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Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day 117

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

Fam Lay

Apparently (it says on Google), in 2020, Fam Lay is a famous rapper, but over 200 years ago, the dictionary defined this as “going into a goldsmith’s shop, under pretence of buying a wedding ring, and palming one or two, by daubing the hand with some viscous matter”. The term was used by the criminal fraternity and it seems quite a precise definition, probably never in common usage. The word ‘fam’ could mean the hand, and ‘lay’ in this instance is just a shortened version of layer, so it’s effectively a sleight of hand.