Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day 266, 267 and 268

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…. And to catch up after getting behind with these posts, and because I’m getting towards the end of the book, I’m doing three days at once now. How lovely….


I have nothing to add to this definition, which is “to be arrested by a police officer” other than to note that I’m surprised it has been used since at least the end of the eighteenth century. It was also used to describe other parts of the judicial process, including being taken before a magistrate or being searched on the street.


Pump Water

“He was christened in pump water; commonly said of a person with a red face” is how Grose defines this phrase, a usage that seems limited to the late eighteenth century period. It’s also a reminder of the state of some water supplies, notably in cities, at the time. The phrase has also been used to define crying, although that dates to a little later in the nineteenth century.



Back to alcohol again, this is defined as “ale in which wormwood has been infused, or ale and bitters drunk warm”. This is a whole area of brewing which has mostly been lost, although some of its influences remain. Vermouth is a wine which was once flavoured with wormwood and absinthe is made with grand wormwood.

The drink likely had something of a woody feel to it and sometimes that would have been tempered with the addition of orange peel. But, it would have had flavour to it, which many beers from this period simply wouldn’t have had much of. The drink was often consumed in the morning and would have been more for its restorative benefits than anything else.

Purl Bar in London takes its name from the drink and they briefly mention this old style of beer on their web-site. Northern Monk also produced a beer called Purl which was brewed with few hops (as these wouldn’t have been around in the brewing process back in Grose’s times) and was flavoured with wormwood, orange peel and juniper. This sounds rather lovely, but, unfortunately, it has been out of production for some years.