Posted by James Briggs on April 28, 2005
In Reply to: Catch-em-alive O posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 28, 2005
: : What does the phrase mean?
: : In 'Little Dorrit', Charles Dickens said:
: : There were views, like and unlike, of a multitude of places; and there was one little picture-room devoted to a few of the regular sticky old Saints, with sinews like whipcord, hair like Neptune's, wrinkles
: : like tattooing, and such coats of varnish that every holy personage served for a fly-trap, and became what is now called in the vulgar tongue a Catch-em-alive O.
: : Why it's 'vulgar'? Last question, when is the first use of 'Catch-em-alive O'?
: : Thank you.
: : I don't know about a first use, but Cassell's Dictionary of Slang says that was "mid-19th century" slang for a fly-trap. When Dickens says "the vulgar tongue" he doesn't mean rude; he just means "slang, working-class speech".
I have an 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. It's a dictionary of slang and gutter speech.