|Jack Shephard and Edgeworth bess escaping from Clerkenwell Jail|
This period of London history is ripe for stories, and the slang, known as flash, was the language of the street. I fell in love with it myself writing A Nest of Vipers, my novel about a gang of coney catchers (conmen) in London (Romeville). But there's only so much you can get away with in a story for 12 year olds. Jake Arnott lets rip with the flash (otherwise known as St Giles' Greek). And it is exhilarating.
I think if you're writing historical fiction slang is are a marvellous way into the time. I think lots of us writers rely on speech rhythms and patterns to get under our characters skins and slang dictionaries including the contemporary A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew first published in 1698 is invaluable. I like Jonathan Green's Slang Dictionary too.
These are some of my favourites;
moon-curser a criminal link boy Who would offer to guide you round the streets of 18th century London at night, then mug you.
glim stick is rather lovely and means a candle
wrap-rascal is a red cloak
cover -me decent is merely a coat
cacafuego is someone who talks, well caca, and may properly be applied to one such as Mr Trump
slabberdegullion is as it sounds, a flithy, slobbering fellow
rides the horse foaled of an acorn is simply being hanged, after which you might be...
put to bed with a shovel
I could go on.
What are your favourites?
Catherine's latest book is Blade and Bone from Walker Books