Dirty words of 1811

On Project Gutenberg, the 1811 edition of Francis Grose's "Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue," a compleat look at all the dirty cussin' of the early 1800s. It was produced by Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team, who clearly have admirably filthy minds. Some of my favorites:

ACCOUNTS. To cast up one's accounts; to vomit.

ADMIRAL OF THE NARROW SEAS. One who from drunkenness vomits into the lap of the person sitting opposite to him. SEA PHRASE.

AMBASSADOR OF MOROCCO. A Shoemaker. (See Mrs. Clarke's Examination.)

APE LEADER. An old maid; their punishment after death, for neglecting increase and multiply, will be, it is said, leading apes in hell.

APPLE DUMPLIN SHOP. A woman's bosom.

APPLE-PYE BED. A bed made apple-pye fashion, like what is called a turnover apple-pye, where the sheets are so doubled as to prevent any one from getting at his length between them: a common trick played by frolicsome country lasses on their sweethearts, male relations, or visitors.

ATHANASIAN WENCH, or QUICUNQUE VULT. A forward girl, ready to oblige every man that shall ask her.

BAG OF NAILS. He squints like a bag of nails; i. e. his eyes are directed as many ways as the points of a bag of nails. The old BAG OF NAILS at Pimlico; originally the BACCHANALS.

BAYARD OF TEN TOES. To ride bayard of ten toes, is to walk on foot. Bayard was a horse famous in old romances,

BLANKET HORNPIPE. The amorous congress.


BORN UNDER A THREEPENNY HALFPENNY PLANET, NEVER TO BE WORTH A GROAT. Said of any person remarkably unsuccessful in his attempts or profession.

TO BOX THE JESUIT, AND GET COCK ROACHES. A sea term for masturbation; a crime, it is said, much practised by the reverend fathers of that society.

BUTTOCK AND TONGUE. A scolding wife.

CHOAKING PYE, or COLD PYE, A punishment inflicted on any person sleeping in company: it consists in wrapping up cotton in a case or tube of paper, setting it on fire, and directing the smoke up the nostrils of the sleeper. See HOWELL'S COTGRAVE.

CHRISTMAS COMPLIMENTS. A cough, kibed heels, and a snotty nose.

COFFEE HOUSE. A necessary house. To make a coffee-house of a woman's ****; to go in and out and spend nothing.

COLD PIG. To give cold pig is a punishment inflicted on sluggards who lie too long in bed: it consists in pulling off all the bed clothes from them, and throwing cold water upon them.

CORPORAL. To mount a corporal and four; to be guilty of onanism: the thumb is the corporal, the four fingers the privates.

And that's just up to C. (see also: The Internet was made for cussin')

Project Gutenberg's 1811 Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue, by Francis Grose (via Kottke)



    1. Yes and no – it is first and foremost a canting (slang) dictionary (the “Vulgar” tongue being non-proper English as spoken by the canting crew, St. Giles’ Greek, etc.), but it’s pretty vulgar in a more traditional sense as well.

  1.  It’s true what they say, we really do move at a faster pace than our forefathers.  I don’t have the time to use such long insults.

  2. Oh no! I love the music of Al Duvall, and his song Admiral Of the Narrow Seas is a favourite of mine, but I always assumed it was a love song! I always thought it was a poetic sexual metaphor, not vomiting in someones lap!

    1. Al Duvall is made of pure awesome.  Here’s something I wrote in 2009:

      I just had to investigate Al Duvall’s line “surrender to the admiral, of the narrow seas”.  I believe it means surrender to George Bush the Elder.

      The Narrow Sea is the English Channel.  The Admiral thereof would be Edward Montagu, who brought Charles II back from Holland in the Restoration of 1660.  He was also Knight of the Garter, Earl of Sandwich, and Vice-Admiral of the kingdom.

      BUT, more importantly, in the slang of British Tars:

      admiral of the narrow seas:  One who from drunkenness vomits into the lap of the person sitting opposite to him.
      –The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, originally by Francis Grose.

      THUS, meaning, George Herbert Walker Bush, who famously vomited on the Japanese Prime Minister (who in turn had to apologize) a diplomatic feat unequaled until Dick Cheney shot an old man in the face and made him apologize on national TV.

  3. BAKERS DOZEN. Fourteen; that number of rolls being allowed to the purchasers of a dozen.

    I had no idea that the baker’s dozen had been devalued at some point in the last 200 years. Weird.

    1.  As I understand it the origin of the baker’s dozen was to prevent people from feeling like they were being cheated by bakers. The extra was added as a sign of good faith.

      And yet it turns out those bakers are still cheating us. The next time I go into a doughnut shop you’d better bet I’m demanding a good old fashioned baker’s dozen!


    At least as pithy as today’s “Roughing Up The Suspect.”

    And I’ve fallen hard for The Amorous Congress.  Oh, the images conjured thereby…

  5. TO BOX THE JESUIT – compare with today’s ‘Bash the Bishop’…

    In fact when I saw that, I did wonder if someone was pranking Gutenberg…

  6. Vulgar does not mean dirty in this sense, but rather the vernacular pertaining to the common man. In other words this is a dictionary of slang, not dirty words. In fact, there are few dirty words as far as I can tell.

    I do like this though:

    BING. To go. Cant. Bing avast; get you gone. Binged avast in a darkmans; stole away in the night. Bing we to Rumeville: shall we go to London?

    I wonder if Microsoft knew this when they chose bing.com?

    1. There’s still plenty of true “vulgarity” here as well, but you’re correct – it is mostly a dictionary of the canting language (“St. Giles’ Greek”).  I’ve owned this book for years and still read it on a regular basis (it’s pretty often by go-to book for bedtime reading because I can pick it up and stop at any point and it’s still entertaining).

  7. “Guily of Onanism”, as in failed to impregnate my brother’s widow as directed by God?

    Yeah, as charged. Thankfully.

  8. Might I direct the assembled gentlemen and gentlewomen to Roger’s Profanisaurus?

    tramps’ truffles n. Discarded chips [fries]. 
    full English breakfast n. A very untidy vagina that is frankly too much to face first thing in the morning. 
    pyroflatulate v. To light one’s farts. See also afterburner, blue streak. 
    Campbell’s condensed n. A small volume, double-strength fart which, when diluted with air, can feed a whole room. 
    curtain call n. A return to the lavatory for an encore dump. A second sitting. 

    And so on.

  9. I’ve had this book for years (as I commented to someone else’s comment it’s my go-to book for bedtime reading because I can pick it up and stop at any point and it’s still entertaining) and one of my favorite things about are the bits of slang still in common usage.  I love seeing a snapshot of what people were actually speaking hundreds of years ago and seeing what’s changed, what’s gotten left behind and what’s still current (and seeing what the wife thinks about the stuff that’s still current).  I’d recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the history or evolution of English, it’s a really fun read.

  10. Ah do believe ah’m feelin’ faint at the unleashing of all of this vulgarness.

    And I’m stealing every one of those fuckers, too.

  11. Jane Austen wrote the following in Mansfield Park 3 years after Grose published his Dictionary. She invented her own refined form of filthy sexual innuendo:

    “Do you know anything of my cousin’s captain?” said Edmund; “Captain Marshall? You have a large acquaintance in the navy, I conclude?”

    “Among admirals, large enough; but,” with an air of grandeur, “we know very little of the inferior ranks. Post-captains may be very good sort of men, but they do not belong to us. Of various admirals I could tell you a great deal: of them and their flags, and the gradation of their pay, and their bickerings and jealousies. But, in general, I can assure you that they are all passed over, and all very ill used. Certainly, my home at my uncle’s brought me acquainted with a circle of admirals. Of Rears and Vices I saw enough. Now do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat.”

    Edmund again felt grave, and only replied, “It is a noble profession.”


    1. Arnie, please don’t put links to your blog in your comments.  They should go on your profile page.

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