WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waspish

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waspish

Bitter and rancorous feelings can twist even the prettiest countenance or heart into an ugly thing. Some are more predisposed than others to unkind thoughts and actions, while others are warped by circumstance and hardship. Whatever the cause, the results are as nasty as the names: harpy, shrew, witch, harridan.

Waspish

Peevish, spiteful.

When I think waspish, I immediately conjure two images: Lady Catherine de Bourgh and the Real Housewives of *insert city here.* No one likes to be the object of tittle-tattle or meanness, but many like to be in on the hearing and observation of it, and television has brought the most specious, intriguing, and sometimes salacious news and imaginings straight into our homes.

When a stroll through the interwebs turns up Jane Austen/RHOetc. mashup, well, heaven help us.

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Gentleman of Three Ins

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Gentleman of Three Ins

Lots of things come in threes.

Little pigs. French hens. Little kittens. Feet in a yard. BLT ingredients. Brontë sisters.

Sometimes frightening things come in threes: witches in Macbeth, Cerebrus’s heads, Hanson brothers. And this week’s slang.

Gentleman of Three Ins

In debt, in gaol, and in danger of remaining there for life; or, in gaol, indicted, and in danger of being hanged in chains.

I wrote several posts last year concerning the perilous nature of gaols and imprisonment in Regency England, which can be found here, here, here, and here. I won’t rehash the past, but instead rely on my dear Mr. Gillray to provide some period figurative illustrations rather than literal interpretations of this week’s slang.

In debt:

John Bull ground down by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 1 June 1795, National Portrait Gallery.

From the British Museum:

John Bull’s head and shoulders emerge from a gigantic coffee-mill. He is being ground by Pitt into guineas which pour from the spout of the machine into the inverted coronet of the Prince of Wales, held out by the Prince (left). The Prince points out his harvest of coins to a row of creditors. John Bull, his hands clasped, shrieks “Murder! Murder!” Pitt (right), both hands on the handle, is working hard, stripped to his shirt. His coat lies across an enormous heap of guineas on which he rests his left knee. He says: “God save great George our Ki . . .” Behind him, and in the upper right corner of the design, is the crown, the centre of a sun whose rays extend behind Pitt’s head, with the words: “Grind away! grind away grind away Billy! never mind his bawling! Grind away.” Other words from the crown are directed towards the victim: “What! – What! – what! Murder hay? why, you poor Stupe, is it not for the good of your Country? hay? hay”. Between Pitt and the post of the mill Dundas and Burke are grovelling for guineas: Burke, frowning, uses both hands; Dundas, who wears a plaid, fills his Scots cap.

In gaol:

Exaltation of Faro’s Daughters by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 12 May 1796, British Museum.

From the British Museum:

Lady Buckinghamshire (left) and Lady Archer (right) stand side by side in the pillory, heads and hands closely confined, their heads in profile to the right, weeping angrily. Both wear tall feathers in their hair and large pendent ear-rings. Lady Buckinghamshire is forced to stand painfully on tip-toe, a short petticoat exposes her fat legs. On the front of the platform is a placard: ‘Cure for Gambling Publish’d by Lord Kenyon in the Court of Kings Bench on May 9th 1796’. This is raised above the heads of the crowd, with grinning upturned faces in the foreground. Eggs, a cat, &c. fly through the air; the pillory and the dresses of the victims are bespattered. On the right is a house with spectators in the windows.

Hanging in:

Hanging. Drowning. by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 9 November 1795, National Portrait Gallery.

From the Historical and Descriptive Account of the Caricatures of James Gillray:

Fox. Pitt. Dundas. Another allusion to the love of the two Ministers for the bottle. It represents the different feelings with which the different parties in this country were supposed to have looked upon the decline of Republican principles in France at this time.

And lest we forget, three is a magic number.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Long Meg

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Long Meg

I happen to adore this week’s Word of the Week. I’ve been taller than average since my eight-week, well-baby checkup. I’ve been asked how the weather is up there, to put things up or take things down from high shelves, and I wore flats when I married.

