All of the antiquated words and phrases used in the story, and some that are too delicious to be ignored.

A cabalistic word, formerly used as a charm. Any word-charm, verbal jingle, gibberish, nonsense, or extravagancy.

Ability to make good judgments and quick decisions; keen insight; shrewdness.

Death; also to kill.

Arthur (king or prince)
A sailor’s game. A man who is to represent King Arthur, is ridiculously dressed, having a large wig made out of oakum, or some old swabs. He is seated on the side, or over a large vessel of water, and every person in turn is ceremoniously introduced to him, and has to pour a bucket of water over him, crying out, “Hail, King Arthur!” If during the ceremony the person introduced laughs or smiles (to which his majesty endeavors to excite him by all sorts of ridiculous gesticulations), he changes places with, and then becomes King Arthur, till relieved by some brother tar who has as little command over his muscles as himself.

senseless talk or writing; nonsense.

A dolt; a stupid, thick-headed person. Buffle.

Bird in the bosom
one’s secret pledge, conscience.

To cheat, play foul at cards or billiards.

A constable, guardian of public order. A serving man, generally one of the lower orders.

Bombo (Bumbo)
A nickname given to various mixtures, but chiefly to cold punch. A liquor composed of rum, sugar, water, and nutmeg.

A small dismal prison, lock-up, or a military guard room. A very indifferent beer made from the gyle of malt and the sweepings of hop bins, and brewed especially for the benefit of agricultural labourers in harvest time.

A doctor; specifically, a quack. English synonyms: pill, squirt, butcher, croaker, corpse-provider, bolus, clyster, gallipot.


Sneak-thieving; the entering of a dwelling during the absence of the family, for the purpose of robbery.

Devil’s Bed-posts (or Four-poster)
The four of clubs; held to be an unlucky ‘ turn up.’

Devil’s Books
A pack of card;  used mainly by professional card- players. Book of broads. Book of briefs.

An extract of woody nightshade, used in homeopathy for treating skin diseases and chest complaints.

Make something clear; explain.

Relating to or involving electric currents produced by chemical action.

A Greyback, who took the oath to the North and served in its armies.

 To talk about and  round, evade, prevaricate, speak  much and mean nothing.

Plucky, courageous, resolute, full of character.

Hempen Fever
 To die of a hempen fever, to be hanged.

Gone to hell, utterly ruined; to wish to hell, to desire intensely; to play (or kick up) hell, to ruin utterly. To lead apes in hett, to die an old maid : from a popular superstition (1599) ; to give hett, to trounce, abuse, punish severely: also (American), to make one smell hell ; hett for leather, with the utmost energy and desperation; like hett, desperately, with all one’s might; go to hett! an emphatic dismissal; hett and scissors, a cry of surprise and ridicule.

Much ado about nothing, a great cry and little wool.

A sailor: specifically a cook. A filthy unpleasant-looking person.

A term of ridicule applied to men who, being under sentence or transportation, pretend illness, to avoid being sent from gaol to the hulks.


Month of Sundays
A very long time. When pigs fly. Once in a blue moon. When two Sundays come in a week. When the ducks have eaten up the dirt.

Mutton Shunter
Derogatory term for a policeman.

A cheat, thief. A sheep-stealer. A false witness.

To speak French. Talk gibberish.

Picaroon (Pickaroon or Picaro)
A rogue, shabster. As verb, to rob,  prowl in quest of plunder (1617).  On the picaro, on the make.

A wooden toy puppet on strings; A politician whose strings are pulled by someone else.

As happy (jolly, or merry) as a sandboy, All rags and all happiness. A merry fellow who has tasted a drop.

Something that once won turns out to be no prize at all.
Also:  Scotch-chocolate, brimstone and milk ; Scotch-coffee, hot water flavored with burnt biscuit; Scotch Greys, lice: hence headquarters of the Scots’ Greys is a lowsy head. Scotch-mist, a soaking rain; Scotch-seamanship, all stupidity and main strength ; Scotch-warming-pan, a chambermaid ; to answer Scotch fashion, to reply by asking another question, Yankee fashion.

Of or relating to a tomb or interment. Suggestive of a grave; Hollow and deep. “The old church organ has sepulchral tones.”

To steal; a thief: spec, a highwayman; arrested, to arrest, to pull up. Talk: conversation uninteresting or unintelligible to those present.

Tarnation (Tarnal)
Damnation, eternal: mild oaths. As adj., great, very, etc. : e.g. tarnation strange, a tarnal time, etc.

Tinker’s Damn
A small standard of value: usually in phrase, Not worth a tinker’s damn (or curse). Twopenny damn.

Driveling nonsense, bosh; gammon. As verb, to fool, to humbug.