Green’s Dictionary of Slang

herring-gutted adj.

1. of a person, thin; thus herring-guts n., an emaciated body.

J. Arbuthnot Dissertation on Dumpling (1744) 13: King John had a natural Antipathy to Meagre, Herring-gutted Wretches .
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Herring gutted, thin, as shotten herring.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Marryat Snarleyyow I 11: Have you not a herring there, you herring-gutted scoundrel?
[Ind]Bellew Memoirs of a Griffin II 93: ‘You ain’t half such a lantern-jaw’d herring-gutted-looking fellow as you used to be’.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Hillingdon Hall II 320: We’re not all sich ’erring-gutted beggars as you, wot can run all day.
[Ind]Delhi Sketch Bk 1 Oct. 65/1: Which is the thinnest river in India? The Herring gutty Harumgotta.
[UK]Paul Pry (London) 15 Aug. n.p.: A little, insignificant, short- legged, herring-gutted, long- faced pert, like her, with that long-legged, straight-backed, freckle-faced upstart of a bobby.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘A Bush Publican’s Lament’ in Roderick (1972) 468: Three or four herrin’-gutted jackeroos comes along about dinner-time [...] with their belts done up three holes, an’ not the price of a feed on ’em.
[NZ]N.Z. Truth 9 Nov. 8/3: They come into this city every morning [...] poor, piffling, watery-nosed, blue-chested, herring-gutted little beggars.
P.C. Wren Wages of Virtue 12: The American dropped his fists and smiled. ‘Say,’ he drawled, ‘I thought it was some herring-gutted weevil of a Dago or a Squarehead.’.
[UK]E. Blair ‘The Spike’ in Adelphi Apr. in Complete Works X (1998) 200: Old ‘Daddy’, aged seventy-four, with his truss, and his red watering eyes: a herring-gutted starveling [...] looking like the corpse of Lazarus.
[Aus]R. Park Poor Man’s Orange 156: He wished he could corner Mr Reilly in the hall so that he could whack the little fellow on the back and pour a drink into his herring guts. [Ibid.] 164: Bit herring-gutted, ain’t he?

2. cowardly, ‘gutless’.

[Scot]Elgin Courier 24 Aug. 7/3: I say! you — dashed — tallow-faced, herring-gutted — —.
[UK]J. Greenwood Dick Temple I 187: Paltry, mean-spirited, herring-gutted — .
[UK]Kipling ‘The Flag of Their Country’ in Complete Stalky & Co. (1987) 213: Try to stand up without leanin’ against each other, your blear-eyed, herrin’-gutted gutter-snipes.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘The Blanky Papers’ in Roderick (1972) 786: It was always a blanky, dry, herrin’-gutted, convict-bred dust hole anyway.
H.L. Stevens Autobiog. of a Border Policeman 79: You clumsy herring- gutted bungler. I’ll teach you to strike a warrant officer .
[Aus]R.S. Close Love me Sailor 153: A bloody fine specimen of a sailor!—look at the herring-gutted swab, mister!
[Aus]Sun. Herald (Sydney) 20 Nov. 1s/4: I’ll grind it into your herring-gutted innards and rip them out.
[Aus]N. Keesing Lily on the Dustbin 161: I once heard a man cop the following full blast: ‘You miserable herrin’ gutted stallion-eyed shiverin’ shakin’ whore’s bastard.’.