But from whence did this week’s slang arise?

Well … it’s a sobriquet that has no definitive origin, but plenty of definitive documentation. It first appeared in a play, but it’s unclear whether the term was the creation of the writer, or an allusion to a real person. So unlike other words I’ve chosen, this slang term has always been slang. It’s merely been moved from the realm of the written into the physical.

Long Meg (noun)

A very tall Woman [sic]. Also a jeering name for a very tall woman: from one famous in story, called Long Meg of Westminster.

The Admiral’s players (actors Alleyn, Jones, and Singer, supported by Lord Admiral, Charles Howard) premiered “Long Meg of Westminster” on 14 February 1595. Performances spanned the spring and fall seasons and, according to Henslowe’s thorough record-keeping, we know the returned receipts avereaged more than 34s. “Long Meg” returned to the stage sporadically over the next several years before fading into obscurity.

Performance records of the play Long Meg of Westminster from Henslowe's Diary 14 of febreary 1594

Performance records of the play Long Meg of Westminster, from Henslowe’s Diary, 14 of Febreary 1594

The next incarnation of Long Meg turned narrative: The Life of Long Meg of Westminster (1635) is the oldest extant copy of literary Long Meg. The book features eighteen adventures of Meg, “a woman … of late memory, and well beloued, spoken on of all, and knowne of many. This tome is valuable in itself for the fantastic subtitle alone:

“The life of Long Meg of Westminster: containing the mad merry pranks she played in her life time, not onely in performing sundry quarrels with divers ruffians about London, but also how valiantly she behaued her selfe in the warres of Bolloingne”

The Life of Long Meg of Westminster by an Unknown Author, 1635.

The Life of Long Meg of Westminster by an Unknown Author, 1635.

Our next visit from Meg sounds thorough: The Whole Life and Death of Long Meg of Westminster (1750). Ironically enough, while this edition brings terrific illustrations, there are actually fewer “mad merry pranks.”

Long Meg of Westministe rplay: Meg with her Laundry Paddle.

Long Meg of Westminister, play: Meg with her Laundry Paddle.

Long Meg of Westminster play: Meg beats Willis the Carrier

Long Meg of Westminster, play: Meg beats Willis the Carrier

This incarnation does include the stories from the original stage play, but omits five of her adventures.

The Whole Life and Death of Long Meg of Westminster, 1750.

The Whole Life and Death of Long Meg of Westminster, 1750.

So we have Long Meg of the written world, but what of the physical?

According to 17th Century English historian Thomas Fuller, the term “Long Meg” is applicable to anything “of hop-pole height, wanting breadth proportionable thereunto.”

Thomas Fuller on the attributive "Long Meg" in The History of the Worthies of England, 1662.

Thomas Fuller on the attributive “Long Meg” in The History of the Worthies of England, 1662.

The large, blue-black marble over the grave of Gervase de Blois is known as the “Long Meg of Westminster Abbey.” According to the site’s searchable database, Gervase de Blois was the natural (i.e., illegitimate) son of King Stephen, and served as abbot of Westminster from about 1137 until he was deposed in 1157. He has no effigy, so I could not find this allegedly tall drink of marble.

The Mons Meg of Scotland, that mightiest of medieval bombard cannons, sits proudly outside St. Mary’s Chapel at Edinburgh Castle. “Mons” from the city in Belgium where it was forged; “Meg” from the vertically blessed Long Meg. This siege cannon dates from 1449, when Phillip III, Duke of Burgandy, ordered its manufacture. It has fantastic associated folklore:

