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

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

Letter O

OAK meant a man of good credit or substance in the 1700 and 1800s.

OAR was a busybody or someone who meddled.

OBSTROPULOUS was a deviation of OBSTREPEROUS, which meant noisy, unruly, and difficult to control, or in other words rumbustious.

To OCCUPY a woman was to have carnal knowledge of her.

ODDFELLOWS were established in the United Kingdom and were convivial societies or guilds that cared for its members before welfare states or health services were created.

ODD-COME-SHORTLYS meant I will do it at some time or another.

OIL OF BARLEY or BARLEY BROTH referred to strong beer.

OINCKER was a late nineteenth century term for a fallen woman.

OLD HARRY was not only a nickname for the devil but also a composition used by vintners to adulterate their wines.

OLD PEGG was poor quality Yorkshire cheese made of skimmed milk.

OLD POGER was another nickname for the Devil.

ONE OF US or ONE OF MY COUSINS was a reference to a town’s harlot.

TO SUCK THE ORANGE DRY was a late nineteenth century term that meant to deplete or exhaust.

OSCHIVES were bone-handled knives.

An OSTENTATIOUS MAN was the same person who boasted with reason and who was also said to be VAIN-GLORIOUS.

OTTOMY was the vulgar term used for a skeleton, and to be OTTOMISED meant you were dissected.

Letter o

Human skeleton. Author’s collection.

An OUTRIDER was another name for a highwayman, such as James MacLaine or Louis Mandrin.

A person who lived above his or her means was said to have OUTRUN THE CONSTABLE and might have applied to Jane Austen‘s aunt, Philadelphia.

TO CATCH THE OWL was a trick practiced upon ignorant country folk. An unsuspecting fellow was led into a barn under the pretense of catching an owl, and after some preparations, he ended up with a bucket of water poured over his head.

Between 1367 and 1824 it was illegal to transport wool or sheep into France from England. This restriction caused OWLERS to smuggle both across the border. The term OWLERS came into use long after the restriction began (sometime near the end of the seventeenth century), and the term supposedly referred to a smuggler’s preference to work after dark.

OX HOUSE was used to describe an old fellow who married a young girl and became a cuckold, as it was said he had to go through the OX HOUSE to bed.

Beginning in the late seventeenth century, OYSTER referred to the thick gob of phlegm coughed up by a person with consumption, a disease that caused the deaths of Napoleon Bonaparte‘s son, Napoleon II, and Joseph Fouché, France’s first police minister.

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