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Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue

The following is from Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue compiled originally by Captain Grose:

A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence

Unabridged From the Original 1811 Edition with a Foreword by Robert Cromie

Compiled Originally By Captain Grose and Now Considerably Altered and Enlarged, With the Modern Changes and Improvements, By a Member of the Whip Club

Assisted by Hell-Fire Dick, and James Gordon, Esqrs., of Cambridge; And William Soames, Esq. of the Hon. Society of Newman's Hotel


Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue

APRIL FOOL--Any one imposed on, or sent on a bootless errand, on the first of April; which day it is the custom among the lower people, children, and servants, by dropping empty papers carefully doubled up, sending persons on absurd messages, and such like contrivances, to impose on every one they can, and then to salute them with the title of April Fool. This is also practised in Scotland under the title of Hunting the Gowke.

BAWBEE--A halfpenny. Scotch.

CAGG--To cagg; a military term used by the private soldiers, signifying a solemn vow or resolution not to get drunk for a certain time; or, as the term is, till their cagg is out: which vow is commonly observed with the strictest exactness. Ex. I have cagg'd myself for six months. Excuse me this time, and I will cagg myself for a year. This term is also used in the same sense among the common people of Scotland, where it is performed with divers ceremonies.

CANTING--Preaching with a whining, affected tone, perhaps a corruption of chaunting; some derive it from Andrew Cant, a famous Scotch preacher, who used that whining manner of expression. Also a kind of gibberish used by thieves and gypsies, called likewise pedlar's French, the slang, &c. &c.

CLAN--A family's tribe or brotherhood; a word much used in Scotland. The head of the clan; the chief: an allusion to a story of a Scotchman, who, when a very large louse crept down his arm, put him back again, saying he was the head of the clan, and that, if injured, all the rest would resent it.

BUBBLY JOCK--A turkey cock. Scotch.

CURSE OF SCOTLAND--The nine of diamonds; diamonds, it is said, imply royalty, being ornaments to the imperial crown; and every ninth king of Scotland has been observed for many ages, to be a tyrant and a curse to that country. Others say it is from its similarity to the arms of Argyle; the Duke of Argyle having been very instrumental in bringing about the union, which, by some Scotch patriots, has been considered as detrimental to their country.

FULL MARCH--The Scotch greys are in full march by the crown office; the lice are crawling down his head.

GILLY GAUPUS--A Scotch term for a tall awkward fellow.

GRIMALKIN--A cat: mawkin signifies a hare in Scotland.

HANGMAN'S WAGES--Thirteen pence halfpenny; which, according to the vulgar tradition, was thus allotted: one shilling for the executioner, and three halfpence for the rope,--N. B. This refers to former times; the hangmen of the present day having, like other artificers, raised their prices. The true state of this matter is, that a Scottish mark was the fee allowed for an execution, and the value of that piece was settled by a proclamation of James I. at thirteen pence halfpenny.

HIGH FLYERS--Tories, Jacobites.

HORSE COSER--A dealer in horses: vulgarly and corruptly pronounced HORSE COURSER. The verb TO COSE was used by the Scots, in the sense of bartering or exchanging.


JACOBITES--Sham or collar shirts. Also partizans for the Stuart family: from the name of the abdicated king, i.e. James or Jacobus. It is said by the whigs, that God changed Jacob's name to Israel, lest the descendants of that patriarch should be called Jacobites.

LEATHER--To lose leather; to be galled with riding on horseback, or, as the Scotch express it, to be saddle sick. To leather also meant to beat, perhaps originally with a strap: I'll leather you to your heart's content. Leather-headed; stupid. Leathern conveniency; term used by quakers for a stage-coach.

LOUSE LAND--Scotland.

MAGNUM BONUM--A bottle containing two quarts of wine. See SCOTCH PINT.

MESS JOHN--A Scotch presbyterian teacher or parson.

TO MOW--A Scotch word for the act of copulation.

PONTIUS PILATE--A pawnbroker. Pontius Pilate's guards, the first regiment of foot, or Royal Scots: so intitled from their supposed great antiquity. Pontius Pilate's counsellor; one who like him can say, Non invenio causam, I can find no cause. Also (Cambridge) a Mr. Shepherd of Trinity College; who disputing with a brother parson on the comparative rapidity with which they read the liturgy, offered to give him as far as Pontius Pilate in the Belief.

PRINCOD--A pincushion. Scotch--Also a round plump man or woman.

RED SHANK--A Scotch Highlander.

SAWNY or SANDY--A general nick-name for a Scotchman, as Paddy is for an Irishman, or Taffy for a Welchman; Sawny or Sandy being the familiar abbreviation or diminution of Alexander, a very favourite name among the Scottish nation.

SCOT--A young bull.

SCOTCH GREYS--Lice. The headquarters of the Scotch greys: the head of a man full of large lice.

SCOTCH PINT--A bottle containing two quarts.

SCOTCH BAIT--A halt and a resting on a stick, as practised by pedlars.

SCOTCH CHOCOLATE--Brimstone and milk.


SCOTCH MIST--A sober soaking rain; a Scotch mist will wet an Englishman to the skin.

SCOTCH WARMING PAN--A wench; also a fart.


SHANKS NAGGY--To ride shanks naggy: to travel on foot. Scotch.

STAGGERING BOB, WITH HIS YELLOW PUMPS--A calf just dropped, and unable to stand, killed for veal in Scotland: the hoofs of a young calf are yellow.

TIM WHISKY--A light one--horse chaise without a head.

THUMMIKINS--An instrument formerly used in Scotland, like a vice, to pinch the thumbs of persons accused of different crimes, in order to extort confession.

TRAY TRIP--An ancient game like Scotch hop, played on a pavement marked out with chalk into different compartments.

WARMING-PAN--A large old-fashioned watch. A Scotch warming-pan; a female bedfellow.

WHISKY--A malt spirit much drank in Ireland and Scotland; also a one-horse chaise. See TIM WHISKY.


WRY NECK DAY. Hanging day.

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