8 Old-Timey Words for ‘Doctor’


In The Secret Language of Doctors by Dr. Brian Goldman, medical practitioners go by many names. Surgeons are cowboys while internists are fleas. ER physicians are triage monkeys and obstetricians are baby catchers. Urologists are plumbers and anesthesiologists are gas passers.

But how about those old-timey words for doctor? Today we look at eight such terms and the stories behind them.


“All alienists are agreed as to the greater frequency of mental alienation in the summer season.”

Henry Morselli, “Suicide,” The Academy, Volume 20, 1881

Alienist is an old term for psychiatrist, especially one that acts as an expert in a court of law. The word comes from the French aliéné, “insane,” which also gives rise to alienation, “emotional isolation or dissociation.” Alien meaning “strange” or “foreign” comes from the Old French alien, also meaning strange or foreign.


“When Barnaby True came back to his senses again it was to find himself being cared for with great skill and nicety, his head bathed with cold water, and a bandage being bound about it as carefully as though a chirurgeon was attending to him.”

Howard Pyle, Book of Pirates, 1921

The Online Etymology Dictionary says this hard-to-pronounce word is a “failed Renaissance attempt to restore Greek spelling to the word that had got into English as surgeon,” and is  “now, thank the gods, archaic.”

The much more accessible surgeon ultimately comes from the Latin chirurgia, “surgery,” which comes from the Greek kheirourgos, “working or done by hand.”


“There will be a learned young divine with some new doctrine; a learned leech with some new drug.”

Sir Walter Scott, The Abbot, 1820

Which came first, leech the physician or leech the blood-sucker that a physician of the past (and some in the present) might have administered? The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) says it’s “commonly regarded” that leech the blood-sucker came from leech the physician, where the latter came from Proto-Germanic lekjaz, “enchanter, one who speaks magic words; healer, physician.”

However, the Old English lyce, early Middle English liche, and Middle Dutch lieke suggest that leech the parasite began as a distinct word and morphed into leech due to “popular etymology.”

medicine man

“In our walk through the town, I was accosted by the Medicine Man, or doctor, who was standing at the entrance of a lodge, into which we went.”

John Bradbury, Travels in the Interior of America, 1817

The term medicine man first appeared in English around 1801, says the OED, probably coming from the Ojibwa mashkikiiwinini, physician, where mashkiki means medicine and inini, man.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says the English word medicine was adopted by North American Indians in the sense of “magical influence,” and that they called the U.S.-Canadian boundary Medicine Line “because it conferred a kind of magic protection: punishment for crimes committed on one side of it could be avoided by crossing over to the other.”


“The mountebank now treads the stage, and sells His pills, his balsoms, and his ague spells.”

John Gay, The Shepherd’s Week, 1714

A mountebank is a charlatan who sells fake meds, also known as nostrum. The word mountebank comes from the Italian montambanco, which comes from the phrase monta im banco, “one gets up onto the bench,” with the idea of a con artist getting up a on bench to hawk his fake wares.


“It may likewise be observed that as patient who has once been under the hands of a quack is ever after dabbling in drugs.”

Washington Irving, History of New-York, 1809

A quack is another word for a sham doctor. The word is short for quacksalver, which is Dutch in origin and translates as “hawker of salve.” The Dutch quacken means “to brag or boast,” and literally, “to croak.”


“I thought everybody know’d as a Sawbones was a Surgeon.”

Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1837

Sawbones is slang for surgeon, and may have been coined by Charles Dickens. Curious about what an old-timey amputation saw looked like? Check it out.


“It was Dr Hilarius, her shrink or psychotherapist.”

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49, 1966

This slang term for a psychotherapist is a shortening of headshrinker. The word headshrinker seems to have first appeared in a 1950 Time magazine article about Hopalong Cassidy: “Anyone who had predicted that he would end up as the rootin’-tootin’ idol of U.S. children would have been led instantly off to a headshrinker.” According to Shrink: The Untold Story of Psychiatry, the article noted that headshrinker is “Hollywood jargon for psychiatrist.”

The OED’s lists Pynchon’s as the first use of shrink.

Word Buzz Wednesday: fika, graveyard orbit, jungle primary

Fika hos mormor Valborgshelgen 2011

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: a true coffee break; where spacecraft go to die; welcome to the jungle primary.


