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Archive for November, 2014

From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

Guess it does still work...

Guess it does still work…

Ring Dropping: see Fawney.

Fawney or Fawney Rig: ring dropping. A few years ago, this practice, or Rig, was very common. A fellow purposely dropped a ring, or a pocket book with some little articles of jewellery, &c., in it, and when he saw any person pick it up, ran to claim half. The ring found, the question of how the booty was to be divided had then to be decided. The Fawney says, “if you will give me eight or nine shilling for my share the things are yours.” This the Flat thinks very fair. The ring of course is valueless, and the swallower of the bait discovers the trick too late.

(Would this work today? I have my doubts. But perhaps with the right Flat. I’d probably post pictures of the stuff on Facebook and try to find out who owned it so I could return it. 🙂

I do think a variation of the Rig was used in an old Nick Cage movie where he was a con man. Anyone know the name of the movie?)

 

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

Debtor's Prison

Debtor’s Prison

Ring: a generic term give to horse racing and pugilism, the latter is sometimes termed the Prize-Ring. From the practice of forming the crowd into a ring around the combatants, or outside the racecourse.

Ring: “to go through the Ring,” to take advantage of the Insolvency Act, or be whitewashed.

(The Insolvency Act allowed people who went into debt to file for bankruptcy instead of going to debtor’s prison.

Insolvency was still a social stigma, but at least it didn’t mean likely death any more.)

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

May have to check this out.

May have to check this out.

Rights: “to have one to Rights,” to be even with him, to serve him out.

(Most people would get that one, but once again I wish he would tell us where it came from. Hard to imagine how that one came to be.

I did look up the phrase, Dead to rights which seems to have come later.  I found this;

Farmer & Henley, Slang and Its Analogues, vol. 2 (1891), says that “dead to rights” means “certain; without doubt,” and asserts that it is simply an amplification of the earlier term “to rights,” meaning “completely to one’s satisfaction.” Dead appears in a similarly amplifying way in such current phrases as “dead broke,” “dead certainty,” “dead heat,” and “dead ringer.”

So I assume that Having one to Rights would, by this definition mean having the person’s situation be completely to your own satisfaction; the situation is right – as in correct.)

 

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

Ah, so that's why nine pence was so right.

Ah, perhaps that’s why nine pence was so right.

Right as Ninepence: quite right, exactly right.

(I couldn’t figure out what was so right about Ninepence, but I found this. Apparently lots of things were “right.”

Perhaps surprisingly, there have been expressions starting right as … since medieval times, always in the sense of something being satisfactory, safe, secure or comfortable. An early example, quoted as a proverb as long ago as 1546, is right as a line. In that, right might have had a literal sense of straightness, something desirable in a line, but it also clearly has a figurative sense of being correct or acceptable. There’s an even older example, from the Romance of the Rose of 1400: “right as an adamant”, where an adamant was a lodestone or magnet.

Lots of others have followed in the centuries since. There’s right as a gun, which appeared in one of John Fletcher’s plays, Prophetess, in 1622. Right as my leg is also from the seventeenth century is in Sir Thomas Urquhart’s translation of Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Rabelais, published in 1664: “Some were young, quaint, clever, neat, pretty, juicy, tight, brisk, buxom, proper, kind-hearted, and as right as my leg, to any man’s thinking”. There’s right as a trivet from the nineteenth century, a trivet being a stand for a pot or kettle placed over an open fire; this may be found in Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers of 1837: “I hope you are well, sir.” “Right as a trivet, sir,”; replied Bob Sawyer.

About the same time, or a little later, people were saying that things were as right as ninepence, as right as a book, as right as nails, or as right as the bank. Right as rain is a latecomer to this illustrious collection of curious similes. It may have first appeared at the very end of the nineteenth century, but the first example I can find is from Max Beerbohm’s book Yet Again of 1909: “He looked, as himself would undoubtedly have said, ‘fit as a fiddle'”; or “right as rain”. Since then it has almost completely taken over from the others. It makes no more sense than the variants it has usurped and is clearly just a play on words (though perhaps there’s a lurking idea that rain often comes straight down, in a right line, to use the old sense). But the alliteration was undoubtedly why it was created and has helped its survival. As right as ninepence has had a good run, too, but that has vanished even in Britain since we decimalised the coinage and since ninepence stopped being worth very much. 

Tristan Childs, Maida Vale, England)

 

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

A pair of well-rigged gentlemen.

A pair of well-rigged gentlemen.

Rigged: “well Rigged,” well dressed. Old slang, in use 1736. See Bailees Dictionary. Sea.

(Of course. A well rigged ship wore her lines and sails well, why wouldn’t a person wear their clothes well.)

 

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

Hmmm, could be useful.

Hmmm, could be useful.

Rig: a trick, “spree,” or performance; “run a Rig,” to play a trick. Gipsy; “Rig the market.,” in reality to play tricks with it, a mercantile slang phrase often used in the newspapers.

(That one has changed. It’s lost some of the whimsy of the original meaning. If something is rigged now, it’s definitely scammed or made unfair.)

 

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

Is that black donkey giving me the stink eye?

Is that black donkey giving me the stink eye?

Ride: “to Ride the High Horse,” or Ride Rough-Shod over one, to be overbearing or oppressive; to Ride the Black Donkey, to be in an ill humour.

(Well, the first two have survived, but what ever happened to “Ride the Black Donkey?” I love that one! And it makes so much sense. A bad mood with take you were it wants to go, not where you want to go, just like a donkey with a black heart.)

 

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tonguesfirst published in 1859.

I visited India recently and I believe I tried all these dishes. Yummy but very rich.

I visited India recently and I believe I tried all these dishes. Yummy but very rich.

Rich: spicy; also used in the sense of “too much of a good thing;” “a Rich idea,” one too absurd or unreasonable to be adopted.

(Yup, these meanings have survived a couple hundred years. I wonder why one word survives and another doesn’t. What is it that appeals to us that keeps one slang word alive or even brings it into proper usage but dooms another?)

 

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

Hope that's not from a rib-roasting.

Hope that’s not from a ribroasting.

Ribroast: to beat till the ribs are sore, Old; but still in use;

And he departs, not meanly boasting
Of his magnificent Ribroasting.  – Hudibrae.

(Yea, we’d probably get the drift. I think that’s got to be at least twenty-five slang terms for a beating so far! It’s a little scary what that says about society back then.)

 

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

split reins, or fancy ribbons.

split reins, or fancy ribbons.

Ribbons: the reins. Middlesex.

(I can certainly see the resemblance between ribbons and reins. I just wish he  told us why it came about.)

 

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