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December 11, 2008

Slang of the Week: to lead apes in hell (verb phrase)
to grow old and die without having ever married (archaic)

Concerned that he might end up leading apes in hell, Tom’s mother took out an ad for him on

Celebrity quote
“Poor Gratia in her twentieth year
Foreseeing future woe
Chose to attend a monkey here
Before an ape below”
-Eighteenth century poet William Shenstone

Have you ever wondered what a moggy might be? Or a princod? I am fairly passionate about finding words that are new to me, and when I first became interested in slang, most of those were recently coined words, especially from teenagers and contemporary music. But over the years, I’ve found that I’m equally interested in slang (like to lead apes in hell) that few have heard of because it is so old.

I recently got lost in some quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore (to borrow a phrase from Edgar Allen Poe) looking for especially peculiar lingo. For example, a bad actor in the nineteenth century got the big bird (was hissed at) whereas a good one might be have labeled galopshus (great). A hundred years before that, huckle my buff was a noxious concoction made from hot beer, brandy and eggs (noxious to me--I believe it was supposed to taste good.)

But the most interesting weird words I found were good for insults, and since I found quite a few, I put them into a new quiz on antique putdowns for the Slang City website. Hopefully, this collection of oddities will give you some ammunition to secretly ridicule any annoying relatives you might have to spend time with over the holidays!

What’s new?
Take the Vintage Insult Quiz here.

Take a look in our bookstore for books and DVDs on all kinds of slang! This week’s pick: Find more weird words in The Perfect Insult for Every Occasion.