Manly Slang from the 19th Century

Many words seem to have made their way into the general vernacular that was coined during this time period. What is a ‘clean-up’? How can you refer to someone as being “on cloud 9” or be mad at somebody for “getting on your last nerve”? The 19th century was an interesting time and had many terms we still use today!

The “old fashioned words from the 1900s” is a list of manly slang words that were commonly used in the 19th century. The list includes words such as “bully”, “jerk”, and “mug”.

We’ve chosen to reprint a vintage essay each Friday to assist our younger readers discover some of the greatest, evergreen jewels from the past, with our archives currently totaling over 3,500 items. This piece was first published in March of 2010.

We decided to insert a few old-time 19th century slang terms into the text when creating our first book, The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man, simply for fun. We came across many more that were beyond great but didn’t make the cut when exploring antique dictionaries for some virile terms and phrases that would fit into the book. Here’s a dictionary of some of our favorites from back in the day (along with their original meanings). These colorful terms are unlikely to resurface in popular culture, but they’re a lot of fun to read through.

The Dictionary of Manly 19th Century Vernacular: The Art of Manliness

Admiral of the Red: A person with a bright red complexion who enjoys powerful concoctions.

All-overish: Neither sick nor well; signs of impending disease. Also, the emotion that comes over a guy at a crucial time, such as immediately before he “pops the question.” This is often referred to as “feeling all over the place and touching nowhere.”

Anointing: A thorough thrashing. An argument for the use of salve.

A handgun known as Barking-Iron or Barker. Footpads and thieves in general use this term.

The lungs, says Bellows. A hit to the “wind,” or the pit of the stomach, that takes one’s breath away.

When someone is out of breath, particularly a pugilist, they are said to be “bellows to mend.”

Blind Monkeys: An hypothetical collection of monkeys at the Zoological Gardens who are intended to be cared for and fed by people who were born for this job and nothing else. Someone who is sedentary and ineffective is often claimed that he is only qualified to guide the blind monkeys to safety.

A darkened eye is referred to as a blinker. It was also a direct hit to the eye.

The mouth is in the Bone Box. Close your lips and close your bone box.

Bully Trap: A courageous guy who has a weak or effeminate look and is regularly taken in by bullies.

The fist of the bunch of fives. Pugilistic.

A woman’s breasts are known as cat-heads. The term “sea phrase”

Cold Coffee: Misfortune; also known as cold gruel. Cold coffee is a term used to describe an unpleasant response to a gesture of goodwill.

Colt’s Tooth: Elderly people with immature preferences are said to have a colt’s tooth, which is a desire to lose one’s teeth and start again.

Crab: It is termed crabbing it, or chucking a crab, to obstruct the perfection or execution of any desired business issue by saying anything rude or disagreeable.

Cupboard Love: Pretending to love the chef, or anybody else, in exchange for a meal.

Cut: To refuse to get acquainted with someone is to cut him. There are numerous types of “cut,” such as direct cut, indirect cut, sublime cut, hellish cut, and so on. To avoid the irritating individual, the cut direct is to start across the street as soon as he approaches. The indirect cut is to glance in a different direction and pass without seeming to notice him. To view the pinnacle of King’s College Chapel or the beauty of passing clouds till he is cut out of sight is the cut sublime. For the same reason, the cut infernal is to examine the arrangement of your shoe-strings.

 

Dash-fire connotes vigor and manliness.

To tell grandiose tales, to exaggerate excessively; the same as “throw the hatchet.” From the fantastic tales of Norman archers and, later, Indian tomahawk mastery.

Drumsticks: Legs.

A grave is the setting for an earth bath.

A coffin is an Eternity Box.

A valet or footman, as he walks behind his master or mistress, is a fart catcher.

Using a Gun: Using the head and shoulders to introduce a tale. “Hark, did you not hear a gun?” a guy asked to the company, wishing to convey a specific tale. But since we’re on the subject of guns, I’ll tell you about one.”

Fimble-Famble: A clumsy, evasive explanation.

Fizzing: First-rate, superb, extremely nice; equivalent with “amazing.”

Any overt evidence of poverty, such as the end of a person’s shirt protruding through his pants, is known as a flag of distress.

The term “floorer” refers to a hit that is powerful enough to knock a guy down or knock him to the ground. Frequently used in the context of unexpected and unwelcome news.

A soldier’s term for being hungry and having to make do with what he can is “in flying mess.”

Curls dangling over a lady’s shoulder are known as “follow-me-lads.”

When a vulgar, blustering individual claims to be a gentleman, the rejoinder is usually, “Yes, a gentleman of four outs,” which means he lacks wit, money, credit, and manners.

A short guy or lady who goes by the ground.

Gullyfluff is the trash – coagulated dust, crumbs, and hair — that collects inadvertently in schoolboys’ pockets.

Gunpowder is an elderly lady.

Half-mourning: Having a black eye as a result of a strike. Two black eyes, as opposed to “whole-mourning.”

