Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day One

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…..

Affidavit Men

Not so much vulgar, but a piece of history that is new to me. These were men who used to hang around courts and places such as Westminster Hall in the eighteenth century and they’d be willing to lie and swear on oath, for a fee of course. Incidentally, trials did once take place in Westminster Hall, including the ridiculous trial of Warren Hastings, which lasted for 7 years and he was eventually found not guilty.

There was a tongue in cheek newspaper article in July 1776 which advertised for affidavit men, saying:

“They must be none of your squeamish men, but swear in the face of conviction, for which the following rewards will be given.

A direct lie – 2 pounds 2 shillings 0 pence

An indirect lie – 1 pound 1 shilling 0 pence

An oblique lie – 0 pound 10 shillings 6 pence

The naked truth – 0 pound 0 shillings 0 pence

Polling twice – 21 pounds 0 shillings 0 pence”