Cat whipping, clankers and other pranks and lies

Cat whipping, clankers and other pranks and lies
A "Counterfeit Crank" works his scam.
(He’s a beggar who pretends to be ill,
especially with the "falling sickness," epilepsy.)

I’ve done letters A and B. Now here are more old words on deception from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, all starting with the letter C.

Anyone who wants to appear knowledgeable about scams should start memorizing these right now, so they can add sentences like this to their repertoire: "I spotted the cloven foot in that clanker before I was choused."

I love the logic of the first entry, CABBAGE, where thieves can honestly say that haven’t lied, which is because they’re using clever word play. (A better thief would probably just be better at lying.)

(Read the letter A-B words here)


CABBAGE. Cloth, stuff, or silk purloined by tailors from their employers, which they deposit in a place called HELL, or their EYE: from the first, when taxed, (confronted or accused) with their knavery, they equivocally swear, that if they have taken any, they wish they may find it in HELL; or, alluding to the second, protest, that what they have over and above is not more than they could put in their EYE.

CACKLE. To blab, or discover secrets. The cull is leaky, and cackles; the rogue tells all.

CALF-SKIN FIDDLE. A drum. To smack calf’s skin; to kiss the book in taking an oath. It is held by the St. Giles’s casuists, that by kissing one’s thumb instead of smacking calf’s skin, the guilt of taking a false oath is avoided.

CANTING. Preaching with a whining, affected tone, perhaps a corruption of chaunting; some derive it from Andrew Cant, a famous Scotch preacher, who used that whining manner of expression. Also a kind of gibberish used by thieves and gypsies, called likewise peddler’s French, the slang, etc.

CAT’S SLEEP. Counterfeit sleep: cats often counterfeiting sleep, to decoy their prey near them, and then suddenly spring on them.

CAT WHIPPING, or WHIPPING THE CAT. A trick often practised on ignorant country fellows, vain of their strength, by laying a wager with them that they may be pulled through a pond by a cat. The bet being made, a rope is fixed round the waist of the party to be catted, and the end thrown across the pond, to which the cat is also fastened by a packthread, and three or four sturdy fellows are appointed to lead and whip the cat; these on a signal given, seize the end of the cord, and pretending to whip the cat, haul the astonished booby through the water. (To whip the cat, is also a term among tailors for working jobs at private houses, as practised in the country.)

TO CHOUSE. To cheat or trick: he choused me out of it. Chouse is also the term for a game like chuck-farthing.

CHRISTENING. Erasing the name of the true maker from a stolen watch, and engraving a fictitious one in its place.

CLANKER. A great lie.

CLOVEN, CLEAVE, or CLEFT. A term used for a woman who passes for a maid, but is not one.

CLOVEN FOOT. To spy the cloven foot in any business; to discover some roguery or something bad in it: a saying that alludes to a piece of vulgar superstition, which is, that, let the Devil transform himself into what shape he will, he cannot hide his cloven foot

CLOUTING LAY. Picking pockets of handkerchiefs.

TO COG. To cheat with dice; also to coax or wheedle, To cog a die; to conceal or secure a die. To cog a dinner; to wheedle one out of a dinner.

COUNTERFEIT CRANK. A general cheat, assuming all sorts of characters; one counterfeiting the falling sickness (epilepsy.)

COW ITCH. The product of a sort of bean, which excites an insufferable itching, used chiefly for playing tricks.

CREAM-POT LOVE. Such as young fellows pretend to dairymaids, to get cream and other good things from them.

CRIM. CON. MONEY. Damages directed by a jury to be paid by a convicted adulterer to the injured husband, for criminal conversation (crim. con.) with his wife.

CROSS BITE. One who combines with a sharper to draw in a friend; also, to counteract or disappoint. This is peculiarly used to signify entrapping a man so as to obtain CRIM. COM. money, in which the wife, real or supposed, conspires with the husband.

CUNNING MAN. A cheat, who pretends by his skill in astrology to assist persons in recovering stolen goods: and also to tell them their fortunes, and when, how often, and to whom they shall be married; likewise answers all lawful questions, both by sea and land. This profession is frequently occupied by ladies.

CUPBOARD LOVE. Pretended love to the cook, or any other person, for the sake of a meal. My guts cry cupboard; i.e. I am hungry.

CURBING LAW. The act of hooking goods out of windows: the curber is the thief, the curb the hook.

CURTAILS. Thieves who cut off pieces of stuff hanging out of shop windows, the tails of women’s gowns, etc.; also, thieves wearing short jackets.

1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, at Gutenberg>>

The illustration was found at fromoldbooks. It’s in Old England: A Pictorial Museum by Charles Knight, 1845.

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