Friday, May 12, 2017

Passing English of the Victorian Era

James Redding Ware - Passing English of the Victorian Era (1909) direct link
Open Library main page

The next in The Guardian's Top 10 Dictionaries is this collection of Victorian slang and fleetingly popular expressions, many I would guess of narrow usage.  There can't be many dictionaries that open with the stated hope that it's not too dull.

As always, examples from browsing:

"Absolutely True - Absolutely false, from the title of a book, the statements in which, of a ghostly character, were difficult of acceptation."

"Blue o'clock in the morning - Pre-dawn, when the black sky gives way to purple."

"Chuck a yannep - To throw a penny."  (Spell the last word backwards.)

"Farthing-faced chit - Small, mean-faced, as insignificant as a farthing."

"Long-tailed bear - One of the evasions of saying 'you lie'.  From the fact that bears have no tails."

"Runner - Technical name for dog-stealer."

"True inwardness - Reality. One of the principal shapes of literary jargon produced in the '90s.  Probably the only serious survival of the aesthetic craze of the '80s."

"Who took it out of you? - Meaning wholly unknown to people not absolutely of lower class."

James Redding Ware (1832-1909) was born in London and seems to have lived there his entire life.  Ware (the name is a pseudonym) published many detective novels, including what's believed to have been the first with a female detective, and the usual miscellany that indicates a working writer (journalism, plays, how-to books, and so on).