Saturday, February 18, 2017

A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew

B.E. - A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew (1699) direct link
Open Library main page

The second book on The Guardian's Top 10 list of dictionaries is this early one devoted to what we would now call underworld slang. "Canting" was first recorded in the early 17th century with this meaning and was used so by Jonson but has dropped out of currency.  There's a thorough review of the 1899 reprint of this book in The Academy and Literature which traces the term "cant", brings up the question of the book's date (I just used The Guardian's date though a year either way are referenced just as frequently), discusses antecedents and delves into other issues before, like all of us, going through samples.

Dunaker - a Cow-stealer
Execution-day - Washing-day; also that on which Malefactors Die
Lilly-white - a Chimney-sweeper
Loon-flatt - a Thirteen Pence half Penny
Nocky - a silly, dull Fellow
Pharoah - very Strong Mault-Drink
Plad - Scotch striped Stuff
Word-pecker - one that play's with Words [sic on "play's"]

And who was the compiler B.E.?  Everybody says nobody knows.  There's apparently very thorough material on this book in Julie Coleman's A History of Cant and Slang Dictionaries but I haven't been able to check that.  Maybe there's more information on the identity there but it sounds like we still don't know.