Glossary of words and phrases of the era
Afters (Devon). Sweets—pies and puddings.
Afternoonified (Soc.). Smart.
Ah, dear me! (Soc., 18 and 19 cents.). An expression of sorrow, perhaps from ' Ah, Dieu mais !'
Altogether (Soc., 1894). The nude in art. From Du Maurier's Trilby, who is an artist's model. 'I sit for the altogether.'
Bad form (Soc., 1860 on). The opposite of Correct Fashion.
Bayreuth Hush (Soc., 1890). Intense silence.
Bazaar'd (Soc., 1882). Robbed.
Behindativeness (Soc., 1888). Referring to the dress pannier—one of the shapes with which fashion is for ever varying the natural outline of the feminine frame; e.g., 'That lady has got a deal of behindativeness.'
Blizzard Collar (Soc., 1897). A high stand-up collar to women's jackets, coats.
Born a bit tired (Soc., 1870 on). Sarcastic excuse for a chronically lazy man.
Carpet Dance (Soc., 1877). A familiar dance for a few unfortunates in a drawing-room, as distinct from a large dance to which everybody is invited.
Catafalque (Fashion, 1897). The high plumed hat— especially black feathered, which rose to its greatest height in 1897, towards the end of which year they were sometimes removed to laps by their wearers when in theatres and a good temper.
Chair Days (Soc.). Old age.
Chappie (Soc., about 1880). Replaced chum, which had become vulgar.
Cock and Hen Club (Soc., 1880). One of mixed sexes— then spoken of contemptuously probably because they had not at that date quite succeeded.
Come and have a pickle (Soc., 1878). An invitation to a quick unceremonious meal.
Come out, To (Soc., 19 cent.). To appear in society—applied to young women in society. The crown which finishes the
Comfy (Soc., 1880 on). An endearing diminutive of comfortable. Probable origin— a royal nursery.
Cornichon (Soc., 1880). A muff. Direct from French—gherkin.
Crushed (Soc., 1895). Spoony, in love with.
Cyrano (Soc., 1900). A huge nose.
Damper (Soc., 1886 on). A dinner-bill.
Dear me (Soc., passed to people). Exclamation used by the best people; may be a corruption of Dio mio.
Desert (Soc., 1892 on). Ladies' Club—from the absence of members.
Diff (Soc.). Abbreviation of 'differences', e.g., 'No—it is not I love her—she loves me.—That's the diff.'
Disguised (Soc.). One of the numerous evasive synonyms for * drunk'.
Dizzy flat (Chicago). A fool whose foolery makes the hearer giddy.
Don't sell me a dog (Soc., 1860). Do not deceive me.
Efficient effrontery (Soc., 1885). Clever audacity.
Elaborate the truth (Soc.). To lie.
Elevator (Soc., 1882 on). The crinolette.
Fin de siecle (Soc., 1897 on). Extreme in literature, art, and music.
Five o'clock tea (Soc., 1879). Strictly tea, and nothing beyond, except a wafer biscuit, a little more wafery bread and butter, and perhaps a microscopic cake, if it is a society holiday.
Flying: the kite (Soc.). Making public—in the 90's.
Foal and filly dance (Soc.). Dance to which only very young people of both sexes are invited.
Forever - gentleman ( Soc., 1870). A man in whom good breeding is ingrained.
Fortnum and Mason (Soc., 1850 on). Complete, luxurious hamper for picnic or races. From the perfection of the eatables sent out by this firm of grocers in Piccadilly.
Four-legged fortune (Soc. t 1880 on). Winning horse.
Frenchman (Soc., 19 cent.). Bottle of brandy — from this spirit being French.
Frump (Soc. t 1871 on). High cut bodice.
Function (Soc., 1880 on). First used for grave musical performances ; but the aesthetes began to apply the word to all kinds of meetings—even afternoon teas.
Go around (American). Drift; go with current in life; live thought
Go-away (Soc., 1886). The dress into which a bride passes before she departs with her husband.
Greater London (Soc.). Popular, well-known. * He belongs to Greater London'—meaning that he is more than known to a mere division of society.
Half-hour gentleman (Soc., 1870). A man whose breeding is only superficial.
Hairpin (American Soc., 1882). A simpleton.
