A parcel from Amazon dropped onto the doormat this morning. In addition to the wonderful Les Vacances de M.Hulot, the package contained Francis Grose's The Vulgar Tongue, a dictionary of "Buckish Slang and Pickpocket Eloquence" first published in 1785.
Grose will have a place on the shelf next to the Penguin Dictionary of Historical Slang (an abridged version of Eric Partridge's "A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English" first published in 1937) and Farmer and Henley's "A Dictionary of Slang and its Analogues" from 1890. On current form it is not going to spend too long in its place. These books just contain too much weird and unexpected stuff. I spend far too long browsing through them, trying to kid myself that this is research.
Am I really going to bring the Gooseberry Lay (stealing linen from a line) or the Running Smobble (snatching goods off a counter and throwing them to an accomplice who rushes off with them) into my current work-in-progress, or even a future one? Will I have a character in the Old Bold (the 29th Foot), the Old Strawboots (the 7th Hussars) or the Old Toughs (the 103rd Foot)? Do I really need eighteen columns of synonyms (in English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese) for the Divine Monosyllable? And why eighteen columns for that when there are but three columns of synonym for Creamstick?
Maybe not, but at least I'll know my Nazarene Foretop from my Mucking-Togs, and who knows when that might come in handy?