Friday, August 4, 2017

A Bit of Olde English Slang

British writer Andrew Foster penned the book, "Passing English of the Victorian era, a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase," under his pseudonym James Redding Ware.  This is just a taste of the colorful and fanciful phrases that have fallen out of use.

1. AFTERNOONIFIED
A society word meaning "smart.” Forrester demonstrates the usage: "The goods are not 'afternoonified' enough for me.”

2. ARFARFAN'ARF
A figure of speech used to describe drunken men. "He's very arf'arf'an'arf," Forrester writes, "meaning he has had many ‘arfs,'” or half-pints of booze.

3. BACK SLANG IT
Thieves used this term to indicate that they wanted "to go out the back way.”

4. BAGS O' MYSTERY
An 1850 term for sausages, "because no man but the maker knows what is in them. ... The 'bag' refers to the gut which contained the chopped meat.”

5. BANG UP TO THE ELEPHANT
This phrase originated in London in 1882, and means "perfect, complete, unapproachable.”

6. BATTY-FANG
Low London phrase meaning "to thrash thoroughly,” possibly from the French battre a fin.

7. BENJO
Nineteenth century sailor slang for "A riotous holiday, a noisy day in the streets.”

8. BOW WOW MUTTON
A naval term referring to meat so bad "it might be dog flesh.”

9. BRICKY
Brave or fearless. "Adroit after the manner of a brick," Forrester writes, "said even of the other sex, 'What a bricky girl she is.'”

10. BUBBLE AROUND
A verbal attack, generally made via the press. Forrester cites The Golden Butterfly: "I will back a first-class British subject for bubbling around against all humanity."

11. BUTTER UPON BACON
Extravagance. Too much extravagance. "Are you going to put lace over the feather, isn't that rather butter upon bacon?”

12. CAT-LAP
A London society term for tea and coffee "used scornfully by drinkers of beer and strong waters ... in club-life is one of the more ignominious names given to champagne by men who prefer stronger liquors.”

13. CHURCH-BELL
A talkative woman.

14. CHUCKABOO
A nickname given to a close friend.

15. COLLIE SHANGLES
Quarrels. A term from Queen Victoria's journal, More Leaves, published in 1884: "At five minutes to eleven rode off with Beatrice, good Sharp going with us, and having occasional collie shangles (a Scottish word for quarrels or rows, but taken from fights between dogs) with collies when we came near cottages."

16. COP A MOUSE
To get a black eye. "Cop in this sense is to catch or suffer," Forrester writers, "while the colour of the obligation at its worst suggests the colour and size of the innocent animal named.”

17. DADDLES
A delightful way to refer to your rather boring hands.

18. DAMFINO
This creative cuss is a contraction of "damned if I know.”

19. DIZZY AGE
A phrase meaning "elderly," because it "makes the spectator giddy to think of the victim's years." The term is usually refers to "a maiden or other woman canvassed by other maiden ladies or others.”

20. DOING THE BEAR
"Courting that involves hugging."

21. DON'T SELL ME A DOG
Popular until 1870, this phrase meant "Don't lie to me!” Apparently, people who sold dogs back in the day were prone to trying to pass off mutts as purebreds.

22. DOOR-KNOCKER
A type of beard "formed by the cheeks and chin being shaved leaving a chain of hair under the chin,
and upon each side of mouth forming with moustache something like a door-knocker."

23. ENTHUZIMUZZY
"Satirical reference to enthusiasm." Created by Braham the terror, whoever that is.

24. FIFTEEN PUZZLE
Not the game you might be familiar with, but a term meaning complete and absolute confusion.

25. FLY RINK
An 1875 term for a polished bald head.

26. GAL-SNEAKER
An 1870 term for "a man devoted to seduction.”

27. GAS-PIPES
A term for especially tight pants.

28. GIGGLEMUG
"An habitually smiling face.”

29. GOT THE MORBS
Use of this 1880 phrase indicated temporary melancholy.

30. HALF-RATS
Partially intoxicated.

31. JAMMIEST BITS OF JAM
"Absolutely perfect young females,” circa 1883.

32. KRUGER-SPOOF
Lying, from 1896.

33. MAD AS HOPS
Excitable.

34. MAFFICKING
An excellent word that means getting rowdy in the streets.

35. MAKE A STUFFED BIRD LAUGH
"Absolutely preposterous.”

36. MEATER
A street term meaning coward.

37. MIND THE GREASE
When walking or otherwise getting around, you could ask people to let you pass, please. Or you could ask them to mind the grease, which meant the same thing to Victorians.

