Since we use a lot of English slang, historical terms and sometimes even made-up words our characters have created, we thought is might be handy to have a list of oddball words and their definitions.
This list is not alphabetical, because we're contrarian barbarian swashbucklers and believe that a little chaos is like a slice of lemon in a cup of tea; Your first response is to ask "why" and then you try it and enjoy it.
If you come across a word that's used in our books that you think should be in our list, why not ask us (nicely, or we shall scupper your day by sending some beadles to smite you with a rubber thurible) via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Beadles are the closest thing OverLondon has to law enforcement, though in practice they are little more than an official gang. Each parish has their own beadles, who have their own styles of dress, traditions and favored weapons. Beadles typically do not cross parish borders (part of The Parish Agreement of 1635), which makes pursuing criminals who cross borders a tricky affair. If only there was some kind of private investigator who could. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
George Fact: In our world, beadles fulfilled a historical role of minor policemen and were tasked with maintaining order at the parish or local level. They were a kind of early police constable, many hundred years before the establishment of the modern-day police in London.
Today beadles still exist and you can find them in places like Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly, where there have been beadles for 200 years and counting. Interestingly, they police a whole range of banned behaviour from whistling--which used to be used as a communication tool by pickpockets--to singing because it apparently indicates drunkenness. Making a clucking sound is also banned too, because that's how the people of the evening used to hail their customers from the upper floors!
A privateer is a pirate who works officially for a country. Think of them like a freelance looter and mayhem creator.
So, let’s say Country A and Country B have decided to go to war over Country A declaring their scone recipe is the best in the world. Country A's government could then hand out licences to privateers--sanctioned pirates--who would do everything a pirate would do, except with permission from home.
Being a privateer is rather cushy actually come to think of it, although the only downside is that you have to pay tax on your loot!
The first privateers for OverLondon are Captain Alex Reign and her crew. A loophole in OverLondon law means that the Letter of Marque that declares them privateers, also allows them to do business across OverLondon parish borders with immunity.
George Fact: There have been many famous privateers in our world and they were particularly popular in Tudor times. Elizabeth 1, employed a good number of rather good looking gentleman privateers that were often referred to as "sea dogs". (Looking at their portraits, you've gotta wonder if she had a type.)
Letter of Marque
An official document that gives someone (in this case Captain Alex Reign and her crew) permission to sail the seven skies with impunity, being a pirate in all senses of the word as long as they don't rob anyone from their own country and pay their taxes. (At least as far as the issuing country was concerned – everyone else might disagree, but that’s their problem).
George Fact: In our world, the earliest Letter of Marque was issued in 1293 and they were handed out to quite a few aspirational pirates until privateering was abolished (at least officially) in 1856. One of the most notorious holders of a Letter of Marque was Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard who privateered for England during the War for Spanish Succession, learning all the skills he needed to become a notorious pirate later. These included tying lit fuses in his beard so he could achieve maximum pirate glam.
For better or worse, the sign of the Reign Agency in Drury Lane calls Captain Reign and her crew "Private-Ears".
Captain Reign's bo'sun, Sid Potts was tasked with creating the sign and he is upholding the OverLondon tradition of treating spelling and punctuation like they are wild beasts that cannot be tamed and tethered to a dictionary.
The term "private ear" has now come to mean private investigator, and saves a lot of time in conversation by being pronounced exactly the same way as privateer.
Totally not a private-eye, honest.
OverLondon was split by Queen Anne the Vengeful into parishes when she rebuilt the city after the Great Fire of Anne and elevation of OverLondon. Each parish has at least one cathedral of the Church of Vengeful Acquisition, which collects tithes from anyone daft enough to sign up.
Parishes are the closest thing the city has to proper administrative units. It's best to think of them as an inner-city suburb.
Guilds have become synonymous with certain parishes, all but running them and using their beadles as law enforcement.
There were several inter-parish wars prior to the The Parish Agreement of 1635 and even now a lot of knuckle cracking and posturing goes on, with beadles exchanging significant looks with their counterparts across parish boundaries.
Traditionally to "scupper" means to sink a ship, but you can also scupper an airship by deflating its balloon, making it flip upside down, or breaking it into little bits.
Airmen who now live on land, have been known to use the word in relation to ruining anything. For example, you could scupper someone's cup of tea by putting the milk in first. (But why would you do such a thing?!)
It’s a nautical word and therefore makes no sense to anyone who hasn't been at sea or in the air for a month with no-one but a potato for company.
Note: Not to be confused with supper. Never eat an airship, the splinters are awful.
An enclosed metal incense burner suspended by chains and swung gently to distribute nice smelling smoke. This is something for alter boys to do to make them look useful.
They also make a great improvised morning-star for thumping someone on the noggin.
The Church of Vengeful Acquisition’s beadles, the Bad Habits, have developed a rubber thurible for the purpose of non-lethal crowd control and stress relief (theirs, not yours).
Head. The thing you do some of your thinking with. Hurts if you hit it hard enough, or if you think too much.
To steal sneakily. To purloin or obtain by devious means. Snaffling possibly requires a successful stealth check.
George fact: It is derived from assorted old European words that mean snout, beak, nose, mouth or face. No one knows why. But I think snavel is a lovely name for a girl.
I know what you’re thinking, and no, it isn’t the jiggly kind.
Booty is a stealable object of value.
