Seven Of The Gang

Bad cess to ye! is a phrase I do not normally use, but, I suppose, it has the benefit of leaving a look of bewilderment on the face of my victim as they would probably not know what I was on about. According to Passing English of the Victorian Era, it was in common use in England and meant bad luck to you. Cess, though, was Irish in origin and was used to denote board and lodging and was even used in the preamble to a piece of Irish legislation aimed at regulating the misbehaviour of Irish gentlemen who went around “cessing themselves and their followers, their horses and their greyhounds, upon the poorer inhabitants”.

A bad egg is someone who is thoroughly disreputable. What I did not know was that it was American in origin, although no longer used there, but crossed over the Atlantic to become a colloquialism in England. A bad hat is also a disreputable person, a unsatisfactory mess-mate. It owes its origin to the Irish and, in particular, to those unsavoury Hibernian characters who wore bad high hats.  

Badges and bulls’ eyes was a piece of Army slang coming out of the Boer War. The badges and medals which adorned the uniforms of officers made for an excellent target for the Boer snipers.

A bag o’ beer was a quart of beer made up of a half of fourpenny porter and a half of fourpenny ale. It was once known as a pot o’ four ‘arf and ‘arf, before being abbreviated to four ‘arf and then to bag o’ beer. It might have gone down well with a bag o’ mystery, sausages, so called because no man other than the maker knows what is in them, the lexicographer sagely notes.

Bag and baggage meant thoroughly or completely and its popularity was down to a Prime Minister whose name is synonymous with bags, William Ewart Gladstone. He recommended that the Turk should be turned out of Europe bag and baggage.

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