38. MUTTON SHUNTER
This 1883 term for a policeman is so much better than "pig."

39. NANTY NARKING
A tavern term, popular from 1800 to 1840, that meant great fun.

40. NOSE BAGGER
Someone who takes a day trip to the beach. He brings his own provisions and doesn't contribute at all to the resort he's visiting.

41. NOT UP TO DICK
Not well.

42. ORF CHUMP
No appetite.

43. PARISH PICK-AXE
A prominent nose.

44. PODSNAPPERY
This term, Forrester writers, describes a person with a "wilful determination to ignore the objectionable or inconvenient, at the same time assuming airs of superior virtue and noble resignation.”

45. POKED UP
Embarrassed.

46. POWDERING HAIR
An 18th century tavern term that means "getting drunk.”

47. RAIN NAPPER
An umbrella.

48. SAUCE-BOX
The mouth.

49. SHAKE A FLANNIN
Why say you're going to fight when you could say you're going to shake a flannin instead?

50. SHOOT INTO THE BROWN
To fail. According to Forrester, "The phrase takes its rise from rifle practice, where the queer shot misses the black and white target altogether, and shoots into the brown i.e., the earth butt."

51. SKILAMALINK
Secret, shady, doubtful.

52. SMOTHERING A PARROT
Drinking a glass of absinthe neat; named for the green color of the booze.

53. SUGGESTIONIZE
A legal term from 1889 meaning "to prompt.”

54. TAKE THE EGG
To win.

55. UMBLE-CUM-STUMBLE
According to Forrester, this low class phrase means "thoroughly understood."

56. WHOOPERUPS
A term meaning "inferior, noisy singers" that could be used liberally today during karaoke sessions.

Source:  Passing English of the Victorian era, a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase, by J. Redding Ware; 1909; Routledge, London.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

What is the Hobo Code?

The Language Late-19th Century Migrant Workers Created In Order To Survive
By Krissy Howard - May 3, 2017

Around the mid to late 1800s, poor, migrant workers roamed the country from coast to coast in search of work. Usually hopping onto train cars for a free, albeit illegal, ride to their next destination, the life of the transient worker was quite often a dangerous one, and in order to stay out of harm’s way, these men developed what is known as the “hobo code” to communicate with their fellow traveler.


Hobo culture after Civil War veterans, many of them now homeless, roamed the country in search of work.

The term “hobo,” now a somewhat offensive jab at those who make up homeless or vagrant populations, originated during this time and was used to describe impoverished migrant workers traversing the coasts in search of work and a place to call home, even if only for a few days.

Just how did one go about crossing the country with no money around the turn of the 20th century?

Train hopping, specifically freight cars which carried the train hoppers from state to state. A lucky worker may have even found himself employed by a railroad company on a part-time basis, making the tracks a common place for migrant workers to meet their needs.

Of course, hitching a free ride on a train traveling the countryside wasn’t exactly a leisurely endeavor, as train hopping was illegal even back then, forcing these workers to hide in cramped spaces for fear of being caught and kicked off, or hauled to jail.

Depending on what part of the country a hobo may have found themselves in, the weather conditions could be harsh and even life threatening — especially in the winter months up north, where many froze to death in search of their next day’s work.

In between rides and jobs, migrants were usually limited to squatting in abandoned buildings or other unusual places, an already difficult pursuit made even harder by law enforcement and area residents who considered them to be bad news.

This prompted the development of a language known as the “hobo code,” a series of characters and symbols hobos would use to communicate with one another, and most importantly to aid in their survival.

Although typically loners by circumstance, this group of vagabonds understood the importance of solidarity and helping their peers. They used the esoteric hobo code for everything from warning someone about vicious dogs, unfriendly owners, judges, cops, and anything else that would serve them well to avoid.

In addition to cautionary signs, the hobo code would allow migrants to share the wealth of valuable information they had picked up along the way, cluing others in on a home that may have a gracious host, a hayloft one could sleep in for the night, a place to seek care if others happened to be sick, and good, safe drinking water, among others.

