"fork *up*" (July 1837), and other slang

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 1 20:56:57 UTC 2010

I wouldn't call it a send-up, just a diverting exercise.

Cf.: "A rag-happy skivvy-waver and a rock-happy bellhop were chipping the
ivories with a zoomie and a doughfoot.

On Mon, Mar 1, 2010 at 3:24 PM, Robin Hamilton <
robin.hamilton2 at btinternet.com> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Robin Hamilton <robin.hamilton2 at BTINTERNET.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "fork *up*" (July 1837), and other slang
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > No. Because the dictionaries and thesauruses you use (I assume) are the
> > carefully edited kind that don't include ghost words, irresponsible
> > definitions, and all sorts of other errors.
> Hm ...  You have a little more faith in dictionaries than I do, Jon.  I'm
> tempted to say, when it comes to the above list of errors, "Name one!"
> (other than the HDAS, of course <g>.)  Beale/Partridge, for instance ...
> Yikes!!
> > The phony use that Robin refers to is that of picking bizarre words from
> > crummily edited cant dictionaries (which are in no small part plagiarized
> > from earlier ones) and repeating them, sometimes with distortions, and
> > often
> > with the imputation that they're current and used by everybody, or at
> > least
> > everybody in the red-light district.
> I don't think dictionaries necessarily solve the problem here.  Bernard
> Cornwall, in _The Gallows Thief_, relied on Vaux (which might be a mistake
> to start with, and Vaux might fall within Jon's "crummily edited cant
> dictionaries" list), but nevertheless ...
> *Gallows thief?  Does Cornwall actually mean what was once called a boman
> prig, or is he simply cocking up a confusion of "gallows" (later, and in
> America and Scotland) "gallus", used as an intensifier and often found in
> the combination "gallows whore", with the triple tree?  Does he mean what
> he
> seems to mean, a thief associated with the gallows?
> In contrast, and admittedly it's finally a short tour de force, there's
> Neil
> Stephenson in _The System of the World_ (2004).  This is the only example
> I've ever encountered of a passage of historical slang in a work of fiction
> that gets it absolutely right, in the sense that while there's no attempt
> to
> pretend, finally, that the work is anything *other than fiction, every
> single word Stephenson uses locates precisely around circa. 1710.  Because
> Stephenson finally uses a single text -- actually, it's possible to specify
> which of *two texts, published in the same year, Stephenson uses as his
> source.  (I'll include the entire passage at the end, and allow the list to
> make their own judgement.)
> > James Carabatsos, had apparently gotten his hands on a copy of
> > Matsell or perhaps the _Slang Dictionary of New York, London, and Paris_
> > and, in an access of misinspiration,  has one of his "Bowery boy"
> > characters
> > (in the Leo Gorcey sense)  spouting terms like "Daisyville' in the U.S.
> > army
> > in 1918.  My flesh crawled more than most.
> Well, Matsell ...  I think the prose passage he prints at the end of his
> _Vocabulum_ (and which is mildly sanitised when it's plagarised in _The
> Slang Dictionary_) is intended as a send-up of this very thing,
> anachronistic cant which skids across the centuries with a blithe disregard
> for the local habitation of the words.  Matsell, I think, is one of the few
> people (William Maginn might have been another) who could get away with
> this, and maybe you have to be obsessed with historical nature of cant to
> get the joke, but ...
> ___________________________
> "Ho! there, my rum-bluffer; send me a nipperkin of white velvet."
> "Make it two," said a woman, seating herself on a skinner's knee; "and if
> Jim don't post the cole, I will."
> "Why, Bell, is it yourself? Tip us your daddle, my bene mort. May I dance
> at
> my death, and grin in a glass-case, if I didn't think you had been put to
> bed with a shovel - you've been so long away from the cock and hen club."
> "No, Jim, I only piked into Deuceaville with a dimber-damber, who couldn't
> pad the hoof for a single darkman's without his bloss to keep him from
> getting pogy."
> "Oh! I'm fly. You mean Jumping Jack, who was done last week, for heaving a
> peter from a drag. But you talked of padding the hoof. Why, sure, Jack had
> a
> rattler and a prad?"
> "Yes, but they were spotted by the harmans, and so we walked Spanish."
> "Was he nabbed on the scent?"
> "No, his pal grew leaky and cackled."
> "Well, Bell, here's the bingo - sluice your gob! But who was the cull that
> peached?"
> "A slubber de gullion named Harry Long, who wanted to pass for an
> out-and-out cracksman, though he was merely a diver."
> ___________________________________
> Robin
> *************
> Neal Stephenson, The System of the World (2004) - Arrow Books, 2005, page
> 125:  "Meeting of the Clubb at Clerkenwell":
> " ... I grew weary of transitory knowledge, and decided to seek knowledge
> of
> a more eternal nature."
> "Do you claim to have found it?"
> "No."
> "Good. I was afraid this was going to turn into a homily."
> Daniel now felt safe in advancing two more steps. Then a question occurred
> to him, and he stopped. "How did you know my name?"
> "It's inscribed on the back of the watch."
> "No, it's not."
> "Very clever," said Saturn.  Daniel could not tell which of them was the
> target of the sarcasm.  Saturn continued, "Very well, sir. A certain flash
> cull of my acquaintance, a file-cly with a specialization in tatlers, who
> had run afoul of a Harmon in Fleet Street, and been condemned to shove the
> tumbler from Newgate to Leadenhall, came by my ken of an afternoon,
> desiring
> employment of a sedentary nature while his stripes healed. And after taking
> sensible precautions, which is to say, making sure that he was not running
> a
> type of service-lay to slum my ken, I said to this buz, my business here
> has
> fallen on hard times because I cannot run it without transitory knowledge.
> And yet my brain has had its fill of the same, and all I wish to do is to
> sit in my shop reading books, to acquire knowledge eternal, which benefits
> me in ways intangible, but in no way helps me to receive and sell stolen
> property of a horologickal nature, which is the raison d'etre of the shop.
> Therefore, go ye out into the Rumbo, the Spinning-Ken, to Old Nass, go to
> the Boozing-kens of Hockley-in-the-Hole and the Cases at the low end of the
> Mount, go to the Goat in Long-lane, the Dogg in Fleet Street, and the
> Black-boy in Newtenhouse-Lane, and drink-but not too much- and buy
> drinks-but never too many-for any flash culls you spy there, and acquire
> transitory knowledge, and return to my ken and relate to me what you have
> learnt. And back he comes, a week later, and informs me that a certain old
> Gager has lately been making the rounds, trying to recover some lost
> property. 'What has he lost?' I inquired. `Not a thing,' came the answer,
> 'he is after another cull's lost property-some gager who was Phinneyed ten
> years since.' `Go and learn that dead cove's name,' says I, 'and the quick
> one's, too.' Come the answers: Robert Hooke, and Daniel Waterhouse,
> respectively. Why, he even pointed you out to me once, when you walked past
> my shop on your way to visit your swine-yard. That's how I knew you."
> Peter Hoxton now extended his arms. His left hand held the chain of the
> Hooke-watch, swinging it like a pendulum, and his right offered a
> handshake.
> Daniel accepted the watch greedily, and the handshake with reluctance.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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