Royal Wedding: Green’s Dictionary of Nuptial Slang

Jonathon Green kicks off The Dabbler’s Big Royal Wedding Jamboree, sponsored by 1649 Bradshaw…

The last time this happened I spent the morning at Wormwood Scrubs. My friend had had two tons of grass in a garden shed. Coppers in camo and blackface materialised in his vegetable patch at 0400 hours.  Yes, that sort of grass. This time, well, we’re all older if not wiser, my friend’s long since out and, having as I do diabetes, I have a low tolerance for the sickly in whatever form. Two billion others are seemingly immune. For them, and for  Dabblers everywhere, Green’s (Extremely Small)  Dictionary of Nuptial Slang. Far be it from me…

and did he marry poor blind Nell? phr. [play on the clichéd conventions of popular fiction; allegedly from a late-19C ballad] [1910s+] a phr. used to imply one’s disbelief in the previous statement.

Archbishop (Laud) n. [rhy. sl.; ult. William Laud (1573–1645), Archbishop of Canterbury] [1960s] fraud.

be my guest phr. [1950s+] (orig. US) a phr. of encouragement (esp. in response to a request to borrow something), go ahead, ‘feel free’, ‘help yourself’, ‘make yourself at home’ etc.

bride and groom n. [1930s-40s] (US short order) two poached or fried eggs.

buy the ring (v.) [1980s+] to perform anal intercourse.

church n. [play on christen v. (1)] [late 19C–1940s] (US Und.) a place where the identity of stolen jewellery is altered.

church bell n. [late 19C–1900s] (UK rural) a talkative woman. 

church key n. [the similarity in shape of the WWII US forces GI can-opener and an old-fashioned key; some form of opener had been required since beer-cans were first merchandised in 1937] [1950s+] (US) a can-opener

divorce n. [1970s] (S.Afr.) alcohol, beer.

groom v. [1930s] (US tramp) to beat (with a weapon).

go to Westminster (for a wife) (v.) (also go to (St) Paul’s for a wife) [16C proverb: ‘Who goes to Westminster for a wife, to St Paul’s for a man or to Smithfield for a horse, may meet with a whore, a knave and a jade.’ Despite the supposed difference indicated in the proverb, Old St Paul’s Cathedral was also well-known for the raffish individuals who frequented its purlieus] [late 16C–early 19C] to visit a brothel.

Hans Carvel’s ring n. [‘Hans Carvel, […] a jealous old doctor, being in bed with his wife, dreamed that the Devil gave him a ring, which, so long as he had it on his finger, would prevent his being made a cuckold, waking, he found he had got his finger the Lord knows where’ (Grose)] [mid-18C–19C] the vagina.

Her Majesty’s carriage n. (also Her Majesty’s omnibus) [late 19C] a prison van.

husband game n. [mid-19C] (US Und.) a confidence trick where a prostitute has her ‘husband’ knock on the door after she has been paid but before she has performed.

husband’s tea n. [? a husband’s inadequacy as opposed to that of a lover] [mid-19C] very weak tea.

kate n. 1  [late 15C–1930s] (Scot.) (also cate, katy) a prostitute [generic use of proper name; poss. link to Du. kat, ‘a wanton’]. 2  [mid-17C–mid-19C] in UK Und. uses [the dimin. of the SE name Katherine, and on the model of other burglars’ tools, e.g. betty, jemmy]. (a) a skeleton key. (b) a pick-lock.

king n. 1  [20C+] (Aus./US) a respected figure, e.g. in a prison, or the leader of a gang of larrikins. 2  [1960s+] (gay) a masculine lesbian.

king’s picture(s) n. (also pictures of his majesty) [the royal features as engraved or printed on money] [mid-17C–mid-19C] money.

love and marriage n. [rhy. sl.] [20C+] a carriage.

marriage music n. [late 17C–early 19C] the sound of wailing children.

marriage prospects n. [1940s] the penis and testes.

marry brown bess (v.) [late 18C–19C] to serve as a soldier.

marry Mistress Roper (v.) [the flogging at the ‘rope’s end’ that a recruit would have to endure and because such recruits handle the ships’ ropes ‘like girls’] [mid-19C] to enlist in the Royal Marines.

marry the widow (v.) [trans. of Fr. sl. épouser la veuve, to be guillotined, lit. ‘to marry the widow’] [late 19C–1900s] to make a mess of things.

partake of His/Her Majesty’s hospitality v. [joc. var. on SE at His/Her Majesty’s pleasure] [late 19C–1930s] to spend time in prison.

queen n. 1  [1940s+] (S.Afr.) a woman who runs an illicit township bar or shebeen. 2  (a) [late 19C+] an effeminate (older) homosexual male.  [16C SE quean, a woman]

queen for a day n. [2000s] (S.Afr. gay) an ostensibly heterosexual married man, who has sex with men and then returns home.

queen’s tears n. [? ref. to the tears Queen Victoria supposedly shed after the defeat at Isandhlwana] [1940s+] (S.Afr. Zulu) alcohol, usu. gin.

ring n. 1  (a) [late 16C–18C] the vagina. (b) [late 19C+] the anus, the buttocks; thus ring-snatcher, a sodomite, ring-snatching, sodomy. (c) [1940s] anal intercourse, sodomy. (d) [2000s] the mouth.

shotgun wedding n. (also shotgun job, shotgun marriage, shotgunner) [the image of the aggrieved father holding a shotgun to the reluctant groom’s back] 1  (orig. US) a wedding that is forced on the groom through his girlfriend’s (soon to be bride’s) pregnancy; thus shotgun baby n., the child that precipitates such a union

virgin bride n. [20C+] [rhy. sl.] (Aus.) a ride.

warm the husband’s supper [19C] (v.) (also …husband’s dinner, …old man’s supper) to stand in front of the fire with lifted skirts.

wedding n. [18C]  [? SE weeding] the emptying of a privy.

wedding bells n. [1970s] [ety. unknown; ? it ‘rings’ in one’s skull] (drugs) LSD.

