Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day 186

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 usual, Grose uses his careful prose here, defining this word as “a dunghill about London, on which the soil brought from necessary houses is emptied; or, in more technical terms, where the old gold collected at weddings by the Tom t**d man, is stored”. The striking out of part of one word is Grose, not me, always dignified…..

The word ‘laystall’ originally meant the area where cattle were held before they went to market, but it evolved into meaning any old dunghill. When cities were reconfigured, such as London after the Great Fire in 1666, there was a desire to try and put these as far away from residents as was possible. This wasn’t always particularly achievable though and I can imagine the disappointment if the city authorities decided to shove one next to where you lived.

There are a few streets across the country which retain this name, a rather lovely record of something which wouldn’t have been particularly lovely at the time. One example of this is in London, where Laystall Street is located off of the Clerkenwell Road in the Holborn area.

Never really a word that would be dropped into casual conversation or writing, but it fell nearly entirely out of usage in the twentieth century.