Old and Ancient English Slang

116 terms


adj. pleasant
Good--BENAR. Better.
good. Benar, better.
sb. a prayerVariants: benes, pl..Etymology: Anglo-Saxon bén : Old Teutonic (as restored by scholars) bóni-z,
good.—Ancient Cant benar  was the comparative.—See boneLatin.


brandy.—Old Cant.
Brandy or other spirituous liquor.


Smart, clever, spruce.
very well, clever, spruce. “How are you doing?” “Oh! pretty bobbish.”—Old.


sb. pain, poison —see Bane
sb. prayer, petitionVariants: bon, boone, bonen, pl.Etymology: Icelandic bón. Cf. Bene
to steal or appropriate what does not belong to you. Boned , seized, apprehended.—Old.
Bones of the human body.Bones of the human body.
good, excellent. diamond, the vagabonds' hieroglyphic for bone , or good, chalked by them on houses and street corners as a hint to succeeding beggars.—Frenchbon.


What parts of our bodies are jointed together so nicely? Our bones.

How many bones have we?

If you should count all your bones, you would find that each of you has about two hundred.

Some are large; and some, very small.

There are long-hones in your legs and arms, and many short ones in your fingers and toes. The backbone is called the spine.

Backbone of a fish.Backbone of a fish.

If you look at the backbone of a fish, you can see that it is made up-of many little bones. Your own spine is formed in much the same way, of twenty-four small bones. An elastic cushion of gristle (grĭs´l) fits nicely in between each little bone and the next.

When you bend, these cushions are pressed together on one side and stretched on the other. They settle back into their first shape, as soon as you stand straight again.

If you ever rode in a wheelbarrow, or a cart without springs, you know what a jolting it gave you. These little spring cushions keep you from being shaken even more severely every time you move.

Twenty-four ribs, twelve on each side, curve around from the spine to the front, or breast, bone. 

They are so covered with flesh that perhaps you can not feel and count them; but they are there.

Then you have two flat shoulder-blades, and two collar-bones that almost meet in front, just where your collar fastens.

Of what are the bones made?

Take two little bones, such as those from the legs or wings of a chicken, put one of them into the fire, when it is not very hot, and leave it there two or three hours. Soak the other bone in some weak muriatic (mū rĭ ăt´ĭk) acid. This acid can be bought of any druggist.

You will have to be careful in taking the bone out of the fire, for it is all ready to break. If you strike it a quick blow, it will crumble to dust. This dust we call lime, and it is very much like the lime from which the mason makes mortar.

Bone tied to a knot.Bone tied to a knot.

The acid has taken the lime from the other bone, so only the part which is not lime is left. You will be surprised to see how easily it will bend. You can twist it and tie it into a knot; but it will not easily break.

You have seen gristle in meat. This soft part of the bone is gristle.

Children's bones have more gristle than those of older people; so children's bones bend easily.

I know a lady who has one leg shorter than the other. This makes her lame, and she has to wear a boot with iron supports three or four inches high, in order to walk at all.

One day she told me how she became lame.

"I remember," she said, "when I was between three and four years old, sitting one day in my high chair at the table, and twisting one foot under the little step of the chair. The next morning I felt lame; but nobody could tell what was the matter. At last, the doctors found out that the trouble all came from that twist. It had gone too far to be cured. Before I had this boot, I could only walk with a crutch."

Diseases of the Bones

Congenital Defects of Bones. Various congenital deformities of the limbs occur because of interference in various ways with the proper and normal formation of these cartilaginous masses. If, for any reason, the cause of which in most cases is not clear, any of these cartilaginous masses fail to be formed in the embryonic tissues, naturally no ossification can occur, and in such cases there may be a partial or complete lack of development of the corresponding bone. The amount of this congenital deformity may vary from the absence of an entire foot, to the absence of one or several digits, or one or more phalanges.

The deformities produced by such a failure to deposit the cartilaginous base of the bones are very numerous, and in some cases lead to great deformity and loss of function. This lack or increase of the reformation in cartilage, results in most extraordinary deformities.

No special type of deformity merits special attention; the condition in each case must be decided by inspection and X-ray examination.

In many of these cases, especially where the lesion affects the digits, the capability of the individual is but little impaired, whilst in other cases, where bones are absent, marked deformity and impairment of function may occur. Some of the cases, notably webbed toes, are comparatively easily corrected; other cases however, offer little chance of sufficient cosmetic or functional gain to make a surgical operation necessary or desirable.

