Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day 166

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….


This is another of Grose’s religious definitions, which he refers to as “ordained. To be japanned; to enter into holy orders, to become a clergyman, to put on the black cloth: from the colour of the japan ware, which is black”. Wikipedia has an article on Japanning, which it seems is a lacquerwork that was initially used on furniture and then on porcelain. Much of this wasn’t particularly authentic Japanese, but the designs were repurposed and changed for the European market. The process was very popular in the nineteenth century, but less so from the early twentieth century onwards.

I’m not sure that the way the word was defined by Grose was particularly common, but it’s a logical way to refer to someone who has become ordained.

The word, with all its meaning, declined in usage, just as the design did.