When James the Second arrived with an army at Carlingwark, to besiege the Castle of Threave, the McLellans presented him with the piece of ordnance now called ‘Mons Meg.’ The first discharge of this great gun is said to have consisted of a peck of powder and a granite ball nearly as heavy as a Galloway cow. This ball is believed, in its course through the Castle of Threave, to have carried away the hand of Margaret de Douglas, commonly called the Fair Maid of Galloway, as she sat at table with her lord, and was in the act of raising the wine-cup to her lips. Old people still maintain that the vengeance of God was thereby evidently manifested, in destroying the hand which had been given in wedlock to two brothers, and that even while the lawful spouse of the first was alive. (from The True Story of the Mons Meg; link below)

In The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the September 1769 Edinburgh Antiquarian Magazine writes of “Peter Branan, aged 104, who was six feet six inches high, and was commonly called Long Meg of Westminster.” Now that’s and insult!

The Edinburgh Antiquarian Magazine

Finally, in Penrith, Cumbria, we find a circle of 67-77 stones (depending on what year you count them), some up to six feet in height. Off to the southern side, by itself, is a single stone some seventeen feet tall. For the purposes of this post, I won’t speculate on origin, purpose, or potential alien involvement. I’ll simply mention the arrangement has been dubbed Long Meg and Her Daughters.

Long Meg and Her Daughters: Little Salkeld, Penrith, Cumbria.

Long Meg and Her Daughters: Little Salkeld, Penrith, Cumbria.

Long Meg. Little Salkeld, Penright, Cumbria.

Long Meg. Little Salkeld, Penright, Cumbria.

Stand tall, Long Megs! (Pun intended)

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Beast With Two Backs

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Beast With Two Backs

Please pardon me this week while I am becoming extremely vulgar, albeit in a very roundabout and literary way.

Working though my mountainous TBR pile this past weekend, I read A Dangerous Love (Swanlea Spinsters Book 1) by Sabrina Jeffries. William Shakespeare plays a prominent role in the witty and spirited interactions between the hero and heroine of this story. If you haven’t read it – do!

By the end of the book, I had the inspiration for the next Word of the Week.

     His eyes slid shut and a dark flush rose on his face. “You’ll find…the plays have a whole new…meaning once you know of such things.”
     “Oh? For example?”
     He frowned, obviously having difficulty thinking. “Remember Petruchio and Katherina? He talks about having…his tongue in her tail? And being a…’combless cock’ if she…will be his hen’?”
     She released him abruptly. “What! That’s what that means? I never dreamed–“
     “Shakespeare isn’t…the least…respectable, my sweet. You chose your…favorite author well.”

Shakespeare Gallery folio at The Annex Galleries. "Othello, Act V, Scene II" as engraved by W. Leney, after a painting by J. Graham. J. & J. Boydell Publishers.

Shakespeare Gallery folio at The Annex Galleries. “Othello, Act V, Scene II” as engraved by W. Leney, after a painting by J. Graham. J. & J. Boydell Publishers.

Beast With Two Backs (noun)

A man and a woman in the act of copulation.

The concept was first documented in the work The Life of Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais in 1532, and in French; it was translated into English by Thomas Urquhart around 1693.

“In the vigour of his age he married Gargamelle, daughter to the King of the Parpaillons, a jolly pug, and well-mouthed wench. These two did oftentimes do the two-backed beast together, joyfully rubbing and frotting their bacon ‘gainst one another.”

And some think coarse and crass language is a modern occurrence. Methinks this little poetic passage might have also given rise to the decidedly modern phrase “makin’ bacon,” but that’s a post for another author.

William Shakespeare coined the actual phrase, a beast with two backs, in his play Othello, in 1604. It appears in Act 1, Scene 1, and is delivered by perhaps the best villain ever put on paper. Iago is as he ever was, right from the start.

Brabantio: What profane wretch are thou?

Iago: I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.

Brabantio: Thou art a villain.

Iago: You are — a senator.

Now that is a brazen thing to say to the father of the so-called beast!

On a barely related note, one of the most entertaining reviewers of literature can be found on YouTube, and he just so happens to have tackled Othello. Please be advised there is a bit of language…and plenty of modern slang.

