Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day Twenty-Eight

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…..

Birds of a Feather

The meaning given by the dictionary is “rogues of the same gang”, so this is one of those phrases that has for some reason remained in usage over the centuries, although it’s not just about rogues and criminals now. Although, perhaps, the TV comedy Birds of a Feather perhaps did revert to the rogues usage. The phrase dates back to at least the sixteenth century and it was used widely and commonly in print, unlike some of the other phrases in this dictionary which I still wonder if the author made up.

The Bath Chronicle posted a long epistle (their word, not mine) to ‘a friend in the country’ in December 1774, which included the lines:

“What a strange revolution – we us’d all together, to flock to one place, like birds of a feather. And pass the long evening, in chat or at play, when a thousand soft amorous things one might say”.