Heavy Wet: Malt liquor, since the more of it a guy consumes, the heavier and more foolish he gets.

Hobbadehoy: A young man who has outgrown his boyhood but has not yet matured into a man.

Hogmagundy: The process of increasing the population.

“He loves him like the Devil loves holy water,” he says, implying that he despises him gravely.

Honor Brilliant: A phrase that literally means “by my honor, which is bright and unblemished.” It is often reduced to the phrase “honor!” simply.

How’s Your Poor Feet: A meaningless street scream that was popular a few years ago.

Hugger-mugger: sly, deceitful. “In a condition of hugger-mugger” also indicates “confused.”

Job’s Turkey: “As impoverished as Job’s turkey” – as thin and malnourished as the ill-fed and fictitious fowl.

Keep a Pig is an Oxford University idiom that refers to having a lodger. When a man’s room has two bedchambers, he must sometimes, when his college is full, allow one of them to be used by a freshman, who is referred to as a pig under these situations. The initial occupant is believed to “keep a pig” after that.

 

Intoxicated people are claimed to be unable to perceive a hole in a ladder. It was often stated that a guy wasn’t really drunk until he couldn’t lay down without holding his breath, couldn’t see a hole in a ladder, or walked to the pump to light his pipe.

To die, put down the knife and fork. Compare phrases like “pegging out,” “hopping the twig,” and others.

A mortgage, according to the Monkey with a Long Tail.

Sundays for a Month: An indefinite amount of time.

Muckender: A snottinger, a pocket handkerchief.

A straight hit delivered full on the nasal promontory is known as a nose-ender.

Nose in the Manger: To sit down and dine with one’s nose in the manger. To “put on the nose-bag” is to eat quickly or while still working.

“Like one o’clock” is a popular simile among the lower classes, signifying briskness; alternatively, “like winkin’.” “To know what time it is” means being alert, acute, and knowledgeable.

Off One’s Chump: To be insane is to be off one’s chump; the adjective “chumpy” adds a twist to this. A minor lunatic is sometimes described as being “off his head,” which signifies the same thing as the first expression.

Off the Horn: A phrase used to describe really tough steak.

Slang used by bookstores that is no longer in print. “He is out of print,” people say when referring to a deceased individual.

Perpendicular: A standing-up meal at a tavern bar. The perpendicular is often referred to as lunch since it frequently replaces supper.

To put up with in a pocket. An insult is said to be pocketed by a guy who does not resent it.

A pot-hunter is a person who devotes his time to rowing, punting, or any other kind of competition in order to win the “pewters” that are awarded as rewards. The word is increasingly widely used in aquatic and athletic circles, and it refers to good-quality men who enroll themselves in little races that they are nearly certain to win, depriving juniors of modest prizes that should be above the notice of champions but beneficial to novices. There’s also an unwanted visitor who arrives just in time for supper.

Umbrella, Rain Napper.

Wife, Rib.

haughty, pugilistic rumbumptious rumbumptious rumbumptious rumbumptious rumbump

Rusty Guts is an elderly man who is rude and nasty.

Saucebox: In low life, a pert young person also represents the mouth.

Cut Your Stick: “Be gone!” is the equivalent of “saw your timber.” Occasionally changed to “amputate your mahogany” with false sophistication.

Controversy-water: Tea, owing to the prevalence of old maids’ tea parties as a source of scandal.

Shake the Elbow is a colloquial term for dice-rolling. “To drink” is an American expression that means “to bend the elbow.”

Sit-upons: Trousers.

Smeller: The nose; the phrase “a blow on the smeller” appears often in pugilistic records.

Sneeze-lurker: A criminal who robs a victim after throwing snuff in his face.

 

A pocket handkerchief, according to Sneezer.

Snooze-case: Also known as a pillowcase.

Snotter, sometimes known as a Wipe-hauler, is a pickpocket who specializes in gentleman’s pocket handkerchiefs.

Sober-water: A joking reference to the several applications of soda water.

The term “tail down” refers to a person who has lost their bravery. When a pro in any sport loses heart during a competition, he is said to “get his tail down.” “His tail went completely down, and everything was over.” The source is self-evident.

Any ill-played or dissonant piece of music is dubbed “Tune the Old Cow Died Of.”

Any ill-played or dissonant piece of music is dubbed “Tune the Old Cow Died Of.”

Sources:

Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue) (Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the V

The Slang Dictionary was published in 1874.

Slang with Its Past and Present Analogues, 1891

1877 Dictionary of Americanisms

 

 

The “old slang vs new slang” is a topic that has been debated for many years. There are some words that have stayed the same, while others have changed. The 19th century was a time when manly things were happening and there was a lot of old slang.

Frequently Asked Questions

What slang did they use in the 1800s?

A: They used dude as a way to show that they were good friends.

What words did they use in the 19th century?

A: They used many words that are now common in English, but its unclear exactly where the word theatre came from. The word may have come from an old French term for a theater called théâtre de la comédie.

What does Lally cooler mean?

A: A Lally cooler is a type of drink, usually served cold.

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