Arts and Leisure

Fambles, Giggs and Red Rags – A Guide to Early New England Physiology

In the 1600s if someone offered you a Pult in the Munns, you probably didn’t want it. They had lots of expressions to describe body parts and they weren’t always what you’d expect. A broken ankle, for instance, had nothing to do with your ankle.


Here are a few expressions you’d want to know if you were talking to commoners in early days of New England:

  • Colquarron was a man’s neck, also known as a Nub. Your Noddle or your Nod was your head.
  • Fambles were your hands, also called your Mawley. Tip us your Mawley meant shake hands with me. If you burned your hand you were Badged.
  • Your eyes were your Glaziers or Ogles, and if you were blind you were a Groper. If you were so tired you could barely stay awake you were Peeping.
  • If you were Beetle-Browed, you had bushy eyebrows.
  • Prating Cheat was your tongue also known as your Red Rag. Your lips were Gans and our mouth was a Potato Trap, also known as your Mummer. If someone told you to close your potato trap and give your red rag a rest, they had heard enough from you.
  • Park Pailing were your teeth, also known as Grinders. If you had a large Gigg, it meant you had a big nose.
  • They were all arranged as part of your Muns, or your face. And if you got a Pult in the Muns, it meant someone punched you in the face. Basting was to give someone a beating.
  • Your arm was your Smiter and your feet were called Stampers. To Make Leg meant you bowed to someone.
  • Your Cracker was your backside, also sometimes called your Blind Cupid.
  • Your belly was your Tripe and if someone called you Mr. Double-Tripe it meant you probably should go on a diet. Puff Guts was also a name for a fat man.
  • Your Nab was your head, and a Nab-cheat was your hat. And if you were Totty-Headed it meant you were hare-brained or giddy.
  • Your chest was your Heaver and a woman’s chest was an Apple Dumpling Shop. If she were particularly large-breasted she was a Bushel Bubby, also known as being Mrs. Van-Neck.
  • And if you were Abraham it meant you were naked also wearing your Birthday Suit.
  • If a girl got pregnant unintentionally, she had Sprained Her Ankle and she better find a Rabbit Catcher (a midwife).
  • If you walked knock-kneed you were Baker-Kneed. Your Stumps were your legs and if you were in a hurry you better Stir Your Stumps. If you had no horse to carry you and had to walk, you travelled on a Bayard of Ten Toes or rode Shanks Naggy.
  • And if you fell down you went Arsey Yarsey.
  • A pretty girl was an Article and a homely girl was a Mopsey. A handsome boy was a Rum Duke; an awkward boy was a Duke of Limbs and a horse-faced man was Lenten Jawed. And if you were Bracket-faced you were just plain ugly.

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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