Orwell’s notes

New words (i.e. words new to me) discovered this time.
Shackles… broth of gravy
Drum, a a billy can. (With verb to drum up meaning to light a fire.)
Toby, on the… on the tramp. (Also to toby, and a toby, meaning a tramp. Slang Dictionary gives toby as the highroad.)
Chat, a… a louse. (Also chatty, lousy. S.D. gives this but not a chat.)
Get, a ? (Word abuse, meaning unknown.)[1]
Didecai, a a gypsy.
Sprowsie, a… a sixpence.
Hard-up tobacco made from fag ends. (S.D. gives a hard-up as a man who collects fag-ends.)
Skipper, to…sleep out. (S.D. gives a skipper as a barn.)
Scrump, to… to steal.
Knock off, to… to arrest.
Jack off, to… to go away.
Jack, on his… on his own.
Clods coppers

Burglars’ slang.
A stick, or a cane a jemmy. (S.D. gives stick.)
Peter a… a safe. (In S.D.)
Bly,* a… an oxy-acetylene blowlamp

Use of the word ‘tart’ among the East Enders. This word now seems absolutely interchangeable with ‘girl’, with no implication of ‘prostitute’. People will speak of their daughter or sisters as a tart.

Rhyming slang. I thought this was extinct, but it is far from it. The hop-pickers used these expressions freely: A dig in the grave, meaning a shave. The hot cross bun meaning the sun. Greengages, meaning wages. They also use the abbreviated rhyming slang, e.g. ‘Use your twopenny’ for ‘Use your head.’ This is arrived at like this: Head, loaf of bread, loaf, twopenny loaf, twopenny.

Homosexual vice in London. It appears that one of the great rendezvous is Charing Cross underground station. It appeared to be taken for granted by the people on Trafalgar Square that youths could earn a bit this way, and several said to me, ‘I need never sleep out if I choose to go down to Charing Cross.’ They added that the usual fee is a about a shilling.

*I forgot to mention that these lamps are hired out to burglars. Ginger said that he had paid £3.10.0 a night for the use of one. So also with other burglars’ tools of the more elaborate kinds. When opening a puzzle-lock, clever safe-breakers use a stethoscope to listen to the click of the tumblers.

[1]  a Get: presumably the contemptuous ‘git’ as in ‘you git’, an ignorant fool. Compare the Scots ‘gyte’ (pronounced ‘git’), formerly used for a child. Peter Davison

5 Responses to Orwell’s notes

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