“In Sweden, where workers are among the least stressed worldwide, the secret to happiness is a four letter word: fika.”

Anne Quito, “This four-letter word is the Swedish key to happiness at work,” Quartz, March 14, 2016

According to The Kitchn, fika is a Swedish custom, “a kind of social coffee break where people gather to have a cup of coffee or tea and a few nibbles,” and can be used as both a noun and a verb.

Quartz says the word comes from kaffe, which is Swedish for “coffee,” and “unlike the American-style caffeine jolt,” when you fika you leave work behind. Fika is also the (fitting) name for a Swedish coffee chain in New York.

garbage person

“‘Garbage person,’ like ‘bloodsucker’ or ‘Neanderthal,’ is the type of descriptor that pretty much defines itself.”

Cara Giaimo, “The Linguistic Appeal Of ‘Garbage Person,’ The Internet’s Favorite Insult,” Atlas Obscura, March 16, 2016

Not to be confused with a garbage man, a garbage person is, as Atlas Obscura says, “someone terrible beyond belief, but in an everyday sort of way.”

Some examples of garbage people include “someone who ends their texts with a period” and someone “who refuses to chase down runaway napkins when they blow off their table.” May we also add someone who puts their bag on the seat next to them on a crowded subway.

graveyard orbit

Graveyard orbits are losing popularity because a lot of orbital debris experts argue that they simply exacerbate the ever-increasing problem of space junk and do nothing to help remediation efforts.”

Neel V. Patel, “Russia Sends Another Rocket to the Spacecraft Cemetery,” Inverse, March 21, 2016

A graveyard orbit, also known as a junk orbit, is where “spacecraft are moved at the end of their operational life to make sure they don’t collide with spacecraft we currently need.”

jungle primary

“California’s gubernatorial race is what’s called a ‘jungle primary’ – only the top two vote-getters make it to the playoffs.”

Beth Cone Kramer, “The Run for Calif Governor: Villaraigosa’s Name Still in Play,” City Watch, March 21, 2016

A jungle primary is a primary election in which all candidates run at once, regardless of political party. As a result, it’s possible that two candidates from the same party would run against each other in the next round. The jungle primary is also known as nonpartisan blanket primary and the top two primary. Louisiana has used such a system since 1977.

We couldn’t find an exact origin of the phrase although Elections A to Z suggests it’s due to its “wide open, few-holds-barred structure.”


“What if children under four-years-old experience and use metacognition but are just bad at realizing it and letting anyone know?”

Cathleen O’Grady, “Babies know when they don’t know something,” Ars Technica, March 13, 2016

Metacognition is essentially thinking about thinking. Besides humans, metacognition is also found in chimpanzees and orangutans.

Word Buzz Wednesday: ego depletion, olm, Witzelsucht


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: willpower for everybody, the baby of dragons, a pun addiction.

ego depletion

“The authors called this effect ‘ego depletion’ and said it revealed a fundamental fact about the human mind: We all have a limited supply of willpower, and it decreases with overuse.”

Daniel Engber, “Everything Is Crumbling,” Slate, March 6, 2016

While the idea of ego depletion in psychology has long been accepted, a recent study has shown a “zero-effect” for the phenomenon, says Slate, and “no sign that the human will works as it’s been described.”

generalized negative reciprocity

“Just about everybody’s experienced this at one time or another, which underscores how important it could be to try to cut off generalized negative reciprocity before it starts.”

Nathan Collins, “The unexpected benefits of writing letters,” The Week, March 9, 2016

Generalized negative reciprocity is a fancy way of saying “somebody was mean to me so now I’m going to be grumpy and mean to everybody.”


“While technically an amphibian, the pink, eyeless, cave-dwelling olm bears a charming resemblance to a miniature fairy tale creature.”

Corinne Purtill, “A new generation of baby ‘dragons’ is about to hatch in Slovenia,” Quartz, March 9, 2016

According to Quartz, the hearty olm can live up to a century and “survive as long as a decade without eating.” As for the origin of the word, the Oxford English Dictionary says it’s uncertain although it might be a variant of the Old High German molm, “newt.”


“What’s a Sandersnista?”

Benjamin Goggin, “Just The Good Stuff From Wednesday’s Democratic Debate,” Digg, March 10, 2016

The term Sandersnista, a blend of Sanders and Sandinista, refers to Bernie Sanders praising Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega, in a 1985 interview.


