A Dictionary of Victorian Slang (1909)

Passing English of the Victorian era, a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase (1909) by J. Reeding Ware.

Quoted from the Preface:

HERE is a numerically weak collection of instances of ‘Passing English’. It may be hoped that there are errors on every page, and also that no entry is ‘quite too dull’. Thousands of words and phrases in existence in 1870 have drifted away, or changed their forms, or been absorbed, while as many have been added or are being added. ‘Passing English’ ripples from countless sources, forming a river of new language which has its tide and its ebb, while its current brings down new ideas and carries away those that have dribbled out of fashion. Not only is ‘Passing English’ general ; it is local ; often very seasonably local. Careless etymologists might hold that there are only four divisions of fugitive language in London west, east, north and south. But the variations are countless. Holborn knows little of Petty Italia behind Hatton Garden, and both these ignore Clerkenwell, which is equally foreign to Islington proper; in the South, Lambeth generally ignores the New Cut, and both look upon Southwark as linguistically out of bounds; while in Central London, Clare Market (disappearing with the nineteenth century) had, if it no longer has, a distinct fashion in words from its great and partially surviving rival through the centuries the world of Seven Dials, which is in St Giles’s St James’s being ractically in the next parish. In the East the confusion of languages is a world of ‘ variants ‘ there must be half-a-dozen of Anglo-Yiddish alone all, however, outgrown from the Hebrew stem. ‘Passing English’ belongs to all the classes, from the peerage class who have always adopted an imperfection in speech or frequency of phrase associated with the court, to the court of the lowest costermonger, who gives the fashion to his immediate entourage.

A healthy reminder that language is no more fixed and unchanging than the people who use it.

Enjoy!

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