Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day Eighty-One

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…..


I’ve heard this phrase before, but never quite worked out where it came from. The dictionary defines it as “to be, or live, in clover; to live luxuriously. Clover is the most desirable food for cattle”. I hadn’t given much thought to cattle particularly liking clover, although that explains the phrase. It dates from at least the end of the seventeenth century and since apparently nibbling on clover is as good as it gets for cows, hence why the saying moved across to people.

There’s an American phrase meaning exactly the same, which is ‘to live in high cotton’ or to ‘live in tall cotton’, although this doesn’t seem to have derived from the clover phrase.