(urth) Auk's dimber tip to all flash coves

Gwern Branwen gwern0 at gmail.com
Thu Jul 9 09:58:49 PDT 2009

Hash: SHA512

So I recently began reading the Long Sun (up to _Exodus_), when I
suddenly realized that some of the thieves' cant I already knew, and
not from context.

After racking my brain, I finally remembered where from. Douglas
Hofstadter's _Le Ton de Beau Marot_ is all about translations, and one
of the pairs of poem translations is a poem by Francois Villon to his
fellow ne'er-do-wells - translated once into ordinary English
vernacular, and again into English using London thieves' argot. For
your amusement, I present below a copy of the transcription at
(Fear not, it is public domain!):

"Villon’s Straight Tip To All Cross Coves"
trans. 1887 William Ernest Henley.

_Tout aux tavernes et aux filles_


Suppose you screeve, or go cheap-jack?
  Or fake the broads? or fig a nag?
Or thimble-rig? or knap a yack?
  Or pitch a snide? or smash a rag?
  Suppose you duff? or nose and lag?
Or get the straight, and land your pot?
  How do you melt the multy swag?
Booze and the blowens cop the lot.


Fiddle, or fence, or mace, or mack;
  Or moskeneer, or flash the drag;
Dead-lurk a crib, or do a crack;
  Pad with a slang, or chuck a fag;
  Bonnet, or tout, or mump and gag;
Rattle the tats, or mark the spot
  You cannot bank a single stag:
Booze and the blowens cop the lot.


Suppose you try a different tack,
  And on the square you flash your flag?
At penny-a-lining make your whack,
  Or with the mummers mug and gag?
  For nix, for nix the dibbs you bag
At any graft, no matter what!
  Your merry goblins soon stravag:
Booze and the blowens cop the lor.

_The Moral._

It’s up-the-spout and Charley-Wag
  With wipes and tickers and what not!
Until the squeezer nips your scrag,
  Booze and the blowens cop the lot.

- --
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