In 1859, The Vulgar Tongue was published, written by Ducange Anglicus. This is clearly a pseudonym, but the author’s real identity is unknown. The book is subtitled A Glossary of Slang, Cant, and Flash Words and Phrases, Used in London, from 1839 to 1859. A lot of the entries are simply cockney rhyming slang (in fact, this book is probably the most useful source for studying the early development of this form of slang), but more interesting in my opinion is the enormous variety of slang terms that have fallen out of usage nowadays (if any of these are familiar to anyone as still being in use, please comment below!) Here is a selection of some choice slang from the early-mid 19th Century:
“Amputate your mahogany”: be off, be gone.
“Belcher”: a silk pocket handkerchief of striped pattern.
“Black Ointment”: pieces of raw meat.
“Blow your hide out”: have a good meal.
“Blue pigeon flying”: stealing lead off the houses.
“Blunt”: money. “Got any blunt?”
“Bonnet him”: knock his hat over his eyes.
“Boozing Ken”: drinking shop.
“Buttoner”: one who entices another to play.
“Cant of togs”: gift of clothes.
“Can’t see a hole thro’ a ladder”: being nearly drunk.
“Church a Yack”: to have the works of the watch put into another case to prevent detection.
“Croppie”: one who has had his hair cut in prison.
“Ebony optics”: black eyes.
“First of May”: tongue.
“Halftusherroon”: half a crown.
“Hop the Twig”: to go away.
“Lap the gutter”: getting drunk.
“Mully-grubs”: pain in the stomach.
“Pilcher of fogles”: a stealer of pocket handkerchiefs.
“Sky-scraper”: tall man.
“Smeller”: a blow on the nose.
“Stall your mug”: to go home, or to take shelter.
“Upper Benjamins”: Over-coats.
“Voyage of Discovery”: going out stealing.
“Wobbleshop”: where beer is sold without a licence.
Coming soon on Windows into History: a series of Christmas History articles. There is not quite enough time before the end of this month to cover another travel journal in sufficient depth, so there will instead be a few more ‘snippet’ articles for the rest of November. If you would like to be kept informed of new posts on Windows into History, please click the ‘follow’ button on the right of the screen.