Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day Fifty-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…..

Bulk and File

Defined by the dictionary as “two pickpockets; the bulk jostles the party to be robbed, and the file does the business”, a reminder of how long distraction robbery has gone on for. The phrase was being used as early as the seventeenth century and its origins are unclear. The bulk likely means the ‘main part’, in the same way that a bulky person could push someone around. The word ‘bulk-monger’ also dates from this period, meaning a prostitute who converses with pickpockets.