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Victorian Slang

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Thousands of words and phrases in existence in 1870 have drifted away, or changed their forms, Forrester chronicles many hilarious and delightful words in his book Passing English; And we thought you might enjoy a few!

Word Definition
Afternoonified A society word meaning "smart." Forrester demonstrates the usage: "The goods are not 'afternoonified' enough for me."
Arfarfan'arf A figure of speech used to describe drunken men. "He's very arf'arf'an'arf," meaning he has had many 'arfs,'" or half-pints of booze.
Bags o' Mystery An 1850 term for sausages, "because no man but the maker knows what is in them
Bricky Brave or fearless. "Adroit after the manner of a brick," Forrester writes, "said even of the other sex, 'What a bricky girl she is'
Butter Upon Bacon Extravagance. Too much extravagance. "Are you going to put lace over the feather, isn't that rather butter upon bacon?"
Cat-lap A London society term for tea and coffee "used scornfully by drinkers of beer and strong waters
Church-bell A talkative woman
Chuckaboo Nickname given to a close friend.
Collie Shangles Quarrels. A term from Queen Victoria's journal, More Leaves, published in 1884: "At five minutes to eleven rode off with Beatrice, good Sharp going with us, and having occasional collie shangles (a Scottish word for quarrels or rows, but taken from fights between dogs) with collies when we came near cottages."
Cop a Mouse To get a black eye. "Cop in this sense is to catch or suffer," Forrester writers, "while the colour of the obligation at its worst suggests the colour and size of the innocent animal named."
Daddles A delightful way to refer to your rather boring hands.
Don't sell me a dog Popular until 1870, this phrase meant "Don't lie to me!" Apparently, people who sold dogs back in the day were prone to trying to pass off mutts as purebreds.
Door-knocker A type of beard "formed by the cheeks and chin being shaved leaving a chain of hair under the chin, and upon each side of mouth forming with moustache something like a door-knocker."
Fly rink An 1875 term for a polished bald head.
Gas-Pipes A term for especially tight pants
Gigglemug "A habitually smiling face."
Mad as Hops Excitable.
Victorian Slang

Photograph courtesy of Thanet Tourism

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