“Mendez diagnosed him with a condition called Witzelsucht (addiction to wisecracking), brought on, it seems, by two strokes, five years apart.”

David Robson, “The curse of the people who can’t stop making puns,” BBC, March 9, 2016

While many sufferers of Witzelsucht, which is caused by brain damage in the frontal lobes, find their own jokes hilarious, they often don’t respond to the jokes of others. The word Witzelsucht is German in origin.

Word Buzz Wednesday: geographic profiling, gridgate, helicopter money

Crossword Anyone?

Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: finding Banksy; a word-nerdy scandal; and dollars from heaven.

geographic profiling

“‘Geographic profiling’, a technique used to catch serial criminals, has proved that the elusive artist Banksy really is Robin Gunningham, according to academic research.”

Adam Sherwin, “Banksy: Geographic profiling ‘proves’ artist really is Robin Gunningham, according to scientists,” The Independent, March 3, 2016

Geographic profiling is, according to The Independent, “a sophisticated form of statistical analysis used in criminology” to narrow down where repeat offenders might reside.

A “geoprofile” was developed for the mysterious street artist based on 140 of his attributed works in London and Bristol. From there, hot spots were determined and correlated to, among other locations, four addresses in those cities, which were linked to Robin Gunningham.


“Dubbed ‘gridgate’, it centres around claims that a senior crossword compiler in the US copied themes, answers, grids and clues from rival compilers at the New York Times.”

Crossword enthusiasts left puzzled after plagiarism scandal,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, March 7, 2016

Last week FiveThirtyEight exposed the possible plagiarism of New York Times crossword puzzles by Timothy Parker, the editor of the USA Today and Universal crosswords. Parker has since stepped down as editor, at least temporarily.

helicopter money

“He argued last month that helicopter money will boost consumer spending by injecting money ‘directly into the veins of the real economy.’”

‘Helicopter money’ for the global economy?” The Week, March 5, 2016

The term helicopter money was coined by American economist Milton Friedman in 1969 and refers to “free money” given to the public — as though dropped from the sky — in order to boost the economy.

super bloom

“For the past two months, the suddenly fertile ground has been coloured by wildflowers. Called a ‘super bloom’, this beauty of nature happens rarely.”

Rare super bloom springs from Death Valley’s depths,” Al Jazeera, March 6, 2016

According to the National Park Service, super bloom isn’t an official term but one employee and long-time Death Valley resident describes how he has heard the term since the early 1990s when “old timers [would] talk about super blooms as a near mythical thing.”


“Trump and the Trumpvangelicals are revolutionizing the culture wars. The priorities now are immigration, Islamophobia, and guns.”

Trumpvangelicals are the new evangelicals,” The Week, March 3, 2016

Trumpvangelicals are evangelical Christians who support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Traditional evangelicals are “aghast” at this, says The Week. While abortion, religious freedom (such as that “at issue in the Hobby Lobby case”), and Israel have long been evangelical priorities, they’re not for Trump.


‘Downton Abbey’ Takes the Biscuit: Our Favorite Words of Season 6


We don’t want to believe it but it’s true: Downton Abbey is coming to a close. We’ve been there since (almost) the beginning, collecting British idioms, cultural references, and plenty of anachronisms.

This final season doesn’t disappoint. Check out our favorite words and expressions from Downton Abbey, season 6.


Mary: “You don’t really mind, do you?”
Lord Grantham: “No, but I think it’s crackers.”

Episode 6, February 7, 2016

Crackers, British English slang for insane or crazy, has been around since 1925, the year this episode takes place. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the term began as soldier and sailor slang — “To get the crackers, to go off one’s head” — and comes from cracked, “mentally unsound.”

But would Lord Grantham be using such a new slang term? Perhaps: he did serve in the military (although he wasn’t active in the trenches of World War I) and the word was widely used in print beginning in 1928, which means it might have been used in everyday speech shortly before then.


Lord Grantham [to Mary]: “I suppose you were a widow after all and not a deb in her first season.”

