Monday, August 2, 2010

British Slang - Lower Class and Underworld 19th Century

c = Cant
cb = (Cockney) Back-slang
cr = (Cockney) Rhyming slang
sh = Shelta, or Tinker
r = Romany (n.b., not true Rom, but linguistically descended from it)
b = Boxing

Abbess — Female brothel keeper. A Madame.
Abbot — The husband, or preferred man of an Abbess.
Alderman — Half-Crown.
Area — The below-ground servant's entrance in the front of many London town-houses. (Not underworld slang).
Area Diving — A method of theft that necessitates sneaking down area steps, and stealing from the lower rooms of houses.

Bacca-pipes — Whiskers curled in small, close ringlets.
Barkers (Barking Irons) — Guns. Pistols, esp. Revolvers.
Beak — Magistrate.
Beak-hunting — Poultry stealing.
Bearer up — Person that robs men who have been decoyed by a woman accomplice.
Beef — (1) (v) Raise hue-and-cry. (2) (n) Thief. (cr) = Hot Beef! = Stop Thief!
Bend — Waistcoat, vest.
Betty — A type of lockpick.
Billy — Handkerchief (often silk).
Bit Faker — A coiner. A counterfeiter of coins.
Blackleg — A person who will work, contrary to a strike. In the Colonies they are called Scabs.
Blag — To steal or snatch, usually a theft, often by smash-and-grab.
Blob, on the (Blab) — Begging by telling hardluck stories.
Blooming, Bloody (Blasted, etc.) —  are forms of profanity not heard in polite company.
Blow — Inform.
Blower — Informer. Also a disrespectful term for a girl.
Bludger — A violent criminal; one who is apt to use a bludgeon.
Blue Bottle — A policeman.
Boat, get the (Boated) — To be sentenced to transportation (obs.). To receive a particularly harsh sentence.
Bone, Bene — (Pronounced Bone and Benneh?) Good or profitable.
Bonnet — A covert assistant to a Sharp.
Broad Arrow — The arrow-like markings on a prison convict's uniform. "Wearing the broad arrow" = In prison.
Broads — Playing cards. Ex. "Spreading the broads" = playing a game of cards).
Broading — Cheating at cards.
Broadsman — A card Sharper.
Bruiser — A Boxer (b).
Buck Cabbie — A dishonest cab driver.
Bug Hunting — Robbing, or cheating drunks. Esp. at night.
Bull — Five shillings.
Buor — A woman.
Buttoner — A sharper's assistant who entices dupes.
Buzzing — Stealing, esp. Picking Pockets.

Candle to the devil, To hold a — To be evil.
Cant — A present; a free meal or quantity of some article. Also the creole and jargon spoken by thieves and the "surplus population."
Cant of Togs — A gift of clothing.
Caper — A criminal act, dodge or device.
Cash Carrier — A pimp, ponce or whore's minder.
Chapel, the — Whitechapel.
Chat — a Louse (a singular of Lice).
Chaunting — Singing; also informing.
Chaunting Lay — Street singing (hopefully for money).
Chavy — Child.
Chink— Money.
Chiv, Shiv — Knife, razor or sharpened stick (r).
Chokern— Clergyman. "Gull a choker."
Christen — To remove identifying marks from, to make like new again. "Christen a watch."
Church — To remove identifying marks from, to make like new again. "Church a watch."
Cly Faking — To pick a pocket, especially of its handkerchief (for which there was a ready market)
Cockchafer — An especially build treadmill in the 'Steel
Coiner — A coin counterfeiter
Cokum (n & adj) — Opportunity, advantage, shrewd, cunning.
Cool — Look, look at this/it. (cb)
Coopered — Wornout, useless.
Coopered Ken — A bad place for a stick up.
Cop, Copper — A policeman.
Couter Pound (money).
Cove — A man.
Crabshells — Shoes.
Cracksman — A Burgler, a safecracker. One who clracks of breaks locks. A whole genre of thief.
Crapped — Hung, hanged.
Crib — A building, house or lodging. The location of a gaol.
Crimping Shop — A waterfron lodging house, esp. one associated with the forcable impressment of seamen.
Crooked Cross, to Play the — To betray, swindle or cheat.
Crow — A lookout. A doctor.
Crusher — A policeman

