A Little Colorful Language: Cacklers, Mowers, Woolbirds and Swing tails

Francis Grose, author of Dictionary of he Vulgar Tongue


We have a house full of cats and a dog who thinks she a momma-cat.  They all have their own proper names. But they’ve also got multiple nicknames each. I may just incorporate a few of these regency Era slang terms as new nicknames for them!



  • Grimalkin. 

  • Tibby.

Ram Cat. A he cat.

Gib Cat. A northern name for a he-cat, there commonly called Gilbert.

Cherry-coloured Cat. A black cat, their being black cherries as well as red.

Smellers. A cat’s whiskers.



  • Buffer

  • Jugelow

Gnarler. A little dog that, by his barking, alarms the family when any person is breaking into the house.

Rum Bugher. A valuable dog. 



  • Grogham

  • Keffel

  • Prad

  • Prancer

Rip. A miserable rip; a poor, lean, worn-out horse.

Roarer. A broken-winded horse.

Rum Prancer. A fine horse. 

Star Gazer. A horse who throws up his head

Queer Prancer. A bad worn-out foundered horse

Scarlet Horse. A high red, hired or hack horse: a pun on the word hired.

Galloper. A blood-horse, a hunter.

Gibbe. A horse that shrinks from the collar, and will not draw.


Chickens ect

  • Cackler. 

  • Margery Prater.

  • Chick-a-biddy. 

Sucking Chicken. A young chicken

Cackler’s Ken. A hen-roost. 

Cackling Cheats. Fowls. 

Cackling Farts. Eggs. 

Cobble Colter. A turkey.

Gobbbler. A turkey cock.

Quacking Cheat. A duck.

Tib Of The Buttery. A goose.



  • Dunnock. 

  • Mower. 

Cow’s Spouse. A bull.

Churk. The udder.



  • Blater

  • Cow’s Baby

  • Essex Lion

  • Quaking Cheat

  • Rumford lion



  • Bleating Cheat

  • Woolbird

  • Havil

Bleating Rig. Sheep-stealing. 



  • Grunter. 

  • Swing Tail. 



  • Active Citizen 

  • Creepers 

  • Scotch Greys  


Other Animals

Dickey. An ass.

Roll your dickey; drive your ass.

Kingswood Lion. An ass. Kingswood is famous for the great number of asses kept by the colliers who inhabit that place.

Long One. A hare: a term used by poachers.

Pantek. A hart; that animal is, in the Psalms, said to pant after the fresh water brooks

Sea Lawyer. A shark.


Quoted from:   Grose, Captain (Francis). (2004) Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811 ed. Ikon Classics


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Confound it all!

Girl pulling hair, screamingConfound it all! One of the frustrations of writing historical fiction is discovering your character could not do/hear/see/say something because it had not been invented yet!

Such is my plight as I just discovered my heroine could not say ‘Confound it!’ as the saying did not exist for nearly another 40 years!

A few other things she could not say (and the year in which she could have said them) include:

  • botheration – c. 1835
  • by gum – c. 1825
  • cheeky – c. 1830
  • cheerio – c. 1910
  • confound it – c. 1850
  • darned – c. 1815
  • drat – c. 1815
  • fancy that – c. 1834
  • frightfully – c. 1830
  • (all) right – c. 1837
  • right you are – c. 1865
  • smashing – c. 1850

But, when frustrated, as I  am,  she could have said any of these (and the year they made their appearance):

  • bah –c. 1600
  • balderdash – c.1675
  • barmy — c. 1600
  • beastly – c. 1200
  • blasted – (damned) c. 1600
  • by (Saint) George – c. 1719, by Jove – c. 1570
  • by the bye – c. 18th C.
  • criminy – c. 1700
  • daft – c. 1450
  • dang — c. 1790
  • darn – c. 1790
  • deuced (damned) — c. 1785
  • devilish – c. 1450
  • devil of a… – c. 1750,
  • dickens (What the dickens?) – late 1600
  • egad — c. 1675
  • fiddle-de-dee – c. 1785
  • fiddle faddle – from 18th C.
  • fiddlesticks – from 17th C.
  • gads — from 17th C., gadzooks — c. 1655
  • ghastly – c. 1325
  • golly – c. 1775
  • good gracious – from 18th C.
  • goodness! – mid 19th C.
  • gosh – c. 1760
  • go to the devil – from 14th C.
  • gracious – from 18th C., gracious me – from 19th
  • I say – from 17th C.
  • la – from 16th C.
  • lo and behold — by 1810
  • oh! – c. 1550, oh-oh — c. 173
  • pah — c. 1600
  • pish — c. 1595
  • pooh — c. 1600
  • pshaw — c. 167
  • rot it – 17th — 18th C.
  • rubbish — c. 1630
  • son of a gun — c. 1710
  • tosh – (nonsense) c. 1530
  • What (how) the devil – from 17th C.
  • zooks – c. 1635
  • zounds – c. 1600

And to make matters worse, my family looks at me like I’m nuts for caring whether or not she could have said any of these phrases. Confound it all!

