Arf-an-arf, and arf’arf’an’arf. Once popular words that no one uses anymore

Language is a funny old thing. We take it for granted most of the time, but it’s incredible to think that countless people have come to almost the same understanding of what some randomly ordered letters refer to. It’s even stranger when you start looking at things like slang words, or words that were once on the tip of every tongue that no one even remembers anymore. Some of these words need to be brought back. Others need to be forgotten…

Arf-an-arf, and arf’arf’an’arf


Let’s head back to Victorian England for some drunk slang that’s fun to say. According to the admittedly dull-sounding 1909 book Passing English of the Victorian era: A Dictionary of Heterodox English, Slang and Phrase, if you were hanging out in a Victorian pub, you might order an arf-an-arf. That’s the drink we now call half and half (or, if you want to be less politically correct, a black and tan). It’s traditionally a pint that’s half porter and half ale, so you can see where arf-an-arf comes from. Just imagine some salty seadog, fresh off a trade ship from India, stomping into a dockside pub and demanding his «arf-an-arf!»

If he happened to demand a few too many, he might become what was called arf’arf’an’arf, as in, «Old One-Thumb Harry was so arf’arf’an’arf he tipped over a lantern, set himself on fire, and then fell off the dock.» We’ve all got stories about those nights.

by Debra Kelly

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