Slang Quiz Illustration | Mystery bag
What were referred to as “Bags o’ mystery” in the mid-19th Century?

Historical and Modern Slang Quiz

Slang words have been banned in some schools in an attempt to encourage students to use, and learn, formal English. But slang is nothing new. We’ve been using it for thousands of years and many of the words now regarded as formal English originated as slang. This quiz will test your knowledge of historical and modern slang.

Here’s a list of some modern words and phrases which were once slang:

  • Brunch
  • The bee’s knees
  • Veggie
  • Crestfallen
  • Crowdfunding

I could go on, but I know you’re “raring to go” and get on with the quiz. Let’s see how many of these slang terms you can translate! Will you be a “bobby-dazzler” or an “also-ran”? Good luck!

1.
In the 17th Century, someone who “Kissed the hare’s foot” would be what?
The loser in a race
A supporter of Charles I
Late for dinner
A catholic
Someone who arrived late for dinner would be left with only scraps to eat – the choicest parts of the hare would all be gone, leaving only the less palatable ones, such as the feet
2.
If a Victorian “Shot into the brown”, what would they have done?
Failed to achieve their goal
Had a lucky break
Taken a swim in the Thames
Placed a two-way bet
The phrase originates in rifle practice. The black and white target was surrounded by soil, so anyone who missed the black and white had shot into the brown earth
3.
A “Nose bagger” was someone who undertook which new 19th Century pastime?
Went trainspotting
Played professional football
Went ice-skating
Visited the seaside
After railways linked cities to the coast, visits to the seaside became popular. A “Nose bagger” was one of those who brought a packed lunch with them, and so did not contribute to the resort’s economy
4.
Which of these terms meant “too much extravagance” in Victorian times?
Golden goblets
Butter upon bacon
Silver spoons
Frills upon a fiddle
Similar to the more ancient “Gild the lily”, “Butter upon bacon” meant too much luxury or lavishness
5.
What were referred to as “Bags o’ mystery” in the mid-19th Century?
Priests
Sausages
Lucky dips
Women
Food standards at the time were not very stringent! Nobody knew for sure what was inside a sausage, save the person who made it
6.
In the 1950s, if someone gave you the “Word from the bird”, what would they mean?
They were quoting someone “in the know”
They were giving you wise advice
They were insulting you
They were telling the truth
“Word from the bird” is not related to “From the horse’s mouth”. Nor is it a reference to wise owls. In fact, it was an assurance that what you are being told was true. Well, I’ve never been lied to by a bird, so it sort of makes sense!
7.
In the 1960s, those who had more than their fair share of anything good were compared to which actor?
Humphrey Bogart
James Dean
Tony Curtis
Cary Grant
If you did not share something, you were said to be “Bogarting” it. The phrase arose because of Bogart’s habit of keeping a cigarette in his mouth without removing it until it was finished
8.
What did the 1980s word “Phat” mean?
Smelly
Overweight
Very good
Very bad
The word arose in the rap music and breakdancing scene. It’s thought to be a deliberate misspelling of fat, with an almost opposite meaning
9.
What would an emotionally-upset person in the 1980s be described as having?
A mare
A wibble
A cow
A flip
Often used if someone did not appreciate your sense of humour. You might say to them, “I was only joking. There’s no need to have a cow”
10.
Which sort of person would be described as a “Scrub” in the 1990s?
A police officer
A man with few prospects
A cleaner
A woman with messy hair
Made famous by the band TLC in their 1999 song “No Scrubs”, the word describes a man with no money or job
Author:  Graeme Haw

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