The Bodleian Library announces a new publication, The First English Dictionary of Slang, 1699:

The first dictionary of slang, out of print for 300 years, is being published by the Bodleian Library from a rare copy unearthed in its collections.
Originally entitled A New Dictionary of Terms, Ancient and Modern, of the Canting Crew, its aim was to educate the polite London classes in ‘canting’ – the language of thieves and ruffians – should they be unlucky enough to wander into the ‘wrong’ parts of town.
With over 4,000 entries, the dictionary contains many words which are now part of everyday parlance, such as ‘Chitchat’ and ‘Eyesore’ as well as a great many which have become obsolete, such as the delightful ‘Dandyprat’ and ‘Fizzle’. […]
Playfully highlighting similarities and contrasts between words, B.E. [the anonymous author] includes entries ranging from rogues’ cant, through terms used by sailors, labourers, and those in domestic culture, to words and phrases used by the upper classes.

The Sample Entries include Arsworm “a little diminutive Fellow,” Buffenapper “a Dog-stealer, that Trades in Setters, Hounds, Spaniels, Lap, and all sorts of Dogs, Selling them at a round Rate, and himself or Partner Stealing them away the first opportunity,” and Grumbletonians “Malecontents, out of Humour with the Government, for want of a Place, or having lost one.” Thanks for the link, AJP!


  1. I’ve always know of “fizzle” as a current word meaning to fade or dissipate into nothingness:
    The torch fizzled out when Richard plunged it into the waterfall

    Although, come to think of it, I don’t ever remember seeing it in writing, so perhaps it is spelled differently.
    What did “fizzle” mean to the canting crew of 1699 (which sounds like a good title for a team of rappers)?

  2. There’s an edition in the Internet Archive.

  3. Grumbletonians ! The original sense was rather restricted in scope, but still a promising start.

  4. Arsworm “a little diminutive Fellow”
    One thinks of Enterobius vermicularis, or pinworms.

  5. First full dictionary, perhaps, though handlists of canting terms go back to the 16c.

  6. Kishnevi: The Online Etymology Dictionary says:
    1530s, “to break wind without noise,” probably altered from obsolete fist, from M.E. fisten “break wind” (see feisty). Related: Fizzled; fizzling. Noun sense of “failure, fiasco” is from 1846, originally U.S. college slang for “failure in an exam.”

  7. Grunbletonians probably got their name from the Muggletonians and Muggletonianism:

  8. handlists of canting terms
    GB does have a reprint of Harman‘s book.
    OUP has A History of Cant and Slang Dictionaries, some volumes of which are in paperback and so (relatively) affordable.

  9. John Emerson says

    “Fizzle” in that sense sounds like it was derived from the French “vesse”.

  10. from M.E. fisten “break wind” (see feisty)
    feisty (Online Etymology Dictionary)

    1896, Amer.Eng. from feist “small dog,” from fice, fist (Amer.Eng., 1805) “small dog;” short for fysting curre “stinking cur,” attested from 1520s, from M.E. fysten, fisten “break wind” (mid-15c.); related to O.E. fisting “stink.” The 1811 slang dictionary defines fice as “a small windy escape backwards, more obvious to the nose than ears; frequently by old ladies charged on their lap-dogs.” Cf. also Dan. fise “to blow, to fart,” and obsolete English askefise, lit. “fire-blower, ash-blower,” from an unrecorded O.N. source, used in M.E. for a kind of bellows, but originally “a term of reproach among northern nations for an unwarlike fellow who stayed at home in the chimney corner” [OED].

  11. AHD3 says there are two different Indo-European roots meaning “fart”: “perd-” (whence “fart” and “partridge”) and “pezd-” (whence “fizzle”, “feisty”, and “petard”). I have a vague memory of reading somewhere that the difference was that a “pezd-” was silent.

  12. You may have read about it here.

  13. Rats, I see Angelo’s old sauvage noble posts have vanished into the maw of a domain-grabber.

  14. Bless you, O master of the internet! I’ll go change the link.

  15. Yes, LH, that must’ve been it.

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