English Through the Ages, by William Brohaugh, Writer’s Digest Books, 1998
Etymology of Expressions compiled by Joanna Waugh http://www.joannawaugh.com/Expressions.html

by Maria Grace Copyright 2013, all rights reserved

From the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: Soldiers

 I have to admit, all the research on the army, officers, militia and war has left me rather down, so I thought I would post something a little more light hearted on the subject today.

I am captivated by language and how it relates to a culture. With three teen aged sons living at home with me I get to hear a lot of the slang they encounter and I never cease to be fascinated by the terms that come up.  Since every era has its own unique slang, I thought it would be interesting to share some Regency era slang with you as it pertains to soldiers.

Terms for soldiers:

  • Bad bargain: a worthless soldier. Usage: One of his majesty’s bad bargains
  • Bloody Back: A jeering name for a soldier, for his scarlet coat.
  • Brothers of the blade: A soldier
  • Fogey or Old Fogey: A nickname for an invalid soldier.
  • British unforms circa 1812

    British red coat uniforms, circa 1812

    Foot wabbler: A contemptuous name for a foot soldier, commonly used by the cavalry.

  • Light bob: A soldier of the light infantry company.
  • Lobster: A nickname for a soldier, from the color of his clothes.
  • Parish soldier: A militiaman, from substitutes being frequently hired by the parish for those who do not wish to serve.
  • Skulker: A soldier who by feigned sickness evades his duty; a sailor who keeps below in time of danger
  • Swad or Swadkin: A soldier.

Interesting terms related to the military:

Act of parliament: A military term for five pints of beer. An act of parliament had formally obliged a landlord was formerly to give to each soldier this amount free.

 Black Guard: A shabby, mean fellow; derived from a number of dirty, tattered roguish boys, who attended at the Horse Guards and Parade in St. James’s Park, to black the boots and shoes of the soldiers, or to do any other dirty offices.

Blue plumb: A bullet.

Brown Bess: A soldier’s firelock.

Brown Bess musket

Brown Bess musket

Camp candlestick: A bottle, or soldier’s bayonet.

Halbert: A weapon carried by an infantry sergeant.

He carries the halbert in his face: a saying of one promoted from a sergeant to a commission officer.

Lumber: Live lumber; soldiers or passengers on board a ship are so called by the sailors.

Messmate: A soldier who eats at the same mess, companion or comrade.

Nightingale: A soldier who sings (cries) out at the halberts.

-It is a point of honour in some regiments never to cry out under the discipline of the cat of nine tails; to avoid which, they chew a bullet.

 Rag fair: An inspection of the linen and necessaries of a company of soldiers, commonly made by their officers on Mondays or Saturdays.

Sank, Sanky, Centipees: A tailor employed by clothiers in making soldier’s clothing.

A series of pole mounted weapons called halberts

Various Halberts

To be brought to the halberts: to be flogged. Soldiers of the infantry, when flogged,being commonly tied to three halberts, set up in a triangle, with a fourth fastened across them.

To boil one’s lobster— for a churchman to become a soldier: lobsters, which are of a bluish black, being made red by boiling.

To get a halbert: to be appointed a sergeant.

To hug brown Bess: to carry a firelock, or serve as a private soldier.

Smart money: Money allowed to soldiers or sailors for the loss of a limb, or other hurt received in the service.

Soldier’s mawnd: A pretended soldier, begging with a counterfeit wound, which he claims to have received at some famous siege or battle.

Surfeited with a blue plumb: wounded with a bullet.

Tattoo: A beat of the drum, of signal for soldiers to go to their quarters and for ale to stop being served.

Finally, in the category of not exactly slang but still pretty interesting:

Cold burning. A punishment inflicted by private soldiers on their comrades for trifling offences, or breach of their mess laws; it is administered in the following manner: The prisoner is set against the wall, with the arm that is to be burned tied as high above his head as possible. The executioner then ascends a stool, and having a bottle of cold water, pours it slowly down the sleeve of the delinquent, patting him, and leading the water gently down his body, till it runs out at his breeches knees: this is repeated to the other arm, if he is sentenced to be burned in both.

Quoted from:

Grose, Captain (Francis). (2004)  Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811 ed. Ikon Classics

by Maria Grace Copyright 2013, all rights reserved