Dab — bed (cb). "To dab it up with_____" = to engage in carnal acts with ___.
Dabeno — Bad (cb).
Daffy — A small measure, esp. of spiritous liquers.
Deadlurk — Empty premises.
Deaner — A shilling. (Etymologially descended from the Dinarious, or ancient silver penny of Britain...)
Deb — Bed (cb).
Demander — One who gains monies through menace.
Derbies — (Pronounced Darbies). Handcuffed.
Device — Tuppence.
Deuce Hog (Duce Hog) — 2 shillings.
Devil's Claws — The broad arrows on a convict's prison uniform.
Dewskitch — A beating.
Didikko — Gypsies; half breed gypsies (r). (From Didikai, a Rom contraction of Dik akai, or "look here").
Dillo — Old (cb).
Dimmick — A base coin, counterfeit.
Ding — (v & n) Throw away, pass on. Any object that has been so treated. Ex. "Knap the ding" or to take something that has been thrown out.
Dipper — Pickpocket.
Dispatches — Loaded dice.
Dobbin — Ribbon.
Dollymop — A prostitute, often an amateur or a part-time street girl; a midinette.
Dollyshop — A low, unlicenced loan shop or pawn shop.
Don — A distinguished/expert/clever person; a leader
Dookin — Palmistry
Down — Suspicion. "To put down on someone" means to inform on that person's plans. While "To take the down of a ticker" means to Christen a watch.
Do Down — To beat someone badly, punishing them with your fists.
Downer — Sixpence.
Downy — Cunning, false.
Drag — (1) A three month gaol sentence. (2) A street
Dragsman — A thief who steals from carriages.
Drum — A building, house or lodging; the location of a gaol.
Dub — (1) Bad (cb); (2) Key, lockpick.
Duce — Tuppence.
Duckett — A street hawker or vendor's licence.
Duffer — A seller of supposedly stolen goods. Also a Cheating Vendor or hawker.
Dumplin — A swindling game played with skittles
Dumps — Buttons and other Hawkers small wares.
Dunnage — Clothes.

E.O. — A fairground gambling game.
Escop (Esclop, Eslop) — Policeman (cb).

Fadge — Farthing.
Fakement — Device or pretence (especially a notice or certificate to facilitate begging).
Family, the — The criminal Underworld, also Family People.
Fan — To delicately feel someone's clothing, while it is still being worn, to search for valuables.
Fancy, the — The brethren of the boxing ring.
Fawney — Ring.
Fawney-dropping — A ruse whereby the villain pretends to find a ring (which is actually worthless) and sells it as a Possibly valuable article at a low price.
Fine Wirer — A highly skilled pickpocket.
Finny — Five pound note.
Flag — An apron.
Flam — A lie.
Flash (v & adj) — Show, Showy (as in "Show-off," or "Flashy"); smart; something special.
Flash House — A public house patronized by criminals.
Flash Notes — Paper that looks, at a glance, like bank-notes.
Flat — A person who is flat is easily deceived.
Flatch — Ha'penny.
Flats — Playing cards, syn. Broads.
Flimp — A snatch pickpocket. Snatch stealing in a crowd.
Flue Faker — Chimney sweep.
Flummut — Dangerous.
Fly, on the — Something done quickly.
Flying the Blue Pidgeon — Stealing roof lead.
Flying the Mags — The game of "Pitch and Toss."
Fogle — A silk handkerchief
Fushme — Five shillings.

Gaff — Show, exhibition, fair "Penny Gaff" - Low, or vulgar theatre.
Gallies — Boots.
Gammon — Deceive.
Gammy — False, undependable, hostile.
Garret — Fob pocket in a waistcoat.
Garrote — (v & n) A misplaced piano wire, and how it was misplaced.
Gatter — Beer.
Gattering — A public house.
Gegor — Begger.
Gen — Shilling.
Glim — (1) Light or fire. (2) Begging by depicting oneself as having been burnt out of one's home. (3) Venereal Disease.
Glock — Half-wit.
Glocky — Half-witted.
Gonoph — A minor thief, or small time criminal.
Granny — Understand or recognize.
Gravney — A Ring.
Grey, Gray — A coin with two identical faces.
Griddling — Begging, peddling, or scrounging.
Growler — A four wheeled cab.
Gulpy — Gullible, easily duped.

Half Inch — Steal (From pinch) (cr).
Hammered for Life — Married.
Hard up — Tobacco.
Haybag — Woman.
Haymarket Hector — Pimp, ponce or whore's minder; especially around the areas of Haymarket and Leicester Squares.
Hoisting — Shoplifting.
Holywater Sprinkler — A cudgel spiked with nails.
Huey, Hughey — A town or village.
Huntley, to Take the — Syn. To take the Cake or to take the Biscuit. Also to be most excellent, as in Huntley and Palmer's biscuits.
Hykey — Pride.

Irons — Guns esp. Pistols or revolvers.

