A Brief Glossary of Terms from Tipping the Velvet

Being the word junkie I am, I’m still hung up on a lot of the intriguing terminology introduced to me by Sarah Waters’s Tipping the Velvet, to wit:

Fag: Cigarette

Gay: In Sarah Waters’s novel, although about lesbians, “gay” is not used to refer to homosexuality.  Rather, it is used in the traditional way, to describe one who is happy or carefree, and also to refer to prostitutes, as in “gay girls.”

Masher: A woman who cross-dresses as a man, lesbian or not

Quim: Girlie bits; interchangable with “cunt.”

Renter: Prostitute

Sapphist: Lesbian

Tipping the velvet: Cunnlingus (the “velvet” is the tongue, apparently)

Tom: Boyish lesbian (what we today might know as “butch”)

Here’s a good website for further advancement of your Victorian era sexual slang: Victorian Slang – a Guide to Sexual Victorian Terms

. . . and that concludes today’s lesson.  Class dismissed!

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