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Vintage Occupations & Slang Phrases

jobs -bugle-boyIn the 19th century, there were some unusual names to jobs / occupations that have a different name in the 21st century. Some were the standard name for a job but others were more of a slang term or phrase. You should become familiar with some of these names, so when you see mention of one in reference to an ancestor, you will have a better idea of what they did.

Some of the slang terms for a job are quite interesting. For example, a cook was termed ‘queen of the dripping pan’, a person who waited on customers at their table in a pub or tavern was referred to as a ‘dash’, as they went from one table to another.

A shopkeeper or clerk in a store would be a ‘blue-apron’ or ‘aproner’ because of the apron worn. jobs-clerkThose who were writers of books or for a newspaper were called ‘quill-driver’ or ‘pen-driver’. A priest or clergyman was a ‘man in black’ and a medical doctor would be a ‘bone setter’. job-doctor

On, they have a very long list of different names for occupations in alphabetical order. Listed is ANKLE BEATER – a young person who helped to drive the cattle to market, URIFABER – a goldsmith, BADGY FIDDLER – a boy trumpeter in the military, BEDMAN – a sexton or caretaker in a church, BLEMMERE – a plumber and CAFENDER – one who was a carpenter. Many jobs of the 18th and 19th centuries are not longer needed today, but were essential during the lives of many of our ancestors.

Here is another listing of mostly male slang terms for different events or people during the 19th century. They would have used the term ‘fizzing’ referring to something that was excellent. Or if they commented on someone being short in height, they called them ‘go by the ground’. If a fellow was very drunk from alcohol, they ‘couldn’t see a hole in a ladder’. Yes, these are a bit strange, but that is what slang is – strange.

So look over the variety of names for occupations and everyday slang terms from the 1800s – it can be quite interesting.

Photos: Boy trumpeter in the military, a storekeeper and a 19th century doctor.

Related genealogical blogs:

Ancestor’s Occupations

Colonial Occupations

19th Century Slang


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