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Numismatists Do Not Fear Change

A Select Glossary of Victorian Underworld Slang

A Select Glossary of Victorian Underworld Slang

“She was accustomed to use slang of the kind.”

– The Adventure of The Noble Bachelor (NOBL)


At a recent meeting of the The Society of The Naval Treaty of Annapolis, there was a handout featuring Victorian underworld slang.  I have excerpted several that are relevant to our interests here.

Albert – A gold watch chain which could be weighed in for its scrap value.

Anabaptist – Early Victorian slang for a pickpocket who was punished with a ducking under water.

Bit faker – Counterfeit coin maker.

Broadsman – Cardsharp, or anyone who cheated at cards for money.

Brown paper men – Gamblers who bet for merely pennies.

Cracksman  Safe-breaker, or burglar who forces secure boxes.

Dip – Or dipper – pickpocket.

Duffer – A cheat, particularly someone who sells fake jewelry.

Fine wirer – Skilled pickpocket.

Flash notes – Paper crudely fashioned to look like banknotes.

Goddess Diana – Rhyming slang for sixpence (a tanner).

Knuck – A pickpocket.

Leaving shop – An unlicensed pawnbroker’s.

Lob sneak – Someone who snatched money from shop tills.

Maltooler – Pickpocket who operated on buses.

Penny swag – Hawker who sells goods in the street for a penny.

Peter – A safe.

Queer diver – Early Victorian for an incompetent pickpocket.

Regent – Half a sovereign.

Smasher – Someone who passed counterfeit money.

Snide pitching – Passing counterfeit money.

Stephen – Money.

Toffken – A wealthy household.

Tooling – Pickpocketing by experts.

Tombstone – A pawn ticket.

Up in the stirrups – Wealthy.

Verge – A gold watch.

Weighing the thumb – Giving short measure by depressing the scales with the thumb.

Yack – Early Victorian for a watch.


This glossary was excerpted from Elementary My Dear Watson: Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes by Graham Nown.  The book can be purchased here.


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