All definitions and/or examples taken from 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue and The Phrase Finder.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cascade

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cascade

Since last week was all about being disguised, aka drunk, this week naturally lent itself to the after effects of said drunkenness: getting sick.  I am one who would rather visit the dentist every day for a month than throw up.  When I was a child, I even avoided using medical terms for the action, almost superstitiously believing if I didn’t say the actual word out loud, maybe I would avoid the unpleasant results.  Consequently, I’ve always used slang terms; the term “vomit” is so evocatively harsh and nearly onomatopoeic that just hearing it about makes me queasy.

For the Word of the Week, I give you a surprisingly more genteel-yet-still-vulgar term to pretty up a rather unfortunate and ill-mannered event.

Cascade (verb)

1702 from the French cascade (noun). In early 19th century slang, “to vomit.”  Related: cascaded; cascading.

French Generals Retiring on Account of Their Health With Lepaux Presiding in the Directorial Dispensary by James Gillray, 1799.

French Generals Retiring on Account of Their Health With Lepaux Presiding in the Directorial Dispensary by James Gillray, 1799.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily for me, I found even more slang terms for cascade to make me laugh rather than turn green:

cast up one’s accounts/cast up one’s reckoning (to vomit)

to cat, shoot the cat, or catting (vomit from drunkenness)

cropsick (having a sickness in the stomach from drunkenness)

to flay a fox/to flea a fox (to vomit)

to flash the hash (cant term, to vomit)

to pump ship (vomit at sea)

The Military Adventures of Johnny Newcombe, with an Account of His Campaign on the Peninsula, and in Pall Mall; Thomas Rowlandson, 1816.

The Military Adventures of Johnny Newcombe, with an Account of His Campaign on the Peninsula, and in Pall Mall; Thomas Rowlandson, 1816.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now for this week’s winner of the funny but eww! award:

shi**ing through your teeth (vomiting); “Hark ye, friend, have you got a padlock on your a*se, that you sh*te through your teeth?”

Now THAT is a word picture!

A Scene in the Channel; Thomas Rowlandson, 1815.

A Scene in the Channel; Thomas Rowlandson, 1815.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will leave you with some wonderful naval humor.  I do hope you have absolutely no chance of using this Word of the Week, and that your days remain blessedly hash-free!

Admiral of the Narrow Seas (one who vomits into the lap of the person opposite)

 

All definitions and/or examples taken from Online Etymological DictionaryCant: A Gentleman’s Guide, and/or 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Disguised

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Disguised

Here in the South, you can be drinking – everything from a cold beer with your burger to sipping on a martini at a bar.  You can also be drankin’ – imbibing anything alcoholic while you are thinking about being up to no good.  But once you are drunk, you are either (a) fully-committed to being up to no good or (b) up to no good with your clothes off.

In my first novel, Lord Love a Duke, my heroine gets “drunk to a merry pin” on some medicinal brandy.  In my upcoming release, Earl Crazy, the hero is a light drinker and consequently goes “half seas over” rather quickly while contemplating the tragic idea of getting married.

There are many vulgar terms for “drunk,” but the Word of the Week is by far my favorite.

Disguised (adverb)

drunk; c. 1300, from Old French desguiser (11c.); oldest sense preserved in phrase disguised with liquor (1560s).

