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Thieves' Cant

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Thieves' Cant

Post  MaggotyAnne on Mon Sep 15, 2008 8:34 pm

I'm just wondering how many of you take the larping to this level? I've been learning obsolete slang for nearly a year now, but I've not met anyone else into it.

In case you're wondering, thieves' cant is a sort of secret code language formerly used mostly by the lower classes. I'm not referring exclusively to that though, old slang is fascinating regardless.

If you are into this sort of thing, I must recommend
N. Bailey's 1737 Canting Dictionary,
Francis Grove's Dictionary of the Vulgar Toungue, and
my personal favourite, Three Centuries of Canting Songs and Slang Rhymes by John S. Farmer.
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Re: Thieves' Cant

Post  Prof. George of Chaos on Tue Sep 16, 2008 5:48 pm

I am certainly interested in this sort of thing. I've not even dipped my toe into larping, but alternative modes of communication and obsolete slang? Yes please. It's been a while, but I devoted a month or two to Cockney Rhyming back in grade ten.
Thank you for the links. I'll go have a look over.

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Re: Thieves' Cant

Post  MaggotyAnne on Tue Sep 16, 2008 6:50 pm

Ten or a dozen “cocks of the game,”
On the prigging lay to the flash-house came,
Lushing blue ruin and heavy wet
Till the darkey, when the downy set.
All toddled and begun the hunt
For readers, tattlers, fogies, or blunt.

Whatever swag we chance for to get,
All is fish that comes to net:
Mind your eye, and draw the yokel,
Don’t disturb or use the folk ill.
Keep a look out, if the beaks are nigh,
And cut your stick, before they’re fly.

As I vas a crossing St James’s Park
I met a swell, a well-togg’d spark.
I stops a bit: then toddled quicker,
For I’d prigged his reader, drawn his ticker;
Then he calls—“Stop thief!” thinks I, my master,
That’s a hint to me to mizzle faster.

When twelve bells chimed, the prigs returned,
And rapped at the ken of Uncle ----:
“Uncle, open the door of your crib
If you’d share the swag, or have one dib.
Quickly draw the bolt of your ken,
Or we’ll not shell out a mag, old ----.”

Then says Uncle, says he, to his blowen,
“D’ye twig these coves, my mot so knowing?
Are they out-and-outers, dearie?
Are they fogle-hunters, or cracksmen leary?
Are they coves of the ken, d’ye know?
Shall I let ’em in, or tell ’em to go?”

“Oh! I knows ’em now; hand over my breeches—
I always look out for business—vich is
A reason vy a man should rouse
At any hour for the good of his house,
The top o’ the morning, gemmen all,
And for vot you vants, I begs you’ll call.”

But now the beaks are on the scene,
And watched by moonlight where we went:—
Stagged us a toddling into the ken,
And were down upon us all; and then
Who should I spy but the slap-up spark
What I eased of the swag in St James’s Park.

There’s a time, says King Sol, to dance and sing;
I know there’s a time for another thing:
There’s a time to pipe, and a time to snivel—
I wish all Charlies and beaks at the divel:
For they grabbed me on the prigging lay,
And I know I’m booked for Bot’ny Bay.
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Re: Thieves' Cant

Post  pocalypse on Wed Sep 17, 2008 3:58 am

beautiful.

im set on learning a bit of this roudy rubbish. Very Happy
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Re: Thieves' Cant

Post  MaggotyAnne on Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:37 pm

Yay! Then I won't be the only one!
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Re: Thieves' Cant

Post  Spring Heeled Jack on Thu Sep 25, 2008 12:06 am

Visiting London a few years ago I was delighted to overhear a couple of young ruffians using a simplified version of the thieves' cant. I've since learned that it's still in use especially when criminals want to be able to discuss illegalities in a public venue.

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Re: Thieves' Cant

Post  Prof Eumides Blakehurst on Tue Sep 30, 2008 2:02 am

I have done a bit of work/study on Polari (a 'gypsie'/Cockney/gay slang from the 1890s to 1960s) and can recommend the book 'Fantabulosa' by Dr Paul Baker who runs studies of this in the UK (I'd have to go home and pull the book out to check which univeristy). ISBN-13: 978-0826473431

In milliseconds you are channelling Kenneth Williams. Oo-er! Very Happy
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Re: Thieves' Cant

Post  MaggotyAnne on Tue Sep 30, 2008 7:53 pm

Spring Heeled Jack wrote:Visiting London a few years ago I was delighted to overhear a couple of young ruffians using a simplified version of the thieves' cant. I've since learned that it's still in use especially when criminals want to be able to discuss illegalities in a public venue.

How wonderful! We'll rue the day criminals cannot plot their misdeeds right under the nose of authority!
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