And yes, I know the jiggly kind has value too, but I have no idea how to steal it. Yes, yes, I’m sure you do, but please don’t send me suggestions for this. Look, think of a chest. There you go again! Stop it. I mean the wooden gold-filled kind. Good. Now you have that image, imaging that chest filled with shiny gold coins. Those coins would be booty.
George fact: Like most of the English language, we plundered it (did you see the clever thing I did there?). It comes from a Middle Low German word bǖte meaning “distribution, exchange, loot”. I don’t know what a Middle Low German is… but if you spot one, please tell them that their word invention skills are rather impressive.
Means the same thing as booty, but without all the double entendres. So, I guess it’s a polite booty?
I see you giggling, don’t. This is serious comedy.
George fact: Loot was looted (ha ha!) from the Hindi word lūṭ ( लूट ) which might look like a frowny emoji, but actually means booty (not the jiggly kind!). Which goes to show that the English language isn’t just stolen from Europe! It’s more of an equal opportunity blob-shoggoth, acquiring everything that comes in the reach of its linguistic pseudopods.
Lazier people who refuse to spend the money on punctuation might use the term "bosun" instead. But here at OverLondon, no expense is spared on punctuation. Here have a bunch for FREE: :,,”;’.
Now while my spellchecker has a stroke, I can tell you that the word "bo'sun" is the abbreviation of "boatswain", which is someone who bosses other sailors around. They're kind of like a wet sergeant.
Now, thinking laterally, a "swain" is a male sweetheart, so I guess they are also someone who loves boats an awful lot.
Femmy Fartalley and Sexual Whales
Spare a moment to think of the poor penny dreadful hacks of Bloomsbury, sitting on their writer’s blocks, writing out copies of novels by hand (as there are no printing presses in OverLondon). It’s not their fault if the odd spelling mistake creeps in.
You see, the problem with copying a copy, is that all sorts of gibberish can creep in. (Except for holy books which are totally correct in every possible way and don't have any typographical errors at all, ever ever ever.)
Anyway a "femmy fartalley" is what happens when the words "femme fatale"—meaning dangerous woman who lures heroes to their doom—is put through the OverLondon word mangle.
And while sexual whales are no doubt an actual thing, the term "sexual whales" is what happens when the same writer who mangled femme fatale is allowed to go near the phrase "sexual wiles".
It really should be stopped, but it means that you can own five editions of the same book and each one will contain a totally different story with completely different words! Oh the wonder of it all. And wouldn't you rather read a book about pungent alleys and frisky cetaceans, than one about a good looking lady in racy clothes? I know which one I'd prefer.
Ten-dollar word that means whale. George made me put this in, because I pronounced it as citation and she got annoyed at me.
Gobsmacked / Flabbergasted
These mean: to be surprised, confounded or shocked speechless.
Gobsmacked is quite literally to be smacked in the gob (mouth) so that you can’t speak.
Gasting one’s flabbers sounds so entertainingly rude, I’m not going to spoil it for you by looking up where it came from!
Cove, Blighter, Mug
All of these refer to a person, but depending on how it’s said, it can be affectionate, derisive or neutral.
"Mug" may also imply the person involved is being duped. It can also refer to someone’s face (i.e. mug shot) possibly because back in the day there were lots of mugs (cups) with grotesque faces on them—possibly because deep down we are all barbarians who want to drink from the skulls of our enemies.
The OverLondon numpty or numpteus domestica is a species native OverLondon.
They may remind the naïve onlooker of a pear-shaped feral pigeon, but have a few very important differences. The first is their massive hindquarters which are known to unleash unholy terror on their enemies en masse, the second is their blood red eyes, containing all the hate on the globe for anyone who gets in their way.
Their defense mechanism has been described as a cross between those of a skunk and a bombardier beetle... multiplied to the power of fifty.
Their street nickname is "gutter cannon", but we would suggest that you never call them that within their hearing.
There are many theories about how the OverLondon numpty got its name, which comes from an ancient Scottish word meaning "idiot" or "numbskull". Our assumption is that the name came about because anyone standing within a ten foot radius of one when it released its countermeasures was called a numpty by bystanders and then the name was transferred to the bird. No one has asked the bird its opinion on this, for fear of being called a "numpty" by bystanders.
While the OverLondon Guild of Rat Catchers (motto: veni vidi rattus… I came, I saw, a rat) is very good at catching rats, they are not the best at reducing the population.
Their credo is to “Catch, Count and Categorize,” and at no point—and this is important—cull. They operate on a catch-and-release philosophy and are typically more interested with the betterment of the species and relocating specimens away from dangerous situations (which frankly is most of OverLondon).
The Guild of Rat Catchers is peopled with what would happen if you genetically spliced trainspotters and pigeon fanciers. Which is just as well, as pigeon fancying in OverLondon is more of an extreme sport (see Numpties above) and does not attract the calm and introspective types you would expect.
The Rat Catchers of OverLondon have no shortage of variety to keep them interested due to the explosion of subspecies caused by the evolutionary pressures and niches presented by a floating city that excels at foreign trade.
Recently the OverLondon Guild of Rat Catchers have developed an interest in promoting tourism to OverLondon, as more tourists = more airships = more (and new!) rats. It's called A Tourist's Guide to OverLondon and you, dear reader, can get a hold of it for free by joining our marvellous mailing list. It's got all the details a rat-loving tourist could ever desire, plus pictures and diagrams and everything!