Pea-Souper

Below we outline some of the slang to describe London fog over the years, that has made it into our modern day vocabulary. Pea Soup anyone?

Black broth – this less popular term for a dense fog came from Thomas Carlyle’s complaint about the capital in 1833.

Fog fever – epidemic of respiratory ailments and deaths among cattle in Smithfield.

Fog glasses – one of the more unusual protective measures for fog, which also affected the nose and mouth (handkerchiefs were more common protection).

King Fog – this term of the 1880s indicated that fog was by now seen as something aggressive that ruled the city.
Linklighter – they were employed to light people through the streets using sticks with rags dipped in tar and set aflame.

London ivy – Dickens used this term in Bleak House (1853) to describe sooty particles left on a nameplate.

London Particular – the most common early term, Dickens employed it in an 1851 article about Spitalfields (it described particles in fog affecting weavers) and again in Bleak House. It was also a certain type of brown Madeira wine.

Pall – Robert Louis Stevenson describes the first fog of the season as “a great chocolate-coloured pall” in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886).

Pea-souper – the most popular name for London fog, its first recorded use was by the US writer Herman Melville in 1849. He described a gamboge (yellow) colour – pea soup was originally made with dried yellow split peas.

Pease pudding – another metaphor based on a dish of yellow split peas – it creates the impression of fog as something ingested.

Sea coal – coal was first brought to London by sea and given this name – there was a Sacoles Lane as early as 1228. Today Old Seacoal Lane is in Clerkenwell.

Smog – photochemical air pollution from car exhaust emissions, rather than London fog’s sulphurous mix of coal smoke, mists and fogs.