Posts Tagged ‘talk like a pirate’

We’re finishing up a great run on Kickstarter! We’re at 186% of our goal.

On Kickstarter Now!

On Kickstarter Now!

Only three days left to get all the spendiferous Pirate Words of the Day in one place, categorized, and with illustrations – and at an introductory price!

A New Look at Old Words

This book is a useful guide for writers, and fun for anyone who loves old words (or talking like a pirate).

This is not a book of the namby-pamby, hoity-toity words one would expect to hear in the London drawing-rooms of the 1600s through 1800s. This is the street slang, the flash patter of seamen, street-sellers, Gypsies and thieves. As Carl Sandburg once said, “Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work.”

A few of my favorite words to give you the flavor:

DIMBER DAMBER: very pretty; a clever rogue who excels his fellows; chief of a gang. Old cant in the latter sense. ─English Rogue.

KILKENNY CAT: a popular simile for a voracious or desperate animal or person, from the story of the two cats in that county, who are said to have fought and bitten each other until a small portion of the tail of one of them alone remained.

LITTLE SNAKES-MAN: a little thief, who is generally passed through a small aperture to open any door to let in the rest of the gang.

SUCK THE MONKEY: to rob a cask of liquor by inserting a straw through a gimlet hole, and sucking a portion of the contents.

KISS-ME-QUICK: the name given to the very small bonnets worn by females since 1850.


Once the Kickstarter ends we’ll be selling the book for $23.00, but you can pre-order a signed copy on Kickstarter for $20.00. We plan to have books shipped well in time for Christmas, so now’s the time to get gifts for the word nerds in your life.



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Coming next week!

Coming next week!

Hi Folks,

Besides dealing with a broken ankle, I’ve also been working like crazy on my new book, A New Look at Old Words. And guess what! It’s nearly ready to go! I’ll be firing up a new Kickstarter for it next week if all goes well with the video editing.

A New Look at Old Words is exactly that. It’s all your Pirate Words of the Day collected and organized into categories for you to peruse. I created it as a reference for historical fiction writers like myself, but I’ve also added illustrations, quotes and commentary to make it an interesting read for anyone who loves old words.

I can’t wait to share it with you!

Cathy Thrush

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bookfront1Hello Everyone,

Sorry I’ve been AWOL on my posts of late – other than “Word of the Day.” I’ve been working my bum off on a special project.

Introducing: A New Look at Old Words

When I was working on Lady Blade I bought a reprint of  A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words written in 1860. I was so excited. I thought it would be perfect for adding some salt to the dialog of my pirate characters.

Problem was, since it was a dictionary, I needed to already know the slang word in order to look it up. I knew the bookfront2definition, not the word. For example, if I wanted a slang word for a black-eye I’d have to read the whole book to find one! Basically the book was no help at all, until I reorganized it.

I typed in each word and then grouped all the words into categories such as Body Parts, Insults, Professions… so that I could find what I was looking for quickly and easily. And I couldn’t help adding a bit of artwork and commentary. The result – a 700 page book full of all the wonderful words you’ve been enjoying each day, laid out by topic.

Now the book is ready to go to Kickstarter – after some final edits.


And here is where I could use your help. I’ve created 3 versions of a cover, and I want to see which is the most popular.

So vote away! I want to hear from you. Which do you like best?


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

An old glaze.

An old glaze.

Leef: “I’d as Leef do it as not,” i.e., I have no objection to do it. Corruption of Lief, or Leave. Old English. Lief, inclined to.

Quizzical: jocose, humorous.

Glaze: glass generally applied to windows.

(Today’s threefer is of ones that seemed pretty obvious, but that I still wanted to include.

Interesting that Leef went from “inclined to” in old English to “not objecting to” in slang. Not a huge change, but I wonder how that came about. )

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

Florence door knocker

Florence door knocker

Teeth: “he has cut his eye Teeth,” i.e., is old and cute enough.

Teeth-Drawing: wrenching off knockers.

