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Fighting Words: Britain, Circa. 1700s. by Mark Hatmaker

A lifetime of martial study has meant much delving into the literature of days gone by. These fruitful studies often turn up matters of practical and tactical use. And…these studies often allow one to trip over delightful turns of phrase or curious jargon pertaining to our facet of focus. 

I have long catalogued this vocabulary and these sundry phrases, the following is a brief sampling all culled from the United Kingdom [British, Irish, Welsh, and Scottish texts] with publication dates ranging from 1722 to 1811. 

I hope you enjoy this dip into an earlier age of “Fighting Words” as much as I have enjoyed encountering them.

TO AMUSE. To fling dust or snuff in the eyes of the person intended to be robbed; AMUSERS were Rogues who carried snuff or dust in their pockets for this practice.

“Down with his apple-cart!” Is to throw or knock a person to the ground.

BASTONADING. Beating anyone with a stick; from baton, a stick, formerly spelt baston.

BOTTOM. In the sporting sense, strength and spirits to support fatigue. Among boxers it is used to express a hardy fellow, who will bear a good beating.

BROUGHTONIAN. A boxer: a disciple of Jack Broughton.

BRUISER. A boxer; one skilled in the art of boxing.

BUFFER In Ireland it signified a boxer. Elsewhere one that steals and kills horses and dogs for their skins; also, an inn-keeper.

BULLY. I include this one as it shows how language changes. A bully was a cowardly effeminate fellow.

COCK HOIST. A cross buttock throw which was mighty common in early boxing. 

COLQUARRON. A man's neck. “His colquarron is just about to be twisted” can refer to hanging or a neck-chancery applied in scuffling.

COSTARD. The head. Encountered as “I'll smite your costard!”

CULP. A kick or blow.

DART. A straight-armed blow in boxing.

To darken his day lights,” or “I’ll sew up his sees” is to close up a man's eyes in boxing, likely using a dart.

To alter his dial plate” is to disfigure the face via punches or by slashing with a razor [quite common as you’ll see in our upcoming work on historical razor work.]

TO DRUB. To beat anyone with a stick, or rope's end—Bitter end.

DUB O' TH' HICK. A lick on the head with a cudgel, the hick is hickory.

TO FAN. To beat anyone. “I fanned him sweetly” “I beat him heartily.”

TO FIB. To beat. “Fib the cove's quarron in the rumpad for the lour in his bung.” “Beat the fellow in the highway for the money in his purse.”

FIGDEAN. To kill.

FRUMMAGEMMED. Choked, strangled, suffocated, or hanged.

GLUTTON. A term used by bruisers [boxers] to signify a man who will bear a great deal of beating. We hear it now as “A glutton for punishment” but in former times simply saying “Glutton” put the idea across. 

GOUGERS A derogatory term for Bostonians across the pond referring to their penchant for gouging out eyes with the thumb.

We’ll leave it there for today and perhaps dip again into the lexicography on both sides of the waters for more lethal linguistic fun.

For today’s training, let’s throw a dart and sew the Broughtonians sees, hit a cock hoist to apple-cart him, then slap a frummagem on the bruiser’s colquarron.

[Jab the eyes, shoot the cross-buttocks hip-throw, hit the ground and apply a rear-naked choke or chancery on our opponent.]

[For more Rough& Tumble history, Indigenous Ability hacks, and for pragmatic applications of old school tactics historically accurate and viciously verified see our RAW Subscription Service.]


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