The glyphs of the hobo code also helped hobos learn which systems were easiest to exploit, indicating churches that would provide them a free meal in exchange for a “religious talk,” easily manipulated by the sound of a “pitiful story,” or even, to put it simply, an “easy mark, sucker.”

While hobo culture, in its traditional sense, more or less disappeared sometime during the 20th century, the hobo code remains in use to this day, its symbols sometimes seen in areas which typically employ migrant workers or day laborers, such as docks and ferry crossing, as depicted in the photo above, which was seen at the Canal Street ferry in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Mourning Portrait ~ Claudia Severine Groth and Millie Cecelia Groth

Mourning Portrait ~ Claudia Severine Groth and Millie Cecelia Groth


















An authentic postcard showing two sisters laid out in matching coffins.

An inked inscription verso in a fine period hand identifies the girls as:

Claudia Severine Groth ~ Born Sept. 30, 1908 and Died Feb. 20, 1911 and
Millie Cecelia  ~ Born Dec. 25, 1910 and Died Feb. 21, 1911

George Lee Mills ~ Victorian Memorial Card

Memorial Card for George Lee Mills


10 Creepily Ironic Historical Deaths

By Pauli Poisuo


10 – John horrocks

As a pioneer and explorer of 19th-century Australia, John Horrocks always ran a fair risk of getting killed by a wild animal. Ultimately, that was indeed the hand fate dealt him. However, he wasn’t bitten by a spider, stung by a medusa, eaten by a shark or even kicked by a kangaroo. In fact, he didn’t get killed by any of the thousands of lethal creatures Australia has to offer.

He was shot to death . . . by a camel.


Horrocks was a camel enthusiast and was keen to introduce the animals to Australia, as he felt they would do well there. This mission came to an an abrupt end, as one day his foul-tempered expedition camel managed to shift its weight so that pack it was carrying caught Horrocks’ weapon, causing it to go off. Sadly, Horrocks was loading the gun at the moment, so the shot took off a few of his fingers before moving on to his face.

John Horrocks died of his injuries, but not before giving orders for the camel to be shot as well. This means that the first and only camel/human gunfight in history technically ended in a draw.

9 – JIMMY HESEIDEN

Segways are the (in)famous self-balancing electric scooters that are steered by tilting your weight. Although they may appear an affront to nature, the company that makes them insists they’re an extremely easy to use and the “green future” of commuting. However, the ease of their use and their validity as a vehicle took a bump in 2010, when Jimi Heseiden, the owner of the company, was testing a new Segway model on his grounds. He promptly lost control of the vehicle in the most ridiculous manner possible: Somehow, he managed to drive straight off a cliff and into the river below.He was pronounced dead on the scene.

8 – DAVID GRUNDMAN

David Grundman had two things: A shotgun and a massive need to shoot at things. So one day in 1982, David drove into the desert with his friend, in order to go nuts with his weapon. He opened fire at some small saguaro cacti (large, vaguely man shaped cactus plants), obliterating them with his shotgun shells. However, destroying small saguaros was way too easy: He needed a bigger, more powerful target. So Grundman focused his attention on a huge, 26-foot (7.92 meter) saguaro they found nearby. He opened fire at it, and with just one shot managed to blast off a whole, massive chunk of the plant’s “arm.” Some accounts report he even started shouting “Timber!” as the cactus fell, although he only got as far as “Tim–” before he was interrupted. In an impressively instant case of revenge on the part of mother nature, the wounded cactus fell directly on Grundman and crushed him to death.

7 – PIETRO ARETINO

Pietro Aretino was an unrelenting Venetian 16th Century satirist, notable for his saucy humor aimed at the aristocrats. As such, it’s only fitting that this famous humorist’s death was brought on by a dirty joke. Aretino was never one to shy away from a naughty story. One day, he was told a particularly dirty one about his (possibly imaginary) sisters and the brothel they worked in. Instead of getting offended, Aretino found this hilarious. He laughed and laughed and laughed—until he collapsed backwards in his chair, dying as he hit the ground. He literally laughed himself to death.

