Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Such Language! Part 30

More fun with 19th century slang and cant, courtesy of that compendium of all bygone bad language, the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.*


Snoach: To speak through the nose; to snuffle. (I do wish Uncle Mortimer would not insist on reading aloud to us after dinner when he is having an attack of catarrh; his snoaching sometimes has devastating effects on the text.)

Caw-handed: Awkward, not dexterous, ready, or nimble. (Miss Hurlingame is an indefatigable walker and a fearless rider to hounds, but when it comes to embroidery, she’s positively caw-handed.)

Done to a cow’s thumb: Done exactly. (Her younger sister Prudence, on the other hand, just finished embroidering an exquisite whitework waistcoat for her papa that is done to a cow’s thumb.)

Squeeze-wax: a good-natured foolish fellow. (Sir Henry may be the veriest squeeze-wax and the worst whist player in London, but he always asks the wallflowers to dance at every ball he attends.)

School butter: Cobbing, whipping. (My obstreperous little brother has received so many helpings of school butter that it’s a wonder he still knows how to use a chair.)

Peepy: Drowsy. (After attending three balls every evening for the last sennight, is there any wonder that I’m too peepy to go to the opera tonight?)

Pelt: A heat, chafe, or passion. (Young Lord Limpnoodle’s in an absolute pelt to be the best blindfolded juggler in London, which is why his mother will no longer allow him in her drawing room.)

*That’s a link to a PDF of the book on Project Gutenburg, which you can download for free and have your own fun browsing through all the imaginative, amusing, and occasionally scurrilous entries.



mamafrog said...

I've also seen the term "cack" handed, I think that's how it was spelled. And possibly in Georgette Heyer, can't really remember.

Marissa Doyle said...

Which then goes into some interesting speculation about the origin of the expression, as "cack" could possibly come from the Greek word for "excrement." (Yes, I should probably go look in the OED, but it's too much fun to speculate.)