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17 Euphemisms for Sex From the 1800s

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While shoe-horning these into conversation today might prove difficult, these 17 synonyms for sex were used often enough in 19th-century England to earn a place in the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a book for upper-crust Britons who had no idea what the proles were talking about.

1. Amorous congress

To say two people were engaged in amorous congress was by far the most polite option on the list, oftentimes serving as the definition for other, less discreet synonyms.

2. Basket-making

"Those two recently opened a basket-making shop." From a method of making children's stockings, in which knitting the heel is called basket-making.

3. Bread and butter

One on top of the other. "Rumor has it he found her bread and butter fashion with the neighbor."

4. Brush

"Yeah, we had a brush once." The emphasis here is on brevity; just a fling, no big deal.

5. Clicket

"They left together, so they're probably at clicket." This was originally used only for foxes, but became less specific as more and more phrases for doing it were needed.

6. Face-making

Aside from the obvious, this also comes from "making children," because babies have faces.

7. Blanket hornpipe

There is probably no way to use this in seriousness or discreetly, but there you have it.

8. Blow the grounsils

"Grounsils" are foundation timbers, so "on the floor."

See Also: 11 Sexting Acronyms From the 1930s

9. Convivial society

Similar to "amorous congress" in that this was a gentler term suitable for even the noble classes to use, even if they only whispered it.

10. Take a flyer

"Flyers" being shoes, this is "dressed, or without going to bed."

11. Green gown

Giving a girl a green gown can only happen in the grass.

12. Lobster kettle

A woman who sleeps with soldiers coming in at port is said to "make a lobster kettle" of herself.

13. Melting moments

Those shared by "a fat man and woman in amorous congress."

14. Pully hawly

A game at pully hawly is a series of affairs.

15. St. George

In the story of St. George and the Dragon, the dragon reared up from the lake to tower over the saint. "Playing at St. George" casts a woman as the dragon and puts her on top.

16. A stitch

Similar to having a brush, "making a stitch" is a casual affair.

17. Tiff

A tiff could be a minor argument or falling-out, as we know it. In the 19th century, it was also a term for eating or drinking between meals, or in this case, a quickie.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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May 23, 2017
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