A Writer’s Guide to the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue

25 Sep 2019


Have you ever heard a writer referred to as a “brother of the quill?”

Do you ever wonder where the term “kick the bucket” came from? Or how about the origin of words like punk or fly?

It may surprise you to find out that these terms, along with many other commonly (and not so commonly) used slang actually originated back in the 1700s.

According to this fascinating article from The Public Domain Review, several popular slang terms and words that we still use today were included in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, which was released by Francis Grose in 1785.

Apparently, Grose was upset by the fact that these words were left out of the Dictionary of the English Language that was published by Dr. Johnson in 1755 because Johnson felt they were “unfit.” So, in a declaration in favor of free speech, Grose compiled a whole book full of fantastically vulgar terms that were sure to have offended the moralistic upper-class in the 1700s.

While many of these terms are still used today (although, not necessarily in their original meaning), it is likely that had it not been for Grose’s Dictionary, they would have all died out long ago.

So, if you are dying to fill your knowledge box (a.k.a. head) with wonderful old words that are sure to leave you betwattled (surprised, confounded, or out of one’s senses), be sure to check out the Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue!

Watercooler Writer 
Ever wonder what writers talk about? Our writers are always sharing something new with each other, from the latest and greatest in apps and technology to grammar rules and the origin of certain words. With our Watercooler Writer series, we have taken our very best finds, and are sharing them with you.

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