[Ads-l] OED Adam Tiler -- an "interesting" entry.

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Wed Nov 16 12:54:10 UTC 2016


>     Not to be outdone, the entry concludes triumphantly:
>     Compare later occurrence of Adam in slang dictionaries denoting a thief or
>     pickpocket's accomplice, perhaps simply shortened from Adam Tiler.
>     Really? I have yet to encounter *any* slang dictionary which contains this
>     interesting shortened "occurrence", nor is it to be found in the
> exhaustive list
>     of Adam-related entries in _Green's Dictionary of Slang_ -- other than, of
>     course, in entries which contain the figure of Adam Tyler himself.

I've just had it pointed out to me that there are indeed entries partly to that
effect in several Slang dictionaries between 1790-1881 (though not, notably in
Grose 1-5, and none, I think, referring to the thief himself rather than the
thief's accomplice), as can be seen in the citations in the entry in GDoS:
"adam, N1, sense 2: a thief’s accomplice."  So I would modify that component of
my diatribe.

However, it's notable that the shortened "adam = an accomplice, a pal" (Matsell,
1859) only occurs in (some) dictionaries and not, as far as I'm aware, in any
primary source.  The short form, it is more than probable, thus *only* exists as
a dictionary construct, inferentially back-formed from Adam Tyler, and was never
part of the Cant lexis proper.

The origin of the short form probably lies in Potter (1795): "Adam, an
accomplice (see Bulk)."

Robin Hamilton

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

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