Snippets 210. 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 M, so let’s continue with some examples beginning with N, O, P and Q, chosen (in the spirit of the original publication) for entertainment value as much as anything.
Nick Ninny: a simpleton
Nicknackatory: a toy shop
Nip Cheese: a nickname for the purser of a ship, from those gentlemen being supposed sometimes to nip, or diminish, the allowance of the seamen, in that and every other article. It is also applied to stingy persons in general.
Nug: an endearing word, as “my dear nug”; “my dear love”.
Old Mr Gory: a piece of gold
Parenthesis: to put a man’s nose into a parenthesis; to pull it, the fingers and thumb answering the hooks or crochets.
Pate: the head. Carrotty-pated; red-haired.
Pigeon: a weak, silly fellow, easily imposed upon.
Pin Basket: the youngest child.
Pit’s Picture: a window stopt up on the inside, the save the tax imposed in that gentleman’s administration.
Platter-faced: broad faced
Plump currant: I am not a plump currant; I am out of sorts.
Porridge: Keep your breath to cool your porridge; i.e. hold your tongue.
Potato trap: the mouth. Shut your potato trap, and give your tongue a holiday; i.e. be silent.
Pothooks and hangers: a scrawl, bad writing.
Purse Proud: one that is vain of his riches.
Quacking Cheat: a duck.
Quail-Pipe: a woman’s tongue.
Quarrel-Picker: a glazier: from the small squares in casements, called carreaux, vulgarly quarrels.
Queen Dick: that happened in the reign of Queen Dick; i.e. never.
Queen Street: a man governed by his wife, is said to live in Queen Street, or at the sign of the Queen’s Head.
Quiz: a strange looking fellow, an old dog.
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