Book Review: A Dictionary of Victorian Slang & Phrase published in 1909!

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While browsing the internet, I found this link to Ware’s Victorian Dictionary of Slang and Phrase and thought it interesting enough to share with you. It’s fun to learn the origin of present-day slang words and phrases, and how they have changed in meaning over the decades. Note: when reading you find misspelled or incorrect grammar, this was the language of that day and not my bad spelling!

Ware’s Victorian Dictionary of Slang and Phrase is compiled and written by James Redding Ware, the pseudonym of Andrew Forrester the British writer who created one of the first female detectives in literary history in his book The Female Detective (1863). In this posthumously published volume published in 1909, Forrester turns his attention to the world of Victorian slang, in particular, that found in the city of London.

Here are some slang and phrases I found funny and interesting:

  • Got the Morbs – temporary melancholy
  • Mutton Shunter – the police
  • Batty-Fang – to thrash thoroughly
  • Doing the Bear – courting that involves hugging
  • Mafficking – getting rowdy in the streets
  • Orf Chump – no appetite
  • Poked Up – embarrassed
  • Nanty Narking – great fun (I love this one!)
  • Barbecue (Old English}. Any animal, bird, or large fish cooked whole, without cutting, from beard to tail. In America, ‘barbecue ‘ was a festival where a whole sheep is roasted.  In 1884, ‘barbecue’ in the United States represented a noisy political meeting. For example, “I see they announce a big, old fashioned barbecue to be given next week by the Brooklyn Democrats, at which Cleveland and Hendricks, Presidential candidates, are to participate.”                                                                                                             Note: Grover Cleveland and Thomas Hendricks were presidential candidates in the 1884 U.S. election.
  • Bet yer sweet life (Amer.-Engl). Perfect assurance, complete conviction.
  • Cough Drop (Peoples’, 1860 onward). Poison, or even anything disagreeable.                                                   ‘Lor’, what a cough drop she are!’ From the ominous motto used many years when the cough lozenge was associated with ‘Cough no more’ phrase.’ The gruesome double entendre here was first seen by W. Brough, who incorporated it in burlesque for when you are dead you cough no more!
    • Here are two examples of using cough drop in sentences: “Oh, he’s awful leary, a very cough drop, a genuine red hot treat, make no blooming error.”
    • “Oh, she’s a cough drop, a red hot treat, and no mistake.”
  • Haymaking (College and Army). Practical joking. A number of men go into a friend’s room, find him absent, and testify to their chagrin by disturbing the arrangements of his furniture. But haymaking of this sort is comparatively harmless and inoffensive.
  • Turf  (Street, 19 century). Prostitution. From loose women being on parade. Thence came turfer.

I hope you enjoyed this little time travel back to Victorian slang words and phrases. Read more by clicking on the Source link below.

Source: https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/a-dictionary-of-victorian-slang-1909


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