"slang" etymology (? mere speculation)

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sat Jul 25 11:03:16 UTC 2009

I write with caution, having read pages 189-196 on "slang" in Analytic
Dictionary...by Anatoly Liberman (to whom I'll send a copy of this).

Jonathan Lighter wrote [next 2 paragraphs]:

OED cites William Toldervy's _History of Two Orphans: In Four Volumes_
(London: William Owen, 1756) as its primary ex. of "slang" in a linguistic
sense.  A recent, welcome expansion of ECCO reveals the broader context:

Vol. I, p. 68: " _Charles Culverin_ had seen a few of the campaigns of the
great Duke of _Marlborough_; and, in return for the numerous lies which he
told, was called the cannon-traveller. _Thomas Throw_ had been upon the
town, knew the slang well; had often sate a flasher at _M-d-g-n's_, and
understood every word in the scoundrel's dictionary; had as much assurance
as any fashionable fellow in _London_; from which he had been kicked out of
all houses, from buttock of beef island to the _Brawn's Head_: But, at this
fortunate table, _Tom_ found himself consider'd as a man of damn'd good
humour, and hellish high wit." [....]

I ask whether at least Toldervy connected the Culverin and Throw descriptions.
Culverin (a long cannon?) was called cannon-traveller and told lies. Throw
threw or slung slang. Via Dutch slang: a reference to a serpent? Serpent in
Eden, before the kicking out, telling lies?

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list