Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Benjo! (and Left Coast Crime)

 I'm happy to report that I'll be at Left Coast Crime in Seattle next month and part of a lovely panel on one of my favorite topics: Slang! The panel, titled "Slang Me: Dialogue Through History" will be in Grand C on Friday, April 12, 4 p.m. The other panelists are Sarah Niebuhr Rubin (moderator), Sarah M. Chen, Tessa Floreano, and Jeanne Matthews. 

 Looking for a lovely slang word from the past to offer today, I bumped into benjo (which I first misread as "banjo." Nooo connection.)  According to Mental Floss, benjo is 19th-century sailor slang for “A riotous holiday, a noisy day in the streets.” Woot and huzzah! While I was writing THE SECRET IN THE WALL, I spent a fair bit of time swimming through nautical slang (since a number of secondary characters were "men of the sea."), so I was doubly pleased with this definition. 

I did have trouble finding the word with this meaning elsewhere (it appears as a first and last name, and has different definitions in different languages and timeframes)... but did find it referenced in Green's Dictionary of Slang under the entry for bender:

bender n.2 [? the image of a drunkard (or drug user) as unsteady on their feet; or ? f. an image of bending a bow or elbow. Note naut. jargon benjo, a spree, f. Ital./Lingua Fr. buengiorno, a good day]

 If it's good enough for Green's, it's good enough for me and for Slang-o-rama!

Sailors at a drunken orgy.
Mezzotint by W. Ward, 1807, after J.C. Ibbetson, 1802. (A scene in an unspecified tavern at Portsmouth after one or more ships have been paid off.)
Wellcome Collection gallery (2018-04-02), CC BY 4.0, Link

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