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ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy

15 More Excellent Victorian Slang Terms

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ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy

People enjoyed our first list of delightful Victorian slang terms from the 1909 book Passing English so much, we're giving you 15 more words and phrases from the era that need to make a comeback.

1. Abyssinian Medal

Military slang, introduced after the Abyssinian War, for a button in the abdomen area “gone astray from its buttonhole.” This is probably what happens to your vest-wearing uncle after a hearty Thanksgiving meal.

2. Amen Corner

A California term for a church.

3. Basket of Oranges

This phrase, which referred to a pretty woman, originated in Australia before making its way to England. "A metaphor founded on another metaphor," author Andrew Forrester writes, "the basket of oranges being a phrase for the discovery of nuggets of gold in gold fields."

4. Beer Bottle

Not something you drink out of, but a street term for "a stout, red-faced man."

5. Can’t you feel the shrimp?

Cockney, from 1877, meaning "smell the sea."

6. Cheek-ache

"Blushing or turning red in the face rather from the meanness of another than your own."

7. Cut a finger

A lower-class phrase meaning "to cause a disagreeable odor."

8. Damned Good Swine Up

A term from 1880, "suspected to be of American origin," for a loud quarrel.

9. Dimber-Damber

A street term meaning "smart, active, adroit. One of the alliterative phrases with absolutely no meaning."

10. Foot-and-Mouth Disease

A Lancashire term for "swearing followed by kicking."

11. Mouth-pie

A street term for scolding, as delivered by a woman.

12. Nurse the Hoe-Handle

A term from agricultural American meaning "lazy." You're not being a lump on your couch—you're nursing the hoe-handle!

13. Raked fore and aft

Desperately in love.

14. Sponge it Out

This term, used beginning in 1883, meant “forget it."

15. Start a Jolly

To lead applause. The next time you do the slow clap, tell everyone you're starting a jolly.

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
Original image
“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:


This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.


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