Thursday, April 19, 2007

Admirals and Apothecaries

The last couple of days, the lofty and literary have been upstaged by baseball and the evil, addictive invention known as Facebook. My reading has been likewise vulgar. I picked up the other day a lovely little hardback called The Vulgar Tongue: Buckish Slang and Pickpocket Eloquence, a dictionary of street idioms compiled in the 18th C. by the aptly named Francis Grose.

I'm reading it cover-to-cover, on the pot (appropriately) and in-between innings of the ball-game. A couple of grade A "A" entries:

ADMIRAL OF THE NARROW SEAS: One who from drunkenness vomits into the lap of the person sitting opposite to him. Seaphrase.

I guess this must've happened a lot at sea...

APOTHECARY: To talk like an apothecary; to use hard, or gallipot words; from the assumed gravity and affectation of knowledge generally put on by the gentlemen of that profession, who are commonly as superficial in their learnings as they are pedantic in their language.

I quite prefer this to "theory pig," the modern equivalent used for those purveyors of sophistry and pseudo-scholarship, the pomo poser pontificators harboured by most university English departments.

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