Mischievous words

Brian Chapman trawls through the language of roguish ne'er-do-wells, slovens, snook-cockers and other miscreants

CC: This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom

CC: This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom

slubberdegullion, n 

Usage: A slobbering drunk person.

Etymology: Slubber is most likely derived from slobber, gullion is of uncertain origin but possibly from cullion, a Middle English word for testicle. In Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel, slabberdegullion is employed amid a torrent of insults including ‘slapsauce fellows’, ‘drunken roysters’ and ‘drowsy loiterers’.


Usage: A mischievous person, usually a youth, who ‘cocks a snook’ at social convention.

Etymology: Most likely a corruption of larking. In 19th-century Australia, impoverished teenagers who formed gangs to cause a ruckus and flout convention were known as larrikins. Still in use today, its meaning has softened to describe youthful high spirits.

snecklifter, n 

Usage: Someone who acts in a crafty, stealthy fashion in order to get something for nothing.

Etymology: Sneck is a Scottish dialect word for latch, also used in the north of England. A snecklifter is a person who, upon arriving at an inn, would lift the latch on the door and peer inside to see if there was anyone likely to buy him a drink.

cutpurse, n 

Usage: 17th-century term for a pickpocket or thief: literally one who cut purses to steal their contents. 

Etymology: Unskilled as a nimble- fingered dip (pickpocket), a cutpurse would use a knife to cut through purse-strings attached to an unsuspecting victim’s belt, taking the whole purse rather than dipping in and stealing the valuable items.

hookum snivey, n 

Usage: Someone who feigns illness to elicit compassion and money. Also known as hook’em snivey and hookem-snivvy.

Etymology: Hookum is likely to derive from hook and means to lure by trickery, and snivey is an old word for deceit.The expression was used in Victorian London to describe beggars who pretended to be sick or lame.

Are you a linguaphile? Get your hands on our Untranslatable Words A5 prints in our online store. You can discover more nuggets of curious history in the 2nd print issue of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

Christmas Gift Guide: for the cyclist

Salmon-coloured bike lights, Welsh blanket musettes and hand-woven baskets: these gift ideas are sure to inspire more two-wheeled adventures in the New Year

Bookman Lights, £16.95 (choice of four colours), Godspeed

Functional and stylish, these Bookman lights are result of a clever collaboration with The Deadly Nightshades and they come in four awesome colours with awesome names; Pitch Black, Sea Foam, Velo Yellow and Spoked Salmon. They're easy to attach and have three different light modes.

'Chop 'til you drop' print, £25, Godspeed

For the Chopper geek in your life, this fun silk screen print is illustrated by Harriet Seed on white A3 paper. This is a limited edition of 35 and each one is signed and numbered by the artist.

Handwoven Bicycle Baskets (selection), £45, Godspeed

Jazz up your bicycle with one of these of a kind baskets, woven from tropical elephant grass. Each one is completely unique and made by hand, and comes with the name of their personal weaver stitched inside it. Bring a touch of the exotic to your handlebars!

Pocket t-shirt, £35, Pilgrim

These hand-printed t-shirts celebrate the soulful side of cycling rather than lap times and padded lycra. Pilgrim is a Kickstarter funded project and its organic cotton t-shirts are made via a climate neutral manufacturing process solely using green energy from wind and solar power. We love this understated t-shirt with the Pilgrim logo and handy phone pocket.

Welsh Wool Blanket Musette, £35, fforest

According to fforest, the musette is used by professional cycling teams the world over, not only to carry food for their riders but also to advertise and market their sponsors and are always designed to be bold and colourful. These Welsh blanket musettes don't fail to deliver on that promise. Comes with an adjustable strap, a reflector tab and an internal pocket to store your phone. Available in six colours and patterns.

Embroidered patch, £7.50, Godspeed

Illustrator Carl Partridge produced these ace embroidered 'Shut up Legs' patches in celebration of the recently retired and very legendary cyclist Jens Voigt. There are limited numbers though so get one while you can! 

Whittle a fire stick

Not a fair weather camper? Us neither. Dan Scott of Fore Adventure shares a simple little technique for getting your winter campfire blazing

Image: Justin Glynn

Image: Justin Glynn

A feather stick is a cracking way to kindle your winter campfires with minimal effort – and without cheating and using firelighters. The technique even works with slightly damp wood, as it lets the sparks get to the dry wood inside.

