Manly Slang from the 19th Century

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 into 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.

The Art of Manliness: ... Brett McKay, Kate McKay Best Price: $1.99 Buy New $7.70 (as of 12:35 EST - Details) All-overish: Neither sick nor well; the premonitory symptoms of illness. Also, the feeling which comes over a man at a critical moment, says just when he is about to “pop the question.” Sometimes this is called, “feeling all-over alike, and touching nowhere.”

Anointing: A good beating. A case for the application of salve.

Barking-Iron, or Barker: A pistol. A term used by footpads and thieves generally.

Bellows: The lungs. Bellowser, a blow in the ” wind,” 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 “bellows to mend” 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.

Blinker: A blackened eye. Also a hard blow in the eye.

Bone Box: The mouth. Shut your bone box; shut your mouth.

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. American Slang Diction... Spears, Richard Best Price: $2.47 Buy New $14.54 (as of 05:30 EST - Details)

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 anything offensive or unpleasant, is called crabbing it or throwing a crab.

Cupboard Love: Pretended love to the cook, or any other person, for the sake of a meal.

Cut: To renounce acquaintance with anyone 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, ’til 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 “throw the hatchet.” 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.

Earth Bath: A grave.

Eternity Box: A coffin.

Fart Catcher: A valet or footman, from his walking behind his master or mistress.

Urban Dictionary: Fres... Peckham, Aaron Best Price: $1.99 Buy New $4.68 (as of 03:05 EST - Details) Firing a Gun: Introducing a story by head and shoulders. A man, wanting to tell a particular story, said to the company, “Hark, did you not hear a gun? But now we are talking about a gun, I will tell you the story of one.”

Fimble-Famble: A lame, prevaricating excuse.

Fizzing: First-rate, very good, excellent; synonymous with “stunning.”

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 the sudden and unpleasant news.

Flying Mess: To be “in flying mess” 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, “Yes, a gentleman of four outs,” that is, without wit, without money, without credit, and without manners.

Go by the Ground: A short person, man or woman.

Gullyfluff: The waste — coagulated dust, crumbs, and hair — which accumulates imperceptibly in the pockets of schoolboys.

Gunpowder: An old woman.

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