BooksRandom Posts

Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day 254, 255 and 256

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….

Pigeon’s Milk

And a prank from times gone by, defined by Grose as “boys and novices are frequently sent on the first of April to buy pigeon’s milk”.

Google Ngram shows how the prank has slowly fallen out of favour.



This word is defined by Francis Grose as “the Irish cry or howl at funerals”, although it originated as a hunting cry. The word dates to at least the early seventeenth century and is derived from the old Irish word puilliliú.

And Google Ngram’s history of the word, which is now used relatively infrequently.


Pin Basket

One of the more simple definitions, this is “the youngest child”. This harks back to a long lost tradition of when a pincushion used to be given as a present to a new mother, with pins inserted of various lengths to indicate the children by age. The youngest would thus have the shortest pin, with this phrase dating from around the middle of the eighteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century.