Slang, Euphemisms, and Terms of the 1700 and 1800s – Letter L

The following are interesting slang, euphemisms, and terms for the letter L and are primarily taken from Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue published in 1811.

Letter LA prostitute was referred to as LACED MUTTON.

LAG FEVER was a term of ridicule applied to men who feigned illness to avoid being transported from the gaol (jail) to the hulks (ships deemed unworthy for the sea that served as prisons).

LAND LOPERS or LAND LUBBERS were vagabonds lurking about the countryside and subsisting by pilfering.

Highwaymen, such as James MacLaine, were also known as LAND PIRATES.

James MacLaine. Public domain.

LAW was a sporting term used to signify giving an animal (usually a hare) a chance to escape by holding the dogs at bay until the animal was some distance away. Figuratively, the term meant allowing a person a chance to succeed at a scheme or a project.

A wife, such as Francis Nelson, Elizabeth Farren, Elizabeth Armistead, Eliza de Feuillide, or Philadelphia Austen Hancock, might be referred to as a LAWFUL BLANKET.

In the 1700 and 1800s, LAZYBONES did not refer to a lazy person but rather to an instrument that was similar to a pair of tongs. It was used by an old or fat person to pick up things up from the ground without stooping.

If you had a LEFT-HANDED WIFE you were referring to your concubine, as LEFT-HANDED WIFE was a reference to an ancient German custom where a man, when marrying his concubine or an inferior, gave her his left hand.

LICKSPITTLE refers to a parasite or a talebearer.

A man with a red, fiery nose was said to possess a LIGHT HOUSE.

Crawling lice were known as LIGHT TROOPS because it was said they were in full march.

LILY WHITE was a derogatory term used for a Black person or sometimes referred to a chimney sweep.

A dram of brandy was nicknamed LINE OF THE OLD AUTHOR.

LITTLE BREECHES was a familiar appellation used to refer to a little boy, and also the title of a poem written by American statesman John Hay in the 1800s.

A young chimney sweeper might be called a LITTLE CLERGYMAN.

LOBCOCK was a reference to a large relaxed penis or a blockhead.

LOBSCOUSE was a well-peppered dish, similar to a stew, eaten at sea and composed of salt, beef, biscuit, and onions that was popular among Liverpool-born seaman.

LOCK HOSPITAL began in the 1400s as a hospital to treat lepers but once leprosy was on the wan, it began specializing in venereal diseases and was popular both in Britain and in the colonies between the 1800 and 1900s. Additionally, around the same time, the term LOCK HOSPITAL began to describe a dull person, place, or thing.

Letter L - Lock Hospital from Hyde Park Corner, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Lock Hospital from Hyde Park Corner. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

If you were a LOLL, you were your mother’s favorite child.

LONG MEG was a term used to describe a very tall woman and appears to be based on a real women named Long Meg of Westminster who was supposedly an “Elizabethan Wonder Women.” Meg has been credited with such diverse roles as a brothel owner, a female Robin Hood, and a heroine of the Reformation. If you are interested in reading an abstract about LONG MEG, click here.

LONG SHANKS referred to a very long-legged person.

LONG STOMACH was a reference to a voracious appetite, the kind of hungry that Charles Domery demonstrated.

If you were LONG TONGUED you were loquacious and unable to keep a secret.

LOUSE LAND was a jeering term for Scotland.

A fine-toothed comb was also called a LOUSE TRAP.

LOW TIDE or LOW WATER meant a man had no money in his pockets.

A house appropriated by thieves to house stolen property was called a LUMBER HOUSE, and a LUMBER ROOM was an out-of-the-way room within a rich man’s house where odds and ends were stored.

LUMPERS were people subcontracted to unload ships or sometimes they were thieves that lurked around wharfs to pilfer ships.

LUNTING meant to walk while smoking a pipe.

People who lost at the classic trick-taking card game named whist and did not score five, were said to be LURCHED.

A real rubber! At whist. Courtesy of British Museum.

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