While writing our first book, The
Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man,
we decided to throw a few old-time 19th century slang words into
the text just for fun. While scouring old dictionaries for some
words that would fit in the book, we came across many others that
were beyond awesome but didn't make the cut. Here's a glossary of
our favorite manly slang that was tossed about on the streets and
saloons back in the day. These colorful words and phrases probably
won't ever come back into popular parlance, but they're a real hoot
to read through.
The Art of Manliness Dictionary of Manly 19th Century Vernacular
Admiral of the Red: A person whose very red face
evinces a fondness for strong potations.
All-overish: Neither sick nor well; the premonitory
symptoms of illness. Also the feeling which comes over a man at
a critical moment, say just when he is about to u201Cpop the question.u201D
Sometimes this is called, u201Cfeeling all-over alike, and touching
Anointing: A good beating. A case for the application
Barking-Iron, or Barker: A pistol. Term used by
footpads and thieves generally.
Bellows: The lungs. Bellowser, a blow in the u201Cwind,u201D
or pit of the stomach, taking one's breath away.
Bellows to Mend: A person out of breath; especially
a pugilist is said to be u201Cbellows to mendu201D when winded.
Blind Monkeys: An imaginary collection at the
Zoological Gardens, which are supposed to receive care and attention
from persons fitted by nature for such office and for little else.
An idle and useless person is often told that he is only fit to
lead the Blind Monkeys to evacuate. Another form this elegant conversation
takes, is for one man to tell another that he knows of a suitable
situation for him. u201CHow much a week? and what to do?u201D are natural
questions, and then comes the scathing and sarcastic reply, u201CFive
bob a week at the doctor's – you're to stand behind the door
and make the patients sick. They won't want no physic when they
sees your mug.u201D
Blinker: A blackened eye. Also a hard blow in
Bone Box. The mouth. Shut your bone box; shut
Bully Trap. A brave man with a mild or effeminate
appearance, by whom the bullies are frequently taken in.
Bunch Of Fives. The fist. Pugilistic.
Cat-heads. A woman's breasts. Sea phrase.
Cold Coffee. Misfortune; sometimes varied to COLD
Gruel. An unpleasant return for a proffered kindness is sometimes
called COLD Coffee. – Sea.
Colt's Tooth. Elderly persons of juvenile tastes
are said to have a Colt's Tooth, i.e., a desire to shed their teeth
once more, to live life over again.
Crab. To prevent the perfection or execution of
any intended matter of business, by saying any thing offensive or
unpleasant, is called crabbing it, or throwing a crab; to crab a
person, is to use such offensive language or behaviour as will highly
displease, or put him in an ill humour.
Cupboard Love. Pretended love to the cook, or
any other person, for the sake of a meal. My guts cry cupboard;
i.e. I am hungry.
Cut. To renounce acquaintance with any one is
to cut him. There are several species of the CUT. Such as the cut
direct, the cut indirect, the cut sublime, the cut infernal, etc.
The cut direct is to start across the street, at the approach of
the obnoxious person, in order to avoid him. The cut indirect is
to look another way, and pass without appearing to observe him.
The cut sublime is to admire the top of King's College Chapel, or
the beauty of the passing clouds, till he is cut of sight. The cut
infernal is to analyze the arrangement of your shoe-strings, for
the same purpose.
Dash-fire. Vigor, manliness.
Draw the Long Bow. To tell extravagant stories,
to exaggerate overmuch; same as u201Cthrow the hatchet.u201D From the extremely
wonderful stories which used to be told of the Norman archers, and
more subsequently of Indians' skill with the tomahawk.
Drumsticks. Legs. Drumstick cases-pants
Earth Bath. A grave.
Eternity Box. A coffin.
Fart Catcher. A valet or footman, from his walking
behind his master or mistress.
Firing A Gun. Introducing a story by head and
shoulders. A man, wanting to tell a particular story, said to the
company, u201CHark; did you not hear a gun? – but now we are talking
of a gun, I will tell you the story of one.u201D
Fimble-Famble. A lame, prevaricating excuse.
Fizzing. First-rate, very good, excellent; synonymous
Flag of Distress. Any overt sign of poverty; the
end of a person's shirt when it protrudes through his trousers.
Floorer. A blow sufficiently strong to knock a
man down, or bring him to the floor. Often used in reference to
sudden and unpleasant news.
Flying Mess. u201CTo be in Flying Mess u201D is a soldier's
phrase for being hungry and having to mess where he can.
Follow-me-lads. Curls hanging over a lady's shoulder.
Gentleman of Four Outs. When a vulgar, blustering
fellow asserts that he is a gentleman, the retort generally is,
u201D Yes, a Gentleman Of Four Outsu201D – that is, without wit, without
money, without credit, and without manners.
Go By The Ground. A little short person, man or
Gullyfluff. The waste – coagulated dust,
crumbs, and hair – which accumulates imperceptibly in the pockets
Gunpowder. An old woman.
Half-mourning. To have a black eye from a blow.
As distinguished from u201D whole-mourning,u201D two black eyes.
Heavy Wet. Malt liquor – because the more
a man drinks of it, the heavier and more stupid he becomes.
Hobbadehoy. A youth who has ceased to regard himself
as a boy, and is not yet regarded as a man.
Hogmagundy. The process by which the population
Holy Water. He loves him as the Devil likes holy
water; i.e. hates him mortally.