Atrophy of Bone. Various causes may lead to atrophy of bone. The method by which atrophy is brought about is peculiar, and is due to the action of special giant cells, called osteoclasts. Wherever extensive atrophy of bone takes place, microscopic inspection shows such giant cells lying closely adjacent to the trabeculae of the bone which is being resorbed, and the trabeculae in that immediate vicinity slowly disappear under the action of these giant cells. Their action is very similar to the action of giant cells in the soft tissues about absorbable foreign bodies. This process is called lacunar resorption.

In old people the amount of absorption oftentimes is very great; the process is then termed senile atrophy. It may be marked in the skull and in the long bones, and in many cases of fracture of the neck of the femur, a moderate amount of lacunar resorption precedes the fracture which results from slight violence. In certain cases this resorptive process in old people is extreme, and leads to great fragility of the bones, with repeated fractures from slight violence, which under ordinary circumstances, would cause no injury at all.

A mere lack of use of bones may also lead to a certain amount of atrophy from lacunar resorption. This may be seen after amputations, where the stump of bone which is left from the amputation slowly undergoes lacunar resorption and sometimes a marked diminution in size. The same thing may also be seen in the bones of people who for long periods of time have been deprived of the use of their limbs, either by the application of apparatus around fractures, or by disuse for other reasons.

Lacunar resorption also occasionally follows lesions of the central nervous system, part of the atrophy being due to disuse of the limbs from the paralysis, and part of it also being dependent in some indirect way upon the nerve lesion.

Atrophy of bone also may be brought about by pressure. It is to be remembered that the bone, as a matter of fact, is not a perfectly rigid material, but that processes of new formation and resorption are constantly taking place, even under normal conditions. If, for any reason, bone is put under constant pressure, a certain amount of readjustment of the bony constituents takes place in order to adapt the bone to its altered condition. The most striking example of this sort of atrophy is perhaps the Chinese ladies' feet, where the bones, being bent into an abnormal position, beginning early in childhood, ultimately show enormous deformity and an entire rearrangement of the trabeculae of the bone. The same thing also may be seen occasionally after pressure and deformity from contracture of muscles or from the pressure of scars. This process, which ordinarily leads to loss of function, in a certain limited number of cases aids function, for whilst certain fractures of the joints may lend to deformity of the articular facets of those joints, by absorption of certain portions and new formation in others, a readjustment of the joint surface may take place, so that a marked increase of function may occur.

A certain amount of atrophy also may be brought about by the pressure and development of tumors.

Hypertrophy of Bone. In many cases new growth of bony tissue is due to the new formation of periosteal bone, and is an expression of an attempt at repair of one or the other of the numerous destructive processes. In other cases true hypertrophy of the bone, with no connection with any reparative process, may occur.

A notable example of this is seen in the growth of bone which sometimes occurs after amputation, especially in young people. The increased size of the bones which is seen in many definite diseases will be mentioned under the proper headings.

Caries and Necrosis. Various pathologic processes produce destruction of bone. The destructive process may cause the death of large areas of the affected bone at once, and in that case, a large fragment of necrotic bone may remain in situ and still maintain its contour. Destruction of bone of this sort is described by the clinical term necrosis.

Other processes cause a gradual molecular softening and destruction of bone, which ultimately may be very extensive, but at no time is there present any appreciable large mass of bone. Destruction of this sort is described by the clinical term caries.

As a means of differentiating clinical conditions, the use of these two words is desirable. As a clinical term,necrosis  usually means destruction by pyogenic infection, and caries, destruction by the gradual extension of a tuberculous process. This clinical distinction, however, is not an exact one, because destruction of large areas of bone, described as necrosis, is occasionally brought about by syphilitic infection, and rarely by tuberculosis, whilst molecular destruction of the bone is brought about by a considerable variety of processes, the chief of which, it is true, is tuberculous infection, but actinomycosis and syphilis may both lead to the gradual disintegration of the bone, without the formation of large necrotic masses of bone.

The presence of necrotic bone connected with the surface of sinuses, from which comes a discharge of pus, should always lead to the consideration of tuberculosis, actinomycosis, and syphilis. The presence of large sequestra of bone should immediately suggest the presence of osteomyelitis or of syphilis.

Treatment.The details of the treatment of the various forms of destructive processes in bone will be found under their special headings, chiefly under osteomyelitis and tuberculosis.

