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Prigstars, Nugs and Cupboard Love – Speaking of Love in Colonial New England

new-england-love-2

There were all sorts of terms that danced around the topic of love in colonial New England. Some familiar today, but others left behind for more modern expressions. Here are ten terms you should know if you want to talk to commoners about love in the colonial New England era:

  • new-england-love-2Cream Pot Love – This was a false love, expressed by a man to a milk maid so that he might obtain some dairy products or other good things from her.
  • Cupboard Love – This was another pretended love that was usually directed at the cook and it was most enflamed when the stomach was empty.
  • A soldier and his love who married were said to “leap over the sword.” The expression refers to an English wedding ceremony in which a sword is placed on the ground for the couple to jump over. The superior office would shout:

Leap rogue, and jump whore

Now you are married evermore

 Short but effective. The couple who took the leap were considered married.

  • Nug – Nug was a term of affection, as in “my dear nug” (my love).
  • Prigstar – A prigstar was a rival in love.
  • Left-handed wife – No, this wasn’t what it sounds like. A left-handed wife was a concubine. It derives from the tradition that a man who married a woman beneath his social status would offer his left hand at their wedding.
  • Chuck – This was another term of endearment. To say ‘my chuck’ was the same as saying, ‘my love.’
  • Palaver – If you were engaging in excessive flattery to win someone’s affections, you were palavering.
  • Slice – If a man were flirting, especially with a married woman, he was said to slice. A married man who was slicing with a woman other than his wife might be forced to pay a little “socket money” to keep his reputation.
  • Sweet Heart – Still in use today, the term sweetheart took its name from a sweet cake baked in the shape of a heart.

Thanks to: Grose's Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, By Francis Grose (1785) and Villainies Discovered: OR The Devil’s Cabinet Broken Open, By Richard Head (1673).

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