Posted by: Hyeonjin | December 9, 2014

Victorian Slang, Anyone?

The online world is a horribly dangerous (yet wonderful) place for procrastination and entertainment. I came across this book that can be publicly accessed entitled Passing English of the Victorian Era by a James Redding Ware (who, interestingly enough, created one of the first female detectives in fiction, yay!). It is a collection of slang and phrases heard at this time period, and interestingly enough, some of them seem to have survived today!

I decided to take screenshots of some entertaining ones to share (though I decided to start with something a little more familiar), but definitely check it out. I think you’d be in for a treat. That being said, who would have even thought to say some of these things? Then again, I suppose no one would have ever thought words such as “ratchet” or “yolo” would be a thing. Or calling people peasants on forums (or in real life, but you know… that might not fly all that well).

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And my favorite…

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Personally, I’m in favor of bringing back “gigglemug”.


I also felt that this was pretty relevant after I mentioned the strange words that we use today that I’m sure, a hundred or two years later from now, people will also ponder over. These are some of the words that have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s incredible to see how the English language constantly evolves and grows!


  1. This post is really intriguing! Slang always seems to be more of a modern thing, but it’s always interesting to remember that slang has always been around. As you mentioned, the words we use today seem fairly normal to us (or not in some cases) and would seem completely bizarre to people from the Victorian era. Similarly, while we view the Victorian slang as very strange (“Not the cheese” is particularly funny), it must have seemed completely normal to the people from that time period.

    It’s also interesting how language can develop at first as something strange and classified as slang, but eventually become a completely normal and acceptable word in the English language. For example, I was looking through the book you linked and found “Back down” as an entry. Back down meant to yield, and is now a very common phrase to hear. Additionally, the phrases “Bad Egg” and “Dead as a Doornail” were listed, both still fairly common in modern day language. At least, I’ve lost count of the number of times my mother has referred to an unwanted pest in the house as “dead as a doornail” once she’s finally gotten rid of it. I also remember hearing somewhere that the words “nice” and “awful” started out as slang words, and now they are just a common part of our language. Thanks for sharing this book, it’s really fun to look through!

  2. My favorite is “it’s not the cheese”, which seems contradictory, since cheese can also be used to mean something less or even junk, as in baseball: “You’re not gonna get that cheese by me!!” – Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams”.

    I prefer the common, polite Victorian way of saying someone isn’t feeling well (i.e., they really don’t want to see you) by saying, “Sorry, but my wife’s not the thing today.” (Young Jolyon, about his angry wife, said to his estranged father in Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga).

  3. Reblogged this on ArtemisWordsworth – Writer & Editor and commented:
    Here’s something you don’t often see: an example of slang that lasts longer than a Twitter post!

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