Jack — Detective.
Jemmy — (1) Smart. (2) of Superior class. (3) an housebreaker's tool.
Jerry — A Watch.
Jerryshop — Pawnbrokers.
Joey — A fourpence piece.
Jolly — Disturbance or Fracas.
Judy — A woman, specifically a prostitute.
Jug Loops — Locks of hair brought over the temples and curled (a hairstyle that thankfully died out later in the period).
Julking — Singing (as of caged songbirds).
Jump — A ground floor window, or a burglary committed through such a window.

Kanurd — Drunk (cb).
Kecks — Trousers.
Ken — House or other place, esp. a lodging or public house.
Kennetseeno — Bad, stinking, putrid -- Malodorous.
Kennuck — Penny.
Kidsman — An organizer of child thieves.
Kife — Bed.
Kinchen-lay (Kynchen-lay) — Stealing from children.
Kingsman — A coloured or black handkerchief.
Knap — To steal, take or receive.
Knapped — Pregnant.
Knob — "Over and under" a fairground game used for swindling.
Know Life, to — To be knowledgable in criminal ways.

Lackin, Lakin — Wife.
Ladybird — A Prostitute.
Lag — A convict or Ticket-of-leave man; To be sentenced to transportation or penal servitude.
Lamps — Eyes.
Laycock, Miss (or Lady) — Female sexual organs.
Lavender, in — (1) To be hidden from the police, (2) to be pawned, (3) to be put away, (4) to be dead.
Lay — A method, system or plan.
Leg  — A dishonest person, a sporting cheat or tout.
Lill — Pocketbook.
London Particular — Thick London "Pea Soup" fog.
Long-Tailed — A banknote worth more than 5 pounds is said to be "long tailed."
Luggers — Ear rings.
Lumber — (1) Unused, or second-hand furniture. (2) To pawn. (3) To go into seclusion. (4) To be in lumber is to be in gaol.
Lump Hotel — Work House.
Lurk — (1) A place of resorting to or concealment in. (2) A scheme or method.
Lurker — A criminal of all work, esp. a begger, or someone who uses a beggar's disguise.
Lush — An alcoholic drink.
Lushery — A place where a lush may be had. A low public house or drinking den.
Lushing Ken — See Lushery.
Lushington — A drunkard.

Macer — A cheat.
Mag — Ha'pence.
Magflying — Pitch and toss.
Magsman — An inferior cheat.
Maltooler — A pickpocket who steals while riding an omnibus, esp. from women.
Mandrake — Homosexual.
Mark — The victim.
Mary Blaine — Railway Train (cr); to meet a train or to travel via railway.
Mauley — Handwriting, signature.
Mecks — Wine or spirits.
Milltag — Shirt.
Miltonian — Policeman.
Min — Steal.
Mitting — Shirt.
Mizzle — Quit, Steal, or Vanish.
Mobsman — A swindler or pickpocket, usually well-dressed. Originally one of the "Swell Mob."
Mollisher — A woman, often a villain's mistress.
Monkery — The Country.
Monniker — Signature.
Mot — Woman, esp. the proprietress of a lodging or public house.
Moucher, Moocher — A rural vagrant. A gentleman of the road.
Mouth — (1) Blabber. (2) A Fool.
Mug-hunter — A street robber or footpad. Hence the modern "Mugger."
Mumper — Begger or scrounger.
Mutcher — A thief who steals from drunks.
Muck Snipe — A person who is "down and out."

Nail — Steal.
Nancy — Buttocks.
Nebuchadnezzar — Male sexual organs; "to put Nebuchadnezzar out to grass" means to engage in sexual intercourse.
Neddy — Cosh.
Nemmo — Woman (cb).
Nethers — Lodging charges, rent.
Newgate Knockers — Heavily greased side whiskers curling back to, or over the ears.
Netherskens — Low lodging houses, flophouses.
Nibbed — Arrested.
Nickey — Simple in the head.
Nobble — The inflicting of grievous bodily harm. 
Nobbler — (1) One who inflicts grevious bodily harm. (2) A sharper's confederate.
Nommus! — Get away! Quick! (cb).
Nose — Informer or Spy.
Nubbiken — A sessions courthouse.

On the Fly — While in motion or quickly.
Onion — A watch seal.
Out of Twig — Unrecognized or in disguise.
Outsider — An instrument, resembling needle nosed pliers, used for turning a key in a lock from the wrong side.

Pack — A night's lodging for the very poor
Paddingken — A tramp's lodging house.
Pall — Detect.
Palmer — Shoplifter.
Patterer — Someone who earns by recitation or hawker's sales talk, esp. by hawking newspapers.
Peter — A box, trunk or safe.
Pidgeon — A victim.
Pig — A policeman, usually a detective.
Pit — Inside front coat pocket.
Plant — A victim.
Pogue — A purse or prize.
Prad — Horse.
Prater — A bogus itinerate preacher.
Prig — (1) A thief. (2) To steal.
Puckering — Speaking in a manner that is incomprehensible to spectators.
Punishers — Superior nobblers. Men employed to give severe beatings.
Push — Money.

