“Hot Goose, Cabbage & Cucumbers” is an original hand coloured etching engraved by Thomas Rowlandson & published in 1823 by John Fairburn, and shows the tailors using the goose, working on the cabbage, but the spectre of ‘short commons’ is staring them in the face, in the comely person of a young woman selling cucumbers.

Goose: The ‘goosing iron’ or sad-iron, was named because it often had a goose-necked handle. The term ‘goose’ was also applied to the tailor himself, and any political cartoons of the time containing a goose, or ‘gooses’ is likely to be directed at tailors, and often by inference at the clothes-mad Regent himself.

Cabbage: This was the remnants of cloth left over from an order, and already charged for. This was therefore a small bonus for the tailor, who could use them to make up other garments. ‘Cabbage’ was therefore a term also applied to cash. Again, the word was also used for the tailor himself, and for the Regent. Cartoons conferring the “Order of the Cabbage” are an example of this usage.

‘Cucumber Time’ was a term used for the slow season in the tailoring trade, when the journeyman tailor traditionally was reduced to living on cucumbers. An often used maxim was: “Tailors are Vegetarians, because they live on ‘cucumber’ when without work, and on ‘cabbage’ when in full employ.”

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7 Responses to 18C TAILORING SLANG

  1. Thanks for this explanation of Cucumber time. I never knew it referred to the slow season in the tailoring trade; I just know it as silly season in the media world. You learn some every day, don’t you?

  2. chasbaz says:

    Never knew the term was still in use. Thanks for mentioning it. As is now recognised, cucumbers are extremely nutritious!

  3. That explains a lot. Heyer used to speak of people feeling a little cucumberish when they were short of money, now that explains the origin!

  4. chasbaz says:

    I haven’t seen that in Heyer, but haven’t read all her books. Glad that makes more sense now, Sarah. Thanks for visiting!

  5. Scrapiana says:

    I love these old tailoring words and covered this subject myself on my blog a few years back. You might find it of interest: http://scrapiana.com/2010/09/01/goodbye-cucumbers-hello-cabbages/

  6. Pamela Hart says:

    Fascinating. Have you seen pascalbonenfant.com? Fabulous searchable database of cant

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