Language being an ever-evolving thing, colonial insults of 1700 might be something quite different in 2017. So a prig of yesteryear is not a prig of today.
These 10 colonial insults are peculiar to their time. People threw them about as slang terms for various types of unsavory people.
- Priggers of prancers meant horse thieves. ‘Prig’ meant to steal and ‘prancer’ meant a horse. Horse thieving was a serious offence, and skilled horse thieves sometimes worked in gangs and painted spots on a horse to disguise it for sale.
- A Doxie will tell a prospective john that she is engaging in prostitution for the first time only out of hunger. She’ll do it to gain his confidence. Then she will employ her talents for pickpocketing and even murder, if necessary, to take as much as she can.
- A Gilt or Rum Dubber is a thief who preyed upon taverns and their guests. He would arrive and inform the owner he needed a room. Upon being given one, he would sneak throughout the building and use pick locks to open (and often relock) other rooms, chests or boxes and remove what he could steal. He would then leave in short order.
- Palliards or Clapperdogeons were beggars who operated as a family. The wife would pose as a widow with children gathered about her (sometimes borrowed). She’d say she lost her husband at sea in order to play on people’s sympathy for money. Meanwhile, the husband would lie a few feet away after applying false sores to his body. He then begged as a sick and dying pauper. Both stories succeeded at drawing sympathetic responses.
- Filch described a staff with a hook on the end. A man (a filching cove) or woman (a filching mort) could use it to snag an article of clothing or some other object that he or she wished to make off with.
- A Lubber was simply an awkward man. Sailors used the term and from it we therefore got the expression ‘land lubber.’
Cold Pig for Lollpoops
- A Rook was a cheat. The expression probably derived from a crafty bird.
- A Lollpoop was a lazy, idle man. Lollpoops who stayed in bed too late were likely to get the cold pig treatment. A woman of the house would abruptly remove all the bed clothes from the sleeping man, leaving him either to shiver or get up.
- A Fussock was the female version of the male Lollpoop. The term was usually applied to fatter and older women who were lazy.
- A Gentleman of Three Outs was a man who lacked wit, money (or credit) and manners.
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) for some of these colonial insults.
This story about colonial insults was updated in 2020.