Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Slanging Match

The redoubtable editor of this volume, "The Penguin Dictionary of Historical Slang," produces other classifications of Slang.

Cant: ie. Underworld slang. This term introduced ca.1700. "Lay" for a preferred criminal occupation, or "lag" meaning someone who has done serious time are examples.

Grafter's Slang: is slang used by those who work a line at a fair or market, e.g. as a fortune teller or quack doctor(snake oil salesman?) A composite dialect including Parlary, Romany, Yiddish, rhyming slang and cant.

Hobson-Jobson: the deliberate perversion of foreign words into similar sounding English ones.

'Inevitable' Nicknames: General - denoting either nationality ("Frog" or "Jock") or a physical characteristic ("Tiny.") Makes me think of Harold Blue-tooth and William Rufus. I suspect these are sometimes applied in reverse. "Tiny" may in reality weigh 300 lbs.
Particular - 'inevitable' nicknames attach them selves to certain surnames. This habit apparently arose in the navy and reached the army. "Miller" was invariably called "Dusty," "Walker"- "Johnnie" and "Day" - "Happy."

Lingua Franca: a mixture of Italian, French, Greek, and Spanish used for intercommunication by traders in the Mediterranean.

Mumpers' Talk: tramps' argot: a mixture of thieves' Latin and a corruption of genuine Romany.

Parlary: ( from palare) vocabulary of 18th and 19th c. actors, costermongers and showmen. Sometimes called "circus slang." 90% of the words were Italianate.

Pidgin or Pigeon: a jargon, mainly of English words, often corrupted in pronounciation and arranged according to Chinese idiom and used for intercommunication between Europeans and Chinese at seaports.

Rhyming Slang: dates from c.1840, originated among Cockneys. ie. "greengages" - "wages".

Shelta: described as "a kind of cryptic Irish spoken by tinkers and confirmed tramps: a secret jargon composed chiefly of Gaelic words disguised by changes of initial, transposition of letters, back-slanging and similar devices."

Travelling Language: a term describing the cant of vagabonds and mobile criminals. May be a distinction without a difference from "Mumpers Talk" above.

Sling, slang, slung.

Credentials: the male genitalia. A jocular colloquialism extracted from commerce, ca 1895.


Savannah Jordan said...

*hisses, drags laptop back to cave* Think, thank, thunk... Stuffed up head and no caffeine -- this is just too much for me this morning, Bernita. :)

Bernita said...

It was almost too much for me,Savannah.
I was dry coughing when I wrote it, but felt compelled to finish what I started.
Perhaps this will lure you out.
If I interpret the entry correctly, the word "cock" as a term for penis was first used in literature in 1618.

Ric said...

Goodness. Bernita, you come up with the coolest stuff. You make flipping on the computer in the morning worthwhile. It's like having my own little eccentric professor challenging my gray cells into action before the caffiene kicks in.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Ric.
That's very nice.
To steal a usage from a Sci-Fi I once read where "jolt" was the clever post-apocalyptic term for variety of crack, I'm pleased to be your virtual "jolt."

Bonnie Calhoun said...

*Family jewels* is another one I can think of...I'm with Ric...I try to guess what your subject is going to be, as the page is coming my wildest dreams...I'm never even close...sheesh, I lead a sheltered life!! LOL

Dennie McDonald said...

YOu're so much fun to read - I have not been able to stay up w/ things lately - but I gotta get my Bernita fix =)

I want that dictionary - sadly I have seven already - so... I shall refrain

Bernita said...

Thank you, Bonnie!
That euphemism is familiar!
But strangely, it does not appear, either under "family" or under "jewels."
Perhaps it came into written use after WW1 - which is the cut off date for this text.
Closest thing was "family of love" ie. a company of lewd women, whores, found in an 1698 dictionary...

Glad of that, Dennie. You're part of my "fix" too. If I counted the ones I have I might feel obliged to get rid of some as over-stock - and that would never do.

Erik Ivan James said...

Always entertaining, always informative, always brilliant--- she is Bernita.

Bernita said...

Sweet of you, Erik.
Thank you.
But then you're an official "Dear Guy" who - like James - appreciates his wife and isn't afraid to say so.

