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From: ansible@cix.compulink.co.uk (David Langford)
Subject: Re: (whorl) Canticon
Date: Tue, 1 Jul 97 12:39 BST-1

[Posted from WHORL, the mailing list for Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun]

In-Reply-To: <199707010049.RAA29891@lists1.best.com>

Mantis wrote:

> Talon compiled a list of cant terms
> used in THE BOOK OF THE LONG SUN and I'm still working my way through
> it using the OED, which so far has nearly all of them.  But I'm
> always happy to take up an offer for help, so here's a few I haven't
> been able to find in the OED:

Here's some stuff from Eric Partridge's =A Dictionary of Historical 
Slang= (abridged 1972), with addenda from =1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar 
Tongue: A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket 
Eloquence= or [1811] for short ... the latter was reprinted and 
extensively remaindered in the 1970s and 80s.
> Abram
A malingerer: C.19-20 nautical; ob. 2, As adj., c.: mad, C.16-17, C.17-18 
... // abram, v. To feign sickness: ?ca 1840-90 ... // Abra(ha)m-cove or 
-man. A pseudo-madman seeking alms; a genuine lunatic allowed on certain 
days to leave Bethlehem Hospital ... ca 1550-1700. 2. Also, in late 
C.18-19, a mendicant pretending to be an old naval rating cast on the 
streets. // [1811] gives "naked" as primary meaning -- also allowed by 
Partridge -- and agrees on Abram Men, pretended mad men.

> iron (you're for ~)
[1811] Money in general. To polish the king's iron with one's eyebrows; 
to look out of grated or prison windows ... Iron doublet; a prison.

> kate ["lockpick"]
A master or skeleton key: c. of late C.17-mid-19. cf JENNY; JIMMY: esp. 
BETTY. 2. Hence, a picklock: C18-mid-19. 3. (Also katy, Katy.) A wanton: 
(mainly Scots) coll: C.16-early 19. // [1811] agrees: A picklock (cant).

> larger ["more importantly"]
large, adj. gen. used as adv. Excessively: (low) coll: from ca 1850. 
Thus, dress large, i.e. showily; go large, i.e. noisily; play large, i.e. 
for high stakes; i.e. boastfully. cf. FINE AND LARGE.

> nanny nipper
nanny. A whore: late C.17-C-19: coll. Ex Nanny, the female name. Mostly 
in combination: see, e.g., NANNY-HOUSE. // nipper. A thief, esp. a 
cut-purse or a pickpocket: c.: ca. 1580-1830. // nipper, v. To catch; to 
arrest: ca. 1820-1850. // [1811] confirms: Nanny House. A brothel. // 
Nip. A cheat. Bung nipper; a cutpurse.

By the way, no one on this learned list will have missed the upfront joke 
that Tick the catachrest speaks in catachresis ... but is there an echo 
there, too, of another communicative pet in James H. Schmitz's well-loved 
sf story "Novice" (incorporated into =The Universe Against Her=, 1964): a 
"crest cat" called Tick-Tock?


David Langford

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