Victorian Slang of the Week – Spunk-fencer

Spunk-fencer. Go on, have a guess at what this slang is referring to.

Well, according to The Slang Dictionary of 1865, it’s a match seller, “spunks” also being the term for lucifer matches. Lucifers were rather unstable and prone to explosive reactions, and had been replaced by this stage with phosphorus matches. But the slang persisted for quite some time, until at least the First World War seeing as it’s mentioned in the song “Pack up your troubles”,

“Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile
While you’ve a lucifer to light your fag, smile boys, that’s the style….”

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