Possible Antedating of "Slang"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 16 12:50:13 UTC 2014

He doesn't use slang.

Moreover, John's beguiling 1733 discovery is less impressive now that it
might have been thirty years ago. Before digitized databases, one could
ponder the notion that many, many undiscovered examples of "slang," some in
the modern sense, were lying around undiscovered in the early 18th century.
That likelihood is now reduced practically to zero.

If "Toby Slang" had somehow popularized the use or notion of slang, very
likely we'd have some hint of it in ECCO. Last time I looked (maybe they've
expanded it again), we didn't.

Nor is it entirely clear that the OED's 1756 ex.refers to language rather
than, say, to town low-life in general. Liberman (2008) suggests plausibly,
though not conclusively. that slang "must" [sic] at one time have meant
"territory over which hawkers, strolling showmen, and other itinerants
traveled," and that, applied to language, it originally designated the
"banter" of such characters.


On Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 3:05 PM, Baker, John <JBAKER at stradley.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Baker, John" <JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM>
> Subject:      Possible Antedating of "Slang"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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 (1993) (Google Books), indicates that it was unpublished and may be a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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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