[Ads-l] Blackguard -- Antedating of OED 3a

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Tue Sep 6 22:21:32 EDT 2016

Wilson accidentally sent this to me back-channel, but gave me permission to
reply to all ...

Pirates' booty, in this case, or at least what they seize rather than what they
shake ...

BOOTY begins as SE in the late 15thC, initially plunder taken in war, later
plunder generally (and thus pirates' booty), and continues in this sense in
standard speech alongside the cant use of the term.

BOOTY is adopted by the marginal classes as a term for, specifically, the
proceeds of an illicit act, something gained by theft or cheating or robbery, by
the late 16thC, and in this sense continues as part of the cant lexis, distinct
from the SE use, at least as late as the mid-eighteenth century.

Possibly related are the terms PLAY BOOTY, meaning to pretend to lose at a game,
usually bowls, in order to inveigle some poor dupe into betting more than he can
afford, and BOOTY FELLOWS, criminals who together engage in such activity, from
the early part of the 16thC.

PLAY BOOTY and BOOTY FELLOWS can be found as late as the 1620s, but as most of
these later occurrences occur in works by the usual suspects (Greene, Dekker),
or dictionaries, they may be literary derivations from Gilbert Walker's
_Manifest Detection of Diceplay_ (1550).  BOOTY FELLOW is found earlier and
independently in John Palsgrave (1530), so the terms were around even before
Walker notes them, but their currency in the later period is more dubious.

BOOTY, in contrast, can be exhaustively documented as a term used by Real People
via its appearance in the Old Bailey trial transcripts, and criminal narratives
in the 1730-1750 period.

Just why criminals were so taken by the word "booty", I still can't quite figure
out, but they were.  Fortunately so, as the way in which it is used functions as
a sometimes useful way of fingerprinting cant texts.

In the context in which I raised it in my earlier post, and unlike BULLY,
HECTOR, and TRAPAN, BOOTY doesn't present the problem of carrying a variety of
senses in cant, but does pose the question as to whether, in any particular
instance, the term is being used in its SE or its cant sense.

Robin Hamilton

> On 07 September 2016 at 00:48 Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
>     On Tue, Sep 6, 2016 at 3:52 PM, Robin Hamilton
> <robin.hamilton3 at virginmedia.com mailto:robin.hamilton3 at virginmedia.com >
> wrote:
>         > > BOOTY
> > 
> >     > 
>     Is this the old one, as in "pirates' booty," or the new one, as in the
> punning - I think - snack-food brand-name, "My Sister's Booty"?
>     --
>     -Wilson
>     -----
>     All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
> come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>     -Mark Twain

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

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