Episode 1, January 3, 2016

Deb is short for debutante, a young woman formally introduced into society. While debutante entered English from French in the early 19th century, deb began as U.S. slang around 1920, says the OED. F. Scott Fitzgerald used debbie in his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise: “Tom and Amory had outgrown the passion for dancing with mid-Western or New Jersey debbies at the Club-de-Vingt.” In 1922, James Joyce used deb in Ulysses: “Josie Powell that was, prettiest deb in Dublin.”

hold onto your hat

Mr. Finch: “If you could just tell me who’s replaced him.”
Mary: “Hold onto your hat, Mr. Finch, but I’m afraid I have.”

Episode 2, January 10, 2016

Hold onto your hat or hang onto your hat means “get ready for something big.” The idiom has been in use since the early 1900s with the OED’s earliest citation from American journalist Damon Runyon: “Hang onter yer hat—th’ cavalry’s comin’ through!”


Mary: “I thought all the fatstock shares took place before Christmas.”

Episode 2, January 10, 2016

Fatstock is a British term referring to marketable livestock and comes from the idea that farm animals such as pigs or cattle have been fattened for market. The term has been in use since either 1880 or 1812, depending on if you’re referring to the OED or Merriam-Webster, respectively.

golly gumdrops

Lord Grantham: “Golly gumdrops, what a turn-up!”

Episode 8, February 21, 2016

While we couldn’t find an exact origin of golly gumdrops, we assume it’s an alteration of golly, a euphemism for God or by God used to express wonder or surprise. Golly originated in the U.S. around 1743, says the OED. Another phrase involving gumdrops, goody gumdrops, is also a U.S. expression and came about in 1930.

I’ll say

Lady Rosamund: “This must be a strange and unsettling time for you.”
Bertie: “I’ll say.”

Episode 8, February 21, 2016

Used to express emphatic agreement, I’ll say originated around 1919.

Madame Defarge

Daisy: “’Not possible’? Don’t give me ‘not possible.’
Mrs. Patmore: “All right, Madame Defarge, calm down and finish that mash.”

Episode 4, January 24, 2016

Madame Defarge is a character from Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities and a “tireless worker for the French Revolution.” In this episode Daisy is angered about the ill treatment she thinks her ex-father-in-law has received at the hands of the upper class, namely her employer Cora Grantham.

make a pass

Mary [to Henry]: “I hope this means you’re boiling up to make a pass before we’re done.”

Episode 4, January 24, 2016

The term to make a pass, to make a sexual or amorous advances upon, originated in the mid-1920s as U.S. slang, says the OED, and possibly by Dorothy Parker: “Men seldom make passes At girls who wear glasses.” Confusingly, the expression also means to make a threat of violence against.

medium smart

Mary [to Anna]: “Pack something for the evening. Medium smart.”

Episode 6, February 7, 2016

Smart here means “attractively neat and stylish,” as the OED puts it, or “relatively formal.” We couldn’t find any references for medium smart, beyond those for the show itself, but we’re guessing it means something like a little less formal.


Carson: “Before we take our seats, I believe, as the groom, that I have the right to a few words. I will not be prolix, but it must be right that I mark that I am the happiest and luckiest of men.”

Episode 3, January 17, 2016

Prolix is a rather stuffy term well-suited for Carson: it means overly long or wordy, and comes from the Latin prōlixus, “poured forth, extended.”

sex appeal

Lord Grantham: “What’s he got that fascinates Mary when poor old Tony’s rolling acres and glistening coronet didn’t? You’ll say sex appeal, but isn’t Mary too sensible?”

Episode 7, February 14, 2016

In addition to making us uncomfortable coming out of Robert’s mouth, the term sex appeal originated around 1904. Twenty years later, a verb form of the phrase arose: “She’d sex appeal me all right!”


Mary: “A table of singletons at our age. Well done.”

Episode 6, February 7, 2016

Anachronism alert! While the word singleton has been in use since the late 1800s, says the OED, it began as a bridge or whist term referring to the only card of a suit left in a player’s hand. About 20 years later it came to mean “a single thing” and “a single entry in a competition,” and 10 years after that, a child born from a single birth as opposed to twins, triplets, etc.

It wasn’t until the late 1930s, more than a decade after this episode takes place, that singleton came to mean an unaccompanied or unmarried person.

take the biscuit

Gladys Denker [to Septimus Spratt]: “Well, if that doesn’t just take the biscuit.”

Episode 7, February 14, 2016

The British idiom take the biscuit might be used to express surprise. In this scene, Denker’s having the opportunity to accompany Lady Grantham on her trip to the South of France is what takes the biscuit. The American expression take the cake could mean being ranked first, but is also an expression of surprise, either good or bad.

