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Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day Five

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…..

Ark Ruffians

The dictionary defines this as “rogues who, in conjunction with watermen, robbed, and sometimes murdered, on the water, by picking a quarrel with the passengers in a boat, boarding it, plundering, stripping, and throwing them overboard.”

I’m unsure whether the author simply made this up, as there is no mention of this in any UK or US newspaper that I can find. Nearly every Internet search of the term just brings up the dictionary itself, so if this was a phrase then it wasn’t very widespread. It would be interesting though if this practice did take place, something akin to highwaymen on the rivers.