A guide to Nineteenth
Century slang

The Nineteenth Century was a time of great creativity, and this goes for language as well as industry. Bedazzle a bohemian with these must-know slang terms!

In the Nineteenth Century, creative swearing was as much a sign of inventiveness as Art Nouveau, Brunel’s famous bridges, or Gothic literature. But due to its vulgarities, it is oft overlooked.

Today, we bring it back to the limelight, so get ready to incorporate some new words into your lexicon that will be sure to astound your beforeigner friends!


Bang up to the elephant = Perfect, complete

Contemporary people. A popular term among Vikings and prehistorics who view contemporaries as rule-obeying creatures without free will. Ref. «Anthill.»

Bitch the pot = Pour the tea

There are no double entendres here. Simply use this when you really cannot wait for your afternoon tea.

Dash my wig! = I’ll be darned

Especially useful for those cases of astonishment where, had you been wearing a wig, you most certainly would remove it.

Got the morbs = To be overcome by a profound sense of temporary melancholia

Use this instead of ‘depressed,’ or ‘down in the dumps.’

Not up to dick = Not well, not good

Allegedly, there are no double entendres here, either

Shoot into the brown= To fail

Luckily, this phrase is quite different from what a modern listener might expect.

Swallowing the ardent / too much of the ardent = Drinking hard spirits

The word ‘ardent’ comes from the Mexican aqua ardente, meaning alcohol that can catch fire. One would be likely to hear this phrase after imbibing too much, but perhaps less likely to remember it in the morning.

Tight as a boiled owl = Drunk

In the Nineteenth Century, it was common to associate an owl’s wide gaze to a drunk’s glassy stare. Nobody knows where the boiled bit comes from, or why a boiled owl might be tight.

Zounds / Zooks = By God’s wounds! / By God’s hooks! (e.g. the nails on the cross)

A Catholic oath used to express astonishment. Now we know where Shaggy from Scooby-Doo gets it.


These words can all be substituted directly for their counterparts, and require little adjustment for situation or context. Combine them with some of the expressions above (Cor, that beanfeast was not up to dick!) for some truly impressive word-wrangling.

Bags o’ mystery = Sausages

Beanfeast = A treat

Cackle-tub = Pulpit (where a priest preaches from)

Carachtevankterous = Contrarian

Chancellor’s Eggs = Novice barristers

Double-breasted water-butt smasher =
A finely-featured athlete

Gas pipes = Rather tight trousers

Haymarket Hector = A pimp

Mutton shunter = Policeman

Neck oil = Beer

Tallywags = Testicles

Windy-wallets = Somebody who talks too much