6 – BASIL BROWN

Most people who pay attention to their diet are likely to live longer than those who eat lard at every meal. However, Basil Brown was not most people. He was a die-hard health advocate—literally. In 1974, Mr. Brown managed to drink himself to death with one of the healthiest imaginable drinks in existence: Carrot juice. The problem was that he was drinking way too much of it: a gallon each day, for 10 days. However, despite warnings, he didn’t realize that too much of a good thing can become very bad indeed: The massive dose gave him a severe vitamin A poisoning, a bright yellow skin and a completely ruined liver. He ended up getting killed by his “healthy” obsession.

5 – NITARO ITO

In 1979, Nitaro Ito was a political hopeful vying for a seat at the Japanese House of Representatives. Ito wasn’t happy with how his campaign was going, so he decided it was time for drastic action: In an effort to gain some sympathy votes, he decided to stage an attack against himself. After all, what would be the better way to get the public’s attention than to be hospitalized in an attack by a mysterious enemy wielding a knife? Ito couldn’t trust anyone with the “attack,” so he decided to stage the stabbing himself. Sadly, he was not too handy with a knife: He managed to hit his own thigh artery and ended up bleeding to death.

4 –SIEMUND "ZISHE" BREITBART

According to many, Siegmund “Zishe” Breitbart was the strongest man of his time. A 20th century strongman, Zishe was a hit on the circus circuit and even appeared in movies to show his incredible feats of strength. He could hammer huge nails into planks with his bare hands and bend iron bars like they were candy. He could even lift baby elephants—while climbing a ladder and supporting three men in a locomotive wheel by a rope in his teeth. He was the closest thing there was to Superman. That is, until one day in 1925, when a nail scratched his knee during a routine performance. This seemingly laughable injury gave the invincible strongman blood poisoning and killed him.

3 – JAMES OTIS, JR.

James Otis Jr. was a famed American Revolutionary and a political force to be reckoned with: He invented the famous phrase “Taxation without representation is tyranny,” which became one of the rallying cries of the revolutionaries. At his peak (before an unfortunate head injury sent him to sidelines), Otis Jr. was a solid, level-headed man except for one thing: He had a peculiar tendency to insist that he would like to be killed by a bolt of lightining. He repeated this so often to many friends and relatives that it became something of a meme.Apparently, some thunderbolt-throwing entity had been paying attention to his words. On May 23, 1783, it is said James Otis Jr. was standing in a doorway of a friend’s house when a lightning suddenly struck the chimney, killing him instantly without leaving a mark. Strangely, no one else was harmed and no further lightning bolts—or, for that matter, thunderclouds—were seen.

2 – GOUVERNEUR MORRIS

Gouverneur Morris, a revered American legislator, was a no-nonsense kind of guy. Nowhere was this more evident than in the events that led to his death. When he was experiencing a urinary blockage, he didn’t trust the doctors to take care of the situation. Instead, he decided to settle the matter himself. Sadly, he was far better at determination than doctoring. His solution to the problem was extreme, to say the least: He stuck a piece of whalebone up his urinary tract and wiggle it around in an effort to remove the blockage. This cringe-inducing procedure failed to do anything to heal him—instead, it caused enough damage to kill him.

1 – ARRICHION

In 564 BC, Arrichion the Wrestler became the only person to win the Olympic gold by dying. Arrichion was a superstar of his age, a nigh-unbeatable wrestling god who went from victory to victory. But one day in the Olympic finals, he finally met his match. Arrichion found himself caught in a deadly ladder hold, a choke move that completely prevented him from breathing. He was out of options: If he wouldn’t submit, he’d asphyxiate. Clearly, the only reasonable thing to do was to submit and suffer a loss. However, Arrichion opted for the unreasonable and, in fact, unbelievable. Inspired by the shouts of his coach (who probably didn’t realize how dire the situation was), the wrestler rolled into an even more painful position, thus gaining access to the opponent’s foot. This brave move ended up killing him, but he was able to twist the other wrestler’s foot so painfully that he submitted at the exact same moment Arrichion’s life left him. Arrichion had won the Olympic gold, and all it cost him was his life.

+ DRACO THE GREEK


Draco was one of the earliest notable Greek politicians. He was a very popular lawmaker and a powerful orator. Sadly, history books say that his popularity ended up causing his untimely death. Draco was so loved that when the people saw him, he was pelted with hats and cloaks in a display of honor. Sadly, one particular body of people that chose to give him such honor was very large and had an extremely good aim. Draco was smothered to death under the massive pile of cloaks.