Victorian Trash Talk

Victorians were nothing if not colourful with their slang. A sampling?


Here’s a few gems from James Redding Ware’s 1909 ‘Passing English of the Victorian Era’, with definitions tweaked in our own words …


Barber’s cat
A man who is thin

Born a bit tired

Lumpen. Misshapen and bumpy, like a foot distorted with a bunion

Eats vinegar with a fork
Someone who is harsh, biting, entirely sharp of tongue

Everything is nice in your garden
Ok. Calm down. We get it. You and your things are all that. Everything is nice in your garden.

Fuss and feathers

Got the shutters up
Curt. Closed off

Lend us your breath to kill Jumbo
Time for some mouthwash

Arrogant. Self-important

Tea in a mug
A sign of bad breeding 🤫

Thinks he holds it
He’s vain

Totty all colours
Someone who has just way too many colours in their outfit

Won’t take off his coat
A coward

You make me tired
I find you boring

You’re off the grass
No chance, buddy



Header Art: John Singer Sargent. Portrait of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw. 1892




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