"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Of firkins and merkins


A firkin - definitely not to be confused with a merkin - was one of those wonderful sounding measures from days gone by. Like most measures it was of varying size according to whereabouts in the country you lived. The generally accepted version was that it was a small wooden keg holding about a quarter of a barrel or 9 imperial gallons.

A merkin - according to Francis Grose's 1811 'Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue - or Lexicon balatronicum; a dictionary of buckish slang, university wit, and pickpocket eloquence' was "counterfeit hair for women's privvy parts". I leave that to your imagination and shall avoid attempting an illustration.

1 comment: