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17 Euphemisms for Sex From the 1800s

31 July 2013

From Mental Floss:

While shoe-horning these into conversation today might prove difficult, these 17 synonyms for sex were used often enough in 19th-century England to earn a place in the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a book for upper-crust Britons who had no idea what the proles were talking about.


To say two people were engaged in the amorous congress was by far the most polite option on the list, oftentimes serving as the definition for other, less discreet synonyms.


“Those two recently opened a basket-making shop.” From a method of making children’s stockings, in which knitting the heel is called basket-making.

. . . .


A game at pully hawly is a series of affairs.

Link to the rest at Mental Floss and thanks to Tina for the tip.

Books in General

13 Comments to “17 Euphemisms for Sex From the 1800s”

  1. Awesome. I think #7, “Blanket Hornpipe” is my favorite. Like all good slang, you get an immediate idea of what it refers to.

  2. “Where I come from, they call it doing the hippity-dippity.”

  3. I had no idea that’s what “take a flyer” meant.

    • Same here, I thought it referred to suicides who jump off buildings, or people who were defenestrated. It seems like something an action hero would say when inflicting that fate on someone, anyway.

  4. These are much better than our current euphemisms. Actually, do we have euphemisms for this particular topic anymore? I think we just start by stating the obvious and take it from there.

    A lost art.

    • Well, I think ours are just less obscure to us, since they’re what we use, so they seem less interesting. If I say “doing the horizontal tango” you probably aren’t enthralled with the strangeness of the phrase.

  5. Book marked! Thank you 🙂

  6. I have this book. Never you mind why!

  7. Kelly S. Bishop

    You can get the dictionary they quote from, 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, for free at Amazon – in Kindle.

  8. Phyllis Humphrey

    The “Blanket Hornpipe” is my favorite too. A lot like the “Mattress Mambo” which I’ve used. So shoot me.

  9. Basket Makers. hehe

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