In all cases of caries it is desirable to remove completely the softened areas in the bone. This may be done by curettment and drainage, or by excision of the entire bone, or series of bones, in certain cases, or rarely by amputation.

The difficulty in all these cases is to recognize the exact limits of the carious process. It must be borne in mind that at the time of operation upon carious bones the field of vision of the surgeon is almost always limited; moreover, the bleeding which always takes place from the bone-marrow in such cases, also obscures the field, and even if these two causes were not present, it is frequently extremely difficult, by naked-eye examination to determine the exact limits of the destructive process. As a general rule, it can be said that the carious area is at least a quarter of an inch wider than appears upon visual inspection.

In cases of necrosis with large bone defects, the difficult thing is to cause a growth of the bone toward the central cavity after removal of the sequestrum. The various methods applicable to such cavities are mentioned in detail under “Osteomyelitis.”


to rattle the bones , to play at dice: also called St. Hugh's bones.
“he made no bones  of it,” he did not hesitate, i.e., undertook and finished the work without difficulty, “found no bones  in the jelly.”—Ancientvide  Cotgrave.


a beer-shop, a low public-house.—Ancient.


impudence, cheek. A showy swindler, a bully.
to boast, cheat, or bully.—Old Cant. Also to lie.

bounce : A colloquialism for “discharge” or “eject forcibly,” an apt rather than an elegant term.

To bounce: To brag or hector; also to tell an improbable story. To bully a man out of any thing. The kiddey bounced the swell of the blowen; the lad bullied the gentleman out of the girl.


a fox's tail, a house-painter. Also a scrimmage.
or brush-off , to run away, or move on quickly.—Old Cant.
To brush: To run away. Let us buy a brush and lope; let us go away or off. To have a brush with a woman; to lie with her. To have a brush with a man; to fight with him. The cove cracked the peter and bought a brush; the fellow broke open the trunk, and then ran away.

In electric current generators and motors, the pieces of copper or other material that bear against the cylindrical surface of the commutator are thus termed. Many different constructions have been employed. Some have employed little wheels or discs bearing against and rotating on the surface of the commutator. A bundle of copper strips is often employed, placed flatwise. Sometimes the same are used, but are placed edgewise. Wire in bundles, soldered together at their distant ends have been employed. Carbon brushes, which are simply rods or slabs of carbon, are used with much success.

Synonym: Collecting Brush.


To bubble: To cheat.
to over-reach, deceive, to tempt by means of false promises.—Old. (Acta Regia, ii. 248, 1726.)

Science of the Soap-Bubble

Few of the minor ingenuities of mankind have amused so many individuals as the blowing of bubbles with soap-lather from the bowl of a tobacco-pipe; yet how few who in childhood's careless hours have thus amused themselves, have in after-life become acquainted with the beautiful phenomena of light which the soap-bubble will enable us to illustrate!

Usually the bubble is formed within the bowl of a tobacco-pipe, and so inflated by blowing through the stem. It is also produced by introducing a capillary tube under the surface of soapy water, and so raising a bubble, which may be inflated to any convenient size. It is then guarded with a glass cover, to prevent its bursting by currents of air, evaporation, and other causes.

When the bubble is first blown, its form is elliptical, into which it is drawn by its gravity being resisted; but the instant it is detached from the pipe, and allowed to float in air, it becomes a perfect sphere, since the air within presses equally in all directions. There is also a strong cohesive attraction in the particles of soap and water, after having been forcibly distended; and as a sphere or globe possesses less surface than any other figure of equal capacity, it is of all forms the best 49  adapted to the closest approximation of the particles of soap and water, which is another reason why the bubble is globular. The film of which the bubble consists is inconceivably thin (not exceeding the two-millionth part of an inch); and by the evaporation from its surface, the contraction and expansion of the air within, and the tendency of the soap-lather to gravitate towards the lower part of the bubble, and consequently to render the upper part still thinner, it follows that the bubble lasts but a few seconds. If, however, it were blown in a glass vessel, and the latter immediately closed, it might remain for some time; Dr. Paris thus preserved a bubble for a considerable period.

