Episode 156: Beggars, Cheats and Thieves

In the 1500s, England saw a significant rise in the number of beggars and vagabonds. Those who couldn’t survive by begging often turned to thievery, gambling and fraud. By the mid-1500s, books and pamphlets were being published that highlighted the language and scams of the criminal subculture of England. In this episode, we explore the criminal slang and jargon of Tudor England, and we examine the first years of the reign of Elizabeth I.


9 thoughts on “Episode 156: Beggars, Cheats and Thieves

  1. Interesting discussion about the use of apostrophes. In the Scandinavian languages “s” is used to mark possession, but they don’t use an apostrophe (something that takes some getting used to), and maybe that’s because they DON’T use “s” to mark plurals – the potential ambiguity in English doesn’t arise.

  2. The pronunciation of certain words, cup (coop), for instance, reminds me of books I read on Audible. The British narrators pronounce “superior” as “soo perior”, without fail among all of the narrators I have heard.

  3. Please check out your comment at mark 9:50 on your February 4 podcast where you refer to Edward VI as Mary Tudor’s older brother. It’s the other way around.

    • Yes, that was a misstatement. Anyone who has listened to the prior episodes should know that Edward was the youngest child, but that’s what I get for writing these episodes after midnight.

  4. Howdy from Texas. Long time listener, first time commenter. I always enjoy the parts where you tell us the “earliest known use” of a word. makes me wonder how that works, is there a catalog of the earliest “known” use of every word? i don’t have OED subscription, I heard they famous for that, but is it every word?

    • Yes, the OED purports to list every word in the English language and the first recorded use of each word. So unless I indicate otherwise in the podcast, I am referring to the OED entry when I mention the oldest known use. I use the online subscription which is very convenient, but not cheap.

  5. Interesting with the use of the word “dud” with the pronunciation being dood in the 1500s, meaning clothes. That must surely be the origin of “doodle” as in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “dude” meaning a guy in American west coast slang and a well-dressed man.

  6. I love this podcast. Regarding apostrophe ‘s: it is sometimes not pronounced /s/, i.e. when it is voiced /z/ as with Cat’/s/, dog’/z/. Our spelling system has not given letter Z its due, a source of confusion as in the noun and verb meanings of ‘advise’. The verb shud be speld *advize. We hav a grate tung exsept for the speling!

  7. Hi – am enjoying this very much. I note that the old English use of the word ‘coney’ – to mean a mark, or ‘someone to be targeted by thieves’ seems cognate with the Irish word for rabbit, which is ‘coinín’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.