I did a post in my Book Shelves blog today about a book called 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. I'm not going to copy the post here -- you can follow the link to read the whole thing if you'd like, and I hope you do --, but I wanted to mention it here because it's a really fun read, and I'm probably going to be using it as a source for some posts here.
There are many expressions in this "Dictionary" which have remained unchanged down to our day -- for instance, the word "Pig" as slang for a policeman. The 1811 Dictionary says, "PIG. A police officer. Floor the pig and bolt," which would mean to "knock down the officer and run away." Apparently this definition for "pig" came into use after the original Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was published in 1785, because that one lists other slang meanings for "pig", but the 1811 dictionary includes those as well as "policeman".
Another one I thought was funny was "Sea Lawyer." Can you guess what it was slang for? A shark!
The word "shark" on the other hand was slang for "A sharper; perhaps from his preying upon anyone he could lay hold of. Also a custom-house officer, or tide-waiter. Sharks; the first order of pickpockets. Bowstreet term A.D. 1785." (A sharper, by the way, was a "cheat, one that lives by his wits." A sharper's tools were these: "a fool, and false dice," according to this wonderful dictionary.) Doesn't that sound like our more modern term of "pool shark" probably came from this slang term? And who knew there were different orders of pickpockets??
I found out that I could be called a "Whither-go-ye", which is slang for a "wife". The Dictionary says that this is due to "wives being sometimes apt to question their husbands whither they are going." Isn't that cool? I think I'd rather my husband refer to me as the "old whither-go-ye" rather than the "old lady".
Well, I'd better go. I'm sitting here laughing out loud at some of the words and definitions I'm finding, and Thomas is looking rather "peery" at me (suspicious). I'm also getting a bit "peepy" (drowsy), so I'd better hop off here.
If you come upon a copy of this book at any time, I hope you pick it up; and since I know not one of my readers is "light-fingered", I know you know that I mean to buy or borrow it, not to steal it. In the meantime, come back here and I'll share a few more good ones with you now and then.