Dr. Hooke, by means of the coloured rings upon the soap-bubble, studied the curious subject of the colours of thin plates, and its application to explain the colours of natural bodies. Various phenomena were also discovered by Newton, who thus did not disdain to make a soap-bubble the object of his study. The colours which are reflected from the upper surface of the bubble are caused by the decomposition of the light which falls upon it; and the range of the phenomena is alike extensive and beautiful.15

Newton (says Sir D. Brewster), having covered the soap-bubble with a glass shade, saw its colours emerge in regular order, like so many concentric rings encompassing the top of it. As the bubble grew thinner by the continual subsidence of the water, the rings dilated slowly, and overspread the whole of it, descending to the bottom, where they vanished successively. When the colours had all emerged from the top, there arose in the centre of the rings a small round black spot, dilating it to more than half an inch in breadth till the bubble burst. Upon examining the rings between the object-glasses, Newton found that when they were only eight  or nine  in number, more than forty  could be seen by viewing them through a prism; and even when the plate of air seemed all over uniformly white, multitudes of rings were disclosed by the prism. By means of these observations Newton was enabled to form his Scale of Colours, of great value in all optical researches.

Dr. Reade has thus produced a permanent soap-bubble:

Put into a six-ounce phial two ounces of distilled water, and set the phial in a vessel of water boiling on the fire. The water in the phial will soon boil, and steam will issue from its mouth, expelling the whole of the atmospheric air from within. Then throw in a piece of soap about the size of a small pea, cork the phial, and at the same instant 50  remove it and the vessel from the fire. Then press the cork farther into the neck of the phial, and cover it thickly with sealing-wax; and when the contents are cold, a perfect vacuum will be formed within the bottle,—much better, indeed, than can be produced by the best-constructed air-pump.

To form a bubble, hold the bottle horizontally in both hands, and give it a sudden upward motion, which will throw the liquid into a wave, whose crest touching the upper interior surface of the phial, the tenacity of the liquid will cause a film to be retained all round the phial. Next place the phial on its bottom; when the film will form a section of the cylinder, being nearly but never quite horizontal. The film will be now colourless, since it reflects all the light which falls upon it. By remaining at rest for a minute or two, minute currents of lather will descend by their gravitating force down the inclined plane formed by the film, the upper part of which thus becomes drained to the necessary thinness; and this is the part to be observed.

Several concentric segments of coloured rings are produced; the colours, beginning from the top, being as follows:

1st order : Black, white, yellow, orange, red.
2d order : Purple, blue, white, yellow, red.
3d order : Purple, blue, green, yellowish-green, white, red.
4th order : Purple, blue, green, white, red.
5th order : Greenish-blue, very pale red.
6th order : Greenish-blue, pink.
7th order : Greenish-blue, pink.

As the segments advance they get broader, while the film becomes thinner and thinner. The several orders disappear upwards as the film becomes too thin to reflect their colours, until the first order alone remains, occupying the whole surface of the film. Of this order the red disappears first, then the orange, and lastly the yellow. The film is now divided by a line into two nearly equal portions, one black and the other white. This remains for some time; at length the film becomes too thin to hold together, and then vanishes. The colours are not faint and imperfect, but well defined, glowing with gorgeous hues, or melting into tints so exquisite as to have no rival through the whole circle of the arts. We quote these details from Mr. Tomlinson's excellent Student's Manual of Natural Philosophy.

We find the following anecdote related of Newton at the above period. When Sir Isaac changed his residence, and went to live in St. Martin's Street, Leicester Square, his next-door neighbour was a widow lady, who was much puzzled by the little she observed of the habits of the philosopher. A Fellow of the Royal Society called upon her one day, when, among her domestic news, she mentioned that some one had come to reside in the adjoining house who, she felt certain, was a poor crazy gentleman, “because,” she continued, “he diverts himself in the oddest way imaginable. Every morning, when the sun shines so brightly that we are obliged to draw the window-blinds, he takes his seat on a little stool before a tub of soapsuds, and occupies himself for hours blowing soap-bubbles through a common clay-pipe, which bubbles 51  he intently watches floating about till they burst. He is doubtless,” she added, “now at his favourite amusement, for it is a fine day; do come and look at him.” The gentleman smiled, and they went upstairs; when, after looking through the staircase-window into the adjoining court-yard, he turned and said: “My dear madam, the person whom you suppose to be a poor lunatic is no other than the great Sir Isaac Newton studying the refraction of light upon thin plates; a phenomenon which is beautifully exhibited on the surface of a common soap-bubble.”


the landlord of a public-house. Much in use among sporting men.
to give, pass, hand over, drink, or to perform almost any action. bung  up, to close up, as the eyes.—Pugilistic. “bung  over the rag,” hand over the money.—Old, used by Beaumont  and Fletcher, and Shakspeare. Also, to deceive one by a lie, to cram , which see.