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A Selected Glossary

Belasco: David Belasco (1853-1931) was an American theatrical manager, producer and occasional playwright best known for spectacular stage settings and inventive lighting.

Blarney: Smooth, flattering talk (derived from Blarney Stone, located at Blarney Castle in southern Ireland. Kissing the Blarney Stone is said to impart powers of eloquence and persuasion.).

Blather: Chatter, nonsense.

Blotto: Slang: drunk.

Bonded Bourbon: Bourbon whiskey that has been aged and bottled according to the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897. It is straight bourbon whiskey, made at one time and in one location, that has been aged in government-supervised warehouses for at least four years and bottled at 100 proof.

Bootlegger: A person who engages in smuggling (illegal trade). Bootleggers are often associated with the illegal trade of alcohol during Prohibition.

Brass: Showing blatant self-assurance or impudent boldness.

Brazen: Bold, forward.

Bunk: Slang: empty talk, nonsense.

Cholera: An acute, often fatal, infectious disease often contracted by drinking contaminated water.

Dago red: Derogatory slang term for the type of red wine made by Italian immigrants.

Dirge: A slow, mournful song or elegiac poem.

Divil a speck: Slang: “scarcely a speck.”

Drivel: Stupid or senseless talk.

D.T.s: Delirium Tremens. An acute, sometimes fatal episode of delirium that is usually caused by
withdrawal or abstinence from alcohol following habitual excessive drinking. It is characterized by
sweating, trembling, anxiety, confusion and hallucinations. It also may occur during an episode of
heavy alcohol consumption.

Duke of Donegal: County Donegal is located in northwest Ireland.

Eminent: Well-known, important.

Exalted: Dignified, glorious.

Flinders: Bits, fragments.

Gab: Chatter.

Gabriel’s horn: According to the Bible, the Archangel Gabriel will blow his horn to announce the arrival of Judgment Day.

Graft: Unscrupulous use of one’s position to derive profit or advantages; extortion.

Guff: Small-talk.

Heebie jeebies: A state of nervous excitement, brought on by fear, anticipation, drugs, etc.; delirium tremens.

Hooch: Alcohol, particularly illicitly produced. The word originally referred to strong liquor made by the Hoochino Indians of Alaska.

Infirm: Sick, unwell.

Insinuating: To insinuate means to imply, to suggest subtly or craftily.

Jack Dempsey: (1895-1983) World heavyweight boxing champion from 1919-1926, who had a pro record of 64-6-9.

Jag: Spree, overindulgence.

Jebs: Slang for Jesuits. The Jesuit order, founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius Loyola, is renowned for its strict, hierarchical, almost military discipline and its emphasis on an education based on the classics.

Limey: Slang (often derogatory): An Englishman (noun); English or British (adjective).

Macadam: A pavement of layers of compacted broken stone, now usually bound with tar or asphalt.

Messalina: (17-48 CE) Third wife of Roman emperor Claudius, portrayed in the works of Tacitus and other historians as a ruthless nymphomaniac.

Minx: A promiscuous woman.

Miser: A greedy, stingy person.

Mug: A person’s face or the photograph of a face (as in the term “mug shot”).

Nix: To forbid, veto; also a slang exclamation meaning stop.

Paralytic: A person unable to move or act.

Pelt: To move quickly, in an energetic gait.

Pie-eyed: very drunk.

Pinched: Slang: arrested.

Pins: Slang: legs.

Pious: Religiously devout, virtuous, moral.

Praties: Irish slang for potatoes.

Probate: The process of legally establishing the validity of a will before a judicial authority.

Prohibition: A ban, ruling out; also refers to the period (1920-33) when the 18th Amendment and the Prohibition Act prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States.

Punk: Of poor quality, worthless.

Puss: Face, mouth; derives from Irish Gaelic pus, mouth.

Ramses: (12th-11th centuries BCE) The last great Pharoah of Egypt, after whose death the nation fell into decline.

Rotgut: Slang: raw, inferior liquor.

Rumpus: A disturbance, commotion.

Savage: Fierce, merciless.

Sen-Sen: A breath freshener developed shortly before the turn of the century by T.B. Dunn and Co., perfume dealers in Rochester, NY.

Shanty: A shack.

Skinflint: A miser.

Soused: Very drunk.

Speakeasy: A place for the illegal sale of alcoholic drinks, particularly during Prohibition.

Spindle-Shanked: Slang insult: having long, skinny legs.

Spry: Lively, active.

Standard Oil: John D. Rockefeller invested in a Cleveland oil refinery during the Civil War and in 1870 created Standard Oil, which refined about 95% of the United States’ oil in 1880. In 1911, Standard Oil was declared an illegal monopoly and split into 34 companies, including Esso (renamed Exxon in 1972), Mobil, Chevron, Atlantic Richfield (later ARCO), and Amoco.

Stewed: Slang: drunk.

Stinko: Slang: drunk.

Stint: To restrict or limit; to be sparing.

Sundry: Various, several.

Swag: Swag is slang for stolen property or loot.

Swindle: To cheat, trick.

Tart: Slang: a loose woman, slut, prostitute.

Teetotaller: One who never drinks alcohol.

Temperance: Restraint, self-control; often in reference to alcohol.

Trollop: A dirty, untidy woman.

Virtuous: Honorable, honest, righteous; often used to mean chaste or pure, in reference to women.

Wake: A watch over the body of a deceased person before burial, sometimes accompanied by festivity.

Wallow: To revel in; to be plentifully supplied.

Wanton: Immoral or unchaste, lewd.

Yen: A strong desire or inclination; a longing or craving.

 

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