A Conversation in Flash

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Mar 6 20:39:28 UTC 2006

"Feather" seems to be "return the stolen goods to" (quite the opposite of "pluck").

   I agree that "pass the grammar" is likely to mean to mean "pass the word."

  "No when you don't mean it" is undoubtedly equivalent to "Yes."

  I was unfamiliar with these terms, and they just may be factitious, created simply to add to the humor of the jest.


George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: George Thompson
Subject: Re: A Conversation in Flash

Commenting on the passage below, Jonathon Green wrote, in part:

"Partridge, _Dict. Underworld_, has _feather_, albeit as a noun, in
Alexander Smith's _History of the Highwaymen_ (1719-20): 'Whilst Stephen
was bargaining for Three Quarters of a Yard of Cloth [...], his
Companion had the Opportunity of taking the Feather, as Thieves call it,
out of a Pin in the Window.' Presumably this meant (EP fails actually to
define it) some form of stolen goods, perhaps, in context cloth.
_Feather_ vb. is not in the DU and I have not encountered it in the 15
months since I put Cassell revised 'to bed'. But here it would seem to
mean to 'take the booty', i.e. to rob the victim, in this context. It is
obviously pretty rare."

I suppose that "feather" here is similar to "pluck"?


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: Jonathon Green
Date: Saturday, March 4, 2006 6:37 am
Subject: Re: A Conversation in Flash

> George Thompson wrote:
> >
> > Dialogue in a famous Five Point Crib.
> > A Cockney pick-pocket enters, and calls out to the bar boy.
> > "Here, my tulip, can you patter flash?"
> > "Like a knife."
> > "Vell, then, vere are the larkies?"
> > "Rumbling the flat, upsides."
> > "'Ave they wing'd a pigeon?"
> > "No, when you don't mean it."
> > "Then pass the grammar to feather him quick; for the
> traps have been
> > ogling the ken for the last half hour."
> > Whereon, Cockney polishes of[f] a small of max, while the
> boy goes
> > upstairs with his message.
> > The Wag, November 30, 1839, p. 2, col. 4
> >
[some of GAT's remarks omitted here]
> >
> > I don't know what the statement "No, when you don't mean it." means.
> >
> > GAT
> >

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