This is the first volume in a complete history of the documentation of English cant and slang from 1567 to the present. It gives unparalleled insights into the early history of slang, the people who used it, and how and why it was recorded. Well over a hundred glossaries of cant and slang were published between 1567 and 1784. The cant lists reveal the secret language allegedly used by thieves and beggars to conceal their illicit conspiracies: Dr Coleman investigates where and how they were produced and the relationship between such lists and canting literature. She considers why this period was so fascinated by crime and by criminals, and apparently so obsessed with the need to record their language. How far, she asks, are the lists genuine records of contemporary cant, and how far the products of literary invention? Who produced them, and how were they researched? Who bought them, and what did they hope to gain from them? This absorbing and astute book will be an invaluable resource for anyone interested in English slang and its history. It also provides unusual and unexpected insights into the underworlds of early modern England.
Julie Coleman is Reader in English at the University of Leicester and founder of the International Society for Historical Lexicography and Lexicology. Her research interests lie in the history of the English language, particularly the history of the lexis. She is the author of A Thesaurus of Love, Sex, and Marriage (Rodopi 1999). The first two volumes of her history of cant and slang dictionaries, on the periods 1567-1785 and 1785-1858, were published by OUP in 2004. A third volume is being published in 2008 and a fourth volume, taking the history to 1984, is in preparation. She is the joint editor with Anne McDermott of Historical Lexicography and Lexicology: Papers from the first ICHLL, which is to be published by Niemeyer in Tubingen.
List of Illustrations ; Abbreviations and Conventions ; Introduction ; 1. The Beggars are Coming to Town ; 2. The Harman-Lists ; 3. The Head-Lists ; 4. The B. E.-Lists ; 5. The Life of Bampfylde-Moore Carew ; 6. Other Cant and Slang Lists ; 7. Cant in Other Dictionaries ; 8. Conclusions ; Appendix ; Bibliography ; Subject Index ; Word Index