Test Your 19th-Century Slang

Header Image - 19th Ctry Slang

When it comes to nineteenth-century slang, are you a ninny or smart as a steel trap? Keep reading to find out!

Did you know, that if you called me a Kate, I would give you Jesse? I might even plant a sockdollager on your snout and knock you into a cocked hat. You’ll probably wind up in Job’s dock when I’m through. After all, I’ve been known to whip my weight in wild cats when I get wrathy. Now, don’t wake snakes. Any varmint what’s too much of a ninny to shut pan when he’s fuddled deserves what comes to him.

That reminds me: If you’re poor as Job’s turkey, I reckon you’d best steer clear of the groggery. Don’t think that you can pass the old orchard and pull foot. You can’t hornswoggle him and I hear-tell that owner’s savage as a meat axe when he’s in a pucker. He’ll exfluncticate you if you don’t pony-up before you absquatulate.

Cutting up didoes may be all the go among natty kids but it’ll land you in the block-house.

What’s that? You say you’ve got your own bucket shop? Well, ain’t you a huckleberry above a persimmon? Do-tell! And while you’re at it, let me know how much of this made sense to you and how much sounded like bunkum.

Need a dictionary? Here you go:

ninny = coot/idiot/simpleton

smart as a steel trap = particularly intelligent and quick

Kate = smart, brazen-faced woman

Jesse = hell

sockdollager = powerful punch or blow

cock your hat = knock someone senseless

Job’s dock = hospital

whip one’s weight in wild cats = defeat a powerful opponent

wrathy = angry

wake snakes = make a fuss

varmint = wild animal or objectionable person

shut pan = close one’s mouth

fuddled = drunk

poor as Job’s turkey = very poor

reckon = to think or guess

groggery = drinking establishment

old orchard = whiskey

pull foot = leave quickly

hornswoggle = to cheat; to pull the wool over one’s eyes

savage as a meat axe = extremely savage

pucker = in a state of anger

exfluncticate = to utterly destroy

pony-up = pay up

absquatulate = to take leave, to disappear

cutting up didoes = getting into mischief

all the go = in fashion

natty kids = young thieves

block-house = jail

bucket shop = gin mill; distillery

huckleberry above a persimmon = a cut above

Do-tell = express fascination in a way that encourages the speaker to continue

bunkum = nonsense

acknowledge the corn = to admit the truth; to confess

Which of these terms had you the most befuddled? Let me know in the comments below!

(NOTE: While these are true nineteenth-century terms, the above was written in good fun and should not be taken seriously.)

To learn more fun nineteenth-century terms, check out these sources:

19th Century Slang Dictionary (PDF)

Dictionary of Americanisms

Vocabulum – The Rogue’s Lexicon