Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Street Slang of Old London

From English Historical Fiction Authors:
Often their feelings toward politics and the upper classes showed in the words they coined. Glasgow Magistrates for example was a slang term for salt herrings. One can’t help but wonder what the magistrates of that fair city did to deserve to be compared to dead fish. The slang phrase drunk as a lord was a common saying, probably referring to a rich man’s ability to afford such gratification and a sly sarcasm at the supposed habits of the upper class. And even today we can appreciate the term quockerwodger which was the proper term for a wooden toy figure, which, when pulled by a string, jerked its limbs about. In a slang sense it signified a pseudo-politician, one whose strings were pulled by someone else.

The street purveyors of slang even faced illness and death with a lively sense of humor. Someone on their last legs was a croaker and once gone they became a stiff ‘un. Their word for a stomach ache, mollygrubs or mulligrubs is particularly interesting because it also meant sorrow. They believed that the stomach was the seat of emotions, not the brain. A belief rooted no doubt in their experience of emotions and not the emerging science of the times. The term maggoty meant fanciful or fidgetty. Whims and fancies were termed maggots from the popular belief that a maggot in the brain was the cause of any odd notion a person might exhibit. (Read more.)

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