Slang in Victorian London

The most interesting part of the lecture¬†was the idea that Rev. A. Munsell proposed. “There are many young men who seem to consider it essential to manliness that they should be masters of slang.” In connection to modern times, the definition of manliness probably doesn’t necessarily include being a “master of slang”. This is because almost everyone uses slang in everyday language, especially young people. At some point in their lives, everybody has used slang. Since the article phrased the above quote in the way it did, it sounded sarcastic, making it clear that the Victorians did not approve of those who used slang. Rev. A. Munsell then even goes on to call the men who use slang, “ape of a fast young man”.

The lecture then goes on to give several examples of slang words, such as bolt, slope, and mizzle, which means to go away. None of the examples of slang words are explicitly vulgar, but the Rev. A. Munsell says that the usage of slang is “threatening the entire extinction of genuine English”. Although I felt like the entire lecture wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously, this is the same attitude people have towards slang today. If it wasn’t the attitude of Victorians then, Rev. A. Munsell succeeded in predicting the future.

One slang word that is used harmlessly but was “objectionable”, was the usage of governor by young men to refer to their fathers. It could have been seen as connection the authoritarian figure of their fathers and of governor, however the lecture says that governor is a cold and heartless word, and should not be used to refer to ones father.

Victorian London – Words and Expressions – slang from 1850s & 1870s



One thought on “Slang in Victorian London

  1. Good summary of the article, although it looks like Rev. Munsell was pretty serious in his condemnation of slang (even though he critiqued it in a humorous manner). Why do you think that Rev. Munsell dislikes slang so strongly? What does this attitude tell us about Victorian culture as a whole?

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