How to Victorianise your Vocabulary

Andrew Forrester published a book in 1909 under the pseudonym James Redding Ware, this book was called Passing English of the Victorian Era, a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase. It is thanks to this book that we can look back at the many wonderful, delightful and often hilarious slang words and colloquialisms of the Victorian era. Somehow, despite how amusing they are many of these words fell out of fashion over the years, if you’re like me however I have no doubt that you’d like to see them return. So, let us dive in to some of Forrester’s teachings and add a bid of Victorian spice back into our modern-day vocabulary.

Bags O’ Mystery

For anyone that was doubtful that the Victorians had much of a sense of humour I present you with “bags o’ mystery”, this was a term used in the mid-1800s for a sausage. Forrester says that the nickname derived from the fact that “no man but the maker knows what’s in them”, he also goes on to explain that the bag refers gut that is used to contain this mystery meat. It’s quite funny to think that people have been wary of the contents of these bags o’mystery for at least 150 years.

Arf’arf’n’arf
Arf’arf’n’arf

Arf’arf’n’arf

It’s quite the mouthful but it’s also quite fun to say once you’ve nailed it, but what does it mean? Well it may seem that an arf’arf’n’arf might have something to do with dogs but if you thought that you’d be wrong. It’s actually a phrase used to describe a drunkard, meaning that they are someone that has guzzled down quite a few “arfs” as the cockneys would say. There’s no way we can’t add this one to the repertoire.

Fly Rink
Fly Rink

Fly Rink

Here’s one to throw at your dad then next time he’s giving you a hard time, a fly rink is a somewhat insulting phrase that refers to a bald man’s head. It essentially means an area for flies to enjoy themselves on. For me it conjured up an image of fly’s ice skating on there, I’m not sure why but it’s hilarious and I for one will definitely be dropping this one as often as possible.

Mutton Shunter
Mutton Shunter

Mutton Shunter

Here’s an excellent term for those of you that have an issue with authority. Today we use words like “the fuzz”, “rozzer” or “pig” to throw shade at the police, the Victorians however used the phrase “Mutton Shunter” and frankly I don’t think there has been a better one used to date.

Smothering a Parrot
Smothering a Parrot

Smothering a Parrot

To be honest I can’t imagine that one would come in handy too often, it’s used for those moments in which you decide to drink a glass of absinthe neat. Why? Well, that’s because of the drinks green colour which is similar to a possible shade of this tropical bird. You may not use it often but it’s always nice to have it on hand, just in case.