Lesbianism in Victorian England

In Victorian England, terms such as lesbian and sapphic came into use for female relationships. For some time, the Victorians never seemed to consider criminalising female homosexuality.

Apocryphally, these were also due to be criminalised in the 1885 legislation know as the Labouchere Amendment, until Queen Victoria declared them impossible, whereupon the clause was omitted – a joke that serves to underline a common, and commonly welcomed, ignorance, at a time when lurid, fictionalised lesbianism was often figured as an especially repulsive and seductive French vice.

“The single best thing about coming out of the closet is that nobody can insult you by telling you what you’ve just told them.” – Rachel Maddow

One of the first people to break the amendment was Oscar Wilde. The judge sentenced him to two years hard labour, although he wished he could punish him even more saying that, “this is the worst case I have ever tried.” A week earlier, the same judge tried a case of child murder.

Victorian Job Titles

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a trend emerged in English slang for bestowing mock titles on people employed or engaged in various jobs or pursuits:

  • Actors: tags, agony-pilers or cackling-coves (Shakespearean Actor: swan-slinger)
  • Banker: rag-shop boss
  • Barber: strap or scraper
  • Barmen: aproners
  • Butcher: cleaver or kill-calf
  • Cashier: rag-shop cove
  • Clerk or Secretary: quill-driver or pen-driver
  • Dentists: fang-fakers
  • Greengrocer: figgins or split-fig
  • Journalists: screeds, pencil-pushers, adjective-jerkers or chaunter-coves (Hack Journalist: yarn-chopper or X.Y.Z.)
  • Judges: nobs-in-the-fur-trade
  • Lawyers: sublime rascals, tongue-padders, split-causes, Tom Sawyers or snipes (Unscrupulous Lawyer: snap, snare, noose or brother-snap)
  • Police Officers: peelers, bobbies, blue-bellies, bluebottles, gentlemen in blue and white or unboiled lobster
  • Priests: devil-dodgers, men-in-black, mumble-matins or joss-house men
  • Schoolteachers: learning-shover, nip-lug, terror of the infantry, haberdasher of pronouns or knight of grammar (Sunday-school Teacher: gospel-grinder or gospel-shark)
  • Surgeons: bone-setters or castor-oil artists
  • Tradesman: blue-apron
  • Waiters: knights of the napkin

16/iv mmxv

During the siege of Paris in 1870, the artist Manet’s cat was eaten by a person, or persons, unknown.

In 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to remove the word ‘lunatic’ from federal law by a margin of 398 to 1.

Damfino was Victorian slang for ‘damned if I know’.

Barbara Cartland dictated all her novels (over 700 titles) to a secretary, while lying on a sofa with a white fur rug and a hot water bottle.

Mohammed Salah al-Munajjid, the Sheik of Saudi Arabia, decreed in 2015 that making snowmen is a punishable offence.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts