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….
There’s a relatively long definition for this phrase, a reminder that confidence tricks have been taking place for centuries. The dictionary notes “sharpers who drop a piece of gold, which they pick up in the presence of some unexperienced person, for whom the trap is laid, this they pretend to have found, and, as he saw them pick it up, they invite him to a public house to partake of it: when there, two or three of their comrades drop in, as if by accident, and propose cards, or some other game, when they seldom fail of stripping their prey”.
This phrase, or a version of it, dates back to the mid-seventeenth century and this particular terminology for the technique lingered on until the late nineteenth century. Although the phrase might have fallen out of usage, the confidence trick is still performed today on the unwary.