Snippets 167. Francis Grose (1731-1791) was a noted antiquarian who wrote a series of books about medieval antiquities. Financial difficulties inspired him to branch out into other areas of writing, and in 1785 his A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was published. Slang was a good choice of topic, as it would be entertaining and have a wide appeal. However, it stands as a useful record of the language in the 18th Century beyond the formal language studied by lexicographers. Previously we looked at some selected terms from letters A to F, so let’s continue with some examples beginnning with G and H, chosen (in the spirit of the original publication) for entertainment value as much as anything.
Gammon: to humbug, to deceive, to tell lies. What rum gammon the old file pitched to the flat (how finely the knowing old fellow humbugged the fool).
Garret, or upper story: the head. His garret, or upper story is empty, or unfurnished.
Gawkey: a tall, thin, awkward young man or woman.
Gentleman’s companion: a louse.
German duck: half a sheep’s head, boiled with onions.
Gingambobs: toys, bawbles.
Glass eyes: a nickname for one wearing spectacles.
Glimflashy: angry, or in a passion.
Gluepot: a parson, from joining men and women together in matrimony.
Go by the Ground: a little short person, man or woman.
Gollumpus: a large, clumsy fellow.
Gollup up: to drink down quickly.
Green gown: to give a girl a green gown (to tumble her on the grass, and pick the pins out of her frock).
Grimalkin: a cat.
Grog-blossom: a carbuncle, or pimple on the face, caused by drinking.
Grumbletonian: a discontented person, one who is always railing at the times or ministry.
Haddock: a purse. A haddock stuffed with beans (i.e. a purse full of gold).
Hang an A*se: to hang back, hesitate.
Hard at his A*se: close after him.
Hatchway: the mouth.
Head rails: teeth.
Hearty Choak: he will have a hearty choak and caper sauce for breakfast (he will be hanged).
Hertfordshire Kindness: drinking twice to the same person.
Hobbledygee: a pace between a walk and a run, a dog-trot.
Hob or Nob: will you hob or nob with me? A question formerly in fashion at polite tables, signifying a request or challenge to drink a glass of wine with the proposer.
Hoddy Doddy, all A*se and no Body: a short, clumsy person, either male or female.
Hodmandods: snails in their shells.
Hog Grubber: a mean, stingy fellow.
Hop-O’-My-Thumb: a diminutive person, man or woman. She was such a hop-o’-my-thumb, that a pigeon, sitting on her shoulder, might peck a pea out of her a*se.
Hopper A*sed: having large projecting buttocks.
Hop the Twig: to run away.
Hugger Mugger: by stealth, privately, without making an appearance. They spent their money in a hugger mugger way.
Hyp or Hip: a mode of calling to anyone passing by. Hip, Michael, your head’s on fire (a piece of vulgar wit to a red haired man).
I would imagine that last one wore thin pretty quickly for 18th Century redheads.
With apologies for the vulgarities. They made me laugh.
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