Cantering Through Cant (3)

Dipping into Francis Grose’s A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785), here are some more idioms which have fallen into obscurity.

For aspiring writers searching for a synonym for a synonym for a gun, why not try barking irons. An Irish idiom, according to Grose, it means pistols “from their explosion resembling the bow-wow or barking of a dog”.

Looking for an alternative description of being dead? Put to bed with a mattock, and tucked up with a spade, Grose notes, “is said of one who is dead and buried”.  

Although are pavements are in better order than they were in the 18th century, dangers still lurk for the unwary, loose paving stones, puddles, and the risk of being splashed by vehicles passing by. A beau trap, according to Grose, was “a loose stone in a pavement, under which water lodges, and, being trod upon, squirts it up, to the great damage of white stockings”. It is also used to describe a well-dressed fiend who preys on “raw country squires or ignorant sops”.  

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