Drink sir, is a great provoker of three things….nose painting, sleep and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes; it provokes the desire but takes away the performance. (The Porter; Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 3)

Mr. Hurst, disguised and flying the flag of defiance. (from A&E Pride and Prejudice, 1995)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just for fun, here are several synonyms for disguised:

altitudes, boosey, candy, corned, cup-shot, cut, flawd (flawed), flustered, fuddled, groggy, groggified, hocus, lushey, pogy, sucky, top heavy

Mr. Hurst, the completely cup-shot swill tub. (A&E Pride and Prejudice,1995)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other terms and phrases closely related to being disguised, or in the act of becoming disguised:

clear (very drunk)

drunk as a wheel barrow (laying down, sleeping-it-off drunk)

drunk as a lord (drunk, but functioning)

drunk as an emperor (ten times more drunk than a lord)

drunk to a merry pin (slightly elevated with liquor; modern would be buzzed)

half seas over (almost drunk; see also drop in the eye, mellow, and tipsey)

hare (he has swallowed a hare/hair, the hair needs washing down, meaning he is drunk)

hockey (drunk with strong stale beer, called old hock)

in the gun (he is very drunk, likely an allusion to a vessel called a gun that was used for ale in the universities)

maudlin (a crying drunk; perhaps derived from Mary Magdalene, called maudlin as she was always painted with tears)

mauled (extremely drunk)

nazy (drunken)

to buy the sack (to get drunk)

wrapt up in warm flannel (drunk with spirituous liquors)

lady bertram drinking

Lady Bertram will soon be clipping the King’s English.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you chance upon someone who is disguised, feel free to call them:

choice spirit, ensign bearer, fuddle cap, rat (if they get arrested by the watch!), old soaker, surveyor of the highways (reeling drunk), swill tub, toss pot

 

Bonus for the week: drunk as David’s sow

This is a common saying which took its rise from the following: One David Lloyd, a Welchman who kept an alehouse at Hereford, had a living sow with six legs, which was often looked at by the curious.  He also had a wife terribly addicted to drunkenness (for which he sometimes had to give her correction).  One day, David’s wife imbibed one cup too many and, being fearful of the consequences, turned out the sow and lay down herself to sleep in the stye. When visitors came to look at the sow, her husband, presuming it to be in the stye, ushered them in, exclaiming “There is a sow for you! Did you ever see such another?” Some of the company, upon seeing the state of the woman, replied it was the drunkenest sow they had ever beheld. Thereafter the woman was ever called David’s sow. (paraphrased from Grose’s dictionary)

 

Helpful tip for the week: it’s bad manners to invite your friends to a party and then turn it into Dutch Feast (any entertainment where the host gets drunk before the guests).

 

All definitions and/or examples taken from Online Etymological DictionaryCant: A Gentleman’s Guide, and/or 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Mort

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Mort

Mort (noun)

woman or wench; also a yeoman’s daughter; when used by itself, denotes a girl or woman of loose morals; canting jargon of unknown origin from at least 1560s

I think it’s fascinating that according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “mort” originally meant a note sounded on a horn at the death of the quarry in a hunt, c 1500, from the French mort, meaning dead, and Latin mortem, meaning death.  How did a word evoking death become co-opted to mean a woman?

1802. British Vessels Described for the Use of Country Gentlemen.

1802. British Vessels Described for the Use of Country Gentlemen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just as we discovered with cove for gentlemen, when you add the right adjective, the character of the mort becomes more apparent:

autem mort (a married woman; also a female beggar who hired or borrowed children for larger gain)

bingo mort (a female dram drinker; one who spirituous liquors in small amounts)

bleached mort (a fair complexioned wench)

dimber mort (a pretty wench)

filching mort (a woman thief)

gentry mort (a gentlewoman)

kinchin mort (a young girl, usually an orphan, trained as a thief)

nazy mort (a drunken woman)

queer mort (a diseased strumpet; also queere mort)

rome or rum mort (a queen or great lady)

strolling mort (beggar or peddler pretending to be a widow)

mort wap-apace (a woman of experience, or very expert at the sport of copulation)

try this lacy

 

 

 

 

See if you can work in a little of the vulgar tongue into your vocabulary this week!

“She’s a dimber mort when dressed in her Sunday finest.”

“She’s nothing but a nazy mort since she decided to spend every weekend at a frat house party.”

 

All definitions and/or examples taken from Online Etymological DictionaryCant: A Gentleman’s Guide, and/or 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.