Hawk and pigeon (Soc., 19 cent.). Villain and victim.
Higher culture (Soc., 1885 on). Oatch word of enthusiastic society people interested in education,
Jib (Soc., 1848-80). Flat-folding, 'chimney-pot' hat, closed by springs set in centre of vertical ribs.
Kick a lung out (Anglo-Amer.). Severe castigation.
Kick into dry goods (American) To dress—clothes being dry goods.
Kick up my dust in the park (Soc.). Promenade there. From French 'Faire ma poussiere aux Champs Elysees'.
Kick out (Anglo-American). Die —from the frequent nervous movement of the legs as death approaches.
Lady Jane (Soc., 1882). A stout, handsome, cheery woman.
Left the minority (Soc., 1879). No longer with the living.
Lemon squash party (Soc., 1882). A meeting of young men, initially at Oxford, when nothing was drunk but this preparation.
Little deers (Soc. Anglo-American). Young women—generally associated, or declaring themselves to be associated, with the stage. New spelling of ' dears' to form a feminine to stags.
London smoke (Soc., 1860). A yellowish grey ; became once a favourite colour because it hid dirt.
Match (Soc., 19 cent.). Society classic for marriage throughout the reign—giving rise to the compound matchmaker, a woman who brings about marriages.
Matineers (Soc., 1885). Frequenters of matinees. Outcome of the rage for matinees, 1884-85. They are composed of quite 80 per cent, of ladies.
Menkind (Soc., J 90's). Male relatives simply.
Monday pops (Soc. ). Abbreviation of popular and put in plural. Refers to celebrated long-established concerts at St James's Hall, London.
Money bag lord (Soc., 19 cent.). Ennobled banker.
Motor (Soc., 1896). The motor-car, immediately shortened to motor, was first shown in London streets on 10th November 1896.
N. D. (Soc., 19 cent.). Initials of No Date, used by librarians in making their lists. Applied to a woman who tries to look young.
Neecee peeress (Soc.). An E. C. or city bride of little or no family, and an immense fortune, both of which are wedded to some poor lord or baronet.
New departure (Soc., 1880). Synonym for change of any kind.
Nose-bagger (Seaside Soc.). A day visitor to the seaside, who brings his own provisions, presumably in a bag
Obviously severe (Soc., 1890 on). Hopelessly rude of speech.
Old boys (Soc., 1880). Old schoolfellows.
One leg trouser (Soc. , 1882). Tight, feminine skirt of the period.
Out (Soc. and Peoples', 19 cent.). Quarrelled.
Paint-brush baronets (Soc., 1885). Title invented for ennobled artists.
Pantry Politics (Soc., 1884). Servants' talk.
Pomatum pot (Soc., 1885). Small specimens of pot-shaped and covered china.
Poultice (Soc., 1882). Very high collar, suggestive of a neck poultice, ring-like in shape.
Pretty-boy clip (Soc., 1880 on). Hair brought flat down over the forehead, and cut in a straight line from ear to ear.
Preterite (Soc., 19 cent.). Ancient — especially applied to women.
Prince's points (Soc. and Club, 1877). Shilling points at whist.
Prudes on the prowl (Soc., 1895 on). Hypersensitive women who haunted music halls to discover misbehaviour either on or off the stage.
Psychological moment (Soc. and Literary, 1894 on). Opportunity. Nick of time. Became very popular in 1896.
Pull-down (Soc., 1870, etc.). Name given to the moustache which succeeded the nap. (q.v.}.
Queen's weather (Soc. t 1837 to end of reign). Fine sunshine—from the singular fact that through her reign the Queen almost always had fine weather when she appeared in public.
Red herring (Soc.). Intended deceit.
Revolveress (Soc, 1885). A woman who uses a pistol.
Rogues' walk (Soc., 1882). The ' Walk' in the '90's was the north of Piccadilly —from the Circus to Bond Street.
Rose-coloured spectacles (Soc.). Optimism. Free translation oicouleur de rose.
School-marm (Soc. t 1886). Schoolmistress. (From U.S.A.)
Send for Gulliver (Soc., 1887 on). Depreciatory comment upon some affair not worth discussion.
She'll go off in an aromatic faint (Soc., 1883). Said of a fantastical woman, meaning that her delicate nerves will surely be the death of her.
