The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was first published at the end of the eighteenth century, and given that the current health crisis is giving too much time to read books, I thought I’d pick a daily word from it until I got bored….
As a prior warning, this is completely horrific and thank goodness that this is in the distant past. The dictionary defines it as “a goose, who neck is greased, being suspended by the legs to a cord tied to two trees or high posts, a number of men on horseback, riding full speed, attempt to pull off the head: which if they effect, the goose is their prize. This has been practised in Derbyshire within the memory of persons now living”.
Although the dictionary mentions Derbyshire, this was a tradition in numerous parts of Europe and more humane versions are still practised today. Better known as goose pulling, it’s thought that it originated in twelfth-century Spain before being spread further afield. The practice had pretty much died out in England by the later part of the eighteenth century, but it was spread to the United States where it persisted until the later part of the nineteenth century.
The practice did though carry on into the twentieth century in the Netherlands, although live birds were substituted for dead birds by the 1920s. It is in only in the last couple of years that the use of dead birds is now also thought to be inappropriate, so non-animal replacements are used.