Possible Antedating of "Slang"

Tue Apr 15 19:05:16 UTC 2014

The OED has "slang" from 1756.  However, an earlier play, The Livery-Rake Trapp'd: or, The Disappointed Country Lass, which premiered at the New Theatre in the Haymarket on October 15, 1733, included a character named "Toby Slang," played in the original production (which was probably the only one ever mounted) by a Mr. Harper.  The (London) Daily Journal (Oct. 15, 1733) (Access Newspaper Archive) indicated that it was a "Ballad Opera" in four acts and says that "The Words of the English Songs are printed, and will be deliver'd gratis at the Theatre."  William J. Burling, A Checklist of New Plays and Entertainments on the London Stage, 1700 - 1737, at 157 (1993) (Google Books), indicates that it was unpublished and may be a parody of The Livery Rake and Country Lass (5 May 1733).

There does not seem to be any more information concerning this Toby Slang character on the Web, but if he was so named because he liked to use slang then this may be an antedating of the term.  I don't know if any copies of the play survive.  Toby Slang was the first character mentioned in the Daily Journal.

John Baker

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

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