The First Slang Dictionary

The Harvesters, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565

The Harvesters, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565. Nothing to do with this snippet, apart from being contemporary with Harman’s book!

Snippets 73.  If you try to find out what was the first ever English slang dictionary, the answer you will probably find (e.g. on Wikipedia) will be The Canting Academy, written in 1673 by Richard Head. He also wrote The English Rogue in 1665, which was the first work of fiction written in English to be translated into German (or indeed any other European language). However, this was far from being the first example. Over a hundred years before The Canting Academy, Thomas Harman wrote A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursitors, vulgarly called vagabonds, which also contained a small slang dictionary. It was first published in 1566, although there are no known surviving copies of the first edition, and then was reprinted from 1568 onwards. There were also some pirate copies made in 1567. The following are some selected slang terms identified by Harman. I have modernised some spellings (only of the definitions) for ease of reading. Some I have not modernised, because they are too funny as they are to do that!

Booget: a travelling tinker’s basket.

Bowsing-ken: an alehouse.

Crashing-chetes: teeth.

Darkemans: the night.

Dell: a young wench.

Drawers: hosen.

Dudes: clothes.

Gan: a mouth.

Gerry: excrement.

Glasyers: eyes.

Grunting-chete: a pig.

Hearing-chetes: ears.

Lag of dudes: a basket of clothes.

Lightmans: the day.

Margeri prater: a hen.

Milling: to steal, by sending a child in at a window.

Moffling-chete: a napkin.

Mynt: gold.

Nabchet: a hat or cap.

Nase: dronken.

Nosegent: a nun.

Patrico: a priest.

Pek: meat.

Prat: a buttocke.

Pratling-chete: a tongue.

Prygges: dronken tinkers, or beastly people.

Roger: a goose [that’s my first name by the way – this entry was not wonderful news to me].

Ruffmans: the woods or bushes.

Smelling-chete: a nose.

Stampes: legs.

Stampers: shoes.

Togman: a coat.

Yannam: bread.

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4 Responses to The First Slang Dictionary

  1. Ha ha! My dad and brother are also both named Roger. How delightful!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The First Slang Dictionary — Windows into History – Paul's Courses

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