[Ads-l] Blackguard -- Antedating of OED 3a
robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Tue Sep 6 15:52:44 EDT 2016
For BLACKGUARD, n. and adj., Sense 3a, "Criminals or vagrants as a group or
class," the OED has its first citation from 1683.
This can be antedated:
_News from Whetstone Park_ (1674), p. 4:
"For Fortune had not yet declared in favour of either party [i.e. bawds and
whores], when the Pimpes, Hectors, Bullies, Bully-Rocks [Rooks?],
Bully-Ruffians, Bully-Sandies, and the rest of the Black-Guard, taking the
Alarm, came in Multitudes to part the Fray."
So much for the specific. What follows below the line is what can be linked to
the above quotation, and may interest in different ways different members the
ADS-l community. For what its worth.
1. Did the Whetstone Park Incident Actually Take Place?
Whetstone Park, a lane between Holborn and Lincoln's-inn Fields, was noted in
the late seventeenth century as somewhere working women plied their trade.
Did a battle between whores and bawds, finally reconciled by a group of
maqueros, as described in _News_ in 1674, and earlier by Richard Head in "The
Park Song", as printed in _The Canting Academy_ (1673) [pp. 104-105], actually
ANSWER: Almost certainly no.
Is the incident related by Richard Head in 1673 and _News_ in 1674 linked to an
actual event which took place in Whetstone park?
ANSWER: Almost certainly yes.
On 26 February 1672, the illegitimate son of Charles II, the Duke of Monmouth,
and two other aristocratic gentlemen were involved in a brawl at Whetstone Park
that resulted in the death of a Bailiff.
Which is enough for my purposes, but it inserts the _News_ text into a locus
which involves the satirical reporting of upper class activity via references to
bawds -- there are more than several ballads dealing with the Monmouth Incident.
Eighteenth century political satire and the activities of aristos at this time
are way outside my comfort-zone, but someone of the list might want to carry
this side of _News_ further.
2. Hectors, Bullies, and the OED
While the appearance of the terms BULLY and HECTOR in _News_ antedate current
OED citations, there are other earlier examples, and the problem with the OED
treatment of those two words goes beyond simple ante-dating, to embrace the
a. Recursive definition -- the OED [I simplify drastically] tells us that
a Bully (Sense 3a) is a Hector (Sense 2), and vice versa.
If we're going down this route, it would be appropriate to add TRAPAN (n1, Sense
1) -- the definition doesn't include either BULLY or HECTOR, but HECTOR occurs
in the first cite (1653).
The terms BULLY, HECTOR, and TRAPAN first appear, used in this sense, roughly
around 1650, and in one specific context *are* synonymous.
The Badger Game is notably described by Robert Greene in _A Notable Discovery of
Cosenage_ (1592) in the context of Sacking Law, or the Art of Crossbiting.
As described in the late seventeenth century [earliest noticed, I think by Mary
Frith, a.k.a. Moll Cutpurse, in her posthumous memoirs of 1662, and described
with relish by Richard Head in both _The English Rogue_ (1665) and _The Canting
Academy_ (1673)], the terminology applied to the Badger Game runs as follows:
The WHORE, who is the lure ...
The CULLY, who is entrapped ...
The PIMP, who introduces the CULLY to the WHORE ...
The HECTOR / BULLY / TRAPAN who breaks in, remarking, "I'm shocked,
Rick, I tell you, shocked!"
With regard to OED, entries for the final set of terms, all (not simply BULLY,
as at present) should have the use in a sexual context noted specifically, while
each entry should also allow us to identify times when the three terms *weren't*
The OED entry on TRAPAN, for instance, currently omits any reference to the
context in which a TRAPAN (or SPIRIT) was someone who KIDNAPPED young men for
transport to the (then) American colonies.
Obviously, part of the problem here is simply how the OED goes about dealing
with cant terms. Given its nature, it is unlikely ever to be as comprehensive
as _Green's Dictionary of Slang_, but my feeling is that if the OED *is* going
to notice cant terms, they should at least get it right.
... at this point, I sigh, and say with Walter Ralegh, "I can write no
more. My brains are broken."
But to conclude by flagging a few more issues that could be pursued:
1. OED entries which are problematic in
b. Pejoration vs. Relexicalisation
c. How to deal with areas where there is a SE/Cant overlap (cf. as
well as the terms noticed above, BOOTY)
2. Documentation of Cant in the late
The links between Head and _News_ ...
Other cant terms in _News_, for example "Bully Sandy" not recorded else where
Cant terms in texts related to _News_ ...
3. Bring me the Head of David Mallet
I'm fairly certain that the author of _News from Whetstone Park_ (1674) was the
printer David Mallet, about which much more could be said. He is not, to put it
mildly, well-documented. Actually, on the Web, he's practically invisible. His
widow Elizabeth, who takes over the business at David Mallet's death in 1683,
gets into the DNB, but the tale of her husband is as yet untold.
It would begin:
In the year 1670, a young Irishman called David Mallet attended the
trial and execution of a group of pirates in County Cork. Having composed a
report of what he saw, he sold this to a London printer to be published under
his initials. It didn't take the young David long to realise that there was
money to be made in this area, not simply reporting trials, but printing and
selling the reports himself. When the Old Bailey, which had burned to the
ground in the Great Fire of 1666, was reopened in 1673, David Mallet got in on
the ground floor, and in the period between 1673-1683 is the dominant figure in
the publication of descriptions of trials at the (new) Old Bailey, together with
complementary descriptions of the behaviour after the trial of those convicted,
both in prison and at their hanging at Tyburn, in which he mixed his own
observations of the prisoners with information he gleaned from the then Ordinary
of Newgate, Samuel Smith.
David Mallet dies in 1683, leaving a widow, Elizabeth, and a young son,
also called David, to carry on the business.
Two things characterise Mallet's texts, both those which are connected
to the Old Bailey, and others. One is a liberal use of cant terms, some found
for the first time in Mallet's work, and frequently left unexplained by Mallet
when he uses them. The other is a singularly unorthodox presentation of
marginal world he is reporting. As an example of this, there's _The
Nightwalkers declaration_ (1676), which begins with an typical moral
consideration of the evils of prostitution, but ends with some specific advice
to working ladies. This could be summed up as follows: "Don't do it, but if
you have to, don't wear white, wear either green or brown, and you'll be less
likely to stopped; work the outskirts of London rather than the city proper, as
the trade is better; work by day rather than by night, and the bailiffs will
mostly let you alone."
Go figure ...
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
More information about the Ads-l