Snippets 179. 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 H, so let’s continue with some examples beginnning with I, J and K, chosen (in the spirit of the original publication) for entertainment value as much as anything.
Idea-pot: the knowledge-box, the head.
Inkle weavers: supposed to be a very brotherly set of people; “as great as two inkle weavers” being a proverbial saying.
Irish Legs: thick legs, jocularly styled the Irish arms. It is said of the Irish women, that they have dispensation from the Pope to wear the thick end of their legs downwards.
Island: he drank out of the bottle until he saw the island; the island is the rising bottom of a wine-bottle, which appears like an island in the centre, before the bottle is quite empty.
Jack Nasty Face: a sea term, signifying a common sailor.
Jack of Legs: a tall long-legged man.
Jack Weight: a fat man.
Jarkmen: those who fabricate counterfeit passes, licences, and certificates, for beggars.
Jawing Tackle on the Board: to be saucy or impudent.
Jerrycummumble: to shake, towzle, or tumble about.
Jingle Brains: a wild, thoughtless, rattling fellow.
Jobbernole: the head
Johnny-Raw: a gawky countryman; as stupid as a waggon-horse.
Jumblegut-Lane: a rough road or lane.
Kent-Street Ejectment: to take away the street door: a method practiced by the landlords in Kent-Street, Southwark, where their tennants are above a fortnight’s rent in arrear.
Kidrig: meeting a child in the streets, who is going on some errand, and, by a false, but well fabricated, story, obtaining any parcel or goods it may be carrying… to kid a person out of a thing, is to obtain it from him by a false pretence.
Kinchin: a little child. Kinchin coves: orphan beggar boys, educated in thieving.
Kissing crust: that part where the loaves have touched the oven.
Kiss mine a*se: an offer, as Fielding observes, “very frequently made, but never, as he could learn, literally accepted.”
Knack shop: a toy-shop, a nick-nack-atory.
Knight of the Shears: a tailor.
The one that interests me the most: “kidrig”, and the origins of the expression “to kid somebody”. I had never realised the origins of that were quite so literal: performing a confidence trick on a gullible child.
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