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Friday, April 27, 2018

SWEARING IN 1875




(From curiousity.com)
Did your mom ever wash your mouth out with soap when you were a rambunctious little scamp? If she did, you definitely know the childish joy of discovering "bad" words for the first time. Naughty language isn't a modern novelty, and a 1785 dictionary of vulgarities proves it. These bad words of the past aren't very taboo these days — just hilarious, and surprisingly important.

The Cool Kids' Dictionary
"A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue" is, fortunately, exactly what it sounds like. Created in 1785 by Francis Grose, this book is a collection of more goofy vulgarities than you could ever come up with. Grose created his repository after being inspired, in a way, by Samuel Johnson's great "Dictionary of the English Language," published in 1755. Johnson left out a heaping pile of slang words and phrases that he didn't consider worthy. Grose, on the other hand, wanted to give those stragglers a home. And we're glad he did.
"He too was a lexicographer, and his achievements equally extraordinary," British language expert Susie Dent tells BBC Culture. "The two men even shared the same ambition: to record faithfully the English of their day. Yet their focus couldn't have been more different."
The Hero We Didn't Know We Needed
Slang words and vulgar terms may not belong in a proper dictionary, but they're just as much a part of everyday speech as any dictionary word. And that's why Grose's contributions, while seemingly silly, are valuable. (Quick shoutout to Grose's assistant Tim Cocking, too). According to the British Library, "Grose was one of the first lexicographers to collect slang words from all corners of society, not just from the professional underworld of pickpockets and bandits." He was also one of the first writers to really explore popular culture at that time, Dent tells BBC Culture: "His was the first real 'underground' dictionary, compiled on evidence from the streets rather than the pages of literary works."
Though a lot of the phrases in this delightfully crude collection are old beyond recognition, there are familiar phrases in there too. As the BBC reports, Grose was the first to record the phrases "fly-by-night," "birds of a feather," "cat call," "kick the bucket," "chatterbox," "gibberish," and many others that probably wouldn't exist today had it not been for him. In the category of unlikely heroes, Grose is a standout.
The Other F Word
And now for some wonderful examples of vulgar words and phrases from Grose's famous work. If you want to read the whole thing, it's all been scanned here by the UK's Wellcome Library.
·         Bum fodder: toilet paper
·         To cascade: to vomit
·         Mutton-headed: stupid
·         Double jugg: a man's bottom
·         Fart catcher: a valet or footman
·         Admiral of the narrow seas: "One who from drunkenness vomits into the lap of the person sitting opposite him"
·         Cake: a foolish man
·         To screw: to copulate (Sound familiar?)
·         Kettle drums: a woman's breasts
·         Eternity box: a coffin
·         Pissing pins and needles: to have gonorrhea
·         Gambs: thin, ill-shaped legs
·         Hoggish: rude and filthy
·         Jack weight: a fat man
·         Looking as if one could not help it: a simpleton
·         Owl in an ivory bush: someone wearing a frizzy wig
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For a guide to modern swearing in foreign languages click here.

To see a lovely video on the power of words (not swearing) click here. 

 




16 comments:

  1. Mutton head was quite popular in my step fathers home, at one time or another each or all of his children were told they were mutton headed. They were a large tribe of kids so there was always something stupid being done in the name of fun.

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    1. I think mutton head comes with being a kid!!

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  2. We too were often called mutton headed. I wonder whether it was particularly common in German families?
    Love eternity box. Such a descriptive term.

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    1. Eternity box is very poetic, but I wouldn't want to be in one!!

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  3. I learned to cuss young. My dad was a master. He could weave a web of profanity that would peel paint off a wall.

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    1. You were obviously an apprentice to the master!!

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  4. There was only mild profanity in my home growing up (shit, damn and the like). So, as an adult, I ended up using the same mild profanity--LOL!

    Funny, though...I worked in a few factories where the guys especially filled blue the air. I heard it all the time--mostly from a distance. I never said one single word about it--and I did swear, as I said, myself. But in this one printing factory when we were all in the lunchroom together and someone would drop F-bombs or worse the guy would apologize...TO ME (??) and they all appeared to try to watch their language. The other women who worked there were both annoyed, amused, insulted, and puzzled as to why I was singled out like that when they swore like sailors around them. Me, too. I finally asked some of the guys and they said "I don't know--there's just something about you". Funny. But I appreciated it. Just because I truly thought they were better than that, I guess. They were great guys. I forgot all about that, Fran. Thanks! Nice, though odd, memories. :)

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    1. Was that because you were so f*****g ladylike?

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    2. I don't know--LOL! But they all liked me and seemed really comfortable around me. Even asked us "ladies" out drinking with them after work, which they apparently hadn't done before...so I don't think it was that I was off-putting--ROFL!! We laughed and laughed a lot. They really were nice boys (early 20s most of them--I was in my early 40s at the time) and I wonder what happened to them? Makes me smile just to remember them. I got to me a kind of Mom-figure, I think. Some of them would come to my machine and talk privately to me about life problems and girl troubles and such. Sorry--taking up space here. Just flooded with memories...from swearing--ROFL!

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    3. It's OK--I love your memories!!

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  5. I didn't learn to curse till in my 20's. Then I discovered cussing really had pain relief qualities. I still kind of save it for that purpose.
    Love the idea of "To cascade". It gets the image across without activating the gag reflex.

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    1. "Cascade" sounds sort of light & frivolous!!

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  6. To me: Swearing in English doesn't sound half as bad as swearing in Swedish. I think it's because of I learned as a child that certain words are bad. And, of course, those were all in Swedish.

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    1. In case you non-Swedish speakers would like to learn some Swedish swear words & how to pronounce them, click on this: https://hejsweden.com/en/swedish-swear-words/

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  7. No swearing in my childhood home. Not even a "fart" was allowed!

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