Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day Ninety

The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was first published at the end of the eighteenth century, and given that the Coronavirus crisis is giving too much time to read books, I thought I’d pick a daily word from it until I got bored…..

Crank

Defined as “gin and water”, a combination which isn’t that commonly seen today. However, this was a better option than drinking gin neat, as had been the want in the eighteenth century, solely because the touch of water would bring out some of the flavours from the gin. Lemons and limes were relatively rare in the UK at the end of the eighteenth century and ice wouldn’t have been an option either. The habit of chilling drinks became more common throughout the nineteenth century, with ice becoming easier to acquire later on during the century, which proved to be the next evolution in alcoholic drinks.

Incidentally, I don’t know the origins of the word ‘crank’ in this context, but another archaic meaning of the word is “weak or shaky”, or indeed with relation to ships “liable to fall over”, so perhaps that’s where this came about with reference to drinking too much gin…..