Slang, Euphemisms, and Terms for the 1700 and 1800s – Letter T

The following slang, euphemisms, and terms are for the letter T, and primarily taken from Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue published in 1811.

Slang - letter T

Letter T. Author’s collection.

TABBY was a reference to an old maid, as old maids were often compared to cats.

TACE meant to be silent or to hold your tongue.

TACKLE referred to a mistress or a man’s genitals.

According to Grose, the slang expression TAG-RAG AND BOBTAIL was used to describe an “assemblage of low people.”

A prostitute was also known as a TAIL.

After going to court, ladies would appear in their trains for afternoon tea and this was called TAIL-TEA.

TALE TELLERS were hired to lull a person to sleep by telling anecdotes or stories about fictional characters.

TALLYWAGS or TARRYWAGS was an eighteenth and nineteenth century euphemism for a man’s testicles.

TANDEM referred to a two-wheeled chaise, buggy, or noddy, that was drawn by two horses, with one horse placed before the other.

TANGIER or TANGERINES was a room at Newgate prison where debtors were confined.

TANTADLIN TART was a reference to sirreverence, or in other words, human excrement.

To go at full speed was also called TANTWIVY.

If you drank TAPLASH, you were drinking thick, bad-tasting beer.

A fib or lie was also called a TARADIDDLE.

TARRING AND FEATHERING was a punishment inflicted on persons convicted of certain crimes or suspected of disloyalty. People who were tarred and feathered were stripped naked, doused with hot tar, and covered from head to toe in feathers. It was used in feudal England, and later in America. One well-known American TARRING AND FEATHERING victim was the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, their Prophet Joseph Smith. His TARRING AND FEATHERING happened in 1832 by an anti-Mormon mob.

Joseph Smith, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Joseph Smith. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

TARTAR meant to catch or attack someone of superior strength. According to Grose, the term originated from a story of an Irish soldier, who while “in battle against the Turks called out to his comrade that he had caught a Tartar. ‘Bring him along then,’ said he. ‘He won’t come,’ answered Paddy. ‘Then come along yourself,’ replied his comrade. ‘Arrah,’ cried he, ‘but he won’t let me.'”

False dice were known as TATS, and someone who used them was known as a TAT MONGER.

A TAX-FENCER was a slang name for a disreputable shopkeeper.

A person wearing tattered and raggedy clothing was said to be a TATTERDEMALION.

TAWS was a childhood marble game played in schoolyards with small round balls made of stone dust and catted marbles. The largest and superior marble was called the TAW.

Sword thieves were also known as TAYLE DRAWERS.

A TAYLORS GOOSE (now spelled TAILOR’S GOOSE) referred to a flat iron because it had a goose-like curve at the neck.

TEA VOIDER was another name for a chamber pot.

Ireland was sometimes called TEA GUELAND.

TEMPLE PICKLING meant to douse a bailiff, detective, pickpocket, or other unwelcome person under a pump within the limits of the Temple.

The man whose wife fetched him from the ale house was known as a TENANT AT WILL, but a married man was said to be a TENANT FOR LIFE.

THATCH-GALLOWS referred to a rogue or a man of bad character.

In the nineteenth century, before England had professional police, persons were hired to capture criminals and were known as THIEF TAKERS. One of the most well-known THIEF TAKERS was Jonathan Wild. He operated his own gang and handed over some of his own gang members, but eventually his secret was discovered and he was hanged for perjury in 1725.

 

Slang - Ticket to the Hanging of Jonathan Wild, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Ticket to the hanging of Jonathan Wild. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

THINGUMBOBS was a euphemism for a man’s testicles.

A shilling in Ireland that passed for a thirteen pence was known as a THIRTEENER.

THOMAS was a nickname for a man’s penis.

A THORNBACK was an old maid.

Someone who went in one door and just as quickly went out another door without stopping was known as a THOROUGH CHURCHMAN.

To THOROUGH COUGH was to cough and break wind simultaneously.

A THREE-PENNY UPRIGHT was a slang name for a prostitute who dispensed her favors standing against a wall.

THREE THREADS was a mixture of half common ale and stale with double beer.

THUMMIKINS was an instrument formerly used in Scotland, similar to a vice, that pinched the thumbs of persons suspected of a crime in order to extort a confession.

A young lass was also called a TIB, but a TIBBY was a cat.

TICKLE TEXT was a nickname for a parson, but TICKLE TAIL referred to a man’s penis.

A man with a wooden leg was also called a TIMBER TOE.

TIPPLE was another slang term for liquor, and TIPPLERS were those who drank the liquor.

A TITTUP was to be lively or gay and was said to imitate the sound of horse hooves when in a gentle gallop or canter.

According to Grose, the term TOAD EATER came about because of the following story. A doctor and a mountebank made all sorts of experiments upon the mountebank’s servant. One experiment involved the servant eating toads said to be poisonous. So, the term TOAD EATER was applied to fawning, obsequious people or mean sycophants and was a figurative way of putting up with or swallowing insults, as that was supposed to be as disagreeable to a person as toads to the stomach.

Slang - A Toad Eater Illustrated by Joseph Grego, Author's Collection

A toad eater illustrated by Joseph Grego. Author’s collection.

TOASTING IRON or CHEESE TOASTER referred to a sword.

A TOBY LAY was a highwayman.

TOKEN was a slang reference to the plague or a venereal disease.

Someone called a TOM LONG was a tiresome, long story teller.

TOMMY was what sailors called bread in order to distinguish it from biscuits.

To attack with words or reproach someone was to TONGUE.

The private parts of a man were sometimes called TOOLS.

If you were TOP HEAVY it had nothing to do with your chest. It meant you were drunk.

Someone who was at the top of his profession was called a TOPPING FELLOW, but a rich man was called a TOPPING MAN.

TORCHE-CUL, sometimes referred to as bumfodder, was slang for toilet paper.

A TORMENTOR OF SHEEP SKIN was a drummer and a TORMENTOR OF CATGUT or a CATGUT-SCRAPER was a fiddler.

A Tormentor of Catgut, Public Domain

A TORMENTOR OF CATGUT. Public domain.

If you were a drunkard you might be known as a TOSS POT or a TOSSPOT.

TOTTY-HEADED was another way to say you were giddy or hare-brained.

If you had TRAP STICKS you had thin legs.

Coarse lace that was once popular was known as TROLLY LOLLY.

TROTTERS was a nickname for feet.

An old whore or something of no value was called TRUMPERY.

TRUNDLERS was another slang name for peas.

A true friend was a TRUSTY TROJAN or TRUSTY TROUT.

TUB THUMPER was a nickname for a Presbyterian parson.

If you were hanged you were TUCKED UP.

A TUMBLER was someone who tumbled, someone who played tricks, or a nickname for a crossing sweeper.

Slang - The Crossing Sweeper, Public Domain

“The Crossing Sweeper.” Public domain.

TO TUP was to have carnal knowledge of a woman.

TUP RUNNING was a sport practiced at fairs in Derbyshire. It was similar to pig running. A ram’s tail was soaped and greased and then the ram was turned out with other rams. Anyone that could capture the ram by the tail and hold him, won the ram.

If you were TURNED UP you were acquitted or discharged.

A white or fair-haired person was said to be TURNIP-PATED.

Because it was said that the clergy collected a toll at the entrance and exit from this world, a parson was said to be a TURNPIKE MAN.

A TWELVER was slang for a shilling.

Testicles were also called TWIDDLE-DIDDLES.

An effeminate looking fellow was also called a TWIDDLE POOP.

If you were IN TWIG you were a handsome, fashionable fellow but TO TWIG meant to observe something.

Richard Twiss wrote a travel book titled A Tour of Ireland in 1775. In his book he gave an unfavorable description of the Irish character. The inhabitants of Dublin exacted their revenge by christening their chamber pot a TWISS.

A TWIST was mixture of half tea and half coffee or a mixture of brandy, beer, and eggs, but to be TWISTED was to be executed or hanged.

Amorous congress was a euphemism for sexual intercourse, as was TWO HANDED PUT.

A TYBURN BLOSSOM was a young thief or pickpocket who it was believed would in time ripen and become an excellent thief or pickpocket.

A halter was also called a TYBURN TIPPET.

TYBURN TOP was a name for a popular wig. Unsavory characters and criminals wore it because they could comb the foretop over the eyes.

References:

  • Bailey, N. The Universal Etymological English Dictionary, 1737
  • Grose, Francis, 1811 Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811
  • Grose, Francis, Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence, 1811
  • Slang and its Analogues Past and Present, 1902

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