirits. e.g., I had the blue devils after losing the game.

Box Coat – A large, loose-fitting overcoat worn by coachmen.

Brick – Good sort, good sport.

Broomsquire – A professional broom maker.

Buck – A dandy, a smartly dressed or handsome individual.

Buffer – Old man, old codger.

Bunk – to tell someone angrily to go away–scram!; to dash or sprint away (“done the bunk”–to escape, run out on [something/one]).

Cabinet Particulier – a private room, usually associated with a restaurant and having a sofa or hidden bed, set aside for trysts by lovers and those having extra-marital affairs

Cardigan – An artilleryman from the Cardigan regiment of the Royal Garrison Artillery reserves

Carry the Banner – Tramp.

Cheeking – Taunting or jeering at.

Cheese it – Stop!, stop it!, look out!.

Chit – Derogatory term for a small or frail woman.

Cicerone – A sightseeing guide.

Clemming – Consumptive, emaciated; necessitous, in want, pinched; in shoemaking, the binding together of soles.

Clergyman’s Daughter – Slang for a prostitute or woman with loose morals.

Cockchafer – The beetle Melolontha melolontha.

Contango – A technical term from the British Stock Exchange referring to the postponing of a transfer of stock. More colloquially, it refers to the last day to negotiate a financial arrangement before accounts are settled. In slang, it refers to the day of reckoning or the last judgement.

Corner – To corner the market on something, to gain a monopoly.

Cozy Corner – An arrangement of built-in seats situated in a room’s corner or next to a fireplace.

Crammer – A person who helps students cram (intensively study) for examinations.

Crack up – Talk up, praise, laud.

Crikey – An exclamation equivalent to Oh My! or Well Then!

Croaker – Doomsayer, complainer.

Cropper (come a cropper) – A hard fall (esp. from a horse); usually used in “come a cropper,” meaning to come to ruin or to fail miserably.

Crossing – A fight, especially a clandestine prize fight.

Cut it or Cutting it – escape, take off, take a vacation.

Dead-and-Alive – Dead quiet, dull, sleepy.

Dog Cart – a two-wheeled vehicle of often simple design and decoration drawn by a smallish horse or a pony.

Doss – A bed or to sleep. Also see on the doss.

Doss House – A cheap lodging house. Also see on the doss.

Down – To be critical.

Drugget – A floor covering made of a coarse fabric.

Fallalish – Pertaining to an article of clothing or piece of dress that is excessively showy or fancy (from fallal).

Fast – Extravagant, wild.

Fieldfare – A thrush, Turdus pilaris, related to the European blackbird. In summer it has a brown breast, brown back, white underwings, and grey head. Its winter plumage is mainly grey in color.

Finnan Haddie – Smoked haddock.

Fizz – Champagne.

Flash – Showy, gaudy, vulgar.

Footle – Nonsense; to talk nonsense or to waste time.

French – To be French is to be disingenuous or unserious.

Frou-frou – The rustling or swish of a dress or gown.

Fuddled – To become befuddled or drunk.

Furze – Also known as gorse or whin. A shrub, Ulex europeaeus, which grows 4 feet in height and bears yellow flowers.

Gallipot – A small, covered earthenware pot.

Gas – Boasting; idle or nonsensical talk.

Gibbous – humpbacked; convex; used to describe the moon when its phase is more than half but less than full.

Gloaming – Twilight or dusk.

Gorse – See furze.

Gradley (Graidley) – Thoroughly, greatly.

Grangerised – Adding material (especially pictures) collected from other sources to an existing book; extra-illustrated.

Greenwood – A form of woodworking which uses freshly-cut wood and specializes in bending the wood into curved shapes for chairs, bows, and ornamental objects; a vivid green wood used in making ornamental objects.

Grig – Grasshopper or cricket. Often seen in the phrase “merry as a grig,” meaning ecstatic or jumping for joy.

Got the Chuck – Fired from a job, discharged from a position, dismissed.

Got the Hump – Put out, annoyed, irritated. e.g., He has got the hump over it.

Hanger – A copse or wooded area on the side of a steep hill.

Hap – Luck; happenstance.

Heart-whole – Not in love.

Heliograph – A device which sends messages (usually in morse code) by means of flashes of reflected sunlight.

Highball – Whiskey and water (Am Eng).

Hoarding – A display case or area to place advertisements or advertised products; a wooden fence or barrier.

Hook it – Escape, run away, get away.

Hop the Wag – Play truant from school.

Hoyden – A boisterous girl or young woman.

Hummock – A knoll, small hill, or mound of earth.

Hussar – A light cavalryman.

Ichabod – An exclamation equivalent to “By God!,” “How terrible!,” or “What a shame!” Usage is derived from the biblical name in 1 Samuel, meaning no glory or the glory is gone.

Isinglass – A gelatin made from fish, usually sturgeon

Jackdaw – A crow.

Jipper – To baste; meat broth, gravy, drippings.

Josser – A fool, a fellow.

Juggins – A simpleton.

Jump – Liveliness.

Jumping Jesus – A zealot or fanatic.

Keep Your Hair on! – a command not to get excited, equivalent to “Keep your hat on!”

Kip – Place to sleep.

Kipping – Sleeping.

Knut – An idle upper-class man-about-town.

Kopje – Afrikaans word for a small hill, especially one with steep sides.

Limber – Horse-drawn, two-wheeled wagon used to transport artillery pieces; the action of transporting artillery pieces in a limber; the driver of a limber.