Take a long, thin piece of wood and simply whittle down the stick, with your knife at an angle so you cut tiny strips into the wood, leaving them attached so you get a feather effect. Focus on the end of the stick – you don’t need to whittle along the whole length of wood. Make several sticks, pile them up and throw in a spark to get your fire blazing.

Dan Scott is an outdoor adventure coach and guide at Fore Adventure on the Dorset coast. You can ready his inspiring guide to seashore foraging in print issue 2 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

Christmas Gift Guide: men's accessories

Knitted ties, tweed hip flasks and phone cases made from discarded wellies – these aren't just men's accessories. These are men's accessories curated by Ernest.

Instrmnt watch 01-A GM/T, £160, Instrmnt

There’s a lot to be said for things that concentrate on doing the things they are supposed to do, and doing them well. These watches are the result of clever chaps in Glasgow.They’ve paired quality Swiss components with simple, utilitarian design to produce a timepiece that will look attractive and tell you the date and time, nothing more, no bells and whistles.


Knitted tie, £45, Sharp & Dapper

Add a bit of texture to your or a loved one's ensemble with one of these 100% silk knitted ties, available in a wide range of colours but we find this burnt orange beauty particularly fetching. Imagine this against a crisp white shirt and a dark purple suit. Yes, sir. 


Phone case, £42, Francli

We do harp on a bit about Francli but there's a reason why. As part of their Fresh Fields Project, they turn wellies, tents and other perfectly good items left behind at festivals into gorgeous products, including this phone case, which led its former life as a wellington boot. The neck cord is made from tent guy rope. Give this little beauty a new home, and pray the previous owner didn't have athlete's foot. 


Tweed hip flask, £28, Walker Slater

Continuing the tweed theme (because Ernest likes a bit of tweed) we've chosen this charming little hip flask to keep your warming nip in on winter walks. The stainless steel flask is wrapped in Borders tweed and trimmed with dark red leather. *Warning: if you dare attempt to put a cheap whisky in this flask it will disintegrate.
*not really


Pocket square, £35, Cravat Club

We're of course enamoured with Cravat Club's signature cravats but we're positively salivating over their beautiful 100% silk pocket squares woven and made in England. There is a huge range of sumptuous patterns to choose from but it was Nicholas that caught Ernest's eye with its pine green and teal paisley pattern. Mix and match with a cravat and you're good to go.


Herringbone Tweed braces, £70, Sharp & Dapper

Sharp & Dapper are at it again, winning us over with their sartorial know-how. According to them, "A good quality brace is a staple product for your wardrobe as they are truly the best of keeping your trousers from falling down. Belts are nice but tend to clinch the trousers, whereas braces will let them hang off your hips just as the suit maker intended." Who are we to argue? The tweed is woven in Yorkshire and trimmed with black or chestnut leather. 

You can find more sartorial inspiration in our Timeless Style section of print issue 2 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

Ship biscuits

These hardy crackers were the main staple for sailors on a long voyage – it's believed around the time of the Spanish Armada the daily allowance on board a Royal Navy ship was one pound of biscuits and a gallon of beer. Guy Lochhead tells us more about this stalwart biscuit...

These historical crackers have served as a vital food for centuries aboard boats, among armies and far-flung communities across the world. When stored well, they last indefinitely.

Their usage in the military and at sea led to all sorts of mythologising – most famously in maritime novels as “weevily biscuits”, with sailors opting to eat in the dark to avoid seeing the maggots. Historians have debunked this idea, at least since the early 19th century, when sailors began storing their biscuits in airtight wine barrels.

In 1812, Captain Basil Hall described tasting the results: “the biscuit smelled as fresh and new as if it had been taken from the oven only the day before. Even its flavour and crispness were preserved so entire, that I thought we should never have done cranching it.”

Here’s a traditional recipe, eschewing any of the butter and milk that modern versions use. Although the additional ingredients taste great, they are perishable, and we want our biscuits to last hundreds of years. 


500g flour (historically, medium coarse stone-ground wholemeal)
2 tsp salt water


Preheat oven to 190°C. Combine flour and salt in a bowl and add water until it makes a stiff dough. Roll this out thickly then cut into squares (Navy-style) or circles (Army-style), and pierce holes in them to make them easier to break up later (‘docking’). Place on a baking tray in the oven for half an hour then remove and leave to cool fully on a wire rack before eating.

Guy Lochhead is a primary school teacher living in Bristol. He is currently gathering sources via the British Whybrary, putting on gory am-dram classical tragedies and starting Bristol's first co-op gym.