It’s interesting how every generation that comes along inevitably needs to add their own ingredients to the language stew, so to speak. While I was growing up, the ubiquitous ‘cool’ was popular, but we also had words like ‘stellar’, ‘boney’, ‘lifted’, ‘thick’, and ‘haggard’; the meanings of which seemed to only be known by those in a certain age-bracket.
This, of course, is nothing new. Generations after generations have been creating their own slang words that fade in and out of popularity, some quicker than others. My parents’ had ‘daddy-o’, ‘big tickle’, ‘square’, etc. I guess it is just a generation’s way of carving out their own niche in history, as nothing is more relative to a culture than the way people communicate with each another.
Recently I came across a website with some words from the generation 200 years back. It’s an interesting peak into a culture that is far removed from today’s, and yet, inherently exactly the same.
Here are just some of the ones I came across, one for each letter of the alphabet:
1. ACE OF SPADES. A widow.
2. BARBER’S CHAIR. She is as common as a barber’s chair, in which a whole parish sit to be trimmed; said of a prostitute. (It’s interesting how so many words refer to prostitutes, ie. Cat, Covey, Covent, Garden Nun, Drury Lane Vestal, Wagtail, etc.)
3. COT, or QUOT. A man who meddles with women’s household business, particularly in the kitchen. The punishment commonly inflicted on a quot, is pinning a greasy dishclout to the skirts of his coat.
4. DANCERS. Stairs.
5. EXECUTION DAY. Washing day.
6. FIRE A SLUG. To drink a dram.
7. GRINAGOG, THE CAT’S UNCLE. A foolish grinning fellow, one who grins without reason.
8. HANS IN KELDER. Jack in the cellar, i.e. the child in the womb: a health frequently drank to breeding women or their husbands.
9. INKLE WEAVERS. Supposed to be a very brotherly set of people; ‘as great as two inkle weavers’ being a proverbial saying.
10. JERRY SNEAK. A henpecked husband: from a celebrated character in one of Mr. Foote’s plays, representing a man governed by his wife.
11. KEEP IT UP. To prolong a debauch. We kept it up finely last night; metaphor drawn from the game of shuttle-cock.
12. LIGHT HOUSE. A man with a red fiery nose.
13. MARRIAGE MUSIC. The squalling and crying of children.
14. NORTHUMBERLAND. Lord Northumberland’s arms; a black eye: so called in the last century.
15. OX HOUSE. He must go through the ox house to bed; a saying of an old fellow who marries a young girl.
16. PARK PAILING. Teeth.
17. QUIZ. A strange-looking fellow, an odd dog. OXFORD.
18. RABBIT CATCHER. A midwife.
19. SCOTCH WARMING PAN. A wench; also a fart.
20. THATCH-GALLOWS. A rogue, or man of bad character.
21. UNRIGGED. Undressed, or stripped. Unrig the drab.
22. VICE ADMIRAL OF THE NARROW SEAS. A drunken man that urinates under the table into his companions’ shoes.
23. WHAPPER. A large man or woman.
24. XANTIPPE. The name of Socrates’s wife: now used to signify a shrew or scolding wife.
25. YOUNG ONE. A familiar expression of contempt for another’s ignorance, as “ah! I see you’re a young one.” How d’ye do, young one?
26. ZAD. Crooked like the letter Z. He is a mere zad, or perhaps zed; a description of a very crooked or deformed person.
For more, see Source: http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=1981272&pageno=1