Wednesday 6 April 2011


I've been having great fun since I bought myself A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew in its Several Tribes of Gypsies, Beggers, Thieves, Cheats, &c. It was written in 1699, or thereabouts, by somebody who styled himself B.E. Gent., and it's pretty much the first dictionary of English slang.

Some of the words are surprisingly familiar: a nickum-poop, a num-skul and an oaf are all words with which I have been familiar since I started abusing my companions in the first bloom of my youthful nastiness. I'm glad that even then, in that rainy, tarmacced playground I was using words that were three centuries old.

Some words though have unaccountably vanished. A few entries below pimp (which was, even then, the same as a Cock-bawd) is a Pimginnit which is defined as a large, red, angry Pimple.

What a word! In the second bloom of my youthful nastiness I had hundreds of pimginnits and never knew what to call them. There's something very pimply about the word too. I imagine that if I were to mention that someone had a face filled with pimginnits, my interlocutor would understand me without needing recourse to a dictionary of 1699.

I must change my chat-up line

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