Linctus – in medicine it refers to a medicinal preparation or mixture.

Leash (of animals) – Three or threesome.

Lorgnettes – Opera glasses.

Mahout – In India, an elephant driver.

Mar – A cripple.

Miry – Swampy, muddy.

Moithered – To be agitated, flustered, or perturbed, especially by a noisy crowd.

Mumchance – Silent, dumbstruck.

Munge – To chew or chop into a mixture; to get into or cause a bad situation, to make a mess of things.

Nap – A form of the card game whist.

Nasty Jar – A bad or sticky situation.

Nebuchadnezzar Phase – A drunken episode, a drinking bout. Derived from the name given the largest container of champagne–a Nebuchadnezzar–which held 20 quarts or 15 liters.

Nesh – Frail; tender, especially as regards susceptibility to the cold.

Night-jar – A bird, Caprimulgus europaeus, with gray-brown plumage and white wings. Also known as the goatsucker.

Nuclear Spot – Central location.

Oast – An oven for drying hops or malt.

Off his Chump – Insane, crazy.

Off his Onion – Mad, crazy.

On the Doss – On the tramp, vagabondage.

Osier – A small willow tree whose branches are often used in basket making, Salix viminalis.

Padding the Hoof – Walking.

Palanquin – In India, a sedan chair used by British colonials, especially women, of rank. It was either carried by men or set atop an elephant.

Paling – A fence, specifically the upright components of a fence–especially wooden pickets.

Pantechnicon – A furniture moving truck.

Peg – A soup kitchen, a place where free meals are given out.

Pettish – Peevish.

Pipe off – Lose interest in something, especially a lover.

Pippin – An outstanding person; a variety of apple.

Pother – To bother or worry; a fuss, confusion.

Pooterism – A middle-class obsession with respectability and class distinctions; social pretentiousness, pettiness. The term is derived from Charles Pooter who is the main character in The Diary of a Nobody (1892) by George and Weedon Grossmith.

Rag – A rowdy event or celebration; a prant; the act of teasing or scolding.

Ragger – Someone who is noisy or riotous; a conspicuous troublemaker.

Razzle-dazzle – A spree, to go carousing; to womanize.

Reach-me-down – Used, as in a reach-me-down piece of clothing; equivalent to hand-me-down

Repining – Chagrin; regret; bitterness; yearning.

Rinking – Roller skating.

Roly-poly – A pudding made by rolling jam within a sheet of suet pastry which is then baked.

Sack – Cheap wine.

Satinette – Gin.

Scorching – Speeding, racing; exceeding the speed limit in a motor car.

Scraper – A boot scraper.

Screwed – Drunk, intoxicated.

Semi-classical – A euphemism for semi-nude, often used when describing art.

Settle – A bench or chair with a high back.

Shambles – A slaughterhouse or butcher shop.

Shandy-gaff – A combination of ale and ginger beer.

Shaping – Working oneself into a state of excitement over something; preparing.

Siphon – Short for siphon bottle, a bottle holding aerated or soda water.

Skilly – A concoction of three parts oatmeal stirred into three and one-half buckets of hot water. It was a staple of the diet in workhouses.

Skittle – A form of ninepins; one of the pins knocked down in the game.

Slavey – A maid of all work.

Slinging my Hook – Running away, escaping. Also hook it.

Sluice – A wash, to bathe.

Snuggery – A comfortable, cozy, snug room or place.

Spasammy – Offhand, casual, cavalier.

Spavined – Deteriorated, in disrepair; in medicine it refers to swelling.

Spike – The casual ward of a workhouse.

Spoil-five – A card game probably of Irish origin. After an initial bet, each player is dealt five cards and seeks to win three of five tricks. The winner gets the pot. If no one wins, the game is called “spoiled” and a new initial bet is added to the existing pot before the next deal.

Stash it – Royal Navy slang for “be quiet”, eqivalent to “stow it.”

Stashing it up – causing a commotion or tumult.

Sticking – Hockey.

Stylograph – A fountain pen which has a point instead of a split nib.

Sub – An advance on one’s pay.

Taken the Knock – To be betrayed or jilted by a lover.

Tiled – Included in, covered with guilt or responsibility; in the same situation. e.g., We are all tiled in this mess.

Toerag – A bum or vagrant.

Tommy – Food.

Top-Hole – First class, first rate, the very best.

Tosh – Rubbish, nonsense.

Trap – A two-wheeled carriage often pulled by a pony and called a “pony trap” or a “pony and trap”

Trump – An outstanding person.

Tumbled – To get to the bottom of, discover the truth of, concluded the facts of a mystery or situtation. e.g., He tumbled to the truth of the matter.

Wag his Pow – To wag one’s tongue, to babble, to jabber, to rattle on.

Wagonette – A four-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage often having facing benches or seats in the rear.

What Priced Head Have you? – Roughly means “How severe is your hangover?”

Whin – See furze.

White Satin – Gin.

Wrangler – A debater; at the University of Cambridge, one of those who have attained the first grade in the second (until 1909 in the first) part of the examination for honors in mathematics. Until 1909, the student attaining the highest marks was called the senior wrangler.

Yarning – Inextricable.

Zenana – In India, the apartment set aside for women in the household.


Deevie – Divine.

Expie – Expensive.

Fittums – What a perfect fit!

Indy – Indigestion.

Man-man – A royal personage.

Nightie – Nightgown.

Teagie – Tea gown.

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