William Hogarth via Wikipedia Commons // Public Domain
Forget calling your partner "sweetheart" or "honey." The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by lexicographer Francis Grose includes a number of less than complimentary alternatives to "wife," "husband," and "prostitute." The dictionary was first published in 1785, then updated for a second edition in 1811. Grose compiled the list of words from earlier slang dictionaries and added those he heard while taking midnight walks with his assistant through London.
The dictionary was intended for male eyes only, and as the foreword in the 1811 edition states, "improper topics can with our assistance be discussed, even before the ladies, without raising a blush on the cheek of modesty." Below are 17 terms and definitions taken from this tome of "university slang." Consider this the Georgian era Urban Dictionary.
1. BUTTOCK AND TONGUE
"A scolding wife."
2. COMFORTABLE IMPORTANCE
3. COVENT GARDEN NUN
4. CURTAIN LECTURE
"A woman who scolds her husband when in bed, is said to read him a curtain lecture."
5. DRURY LANE VESTAL
"A woman of the town, or prostitute; Drury-lane and its environs were formerly the residence of many of those ladies."
"He whose wife accompanies him to the alehouse."
"A husband governed by his wife, is said to be henpecked."
"An abbreviation of housewife, but now always used as a term of reproach; as, How now, hussy? or, She is a light hussy."
9. LACED MUTTON
10. LAWFUL BLANKET
11. PUBLIC LEDGER
"A prostitute: because, like that paper, she is open to all parties."
"A wife: an allusion to our common mother Eve, made out of Adam's rib. A crooked rib: a cross-grained wife."
13. TENANT AT WILL
"One whose wife usually fetches him from the alehouse."
14. TENANT FOR LIFE
"A married man; i.e. possessed of a woman for life."
"Wives being sometimes apt to question their husbands whither they are going."
16. WIFE IN WATER COLOURS
"A mistress, or concubine; water colours being, like their engagements, easily effaced, or dissolved."
"The name of Socrates's wife: now used to signify a shrew or scolding wife."