Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day Twenty-Seven

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…..

Billingsgate Language

This is according to the dictionary, “foul language or abuse from the market where the fish(er)women assemble to purchase fish; and where, in their dealings and disputes, they are somewhat apt to leave decency and good manners a little on the left hand”. There was historically another similar term, although it had the same meaning, of ‘Billingsgate Discourse’.

Billingsgate Market was once the fish market which was in operation near to the Tower of London from around the sixteenth century until 1982. At that stage it was moved to a site near to Canary Wharf, although the area only became built up as a commercial district later on. The term Billingsgate for offensive language persisted throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, although I’m not sure it’s very common today.

Although this reminds me of the fisherwomen who came to Lowestoft over the last few decades, who received a reputation in parts for their direct language. The same principles no doubt applied back in Billingsgate…