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Gypsies (Grose 1811 Dictionary)

Gypsies

A set of vagrants, who, to the great disgrace of our police, are suffered to wander about the country. They pretend that they derive their origin from the ancient Egyptians, who were famous for their knowledge in astronomy and other sciences; and, under the pretence of fortune-telling, find means to rob or defraud the ignorant and superstitious. To colour their impostures, they artificially discolour their faces, and speak a kind of gibberish peculiar to themselves. They rove up and down the country in large companies, to the great terror of the farmers, from whose geese, turkeys, and fowls, they take very considerable contributions.

When a fresh recruit is admitted into the fraternity, he is to take the following oath, administered by the principal maunder, after going through the annexed forms:

First, a new name is given him by which he is ever after to be called; then standing up in the middle of the assembly, and directing his face to the dimber damber, or principal man of the gang, he repeats the following oath, which is dictated to him by some experienced member of the fraternity:

I, Crank Cuffin, do swear to be a true brother, and that I will in all things obey the commands of the great tawney prince, and keep his counsel and not divulge the secrets of my brethren.

I will never leave nor forsake the company, but observe and keep all the times of appointment, either by day or by night, in every place whatever.

I will not teach any one to cant, nor will I disclose any of our mysteries to them.

I will take my prince’s part against all that shall oppose him, or any of us, according to the utmost of my ability; nor will I suffer him, or any one belongiug to us, to be abused by any strange abrams, rufflers, hookers, pailliards, swaddlers, Irish toyles, swigmen, whip jacks, jarkmen, bawdy baskets, dommerars, clapper dogeons, patricoes, or curtals; but will defend him, or them, as much as I can, against all other outliers whatever. I will not conceal aught I win out of libkins or from the ruffmans, but will preserve it for the use of the company. Lastly, I will cleave to my doxy wap stiffly, and will bring her duds, marjery praters, goblers, grunting cheats, or tibs of the buttery, or any thing else I can come at, as winnings for her weppings.

The canters have, it seems, a tradition, that from the three first articles of this oath, the first founders of a certain boastful, worshipful fraternity (who pretend to derive their origin from the earliest times) borrowed both the hint and form of their establishment; and that their pretended derivation from the first Adam is a forgery, it being only from the first Adam Tiler: see ADAM TILER. At the admission of a new brother, a general stock is raised for booze, or drink, to make themselves merry on the occasion. As for peckage or eatables, they can procure without money; for while some are sent to break the ruffmans, or woods and bushes, for firing, others are detached to filch geese, chickens, hens, ducks (or mallards), and pigs. Their morts are their butchers, who presently make bloody work with what living things are brought them; and having made holes in the ground under some remote hedge in an obscure place, they make a fire and boil or broil their food; and when it is enough, fall to work tooth and nail: and having eaten more like beasts than men, they drink more like swine than human creatures, entertaining one another all the time with songs in the canting dialect.

As they live, so they lie, together promiscuously, and know not how to claim a property either in their goods or children: and this general interest ties them more firmly together than if all their rags were twisted into ropes, to bind them indissolubly from a separation; which detestable union is farther consolidated by the above oath.

They stroll up and down all summer-time in droves, and Dexterously pick pockets, while they are telling of fortunes; and the money, rings, silver thirribles, &c. which they get, are instantly conveyed from one hand to another, till the remotest person of the gang (who is not suspected because they come not near the person robbed) gets possession of it; so that, in the strictest search, it is impossible to recover it; while the wretches with imprecations, oaths, and protestations, disclaim the thievery.

That by which they are said to get the most money, is, when young gentlewomen of good families and reputation have happened to be with child before marriage, a round sum is often bestowed among the gypsies, for some one mort to take the child; and as that is never heard of more by the true mother and family, so the disgrace is kept concealed from the world; and, if the child lives, it never knows its parents.

Definition taken from The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, originally by Francis Grose.

See also the definition in Nathan Bailey's 1736 dictionary of canting and thieving slang.

Gyp

Nearby

Nathan Bailey's 1736 Dictionary of canting and thieving slang

John S. Farmer's collection of canting songs and slang rhymes

Gut Scraper
Gutter Lane
Gutting a Quart Pot
Guy
Guzzle
Guzzle Guts
Gybe
Gybing
Gyles
Gyp
Gypsies