Sunday, 29 November 2015

Were Victorians the real 'Hipsteres'?

The modern definition of the current trending term 'Hipster' within the Oxford dictionary being 'A person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream.'

The use of spoken language being of utmost importance within society. Both within the Victorian era throughout history eventually arriving to the modern day. One must ask ‘How do people use language to generate influence and control?’ Language having the power to offend, educate and influence. Therefore, as you read the examples selected throughout this blog, you will discover the use of slang used throughout the Victorian era.  Providing you with a sense of the moral belief systems of the time. Particularly the misogyny made apparent within the colloquial language, alongside the rather light hearted and comical language. Of which we must resurrect and integrate into the colloquial dialogue of today.

 Due to Language being similar to pop culture, it is constantly molding to current trend. Therefore, there is a very apparent link to be made between the hipster of today and language throughout history. As the hipster strives to remain within its own stereotype. Keeping up with their own unique fashion as stated within the definition of the hipster ‘follows the latest trends’ in a way that is consistently evolving. And due to the current trend of being a ‘Hipster’ the goal is now to remain outside of the current ‘cultural mainstream’. Therefore, confirming that through the use of Victorian slang on can claim originality and ergo ‘Hipster’ status. Thus being original and unoriginal at the same time.



Specifically when stating this right to claim Hipster status. I am referring to as stated above the common use of slang used among the Victorians in 1800's. For example, if I were to have written this blog by hand using ink (due to the obvious reason of internet being non-existent in the Victorian era) I would say to 'chuck out ink'. The use of Victorian Language is definitely an element of the Victorian era which we should indeed revive to the modern age. Obviously being selective of using the less offensive of the latter. It's quirky use ultimately elevating individuals to the ultimate 'Hipster' status.

However, some colloquial language used within 1800's has not evolved as much as one would expect, therefore, losing its original edge. For example, the term to 'blow' money meaning to spend it all, was one used amongst the Victorian's, a term also used commonly among students in modern day,  e.g. due to financial strain. In contrast if you have a 'sudden revulsion of money' e.g. one's student loan coming in earlier than expected. There is Victorian jargon for this also. The phrase being to 'shake out', a term which in modern day sounds similarly to a dance maneuver rather than the discovery of financial income. Again, remembering the key to being a successful Hipster is to remain 'outside the cultural mainstream' . Although admittedly some of the slang created within the Victorian era at times lacked the imaginative and quirky element commonly associated with the hipster formula. For instance the  'museum headache' a term literally translated as a ' headache incurred by waiting for books at the British museum library'.

Furthermore, in order to apply the terms to everyday life, this of course only being if you wish to further your Hipster custom. One must insult like a Victorian. Firstly, start with the initial phrases used to offend. Terms such as labeling an individual a 'lame duck' which eventually developed to 'crackpot' both literal meaning being 'a man who had the appearance of prosperity, and is but an imposter'. Although stated as being an insult specifically for 'a man'.  This would no longer be isolated to the one gender. As within todays modern, equal and liberal society the term could be applied to insult both male and female. Also, a term developed from what we now associated with a specifically female canine 'bitch', was also used in an insulting fashion 'bitched' meaning spoilt or ruined, or it was used as an adjective rather than an insult by addressing an individual to 'bitch the pot' , meaning to pour the tea.  If you wished to take your insults to a larger global scale, insulting not only individuals but indeed the world, you may refer to the world as being a 'forest of fools'. If one is offended by any of the terminology above and find themselves to have been weeping profusely. The Victorian slang for this would be to have been 'blubbering heartedly.'

Again, the creativity of the Victorian slang at times deteriorates, for example if after 'Brekker' (breakfast) one needs to participate in some 'Eccer' (exercise) as after meals it is custom to do so within the Victorian era, as the telegraph states 'Every man after lunch devotes himself to eccer... this may take the shape of footer'(football). The language again revolving around the patriarchal world of the male within the Victorian era. But do not be disheartened as 'footer' and 'eccer' have evolved within the modern day culture and are no longer applied to the male Hipster alone but to Hipster's and all other individuals of all genders. However, If you wish to express the physical difference between both male and female through the use of Victorian slang, you must refer to the male testicles as 'tally wags' and the female reproductive organ as a 'crinkcum crankum'. And the Female breasts being titled 'Cupids kettle drums' or 'caker-nuts'. If you also feel the need for a word to express the language for a female tongue specifically you may refer to it as a 'Quail pipe'. However, the use of the word 'Quail' developed from the title of a bird known for its consistent noise, therefore, coming under the more offensive section. However, these overall fresh terms once again restoring the innovative nature of the Victorian slang.

Slang, in terms of gender within the Victorian era has an almost comical element, due to it being so unbelievably sexist and offensive at times. For instance, if a male whilst having  'Beer and skittles' (a good time)  drinking 'Neck oil' (Beer) was to go looking for a female suitor they would said to have been 'tot-hunting', if said woman was attractive she would be labelled a 'Bit o' jam'  her 'giggle mug' (smiling face) adding to her attracting of course. If this hypothetical lady was god forbid 'promiscuous' she would be said to be a 'dirty puzzle'. Of course these slang terms being used for an example of the ways language was derogatory, not as a way to build upon Hipster status.

Finally, if you feel you have been thoroughly educated on what it takes to become the ultimate modern day 'hipster', and therefore, wish to exclaim at the brilliance of the Victorian slang. One should either use the work 'lark!' in a surprised manner or a rather long winded 'Dash my wig'.


English and Partridge, E. (1970) Slang to-day and yesterday, with a short historical sketch and vocabulances of English.  London: Law Book Co.

Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present: A Dictionary Historical and Comparative of the Heterodox Speech of all Classes of Society for More than Three Hundred Years with Synonyms in English, French, German, Italian, etc.

Power in language: Verbal communication and social influence. Language and language behaviors, Vol. 3.
Ng, Sik Hung; Bradac, James J.
Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage Publications, Inc Power in language: Verbal communication and social influence. (1993). x 228 pp.

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