Seventeen Of The Gang

Living from hand to mouth was a fact of life for many in the 19th century. The system of tick, an abbreviation of ticket, allowed the borrower to buy goods on a form of credit, often in return for an extortionate level of interest. A moment of dread was when the clock stopped, a phrase James Ware notes in his Passing English of the Victorian Era used to describe the moment when tick was denied. As there was no tick, the clock must have stopped went the mordant logic.

Another way to raise some cash was to climb the mountain of Piety, a rather flowery way to describe the act of pawning something. It was an Anglicisation of Monte di Pietà, which is where the first government sanctioned pawn shop was situated in Rome.

Cock-sure is a term that has survived to this day, used to denote someone who is absolutely certain of something, perhaps even overly confident. The origins of the term derive from the world of cockfighting. The bird that had won would crow when it was absolutely certain that its opponent was either dead or insensible.

It is a bot of a shock to associate Queen Victoria with slang, but she introduced her subjects to the phrase Collie shangles, of Scottish origin, when she wrote in More Leaves (1884) “at five minutes to eleven rode off with Beatrice, good Sharp going with us, and having occasional Collie shangles with collies when we came near cottages”. It meant a quarrel, usually between dogs. Time for a revival, methinks.     

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