To make matters even more complicated, in Canadian English, to take or have the biscuit means to be of no further use or to be near death. The biscuit, says World Wide Words, refers to the Communion wafer taken during extreme unction, a Roman Catholic sacrament, and implies that if you take the biscuit slash wafer, you’re nearing the end of your life.

Not enough Downton Abbey for you? Check out our favorite words from more seasons past.

Word Buzz Wednesday: consistent universe, novelty bonus, secretary problem


Welcome to Word Buzz Wednesday, your go-to place for some of the most interesting words of the week. The latest: you can’t change the past; the novelty of newness; the problem with secretaries.

consistent universe

“The consistent universe is an interesting device because we feel deep discomfort at not being able to change the course of events through our choices.”

Xaq Rzetelny, “Trek at 50: The quest for a unifying theory of time travel in Star Trek,” Ars Technica, February 12, 2016

The consistent universe is a time travel device used in science fiction to refer to a world in which history can’t be rewritten and any attempts to do so simply become part of the timeline. The opposite of the consistent universe is the ever-changing timeline (think Back to the Future).


“They created a version of Danish that contains words and intonations from Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. In Denmark, this dialect is called gadesprog, or ‘street language.’”

Michael Erard, “The reason you discriminate against foreign accents starts with what they do to your brain,” Quartz, February 25, 2016

Other “street” dialects in Europe include Kiezdeutsch in Germany and Rinkeby Swedish in Sweden, named “after an immigrant neighborhood of Stockholm,” says Quartz.

novelty bonus

“Brain studies suggest that this ‘novelty bonus’—the additional weight we give to new options—stems at least in part from the euphoric feeling it gives us.”

Zach St. George, “Curiosity Depends on What You Already Know,” Nautilus, February 25, 2016

The novelty bonus is the value added to an option by virtue of its newness. Such a value can erode as the option becomes familiar.

secretary problem

“The math problem is known by a lot of names – ‘the secretary problem,’ ‘the fussy suitor problem,’ ‘the sultan’s dowry problem’ and ‘the optimal stopping problem.’”

Ana Swanson, “When to stop dating and settle down, according to math,” The Washington Post, February 16, 2016

The secretary problem involves the idea of “settling” for a choice when possibly a better choice is still yet to come. In the rather old-fashioned scenario, a boss interviewing applicants for a secretary position must determine the best option among both seen and unseen applicants.

Super Tuesday

“For Democrats, there are an additional 150 unpledged delegates, otherwise known as ‘superdelegates,’ in Super Tuesday states.”

Domenico Montanaro, “Super Tuesday: Here’s What You Need to Know,” NPR, February 28, 2016

It’s the season of presidential election parlance. First we discussed the Iowa caucus; today it’s Super Tuesday. On Super Tuesday, which was this week, “more states vote and more delegates are at stake than on any other single day in the presidential primary campaign,” says NPR. These primary elections will be held in 13 states, “plus the territory of American Samoa and Democrats Abroad.”

10 Ultra-Violent Slang Terms from ‘A Clockwork Orange’

Clockwork Stem

In his iconic novel A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess creates a dystopian world in which youths down milk doused with narcotics before committing random acts of ultra-violence.

He’s also created a language. Nadsat-talk, or just Nadsat, is a mix of Russian, German, French, and Cockney influences, as well as almost every linguistic trick in the book, including blends (chumble, possibly “chatter” and “mumble”), reduplication (baddiwad for “bad”), nounification (warbles for “songs”), shortenings (guff, “to laugh,” from guffaw), and pure invention (cables for “blood vessels” and flatblock for “home”).

On what would have been his 99th birthday, we take a look 10 words invented by Burgess in A Clockwork Orange.

clockwork orange

“So I creeched louder still, creeching: ‘Am I just to be like a clockwork orange?’”

In addition to being the title of a book within the book, a clockwork orange refers to someone who has been made to work “like clockwork,” that is, mechanically and without free will.

As for the title’s origin, Burgess himself has a couple of explanations. In The New Yorker, he writes that he first heard the expression “as queer as a clockwork orange” before World War II in a pub in London, and that it’s “an old Cockney slang phrase, implying a queerness or madness so extreme as to subvert nature.” The phrase also juxtaposes “a thing living, growing, sweet, juicy, to a cold dead artifact.”

