Do You Know These Words and Phrases?

I am all about finding how words came into usage. How about you? 

Crug is a Welsh word meaning hillock, cairn or barrow. Crug Hywel (called the Table Mountain in English) is a flat-topped hill at the southern edge of the Black Mountains in southeast Wales. (Wikipedia

A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English (page 122) says a Crow-eater is a lazy person who does not work but “picks” at what he can find to get by. A croweater comes from the early settlers in South Australia who allegedly ate the breast meat of crows, parrots and cockatoos when there was a shortage of red meat. The term croweater entered the lexicon in the late 1800s.

The Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang tells us that a cup-and-saucer player is “a player in a comedy by T. W. Robertson (d. 18710, a pioneer of ‘slick’ yet natural and workmanlike society-dram: theatrical, ca 1866-90.”

Thomas William Robertson (9 January 1829 – 3 February 1871), usually known professionally as T. W. Robertson, was an English dramatist and innovative stage director best known for a series of realistic or naturalistic plays produced in London in the 1860s that broke new ground and inspired playwrights such as W.S. Gilbert and George Bernard Shaw. (Wikipedia)

Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang by Jonathon Green (page 357) tells us that a Croaker’s Chovey is a late 19th Century word for an apothecary/pharmacy. Croakus was a mid 19th Century – 1920s word for a doctor; a quack.

Green goes on to give us Crock, defining it as a word used in the late 19th Century to early 1900s to mean “an old or broken-down horse; 2. [late 19th C-1920s] a bicycle; 3. [late 19th Century +] a broken down or physically debilitated person or thing. 4. [1900s] an invalid, a hypochondriac. 5. [1910s+] a broken down or mechanically unreliable car, airplane or any other vehicle [SE “crack,” to break (down); all often with pfx “old”; note medical jargon “crock,” a patient whose complaints far outweigh the seriousness of their illness]. tells us that Screw Your Courage to the Sticking Place means to be firm and resolute. It comes to us from Shakespeare’s Macbeth when Lady Macbeth says, “We fail! But screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail.” also gives us Shilly-Shally to mean to dither and be undecided, a reduplicated word meaning “Shall I, or shall I not?” The phrases origin comes to us from William Congreve’s The Way of the World (1700). “I don’t stand shill I, shall I, then; if I say’t, I’ll do’t.” The article goes on to bring notice to Sir Richard Steele’s The Tender Husband, or the Accomplish’d Fools, A Comedy (1703). “I’m for marrying her at once – Why should I shatnd shilly-shally, like a Country Bumpkin?” 

Heng-pan-nail is a 20th Century word to indicate “unpressed clothes; thus a general term of abuse; ready-made clothes, rather than individually tailored garments” [SE “hang upon a nail” in one’s house of shop] Jonathon Green’s Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, page 708. [Google Books

Chinese Kangxi blue and white porcelain Chinese blue and white miniature vase, Kangxi (1662-1722), decorated with panels of Long Elizas and flowering branches, height: 3 5/8in. 9.2cm.

Chinese Kangxi blue and white porcelain
Chinese blue and white miniature vase, Kangxi (1662-1722), decorated with panels of Long Elizas and flowering branches, height: 3 5/8in. 9.2cm.

John Stephen Farmer and William Ernest Henley (pages 272-273) define Long Eliza as “the trade term for certain blue and white vases ornamented with figures of tall thin china women, is a name derived undoubtedly from the German or Dutch. [Our] sailors and traders called certain Chinese vases, from the figures which distinguished them, lange Lischen (tall Lizzies), and the English sailors and traders promptly translated this into long Elizas. [Google Books

Farmer and Henley also give us Prick-the-Garter in their A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English (page 353) to mean “the manner in which countrymen are deceived by gamblers, at a game called Pricking in the Belt, or the old Nob: this is a leathern strap folded up double, and then laid upon a table: if the person who plays with a bodkin pricks into the loop of the belt, he wins; if otherwise, he loses; however, by slipping one end of the strap, the sharper can win with pleasure (Goldsmith): also Pitch the nob, Prick the belt (or loop), and Fast and loose. World Wide Words says, “But for centuries it formed the basis of a gambling game that was a staple in fairgrounds, racecourses and markets all over Europe, frequently using a leather strap or belt to make the loops. In Britain, from the eighteenth century onwards, it was often called pin and girdle or prick the garter, but it had been known in medieval times and afterwards as fast and loose, using fast in its sense of ‘fixed; immovable.’ The expression to play fast and loose became an idiom sometime before 1557, the date of its first citation in OED2. It was an obvious progression from the name of the game to a sense of ‘inconsistent; variable’ and from there to mean ‘trifle with another’s affections.'”

About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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2 Responses to Do You Know These Words and Phrases?

  1. carolcork says:

    I’m chuffed that you chose the Welsh word “Crug” and the Black Mountains are about 50 miles from where we live. I love the phrase Shilly-Shally.

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