Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day Ninety-Eight

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….

Cunning Man

Over 200 years on from the publication of this dictionary there are some who still believe in astrology and I’m sure there are some cheats out there who prey on that. The dictionary defines this phrase as “a cheat, who pretends by his skill in astrology to assist persons in recovering stolen goods: and also to tell them their fortunes, and when, how often, and to whom they shall be married; likewise answers all lawful questions, both by sea and land. This profession is frequently occupied by ladies”.

The phrase more commonly used today is “cunning folk” and it wasn’t always used in a derogatory manner. There’s far more about this at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cunning_folk_in_Britain, a legacy perhaps of the widespread fear that existed of witches over the last few centuries.