(A couple interesting ones. I want to know what he is “cute enough” for in the first one. And the second, well, I assume their talking about door knockers, but to what end? Did they sell them to other people as door knockers or did they just sell them for the metal? We may never know.)

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

English: Lord Palmerston Addressing the House ...

English: Lord Palmerston Addressing the House of Commons During the Debates on the Treaty of France in February 1860 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pam: the knave of clubs; or, in street phraseology; Lord Palmerston.

(Interesting stuff! So we have two separate meanings here.

I found on-line that the jack of clubs is called Pam after a medieval comic-erotic character called Pamphilus. Apparently he was the main character in a short work written in France towards the end of the 12th century and hugely popular throughout Europe. So popular, in fact, that that is where we get the word “pamphlet.” Here is an Introduction and translation.

The word was also a nickname for Lord Palmerston, who was a controversial Prime Minister of England.

According to Wikipedia (They have a lot of info on him):

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, KG, GCB, PC (20 October 1784 – 18 October 1865), known popularly as Lord Palmerston, was a British statesman who served twice as Prime Minister in the mid-19th century. Popularly nicknamed “Pam,” or “The Mongoose”, he was in government office almost continuously from 1807 until his death in 1865, beginning his parliamentary career as a Tory and concluding it as a Liberal.

He is best remembered for his direction of British foreign policy through a period when Britain was at the height of its power, serving terms as both Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister. Some of his aggressive actions, now sometimes termed liberal interventionist, were greatly controversial at the time, and remain so today. He was the most recent British Prime Minister to die in office. For the full info click here.

So Pam is a two for one!)

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


Bread (Photo credit: CeresB)

Pannam: food, bread. Lingua Franca, Pannen; Latin, Panis; Ancient cant, Yannam.

Pannam-Bound: stopping the prison food or rations to a prisoner.

Pannam-Struck: very hungry.

(Pannan-Bound is a bit chilling. Wonder when or why they starved their prisoners. Reminds me of an episode of Orange is the New Black.)

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Shopping for shoes

Shopping for shoes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

Palming:  Robbing shops by pairs, on thief bargaining with apparent intent to purchase, whilst the other watches his opportunity to steal. An amusing example of Palming came off some time since. A man entered a “ready made” boot and shoe shop and desired to be shown a pair of boots, his companion staying outside and amusing himself by looking in at the window. The one who required to be fresh shod was apparently of a humble and deferential turn, for he placed his hat on the floor directly he stepped in the shop. Boot after boot was tried on until at last a fit was obtained, when lo, forth came a man, snatched up the customer’s hat left near the door, and down the street he ran as fast as his legs could carry him. Away went the customer after his hat, and Crispin, standing at the door, clapped his hands and shouted”go, you’ll catch him,” little thinking that it was a concerted trick, and that neither his boots nor the customer would ever return. Palming sometimes refers to secreting money or rings in the hand.

(Many years ago I worked as a manager of a retail store we were also victims of Palming, although it that case it was a group of people working together. A couple of people came in and kept the shop assistants busy asking questions about our products while a few more stole a bunch of small but expensive sculptures. Quite infuriating when you learn the nice person you were trying to help was manipulating you, not to mention the financial loss. But apparently it’s nothing new.)

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

Owing to the reach of the British Empire, the ...

Owing to the reach of the British Empire, the shilling was once used on every inhabited continent. This two-shilling piece was minted for British West Africa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deaner: a shilling. Provincial Gipsy, Deanee, a pound.

(Seems they’ve got almost as many slang words for money as they do for beating people up. I think the count is at 17 for beating people up.)

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

Detail of an original George Cruikshank engrav...

Detail of an original George Cruikshank engraving showing the Artful Dodger introducing Oliver to Fagin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Father or Fence: a buyer of stolen property.

(Well, this meaning of Fence has made its way into correct usage but Father is a new one to me. Maybe it was a useful. If someone asked where that gift they gave you went, you could tell them, “I left if at my father’s place.”Uncle could be used in the same way. Also useful code for thieves speaking in public I imagine.)

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