MEEThinks   August 13, 2015   6 Comments on VICTORIAN SLANG

I came across this piece from MENTAL FLOSS and got quite a kick out of it. It seems that a man named Andrew Forrester published a book (Passing English of the Victorian era, a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase) [that’s quite a title!] under the pseudonym James Redding Ware. He felt that thousands of words and phrases had “drifted away.” He captured many hilarious words and phrases, and “Mental Floss” has NO idea how they EVER fell out of fashion! They propose bringing them back!  They feel we should be using them!  ENJOY! (And good luck if you try using any of them; I like some a lot better than others).

Victorian Slang

AFTERNOONIFIED –A society word meaning “smart.” Forrester demonstrates the usage: “The goods are not ‘afternoonified’ enough for me.”

BAGS O’ MYSTERY – An 1850 term for sausages, “because no man but the maker knows what is in them. … The ‘bag’ refers to the gut which contained the chopped meat.”

BANG UP TO THE ELEPHANT – This phrase originated in London in 1882, and means “perfect, complete, unapproachable.”

BATTY-FANG – Low London phrase meaning “to thrash thoroughly,” possibly from the French battre a fin.

BOW WOW MUTTON – A naval term referring to meat so bad “it might be dog flesh.”

BRICKY – Brave or fearless. “Adroit after the manner of a brick,” Forrester writes, “said even of the other sex, ‘What a bricky girl she is.’”

BUBBLE AROUND – A verbal attack, generally made via the press. Forrester cites The Golden Butterfly: “I will back a first-class British subject for bubbling around against all humanity.”

BUTTER UPON BACON – Extravagance. Too much extravagance. “Are you going to put lace over the feather, isn’t that rather butter upon bacon?”

CAT-LAP – A London society term for tea and coffee “used scornfully by drinkers of beer and strong waters … in club-life is one of the more ignominious names given to champagne by men who prefer stronger liquors.”

CHURCH-BELL – A talkative woman.

CHUCKABOO – A nickname given to a close friend.

COLLIE SHANGLES – Quarrels. A term from Queen Victoria’s journal, More Leavespublished in 1884: “At five minutes to eleven rode off with Beatrice, good Sharp going with us, and having occasional collie shangles (a Scottish word for quarrels or rows, but taken from fights between dogs) with collies when we came near cottages.”

COP A MOUSE – To get a black eye. “Cop in this sense is to catch or suffer,” Forrester writers, “while the colour of the obligation at its worst suggests the colour and size of the innocent animal named.”

DADDLES – A delightful way to refer to your rather boring hands.

DIZZY AGE – A phrase meaning “elderly,” because it “makes the spectator giddy to think of the victim’s years.” The term is usually refers to “a maiden or other woman canvassed by other maiden ladies or others.”

DOING THE BEAR – “Courting that involves hugging.”

DON’T SELL ME A DOG – Popular until 1870, this phrase meant “Don’t lie to me!” Apparently, people who sold dogs back in the day were prone to trying to pass off mutts as purebreds.

DOOR-KNOCKER – A type of beard “formed by the cheeks and chin being shaved leaving a chain of hair under the chin, and upon each side of mouth forming with moustache something like a door-knocker.”

ENTHUZIMUZZY – “Satirical reference to enthusiasm.” Created by Braham the terror, whoever that is.

FIFTEEN PUZZLE – Not the game you might be familiar with, but a term meaning complete and absolute confusion.

FLY RINK – An 1875 term for a polished bald head.

GAS-PIPES – A term for especially tight pants.

GIGGLEMUG – “An habitually smiling face.”

GOT THE MORBS – Use of this 1880 phrase indicated temporary melancholy.

KRUGER-SPOOF – Lying, from 1896.

MAD AS HOPS – Excitable.

MAFFICKING – An excellent word that means getting rowdy in the streets.

MAKE A STUFFED BIRD LAUGH – “Absolutely preposterous.”

MEATER – A street term meaning coward.

MIND THE GREASE – When walking or otherwise getting around, you could ask people to let you pass, please. Or you could ask them to mind the grease, which meant the same thing to Victorians.

MUTTON SHUNTER – This 1883 term for a policeman is so much better than “pig.” (FEI requests that you not use this term on her and thanks you for your courtesy)

NANTY NARKING – A tavern term, popular from 1800 to 1840, that meant great fun.

NOSE BAGGER – Someone who takes a day trip to the beach. He brings his own provisions and doesn’t contribute at all to the resort he’s visiting.

ORF CHUMP – No appetite.

PARISH PICK-AXE – A prominent nose.

PODSNAPPERY – This term, Forrester writers, describes a person with a “wilful determination to ignore the objectionable or inconvenient, at the same time assuming airs of superior virtue and noble resignation.”

POKED UP – Embarrassed.

RAIN NAPPER – An umbrella.

SAUCE-BOX – The mouth.

SHAKE A FLANNIN – Why say you’re going to fight when you could say you’re going to shake a flannin instead?

SHOOT INTO THE BROWN – To fail. According to Forrester, “The phrase takes its rise from rifle practice, where the queer shot misses the black and white target altogether, and shoots into the brown i.e., the earth butt.”

SKILAMALINK – Secret, shady, doubtful.

SUGGESTIONIZE – A legal term from 1889 meaning “to prompt.”

TAKE THE EGG – To win.

UMBLE-CUM-STUMBLE – According to Forrester, this low class phrase means “thoroughly understood.”

WHOOPERUPS – A term meaning “inferior, noisy singers” that could be used liberally today during karaoke sessions.




6 thoughts on “VICTORIAN SLANG

  1. Kate

    I was at choir rehearsal just before reading this (we are all NOT whooperups, I’ll have you know!), and I must say that I was so poked up there because I kept dropping things: (my music binder, my cane, etc)! But, now I come home to this bang up to the elephant post from such a gigglemug as yourself, and it TOTALLY made my night! 🙂

  2. Janet Kerr

    I was looking at this list again and realized I forgot the dash in my new nickname, “Church-Bell” (a talkative woman – you must admit it’s about as accurate as it gets). That reminded me of a talk I’ve heard and thought I had a copy of but can’t find: “Don’t Forget the Dash”. It’s about how we live a certain number of years, represented by 1921-1982, and the dash represents our whole lives. Is it one of yours or does it sound familiar to you? I’ve tried googling it to no avail. It’s an excellent talk if you ever get a chance to listen to it. If it is one of your, thanks! CB (shortened version)

      1. Janet Kerr

        Thanks! Found it online. Didn’t remember it being a poem. My mind these days. Pfff… Shared it on my FB page. Take care and have a great day!


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