Racket — Illicit occupation or tricks.
Rampsman or Ramper — A tearaway or hoodlum.
Randy, on the — On the Spree or otherwise looking for companionship.
Rasher-wagon — Frying pan.
Ray — 1/6 (one and six-pence).
Reader — Pocketbook or wallet.
Ream — Superior, real, genuine, good.
Ream Flash Pull — A significant heist.
Ream Swag — Highly valuable stolen articles.
Reeb — Beer (cb).
Roller — A thief who robs drunks or a prostitute who steals from her clientele.
Rook — A type of jimmy.
Rookery — Slum or ghetto
Rothschild, to Come to the — To brag and pretend to be rich.
Rozzers — Policemen.
Ruffles — Handcuffs.

Saddle — Loaf.
St. Peter's Needle — Severe discipline.
Salt Box — The Condemned Cell.
Sawney — Bacon.
Scaldrum Dodge — Begging by means of feigned, or self-inflicted wounds.
Scran — Food.
Scratch an Itch — (cr) Bitch.
Screever — A writer of fake testimonials; a forger.
Srew — Skeleton Key.
Screwing — A sub-genre of Cracking; burglary by means of skeleton keys, waxing keys, or picking locks.
Screwsman — A burglar versed in screwing
Scroby — Flogging in gaol.
Scurf — An exploitive employer or gang-leader.
Servant's Lurk — A lodging or public house used by shady or dismissed servants.
Shake Lurk — Begging under the pretence of being a shipwrecked seaman.
Shallow, Work the — Begging while half naked.
Shant — A pot or tumbler.
Sharp — A (card) swindler.
Shevis — A shift, a type of garment.
Shinscraper — The Treadmill.
Shirkster — A layabout.
Shiver and Shake — (cr) A cake.
Shivering Jemmy — A half naked begger.
Shoful — (1) Bad or counterfeit. (2) An hansom cab.
Shofulman — A coiner or passer of bad money.
Skipper — One who sleeps in hedges and outhouses.
Skyrocket — (cr) Pocket (rarely used).
Slang Cove — A showman.
Slap-Bang Job — A night cellar (pub) frequented by thieves, and where no credit is given.
Slum — (1) False, sham, a faked document, etc. (2) To cheat . (3) To pass bad money.
Smasher — Someone who passes bad money.
Smatter Hauling — Stealing Handkerchiefs.
Snakesman — A slightly built (boy) criminal used in burglary and housebreaking.
Snells — A hawker's wares.
Snide — Counterfeit; counterfeit coins or jewels.
Snide Pinching — Passing bad money.
Snoozer — A thief that specializes in robbing hotel rooms with sleeping guests.
Snowing — Stealing linen, clothes, etc, that have been hung out to dry.
Soft — Paper money (i.e., "to do some soft" means to pass bad paper money.)
Speeler — Cheat or a gambler.
Spike — Workhouse.
Sprat — Six pence.
Spreading the Broads — Three card monte.
Square Rigged — Soberly and respectfully dressed.
Swell — An elegantly, or stylishly dressed gentleman.

Tail — Prostitute.
Tatts — Dice, False Dice.
Tea Leaf — Thief (cr).
Terrier Crop — Short, bristly haircut (denoting a recent stay in a prison or a workhouse).
Teviss — Shilling.
Thicker — A Sovereign or a Pound.
Thick 'Un — A Sovereign.
Tightener — A meal. "To do a Tightener," to take a Meal.
Titfer/Titfertat — Hat (cr).
Toff — An elegantly, or stylishly dressed gentleman.
Toffer — A superior whore.
Toffken — A house containing well-to-do occupants.
Toke — Bread.
Tol — Lot (cb), a Share.
Toolers — Pickpockets.
Tooling — Skilled Pickpocket.
Toper — Road.
Topped — Hung.
Topping — A hanging.
Translators — Secondhand apparel, especially Boots.
Trasseno — An evil person.
Tuppeny (Tuppeny Loaf) — Head (cr. from Loaf of Bread),
Twirls — Keys, esp skeleton keys.
Twist (Twist and Twirl) — Girl (cr).

Under and Over — A fairground game that's easy to swindle people with.

Vamp — To Steal or Pawn. "In for a vamp" to be jailed for stealing.
Voker — Speak (r). "Voker Romeny?" (Pardon me, but do you speak Thieve's Cant?)

Weeping Willow — Pillow (cr).
Whistle and Flute — Suit (cr).
Work Capitol — Commit a crime punishable by death.

Yack — A watch.
Yennap — A Penny (cb).

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