Thursday, 7 April 2011

Olde English Criminals

Following on from the post about old English jobs that have faded away, I happened upon a list of terms for old specialist criminals from the eighteenth century, long since disused.

I found them in the 2008 QI Annual that covers the letter E, so all credit to QI for finding these. You can pick up the annual for a modest sum on Amazon.

 

However I’ve added to QI’s original list of 16 with a bundle of extra ones from The Lexicon of Thieves Cant (based on the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence and also Captain Grose's 1785 dictionary).

Criminal name Description
Adam Tiler a pickpocket's associate, who receives the stolen goods, and runs off with them.
Angler pilferer or petty thief who, with a stick having a hook at the end, steals goods out of shop windows, grates etc. Also someone who 'draws in' victims in order to rob them.
Autem Diver pickpocket who operates in churches and temples.
Autem Mort a female beggar who hires children in order to inspire charity.
Bawdy-Basket woman posing as sellers of pins and needles or pornographic books to disguise her real game, which was stealing linen clothes off hedges.
Bene Feaker counterfeiter.
Bene Feaker of Gybes counterfeiter of false passes.
Blue Pigeon thief who steals lead off houses and other buildings.
Bob shoplifter's assistant. One who receives stolen goods.
Bubber a thief who steals from taverns.
Buffer-Nabber professional dog-thief who killed the animal to sell its skin.
Bully-Huff hung round brothels, surprising and threatening the customers by claiming that the woman they were in bed with was their wife. In between times, they intercepted lucky gamblers as they left the casino to relieve them of their winnings.
Bung-Nipper stole the gold buttons from cloaks and the silver tassles from hatbands.
Clank Napper a silver tankard stealer.
Clapperdogeon professional vagabond, a varlet who wore a patched cloak and three hats, one on top of the other.
Dommerer beggar posing as an escaped slave who had had their tongues cut out by the Turks for refusing to accept Islam.
Glimmerer woman who went around in floods of tears claiming that her house had been burned down; alternatively she set other people's houses on fire, in order to loot them in the confusion.
Figure Dancer one who alters the numbers on notes of credit or other paper money.
Footpad a common thief.
Foyst a pickpocket.
Jack in a Box a card-sharp.
Lully Prigger thief who steals wet clothes off clothes lines
Mumper genteel beggar.
Napper of Naps a sheep stealer.
Pad Borrower a horse thief.
Poulterer a man who opens mail and steals the money enclosed within.
Prigger either a member of a three-man shoplifting team or a horse-thief.
Prigger of Prancers a horse thief.
Prigger of Cacklers a henhouse thief.
Rattling Mumper beggar who begs from coaches.
Reader Merchant a pickpocket.
Ruffler armed robber or beggar disguised as an out of work soldiers.
Rum Bob skilled apprentice thief.
Rum-Bubber specialised in stealing silver tankards from taverns.
Rum Diver skilled pickpocket.
Rum-Dubber skilled lock-picker.
Rum File skilled pickpocket.
Rum Padder skilled highwayman.
Swaddler not only stole from their victim but beat them up as well, sometimes murdering them into the bargain.
Swig-Man covered their roguery by pretending to be an itinerant haberdasher.
Strowler con man who convinced country gentlemen to 'lend' him money so he could go to London.
Tatmonger card-sharp.
Tayle drawer a thief who steals swords from a mans belt.
Wiper drawer a thief who steals handkerchiefs.