counterfeiter's slang again

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Fri May 28 20:41:08 UTC 2004

[This is from an account of the trial of Charles. B. Gardner, "for having in possession forged bank notes, knowing them to be such, and intending to pass them"; he had been arrested in a raid on a den of thieves on Ward's Island; was seen to take out of his pocket and put down a pocket book containing couterfeit bills and]
some curious memoranda, or business entries, in a laughable kind of slang dialect they have, and all tending to evince his guilt.  One Goldsley, it seems, was the regular tenant of the house, and went by the name of the "Old Man."  One entry ran somewhat as follows:--
        "N. York, Aug.
                "Rec'd of the Old Man, 300 queers.
                "6th Shoved -- -- 5
                "8th Shoved -- -- 10"
        Hays, who was called on to assist in explaining the novel lingo, said, that by queer, among the fraternity, was meant counterfeit money, and the same as cogniac.  300 queers, or cogniac, would therefore read, in English, 300 dollars.  By shove, in the next item, was meant to get off a bad bill, without detection.  Gardner, therefore, according to his entries, had already shoved, or gotten handsomely rid of, 15 of the 300 dollars, the last batch received.
        Commercial Advertiser, September 10, 1822, p. 2, cols. 2-3.

Neither the OED nor HDAS has cogniac (or coniac), though both have coniacker, or counterfeiter; the earliest appearance of cogniac in my notes had been 1823.
The OED has queer for counterfeit money from 1812 & 1821, but the first U. S. source, OED's 3rd overall, is from 1847.
The earliest the OED has for "to shove the queer" is from 1847, from Matsell's dictionary of criminal slang.  Matsell had been chief of police in NYC.  Mike Walsh once called him "a deeply depraved lump of animated blubber".

It's nice to see a business-like crook.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.

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