Westminster wedding n. [mid-17C–early 19C] ‘A Whore and a Rogue Married together’ (B.E.); a visit to a prostitute.

where the queen goes on foot n. [19C+] (also where the queen sends nobody) [note Urquhart, Gargantua & Pantagruel (1653): ‘Cagar. Spanish. To do that which the king himself can’t get another to do for him’] [20C+] the lavatory.

wife n. 1  [19C–1930s] a fetter fixed to one leg.

wife out of Westminster n. [18C–19C] a wife unconstrained by monogamy.

wife’s dream n. [1900s] (Aus.) a racing tip, the inference is of its unlikeliness.

wife in watercolours n. [18C-19C]  [the image of colours fading as do the passions of the newly married or the idea that the loving (if essentially hired) mistress was less strident than an intolerant harridan of a wife. Watercolours, suggests Grose 1785, are, like mistresses, ‘easily effaced, or dissolved’] [late 18C–early 19C] a mistress.

william n.1 [? abbr. of William = bill] [mid-19C–1920s] 1  a bill; esp. in phr. meet sweet William, to pay off a bill as soon as it is presented. 2  (US) a dollar bill.

william n.2 [proper name, on pattern of John Thomas n.] [mid-19C+] the penis.

william n.3 [rhy. sl.; william pitt = shit n. (1a); ult. UK politician William Pitt the Younger (1759–1806)] [1950s+] 1  excrement. 2  an act of defecation.

image ©Gabriel Green
You can buy Green’s Dictionary of Slang, as well as Jonathon’s more slimline Chambers Slang Dictionary, plus other entertaining works, at his Amazon page. Jonathon also blogs and Tweets.
Share This Post

About Author Profile: Jonathon Green

Jonathon 'Mr Slang' Green is the world's leading lexicographer of English slang. You can buy Green's Dictionary of Slang, as well as Jonathon's more slimline Chambers Slang Dictionary, plus other entertaining works, at his Amazon page. Jonathon also blogs and Tweets.

15 thoughts on “Royal Wedding: Green’s Dictionary of Nuptial Slang

  1. Brit
    April 28, 2011 at 10:04

    “Warm the husband’s supper” – we just don’t get enough opportunities to use that one these days, do we?

  2. Worm
    April 28, 2011 at 10:17

    I like ‘wife n. 1 [19C–1930s] a fetter fixed to one leg.’

    • Brit
      April 28, 2011 at 10:28

      Yes there’s a lot of that male gallows humour in slang, it seems. A mistress = ‘wife in watercolour’, heh heh.

      I bet there’s loads of mother-in-law jokes too…

        April 28, 2011 at 12:08

        mother-in-law n. 1 a drink composed of equal proportions of old (stout) and bitter. 2 (S.Afr., Ind.) (also mother-in-law exterminator, mother-in-law’s hell-fire, mother-in-law masala) proprietary names for the hottest forms of chilli-based hot sauces or curry powders (masalas)

          Terrence Lockyer
          April 29, 2011 at 12:07

          I’ve also seen “mother-in-law’s tongue”.

            Terrence Lockyer
            April 29, 2011 at 12:15

            And of course that phrase is also a colloquial name for Sansevieria trifasciata, presumably because of the long, sharply-pointed leaves.

  3. Gaw
    April 28, 2011 at 12:31

    I’ve heard that vile, sickly, over-strong brew Stella Artois described as ‘wife-beater’. It certainly paints a picture of its bar-room fans.

    I must try to remember ‘and did he marry poor blind Nell?’. It’s terrific.

    April 28, 2011 at 12:50

    Two tons? Blimey Jonathon, how big was his shed?!

    Lovely column as always, BTW

  5. Brit
    April 28, 2011 at 15:35

    There’s also ‘wedding tackle’, of course…

      April 28, 2011 at 18:33

      An apt description, used once and then mothballed, pardon the pun.

    April 28, 2011 at 17:23

    Poor William!

    April 28, 2011 at 18:42

    This two tons or two tonnes, Jonathon, the mind boggles, the logistics must have been a nightmare, the power usage causing a spike in the grid, its consumption creating a pea souper visible from Jupiter’s moons, where would have resided many of the end users, a veritable tour de force on a par with the uncle of one of juniors ex girlfriends, producing it in reasonable quantity on the Isle of Skye and being given an award for horticultural innovation, he was growing other leafy stuff at the same time.

    April 28, 2011 at 19:44

    Jon, Malty,
    I saw it. It was in cement sacks. Place looked like a builder’s yard. He didn’t grow it but was a storeman for Mr Big who had brought it in on a boat. The shed was big too. In Essex. The neighbouring smallholder kept a lion-cub in a chicken hut. No awards, sadly. Just a four-stretch.

    April 28, 2011 at 20:11

    Ace- Massive shed next to a lion cub – sounds like Scarface. Or Essex Boys. Lucky he didn’t get lured down a country lane…

    April 28, 2011 at 20:29

    “just looking after it for a mate” said Der Onkel Addie, when asked about Poland.

Comments are closed.