Dan Goncharoff thegonch at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 6 17:18:26 UTC 2012

The use of Bridewell to refer to a prison goes back to Bridewell Palace in
London, but was also used in NYC and Boston before the Revolution.

Bridewell in NYC was replaced by The Tombs.


On Wed, Jun 6, 2012 at 12:12 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Bridewell
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> At 6/6/2012 02:03 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
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> >
> >On Tue, Jun 5, 2012 at 11:32 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:
> > > I suspect Wilson will soon tell us that "Bridewell" would not be in
> > > the vernacular of an African-American woman  in 1818.
> >
> >Unless the woman quoted was *not* using "bridewell" as a synonym of
> >"penitentiary, prison" then I have every reason to expect that a black
> >woman self-identifying as a "habitual criminal," in current language,
> >would indeed have "bridewell" as a part of her active vocabulary at a
> >time in which it was part of the active vocabulary of the
> >constabulary.
> As I wrote, I may be wrong.  I was -- Bridewell was common in America
> in the 18th and into the 19th century.  (I don't recall the word
> occurring frequently in New England newspapers of the mid-18th
> century, except in articles from England.  "Goal" and "prison" were
> much more the usual terms for the local facilities.  But a bit of
> investigation in EAN shows me that it was used in Boston papers in
> the 1720s to refer to a local institution, and I didn't look
> later.  And it shows up in 19th Century U.S. Newspapers.)
> Joel
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