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….
This phrase was used by the criminal fraternity and means “thieves who steal wet linen”. What sounds a very specific crime of course wasn’t in the late eighteenth century, when women (or men, but mostly women) would lay out clothes to dry on fences in courtyards or on any land they could find. And then some people would pinch them, which isn’t ideal.
This all reminds me of when I went to Mumbai a few years ago. I remember in the local news at the time were attempts to stop people hanging clothing on balconies as it didn’t look great. I suspect that this was in more upmarket private residential areas, as Mumbai has rather more issues to deal with than how drying laundry looked. Anyway, it reminds me as people were stealing wet linen then…..