Show-houses (Soc., 18 and 19 cent.). Mansions containing valuable works of art.
Skippable (Soc., 1882). To be avoided—from skipping in reading.
Sling over (Soc. , from Amer.). To embrace emphatically.
Society journal (Soc., 1878). Evasive name for a scandal-publishing newspaper.
Society maddists (Soc., 1881). Term to describe people not born in society, who devote their whole lives, and often fortunes, to get into society.
Spierpon orchestra (Soc., 1885 on). Public restaurant musical.
State tea (Soc., 1870). Tea at which every atom of the family plate is exhibited. Name probably suggested by State ball.
Sub rosa (Soc. ). In secret.
Submerged tenth (Soc. t 1890 on). Tenth of London, which is always in utter poverty.
Table-talk (Soc., 1883). Talk bordering on the unkind.
Tail tea (Soc., 1880 to death of Victoria). The afternoon tea following royal drawing-rooms, at which ladies who had been to court that afternoon, appeared in their trains—hence tail
Take the tiles off (Soc.). Extreme extravagance.
Tandem (Cambridge, 1870 on). Long. Used in speaking of a tall man.
Tangle-leg (Anglo - Amer.). Whisky. Derivation obvious.
Tangle-monger (Soc., 19 cent.). Application of word ' monger '. Speaks for itself—an individual, generally a woman, who fogs and implies everything.
Tannery (Anglo-American, 1880). Large boots—also absolute reference to feet almost as capacious.
Theatricality (Soc., 1888 on). Anything generically theatrical. Arose when theatres ceased to be a luxury.
Three and sixpenny thoughtful (Soc., 1890 on). Satire upon the feminine theory novel, which became dominant, 1890-96. Antithesis of the shilling shocker, which was so full of action that it had no time to think.
Toby (Soc., 1882). Lady's collar— from the wide frill worn round the neck by Mr Punch's dog.
Too much with us! (Soc., 1897). Boredom, incubus.
Too too (Soc., 1881). More than perfect. Too-too was first found in Punch in the height of the aesthetic craze (1881).
Tooled (Soc., 19 cent.). Murdered. Satirical metaphor.
Train too fine (Soc. and Sport, 1890 on). Push things too oppressively —from sporting life, where men with too much training overdo the training.
Translate the truth (Soc., 1899). Lie evasively.
Trilby (Soc., 1894). Woman's exquisite foot. American - English. From Du Maurier's book (1894) Trilby —the name of the book, and of the heroine, whose beautifully rare foot is insisted on.
Tupper (Soc., 1850 on). A commonplace honest bore who talks or writes ABC [Note: think Captain Obvious].
Tweedle-dum sirs (Soc.). Baronets or knights who gain their titles by way of music.
Ultra-crepidation (Soc., 19 cent.). Plunging, vaulting ambition.
Unkinned (Soc., 1884). Satirical pronunciation of ' unkind'—the result of the production (1884) of Hamlet at the Princess's Theatre.
Vogue (Soc., 1897). Fashion. This word was markedly used only early in 1897.
Warm corner (Soc., Sporting). A. nook where birds are found in plenty.
Weeper (Soc., 1884). Long sweeping moustache.
Well (Soc., 1860). Capital, very good, satisfactory. Used as an adjective instead of an adverb.
What's the dynamite now? (Soc., 1890 on). Protest against a burst of ill-temper, as suggestive of blowing people up.
Whistler (Soc., 1880). Misty, dreamy, milky, softly opalescent atmosphere — from many peculiarly exceptional pictures painted by the artist of this name. Came to be applied to ethics, aesthetics, and even conversation, where the doctrines enunciated were foggy.
White elephant (Soc., 18 cent, and on). An article (generally large and expensive), for which you have no use.
Wild-goose (American mining). Promise of fortune. A thin vein of ore, generally referring to silver, which presages the discovery of valuable veins.
Work the steam off (Soc., 1870 on). Get rid of superabundant energy.
Worth (Soc. t 1860-85). Most fashionable costume. From name of a man-milliner of the second French empire.
Young person, The (Soc., about 1880). Girl from fifteen to marriage.
Zedding about (Soc., 1883). Going zigzag, diverging.
Zeb taoc (Curtailed inverted word). Best coat.