Friday, February 24, 2012

The Dictionary Of The Vulgar Tongue

The mistresses of a brothel were known as "Abesses

Now you too can recognize an 'abbess' from  a  'yellow boy'!

Penned by soldier Francis Grose, and a runaway success when first published in 1811, the "Dictionary Of The Vulgar Tongue" can now be viewed online. Here are some of the London Telegraph's favorites:


ABBESS: Mistress of a brothel.

BABES IN THE WOOD: Criminals in stocks or pillory.

BLIND CUPID: Backside.

BOB TAIL: Lewd woman. Also an impotent man or a eunuch.

BREAD AND BUTTER FASHION: One upon the other. "John and his maid were caught lying bread and butter fashion."

CAT: Common prostitute.
Drawing of street Prostitutes, London
COLD PIG: Punishment inflicted on "sluggards" who lie too long in bed — pulling off all the bedclothes and throwing cold water on them.

COW-HEARTED: Fearful.

DOCK: Lie with a woman.

DUGS: Woman's breasts.

ELBOW SHAKER: A dice player.


GLAZIER: Someone who breaks windows to steal goods for sale.

GOSPEL SHOP: Church.

HEMPEN WIDOW: One whose husband was hanged.

HOYDON: Romping girl.

INEXPRESSIBLES: Breeches.

JOLLY: The head.

KING'S PICTURES: Coin, money.

LEFT-HANDED WIFE: Concubine. Based on an ancient German custom where, when a man married his concubine, or a woman greatly his inferior, he gave her his left hand.

Not-so-secret-This cartoon is a depiction of the Morganatic marriage between the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Fitzherbert in 1785.
NOISY DOG RACKET: Stealing brass knockers from doors.

OVEN: Great mouth.

PIECE: Wench. A girl who is more or less active and skilful in the amorous congress.

POISONED: Big with child.

QUEER PLUNGERS: Cheats who throw themselves into the water in order that they may be taken up by their accomplices, who carry them to one of the houses appointed by the Humane Society for the recovery of drowned persons, where they are rewarded by the society with a guinea.

RESURRECTION MEN: Persons employed by the students in anatomy to steal dead bodies out of churchyards.
"Grave shields" like the patented design above, and "burial safes" like the one patented below, were expensive.  Grave sites were commonly robbed, for scientific research on body parts.  Families protected their loved ones if they could afford to do so.


Body snatchers were known as "Resurrection Men"
RUM DOXY: Fine wench.

SHOOT THE CAT: Vomit from excess of liquor.

SHY COCK: One who keeps within doors for fear of bailiffs.

SNOOZING KEN: Brothel.

STRIP ME NAKED: Gin.

TIT: Horse or smart little girl.

TWIDDLE-DIDDLES: Testicles.

TWIDDLE POOP: Effeminate-looking fellow.

UNLICKED CUB: Rude, uncouth young fellow.

VAMPER: Stockings.
Stockings were known as "Vampers"


WINDOW PEEPER: Collector of window tax.

XANTIPPE: Socrates's wife, a shrew or scolding wife.

YELLOW BOYS: Guineas.

ZEDLAND: Great part of the West Country where the letter Z is substituted for S.