From the 18th century and well into the Victorian era of the 19th century, there were so many ways the English language was simply better. It was filled with bizarre innuendo, puns, and jokes hidden within words. Much of English slang came about simply from crooks trying to keep their conversations coded, so as to not be overheard by cops.
While slang transforms every day, with new terms regularly being added to the Oxford English Dictionary - inevitably leading to stodgy grammar aficionados freaking out about dictionaries adding words they don't deem worthy - the truth is, slang has always been an evolving and essential component of our language. In the spirit of the classic idiom, "Everything old is new again," it's time to look back at some of the most popular old slang terms, primarily from the 18th century, that have fallen out of fashion but deserve a comeback - and how we could add them fruitfully to our modern vernacular.
As chronicled in two of the most influential records of antique slang - the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Grose and Passing English of the Victorian Era by J. Redding Ware - get ready to feel betwattled by this afternoonified look at brilliant classic slang that just might leave you feeling dicked in the nob.
Dicked In The Nob
Definition: "Silly. Crazed."
Use: "There's no point in reasoning with obsessed trolls on Twitter, they're all just dicked in the nob."
Use: "We went to this pirate-themed bar downtown and, after a few hardy glasses of rum, I was definitely shipwrecked."
Definition: "Surprised, confounded, out of one's senses."
Use: "Today's lesson on quantum physics left me entirely betwattled."
Definition: "A large, clumsy fellow."
Use: "He might seem intimidating, but Clyde's just a big gollumpus."
Definition: "Provoke to the uttermost."
Use: "I saw that political meme you posted to Instagram - you are definitely trying to wake snakes before your family reunion."
Definition: "A habitually smiling face."
Use: "I don't know what it is about that gigglemug, but I just can't trust it."
Definition: "The mouth."
Use: "If that guy doesn't shut his bone box, I'm gonna shut it for him."
Definition: "A physician who judges of the diseases of his patients solely by the inspection of their urine." A urologist.
Use: "After taking some tests, the doctor sent me to my in-network piss prophet for some answers on why it burns every time I go."
Definition: "The virile member."
Use: "If you play a solo on your silent flute in public, you're probably going to get hauled into custody."
Definition: "Void of wit."
Use: "It's hard to watch these bottle-headed sitcoms, since none of them have even been funny since Friends."
Definition: "To fall arsy varsey, i.e. head over heels."
Use: "I was texting while walking and I went arsy varsey down a flight of stairs and broke my phone."
Definition: "Scandal-loving women, chiefly spinsters, who meet over a cup of tea."
Use: "My grandma wanted me to join her book club's Facebook group, but they're all a bunch of muffin-wallopers who never actually read the books!"
Definition: "A wry-mouthed man or woman."
Use: "Listen here, screw jaws, I've about had it with your mean tweets."
Bags O' Mystery
Definition: "A satirical term for sausages, because no man but the maker knows what is in them."
Use: "If you want to order some bags o' mystery from that BBQ place, be my guest, but the Yelp reviews said they taste suspiciously like horse."
Definition: "Secret, shady, or doubtful." Often used in Victorian London to refer to disreputable business dealings or clandestine rendezvous.
Use: "I don't know, this guy on Craigslist wants to meet up in an alley to sell me his bike. The whole thing seems super skilamalink, but it's such a good deal!"
Definition: "Potatoes. It is a common joke against the Irish vessels [or boats] to say they are loaded with fruit and timber, that is, potatoes and broomsticks."
Use: "There's no better comfort food than a fresh-fried plate of Irish apricots."
Definition: "To prompt," or to influence someone's thoughts or actions.
Use: "I'm not trying to bribe you, I'm just trying to suggestionize your decision with some cold, hard cash."
Definition: "Cheats who pretend they were farmers in the Isle of [Skye], or some other remote place, and were ruined by a flood, hurricane, or some such public calamity."
Use: "Be careful of those suspicious emails from people looking to give you money. They're all just a bunch of sky farmers trying to steal your identity."
Definition: "A polished bald head."
Use: "That biker has a tattoo of a skull on his fly rink, and it's pretty impressive."
Definition: "A shabby, ill-dressed fellow."
Use: "If you shaved, showered, and put on a tie, you wouldn't be such a Captain Queernabs in your job interviews."
Oil Of Gladness
Definition: "'I will anoint you with the oil of gladness,' ironically spoken for, 'I will beat you.'"
Use: "If you talk trash about my fondness for essential oils one more time, I'll whip out some oil of gladness and see how you like that. And that essential oil doesn't need a diffuser."
Definition: "Playing at rantum scantum; making the beast with two backs."
Use: "We played at a little rantum scantum in the back of the Uber and now my passenger rating has absolutely plummeted."
Definition: "A woman's tongue; also a device to take birds of that name by imitating their call."
Use: "There's nothing more inspiring than a bold woman who's not afraid of trumpeting her quail-pipe."
Owl In An Ivy Bush
Definition: "Frequently said of a person with a large frizzled wig," or whose hair is dressed messily.
Use: "After Sarah stepped out into that windy rainstorm to grab lunch, she came back looking like an owl in an ivy bush."
Definition: "Smart," as in high-class, refined, or fashionable.
Use: "I went into a Target to check out their lamps, but nothing was quite afternoonified enough for my tastes, so I went to Ikea instead."