[Ads-l] OED Adam Tiler -- an "interesting" entry.

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Wed Nov 16 07:54:10 EST 2016


Correction:

> 
>     Not to be outdone, the entry concludes triumphantly:
> 
>     Compare later occurrence of Adam in slang dictionaries denoting a thief or
>     pickpocket's accomplice, perhaps simply shortened from Adam Tiler.
> 
>     Really? I have yet to encounter *any* slang dictionary which contains this
>     interesting shortened "occurrence", nor is it to be found in the
> exhaustive list
>     of Adam-related entries in _Green's Dictionary of Slang_ -- other than, of
>     course, in entries which contain the figure of Adam Tyler himself.
> 

I've just had it pointed out to me that there are indeed entries partly to that
effect in several Slang dictionaries between 1790-1881 (though not, notably in
Grose 1-5, and none, I think, referring to the thief himself rather than the
thief's accomplice), as can be seen in the citations in the entry in GDoS:
"adam, N1, sense 2: a thief’s accomplice."  So I would modify that component of
my diatribe.

However, it's notable that the shortened "adam = an accomplice, a pal" (Matsell,
1859) only occurs in (some) dictionaries and not, as far as I'm aware, in any
primary source.  The short form, it is more than probable, thus *only* exists as
a dictionary construct, inferentially back-formed from Adam Tyler, and was never
part of the Cant lexis proper.

The origin of the short form probably lies in Potter (1795): "Adam, an
accomplice (see Bulk)."

Robin Hamilton

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