In the 1600s if someone offered you a Pult in the Munns, you probably didn’t want it. Colonial New Englanders had lots of expressions to describe physiology and they might surprise you. A broken ankle, for instance, had nothing to do with your ankle.
You’d want to know the following expressions if you happened to talk to commoners in colonial New England.
- A colquarron described a man’s neck, also known as a Nub. Your Noddle or your Nod was your head.
- Fambles were your hands, also called your Mawley. “Tip us your Mawley” meant “shake hands with me.” If you burned your hand you got Badged.
- Your eyes were your Glaziers or Ogles, and if you were blind you were a Groper. If you were so tired you could barely stay awake you were Peeping.
- Beetle-Browed meant you had bushy eyebrows.
- Prating Cheat was your tongue, also known as your Red Rag. Your lips were Gans and our mouth was a Potato Trap, also known as your Mummer. If someone told you to close your potato trap and give your red rag a rest, they had heard enough from you.
- Park Pailing described your teeth, also known as Grinders. If you had a large Gigg, it meant you had a big nose.
- They were all arranged as part of your Muns, or your face. And if you got a Pult in the Muns, it meant someone punched you in the face. If you basted someone, you gave them a beating.
- Your arm was your Smiter and your feet were called Stampers. To Make Leg meant you bowed to someone.
- Your Cracker was your backside, also sometimes called your Blind Cupid.
- Your belly was your Tripe. If someone called you Mr. Double-Tripe it meant you probably should go on a diet. Puff Guts also described a fat man.
- Your Nab was your head, and a Nab-cheat was your hat. And if you were Totty-Headed it meant you were hare-brained or giddy.
- Your chest was your Heaver and a woman’s chest was an Apple Dumpling Shop. If she had particularly large-breasts, people called her a Bushel Bubby, or Mrs. Van-Neck.
- And if you were Abraham it meant you were naked also wearing your Birthday Suit.
- If a girl got pregnant unintentionally, she had Sprained Her Ankle and she better find a Rabbit Catcher (a midwife).
- If you walked knock-kneed people said you had Baker-Knees. Your Stumps were your legs and if you were in a hurry you better Stir Your Stumps. If you had no horse to carry you and had to walk, you travelled on a Bayard of Ten Toes or rode Shanks Naggy.
- And if you fell down you went Arsey Yarsey.
- A pretty girl was an Article and a homely girl was a Mopsey. A handsome boy was a Rum Duke; an awkward boy was a Duke of Limbs and a horse-faced man was Lenten Jawed. And if you were Bracket-faced you were just plain ugly.
Thanks to: Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, By Francis Grose (1785) and Villainies Discovered: OR The Devil’s Cabinet Broken Open, By Richard Head (1673). This story about physiology expressions updated in 2022.