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Victorian Slang of the Week


Beat—a shirker, malingerer, freeloader, loafer—1863 in throughout the rest of the century.  It seems to have been used like “deadbeat”, used in both military “it wasn’t until the skirmish was over that that “beat” George showed up”, or “he went to collect from those beats whose rents were three weeks past due”.  Later in the century, 1870’s and 80’s it also referred to as a swindle or a swindler.  Also “on the beat”.

Alternative definition: worn out, exhausted, or abashed and astonished as.  1830’s on. “beat hollow” meant to surpass or outdo, 1833.  “Beat the Dutch” amazing, in a negative sense 1833.  

Beat, as in broke, however, wasn’t used until the 19th century.


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