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Vitamin Q: the book!

~ Monday, December 01, 2003

Grose’s Dictionary of cant and slang, compiled in the 1780s, lists the divisions of what was called the ‘canting crew’ ie those types of people who commonly used low and criminal slang in 18th century London. Here they are with some attempts at explanation:


1 Rufflers (the criminal elite or those who gained money by pretending to be injured soldiers)
2 Upright Men (tough gang leaders whose privilege was to deflower young prostitutes)
3 Hookers or Anglers (petty thieves esp. those who used a stick and hook to steal goods)
4 Rogues (common criminals)
5 Wild Rogues (those who have been criminal since early childhood)
6 Priggers of Prancers (horse-thieves; 'priggers of cacklers' were hen-thieves)
7 Palliardes (beggars from a begging dynasty esp. those who employ false sores and injuries)
8 Fraters (those who use false papers and patents in their begging; the 18th century equivalent of African spam cons)
9 Jarkmen (those who manufacture false documents for use in begging)
10 Fresh Water Mariners or Whip Jack(et)s (those who beg by pretending to be shipwrecked sailors trying to get back to port or home)
11 Drummers (those who travelled selling cheap or stolen goods)
12 Drunken Tinkers (itinerants who sell small goods for beer money)
13 Swaddlers or Pedlars (swaddlers are violent muggers)
14 Abrams (those who beg by pretending to be mad or disturbed)
15 Patricoes (low or unprincipled priests who conducted marriages for the poor; these ceremonies often took place with the couple either side of a dead animal, to symbolise 'till death do us part')

Women and Children

1 Demanders for Glimmer or Fire (those who begged for money for heating?)
2 Bawdy Baskets (thieves who also sell small goods and obscene books)
3 Morts (molls, women of generally low morals)
4 Autem Morts (beggars using borrowed children to gain sympathy)
5 Walking Morts (those who sold cheap or stolen goods in the street or door to door)
6 Doxies (older prostitutes who also begged)
7 Delles (prostitutes, esp. young attractive ones)
8 Kinching Morts (girls trained in pickpocketing etc)
9 Kinching Coes (orphans or beggars’ children trained in various criminal acts)

Source: Grose (qv)

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