Slang City Mail

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July 29, 2009
Slang of the Week: slubberdegullion (noun)
a dirty, nasty person

Despite his name, Adonis could not find a girlfriend because he was such a slubberdegullion.

Celebrity quote
“And for all I care, that luggish slubberdegullion
May lounder my hurdies; and go to Hecklebarney!”
- Wilfrid Wilson Gibson in his 1922 book Krindleskye
Today is Insult Your Boss Day, so if you’ve got a bad one, go ahead and tell him or her to go to Hecklebarney! You can probably guess what Hecklebarney means, but what about the rest of it?

Happily, back in 1894, the British Dialect Society anticipated the need for help with this and put out a glossary of Northumbrian vocabulary. (Gibson says that his book “has been flavoured with a sprinkling of local words,” which is kind of like saying a martini is flavored with a sprinkling of gin.) The quote means, “And for all I care, that stupid, dirty, nasty man can beat my buttocks and go to hell.”

The definition I gave above for slubberdegullion comes from a 1785 slang dictionary, but it was first used in the seventeenth century, as was the synonym slabberdegullion. To be more specific, slubber is an old word that means to make something dirty; slabber is an old word for slobber. The nastiness in slubberdegullion can come from either or both.

But apart from this gem, what insults can you use against your boss today? Assuming you don’t want to be fired, try to pick one few have heard and no one understands. For example, in the same book, one character is insulted for being a jackalally and a gonneril, both meaning fool. If you’d like something a little older, Elizabethans called fools niddicocks, and men held in contempt were called babions (from baboon). Clype was used in 1500 to denote an ugly man; in the mid-1850s, an ugly woman was called a haybag.

Enjoy the holiday and try not to celebrate so much that you lose your job!

Take a look in our bookstore for books and DVDs on all kinds of slang! This week’s pick: Need more Insults? Try The Perfect Insult for Every Occasion: Lady Snark’s Guide to Common Discourtesy, by A.C. Kemp (yes, that’s me).