Possible Antedating of "Slang"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 16 12:54:47 UTC 2014

Somehow cut off was the opening line:

"Cf. the character Slango in Henry Carey's 'The Honest Yorkshireman'

I don't know anything about "Toby Slang" except - interestingly enough -
that English crooks at one time called the highway "the high toby."


On Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 8:50 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>wrote:

> 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.
> JL
> On Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 3:05 PM, Baker, John <JBAKER at stradley.com> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> 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
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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