Fire Cats of London Blog Tour

This emotional and exciting book is set in 1666 during the Great Fire of London but viewed from a different perspective. Author Anna Fargher has a brilliant ability to draw the reader in with her animals living through infamous events in history. She treats us to some 17th century slang in her guest post today!

17th Century slang terms – can you guess their meaning?

Have you ever wanted to talk like a 17th century swindler? Here’s your chance! 

But first a little history… The origins of ‘slang’ aren’t clear but the term was first recognised by lexicographer Francis Grose in 1785. He defined it as ‘cant’ or ‘vulgar’ language. However, slang was in use before that under the name of ‘Thieves Cant’. A cryptic language used in 1600 England by thieves and criminals, the main aim of Thieves Cant was to confuse the authorities.

Slang language is often short-lived and evolves from generation to generation. In my latest novel, The Fire Cats of London, two daring young wildcats, Asta and Ash, face a dangerous and inspiring journey through London during the most infamous fire in British history. They fall into the hands of hunters who take them to an apothecary’s shop in the heart of London. I’ve used slang terms throughout to bring the thieving characters to life and researched the most popular terms from the 17th century. Here’s 10 of my favourites and their meanings. For some added fun, Macmillan Children’s Books asked a group of Year 5 children what they thought the terms could mean, will they guess correctly? Disclaimer – incoming fart and poo references!

1. Cackling farts

The kids guessed stinky or unpleasant farts. Good guess but are they right? 

Correct answer: eggs!

2. Fizzle

We had a 50/50 split on this one with one group thinking it could be fizzy drinks while the other guessed a fart.

Correct answer: little fart!

3. Farting crackers

We gave the kids a clue for this one, letting them know it was an item of clothing. It was a unanimous guess for pants or knickers.

Correct answer: trousers

4. Belly-cheat

A range of guesses for this one from cheese to big knickers to someone who eats too much!

Correct answer: an apron

5. Windy-fellow

I can see why the majority went with ‘somone who farts a lot’, it’s a logical guess!

Correct answer: without sense or reason

6. Sheeps-head

On the right lines here, the best guess was for a ‘big head’ who brags a lot.

Correct answer: a fool

7. Brown study

After all the hilarity of the fart associated language, it wasn’t a surprise that we had a guess for ‘the study of poo’. We also had a suggestion for ‘looking at trees’.

Correct answer: when you’re deep in thought

And finally here are three that had the kids flummoxed:

8. Heathen Philosopher: a messy or shabbily dressed man whose underwear can be seen through the holes in his trousers.

9. Shake your shambles: make haste

10. Thorough-Cough: Coughing and farting at the same time

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