Doskvol Slang

wanted poster

Here are a few of my favorite bits of scoundrel’s slang from Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, Revised and Corrected and The Slang Dictionary (grabbed those titles from this blog post):

Admiral of the Narrows Seas, person who from drunkenness vomits into the lap of the person sitting opposite them.

Anchor, to bring your ass to anchor, to sit down, to keep within the letter of the law.

Arch Rogue, Dimber Damber, Upright Man: Leader of a group of scoundrels.

Bachelor’s Son, a bastard

Bad Bargain, one of his majesty’s bad bargains; a worthless soldier

Ballast, money. A rich man is said to be well-ballasted. If not proud and over-bearing he is said to carry his ballast well.

Bang-up, first-rate, in the best possible style.

Bankruptcy List, a list that signifies, in pugilism, that one is completely finished.

Bellyful, a beating

Blunderbuss, a short gun with a wide bore, a stupid blundering fellow.

Catch Fart, servants so called from such servants commonly following close behind their master or mistress

City College, scoundrels’ nickname for Ironhook Prison

Cold cook, an undertaker. Cold cook’s shop, the crematorium

Cold meat, a corpse. Cold-meat box, a coffin

Cow Handed, Awkward

Crib, A house To crack a crib, to break open a house

Dab or dabster, an expert person. Most probably derived from the Latin adeptus

Distressed, in boxing when a man is distressed he is out

Do it away, to fence or dispose of a stolen article beyond the reach of probable detection

Floor, to knock down.—Pugilistic

Floorer, a blow sufficiently strong to knock a man down, or bring him to the floor. Often used in reference to sudden and unpleasant news

Ghost, “the ghost doesn’t walk,” a theatrical term which implies that there is no money about, and that there will be no “treasury”

Jack in an Office, an insolent fellow in authority

Land-shark, a sailor’s definition of a lawyer

Larrup, to beat or thrash

Larruping, a good beating or hiding

Lay down the knife and fork, to die. Compare pegging-out, hopping the twig, and similar flippancies

Lumber House, a house appropriated by scoundrels for the reception of their stolen property

My Uncle, a pawnbroker Cant

Nose, a thief who turns informer; a paid spy; generally called a policeman’s nose; “on the nose,” on the look-out

Nose, to give information to the police, to turn approver

Nose-ender, a straight blow delivered full on the nasal promontory

Number of his mess, when a man dies in the army or navy, he is said to “lose the number of his mess”

Rhino, ready money — Old
“Some as I know, Have parted with their ready rino.” – The Seaman’s Adieu, Old Ballad

Rhinoceral, rich, wealthy, abounding in rhino. At first sound it would seem as though it meant a man abounding in rhinoceroses

Scapegallows, one who deserves and has narrowly escaped the gallows a slip gibbet one for whom the gallows is said to groan

Scoundrel’s Grind, the relentless pressure in a scoundrel’s life

Snappers, pistols

Thumper, a magnificently constructed lie, a lie about which there is no stint of imaginative power

Thumping, large, fine, or strong

Togs, clothes; “Sunday togs,” best clothes

Vice Admiral of the Narrow Seas, a drunken man that pisses under the table into his companion’s shoes

Water of Life, gin


Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. “James Keiley, convicted for complicity with Sergt. McCarthy ; Thomas Chambers, convicted for desertion, see page 18 ; Michael Harrington ; Robert Cranston.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1866.

One thought on “Doskvol Slang

  1. Excellent work, I’m going to be stealing quite a few of these. We’ve made a couple of turns of phrase fairly standard in our game:

    To “show one’s hat” is to make your presence known, usually with bravado or self confidence. “You have the nerve to come around here showing your hat after what you and your boys pulled down the docks last night?” “I’ll head over there tonight and show my hat, maybe thump a few skulls, that’ll let ’em know who’s boss.”

    “Crack” is a joke, usually in the context of sarcasm. “You want 25%? This is rousing good crack, yes? What makes you think your worthless hide is worth that much?” “I strung him up from the lamppost, just for crack.”

    To “feed the eels” is to be killed and dropped in the canals. In contrast, to “feed the crows” is to be killed and left in the street for the Spirit Wardens to find.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s