Erik Ivan James said...

Yeah, well, I like my wife. She's good people.

Bernita said...

~shakes head~
I prefer the glowing compliment you paid her a number of posts back to this tepid "like."
Stop while you're ahead, guy.

Erik Ivan James said...

Consider me as stopped.

Lisa S. said...

Facinating list but I'd take issue with both Yiddish and Romany as being classed under slanguages.

Interesting link here with Yiddish and Romany mentioned as diasporic languges of the Indo-European family:

Bernita said...

Thank you for the links.
However, I took him to mean that individual words and expressions borrowed from Yiddish and Romany were combined with others to form this particular type of "slang." Not that he was defining either Romany or Yiddish as such.

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

Maybe we should get Gabriele, our resident etymologist in on this.
It is my understanding that Romany is antique Hindi, while Yiddish is a form of low German.
All my paperwork is writing-related, so I can't define too tightly.
In the last count,would anybody want to split hairs all that much.
But it does show that Lisa S. has sort of a PhD mind.

Bernita said...

What ever their origin, Ivan, they are definitely not "slang."
I apologize for my clumsy rendition of his definitions.

Mark Pettus said...

I took a bit grief today from a man who I'm almost certain lacks the credentials...

Oh, I'm going to use that one covertly from now on.

- Petti, Petta, Pettus

M. G. Tarquini said...

while Yiddish is a form of low German.

Hardly. Yiddish is a transmutation of German, with Romance and more archaic elements from further afield that have lingered.

Yiddish literally means 'Jewish'. It's the language of the Jews for many years and is still, aside from the Hebrew needed for prayers, the sole language of many Jews. It's analogous to other Jewish languages, retaining more ancient structures, though it might assimilate vocabulary from local influences.

It's an interesting language that all but died out after the Holocaust. Not just because so many of its speakers were killed, but also because with the rise of Zionism, the push was on for modern Hebrew to be the Jewish language of choice.

It's enjoying a resurgence because of scholars who didn't want to see this rich cultural soup depart its people's history.

The definition above, making it essentially part of a Lingua Franca for schiesters, circus people, criminals and hip-hop, says a lot about the popular notion of the time of who the Jews and Romani were.

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

m.g. Tarquini,
What you say is intellectually and historically tight,but how come, after only slight exposure to the German language, I can understand almost every word a TV Rabbi is saying?
Maybe it's because of my exposure to Yiddish speakers over
the course of a long a life.
Social functions. You wear the yarmulke along with some of your newly-acquired in-laws and listen to the Rabbi.
But as I say, with my not-very-good
German, I understood everything he said.

Lisa S. said...


A PhD mind? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

It's late and I'm too tired to ponder right now. Have a hot date at o-dark-thirty with the vampires at the platelet pheresis center.

M. G. Tarquini said...

I'm sorry, Ivan. I don't understand your comment. What's this about your in-laws?

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

lisa s.,
My late father-in-law, a proven intellectual, used to tell me "no intellectual work late at night. It will keep you up."
I can't be accused of any intellectual work of late, but I did have a talk once with James Polk, former top editor of Anansi Press in Toronto, and he offered me a real eye-opener.
"Doesn't matter whether you go for The Big Novel or your PhD. Same degree of work, but the PhD is a better payoff."
Have no fear of me putting down PhD's.
I have faked my way through many professorships, but only in schools
who did not demand I uprade my rather shoddy papework to a doctorate.
My poor brain is too loosely constructed and if I did get a position or two, it was because I glutted newpapers and magazines with great quantity rather than quality. They wanted teachers of writing.
Funny thing. One of my students, a really bright and funny person said, watching me stumble, Inspector Cluseau style, into a wall, "When we graduate, are we going to be like you?"

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

I wore the Yarmulke. I have Jewish relatives. Period.

M. G. Tarquini said...

So you learned Yiddish from your relatives?

Bernita said...

Heh, heh. Perhaps we can find you more useful descriptions for the obnoxious types, Mark.

I think it says as well, Mindy, that certain members of both groups were shysters, criminals and circus people and introduced some of their words into the cant.

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