Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day Eighty-Nine

The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was first published at the end of the eighteenth century, and given that the Coronavirus crisis is giving too much time to read books, I thought I’d pick a daily word from it until I got bored…..

Cramp Words

Not quite as cheery as some previous definitions, this is defined as a term used in the criminal world meaning a “sentence of death passed on a criminal by a judge. He has just undergone the cramp word; sentence has just been passed on him”. There are a series of other terms related to this, such as “cramping day” which is when the execution took place and “cramp laws” meaning laws that could lead to the death sentence if broken. The terms were used from the early eighteenth century until it slowly faded out of use. Newgate Prison also became known as “Cramp Abbey” and this term was then used as a generic term for any prison.

And, the fading out over time of the “cramp words” phrase.