Where can I find more goofy, archaic terms?
October 23, 2009 2:53 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find more goofy, archaic terms? I'm writing a comic book where one of the characters is an upper-class fellow from the 1800s, and I want to put some outdated slang in his mouth, along the lines of the phrases Mr. Burns sometimes spouts on the Simpsons: flimshaw, goldbrickers, slug-a-beds, aeromail, autogyro, petroleum distillate...

A recent online discussion used the phrase "sockdologizer," which I thought fit the bill nicely. Anyone have suggestions for phrases or sources where I might find more?
posted by gern to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Track down a copy of Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from Our Lively and Splendid Past. It's been ages since I've read it, but I seem to recall various lists and chapters filled with precisely the sort of thing you're looking for.
posted by scody at 3:01 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The 1811 edition of Francis Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. All the archaic slang you could possibly want - a lot of it is criminal slang but there's plenty of stuff that doesn't read as class-specific. And some of it is very odd indeed.

SCAPEGRACE. A wild dissolute fellow.
SOOTERKIN. A joke upon the Dutch women, supposing that, by their constant use of stoves, which they place under their petticoats, they breed a kind of small animal in their bodies, called a sooterkin, of the size of a mouse, which when mature slips out.
TRINGUM TRANGUM. A whim, or maggot.
DEADLY NEVERGREEN, that bears fruit all the year round. The gallows, or three-legged mare.
posted by severalbees at 3:03 PM on October 23, 2009 [14 favorites]

Best answer: A Dictionary Of Archaic And Provincial Words, Vols. 1, 2
posted by Sys Rq at 3:08 PM on October 23, 2009

Oh, and archaic medical terms are often quite colorful and jaunty. Perhaps your character can wish not only a pox on his enemies, but also quinsy, dropsy, stinkdamp, and scrivener's palsy.
posted by scody at 3:12 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm with scody. Definitely medical terms / diseases. You could have the fantods or dropsy or vapors or an ague, which you might treat with a poultice or a liniment or an unguent or a tincture...
posted by madmethods at 3:56 PM on October 23, 2009

Found via scody's suggestion: The Encyclopedia of Civil War Usage: An Illustrated Compendium of the Everyday Language of Soldiers and Civilians. You can look inside the book a bit, so you can see if that terminology is suitable.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:55 PM on October 23, 2009

It would be nice if you could keep the vocabulary at least vaguely limited to a particular place and time; simply dumping in every humorous-sounding term from the entire English-speaking world throughout an entire century would greatly limit its interest (IMHO).
posted by languagehat at 5:33 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Superior Person's Book of Words
posted by gnutron at 5:41 PM on October 23, 2009

The Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian (the one that spawned the Master and Commander film with Russell Crowe) is a veritable treasure trove of early 19th-century idiom, slang, and everyday speech. It also happens to be a fantastic read. It's British as opposed to American, but hey...
posted by bluejayway at 7:46 PM on October 23, 2009

Lots of these links have been on the blue: posts tagged with slang is a good list.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:56 PM on October 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Maybe Victorian Slang Glossary and Victorian London's Words & Expressions section could be of use! Unless I've read your question wrong..
posted by Mael Oui at 9:56 PM on October 23, 2009

Earlier than the period you describe but possibly useful (I'm sure people were saying 'drunk as a wheelbarrow' after the Regency; if not they jolly well should have been).
posted by h00py at 4:21 AM on October 24, 2009

This, of course, is what I meant to recommend.
posted by h00py at 3:36 PM on October 24, 2009

I suppose you could always try your hand at plagiarizing Wodehouse.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:48 PM on October 24, 2009

Sys Rq, Wodehouse made up a lot of that slang himself! Funny thing is, once he put it in his books, it became slang in the real world. So the OP might take a page form Wodehouse and just start making up slang terms.
posted by Ms. Informed at 8:50 AM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: So the OP might take a page form Wodehouse and just start making up slang terms.

Somebody has to do it. The best slang slingers sling slang first.

I copied this out of a two-volume set called The Reader's Handbook by E.C. Brewer (pub. 1899):
Curses Used By Men of Note
1. ANGUS (earl of), when incensed, used to say, by the might of God ! but at other times his oath was By St. Bride of Douglas !
2. BAYARD (The Chevalier), By God's Holy-day !
3. CHARLES II. of England, Ods fish ! a corruption of "God's flesh."
4. CHARLESVIII. of France, By God's light !
5 EDWARD THE CONFESSOR, By God and His Mother !
6. ELIZABETH, By God ! God's Death ! God's wounds ! softened afterwords into Zounds ! and Zouterkins !
7. FRANCOIS I., On the word of a gentleman !
8. HENRI IV., Ventre Saint Gris !
Ventre Saint Gris ! are you dumb, man? --- Stanley Weyman: A Minister of France (1895) ("V. The Lost Cipher").
9. HENRY II. of England, By the death of our Lord !
10. HENRY III., when he confirmed Magna Carta, On the word of a gentleman, a king, and a knight !
11. HENRY V., By'r Lady !
12. HENRY VIII. By God's wounds !
13. JAMES I., On my soul !
14. JOHN (King), By God's tooth ! By the light of our Lady's brow ! Sir W. Scott, in Ivanhoe (ch. xiii.) makes him swear, By the bones of St. Becket !
15. JOSEPH, viceroy of Egypt, By the life of Pharaoh !
16. LOUIS XI., By God's Easter ! (Pasque Dieu !) and Mother of God !
17. LOUIS XIII., The devil take me ! (Diable m'emporte!)
18. OTTO I. of Germany, By my beard !
19. PERROT (John), a natural son of Henry VIII., was the first to employ the profane oath of God's Wounds ! afterwards softened into Zounds !
20. RICHARD I. Mort de ma vie ! and Despar dieux !
21. RICHARD II., By St. John ! (i.e. the Baptist) and God of Paradise !í
22. RICHARD III., By my George and Garter !
24. SIMON DE MONTFORT, the great patriot in the reign of Henry III., By the arm of St. James !
25. WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR, By the splendour of God !
26. WILLIAM RUFUS, Par sante voult de Lucques ! ("By the holy face of Lucca !" or "By Lucca's holy face !"). Lucca was a gret crucifix in Lucca Cathedral.---Albert Butler: Lives of the Saints April 21), p. 494, col. I.
27. WINIFRED (St.) or Boniface, By St. Peter's tomb !

In the reign of Charles II., fancy oaths were in fashion. Eg.
28. FOPPINGTON (Lord), an empty-headed coxcomb, intent only on dress and fashion. His favourite oaths, which he brings out with a drawl (in speaking, his affectation is to change the vowel o into a, as rat, naw, resalve, waurld, ardered, mauth, paund, maunth, lang, philasapher, tarture, and so on), are : Strike me dumb ! Split my windpipe ! Strike me ugly ! Stap my vitals ! Sun, burn me ! Curse, catch me ! Stap my breath ! Let me blood ! Run me through ! Knock me down ! He is reckoned the king of all court fops.

The most common oaths of the ancient Romans were By Herculês ! (Mehercule !); Roman women, By Castor ! and both men and women, By Pollux !

Viri per Herculem, mulieres per Castorem, utrique per Pollucem, jurāre solíti.--Aulus Gellius : Noctes Atticæ, ii. 6.

NB -- In the early part of the nineteenth century, oaths were exceedingly common, both among men and women ; they were rarely heard in good society towards the close of the century.
There's a bunch of other junk like that roaming around these books.
posted by carsonb at 12:47 PM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

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