In Joysprick: An Introduction to the Language of James Joyce, Burgess notes that when he “wrote a novel called A Clockwork Orange, no European reader saw that the Malay word for ‘man’ — orang — was contained in the title.” The Malay orang is also contained within orangutan, which translates as “man of the wilderness.”


“There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim.”

Droog, a young hooligan or gang member, is the one Burgess neologism that has made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, at least so far. The word comes from the Russian drug, meaning “friend.” It may be no coincidence that drug is also a homograph of the English drug since pharmaceuticals play a large part in the novel.


“‘Oh I shall go home. Back to my pee and em.’
‘Your — ?’ He didn’t get nadsat-talk at all, so I said:
‘To my parents in the dear old flatblock.'”

Nadsat is another Russian-influenced invented slang term. Meaning “teenage,” the word comes from the Russian suffix for “teen,” nadtsat.


“I read this with care, my brothers, slurping away at the old chai, cup after tass after chasha, crunching my lomticks of black toast dipped in jammiwan and eggiweg.”

Reduplication is another device Burgess uses in Nadsat-speak. The childish singsong of words such as eggiweg, jammiwam, and punchipunching are a chilling apposition against the depraved ultra-violence of Alex and his droogs.

moloko plus

“I took the large moloko plus to one of the little cubies that were all around this mesto, there being like curtains to shut them off from the main mesto, and there I sat down in the plushy chair and sipped and sipped.”

A moloko plus is milk spiked with drugs. Moloko is a direct translation from Russian for “milk.” (Mesto, by the way, is Russian for “place.”) Like eggiweg and jammiwam, moloko plus sets up the childish (milk) against the depraved (hard drugs).

Moloko plus is also called knify moloko — “There we were, a-waiting and peeting away at the the old knify moloko, and you had not turned up” — or “milk with knives in it,” which is made to “sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one.”

What does all of this mean? Knives refer to amphetamines, according to the introduction of the book, but perhaps also plays on the term spiked, containing drugs or alcohol. Peet comes from pit, the Russian word for “drink,” while being sharp may be an allusion to being hyper-aware and sped up, an effect of amphetamines. Dirty twenty-to-one might refer to gang violence involving sexual assault.

Other fictional drug names in the novel include synthemesc, vellocet, and drencrom. Synthemesc might come from “synthetic mescaline” while vellocet might play on the name of a motorcycle company, evoking speed and velocity. Drencrom might be an alteration of adrenochrome, a drug that causes “thought disorder, derealization, and euphoria.”


“Dim put on a hound-and-horny look of evil, saying: ‘I don’t like you should do what you done then.’”

Hound-and-horny seems to be a kind of invented rhyming slang term that means “corny.” Other such terms include, for “money,” pretty polly (“If you need pretty polly, you take it”) and cutter, which might come from bread and butter, meaning livelihood. Luscious glory meaning “hair” (“my luscious glory was a wet tangled cally mess”) might come from crowning glory.


“I wanted to be sick, so I got out of bed all trembly so as to go off down the corridor to the old vaysay. But behold, brothers, the door was locked.”

Vaysay is Nadsat slang for the restroom, coming from the French pronunciation of the British English W.C., or water closet. Other French-derived slang terms include sinny, which comes from cinéma or ciné, and tass from tasse, “cup.”


“Why this sudden shilarny for being the big bloated capitalist?”

Shilarny, meaning “concern,” seems to be a purely invented with perhaps an Irish influence. Another invented word with an unclear origin is sharp, slang for “woman.”

barry place

“Next it’s going to be the barry place and all my work ruined.”

The barry place, or prison, refers to the bars of a cell. Another slang term for jail is stripey hole, again for the image of prison bars.


“This is the real weepy and like tragic part of the story beginning, my brothers and only friends, in Staja (State Jail, that is) Number 84F.”

Staja is another term for jail, a blend of “State Jail,” but also reminiscent of Stalag, a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany. Stalag is a shortening of Stammlager, which comes from Kriegsgefangenen-Mannschafts-Stammlager, which translates roughly as “main POW camp.”

Other German-derived words include shlaga, a club or a bat, which comes from Schlager, to hit, and tashtook (“He’d taken a big snotty tashtook from his pocket”), which comes from Taschentuch, “handkerchief.”