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Archive for August, 2013

Policeman at  Brighton Pride 2012

Policeman at Brighton Pride 2012 (Photo credit: http://heatherbuckley.co.uk)

From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

Nibble: to take, or steal. Nibbler, a petty thief.

(I like it. Gives the idea of a small, unobtrusive movement. Very apropos. Fun to imagine someone hailing a policeman, “help Officer, that man nibbled my cell phone!”)

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Read the first chapter on wattpad

Read the first chapter on wattpad

Hi Everyone,

Some good news.

First, my short story/prologue, My Brave Girl now has over 100 reads on Wattpad. I’m gratified to see that so many people are enjoying it.

My short story, Francesca and the Baron’s Son has 44 reads and the first chapter of Lady Blade, which I just put up 6 days ago is already at 36 reads.

They are free to read so check them out if you haven’t already:

My Brave Girl

Francesca and the Baron’s Son

Lady Blade – Chapter One

Second, and I don’t want to jinx it here, but I’ve got a publisher reading Lady Blade as we speak. Fingers crossed.

Thanks everyone!

C. J.

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

Newgate, the old city gate and prison

Newgate, the old city gate and prison (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Newgate Knocker: the term given to the lock of hair which costermongers and thieves usually twist back towards the ear. The shape is supposed to resemble the knocker on the prisoners’ door at Newgate a resemblance that would appear to carry a rather unpleasant suggestion to the wearer. Sometimes termed a Cobbler’s Knot, or Cow-Lick, which see.

Cow-Lick: the term given to the lock of hair which costermongers and thieves usually twist forward from the ear; a large greasy curl upon the cheek, seemingly licked into shape. The opposite of Newgate Knocker, which see.

(I couldn’t find any pictures of the hairstyles, but neither seems very appealing, I must say. Here is a website that shows the actual knocker taken from the prison when it was demolished. The image doesn’t really help imagine the hairstyle though.

Newgate was a notorious prison in London. It was originally located at the site of Newgate, a gate in the Roman London Wall. The gate/prison was rebuilt in the 12th century, and demolished in 1777. The prison was extended and rebuilt many times, and remained in use for over 700 years, from 1188 to 1902.)

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

Halfpenny tokens of Edward Ensor, Grocers’ Arm...

Halfpenny tokens of Edward Ensor, Grocers’ Arms, 1660 (Photo credit: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery)

Newmarket: in tossing halfpence, when it is agreed that the first toss shall be decisive, the play is said to be Newmarket.

(Curious as to how this “tossing halfpence” was played I found this:

On the hearing, it was proved that on the day in question the appellant and a number of other persons were seen by two police constables upon the highway at Gomersal and that the appellant was tossing up halfpence of the ordinary currency of the realm and that he and other persons were betting upon the number of heads or tails the halfpence came down and that money passed between him and others on the result of such tossing.

I guess it’s a quick game if you’re playing Newmarket and the first toss take all.)

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

Getting introduced

Getting introduced (Photo credit: Andrew Huff)

Newgate Fringe or Frill: the collar of beard worn under the chin; so called from its occupying the position of the rope when Jack Ketch operates. Anther name for it is a Tyburn Collar.

(For those who missed it, Jack Ketch is the slang term for a public executioner – after a man by that name who was terrible at his job. Newgate was a notorious prison in London and Tyburn was the location of most public hangings until they were moved to Newgate.

I’m guessing a Newgate Fringe is along the lines of the modern chin strap beard, only bushier.)

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

A Lacoste tennis shirt, from the 2006 spring c...

A Lacoste tennis shirt, from the 2006 spring collection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Narp: a shirt. Scotch.

(“I cotton to that Narp with those Clamshells.” I like that shirt with those shoes.)

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

English: 4 of spades.

English: 4 of spades. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ned Stokes: the four of spades. North Hants. Se Gentleman’s Magazine for 1791, p. 141.

(I looked up Ned Stokes. Turns out that Edward Stokes was a wealthy and flamboyant American who fell in love with Josie Mansfield.  She however was mistress to Stokes best friend and patron, the robber baron “Jubilee” Jim Fisk. The two men quarreled over Josie and things grew ugly when they took each other to court, accusing each other of blackmail over the fair lady. Finally, Ned ambushed Fisk at a hotel and shot him on January 6, 1872. Fisk died and Stokes was accused and tried. He was sentenced to death, but an appeal got it down to manslaughter and he did 6 years in Sing Sing.

So why is the four of spades called Ned Stokes? Well, I found this:

But it’s the Four of Spades that’s known as the “Devil’s bedpost“.  In Cartomancy (fortune-telling done with a normal deck of playing cards rather than a Tarot deck) the Four of Spades is said to foretell an imminent major setback, an unexpected set of circumstances, a great misfortune.

I’m guessing that the name refers to “Jubilee” Jim Fisk’s great misfortune in meeting Ned Stokes or introducing Ned to his mistress.

But the naming of playing cards goes farther back than that. I also found this:

Back in 1392, King Charles VI of France listed playing cards as a household expense. By 1397, there was an edict prohibiting people from playing certain games on working days.  What’s even more interesting is that specific cards are mentioned in the edict.  For centuries now, some cards have enjoyed alternate names, including, but not limited to the Four of Hearts (Hob Collingwood), the Ace of Diamonds (Earl of Cork), the Nine of Diamonds (Curse of Scotland), the Six of Hearts (Grace card), the Queen of Clubs (Queen Bess), the Four of Spades (Ned Stokes) and the Jack of Clubs (a Sunderland Fitter).

When cards were first printed, back in the 1430s, the standard suits were Hearts (Herz/Rot), Bells (Schellen), Leaves (Grün), and Acorns (Eichel).  In fact, to this day, these cards can still be found in Eastern and Southeastern German decks today for such games as Skat, Scharfkopf and Doppelkopf.  However, the four suits most commonly used in most of the world today originated in French around 1480.  By the 16th century, the standard design in England is the one we know today as a deck of playing cards.

But it’s the Four of Spades that’s known as the “Devil’s bedpost“.

There’s the folk story of how the Four of Spades got its name.

As the story goes, one Sunday afternoon, a group of men met secretly — as they often did — to play a game of cards. Back in the day, any recreational activity on a Sunday –especially gambling — was forbidden. But young men being as young men are, they took no heed of this and played cards anyway. Just as the cards were dealt out, a stranger appeared and asked if he could join in. Dressed in fancy, the young men agreed to let him play, all the while hoping the new card player would wager, and lose, large sums of money.

When it was the stranger’s turn to deal, he began shuffling the cards when he accidentally dropped the Four of Spades.  He bent down to pick up the card and one of the young men sitting next to him glanced down to where the card had fallen.  To his horror, he saw the ebony edge of a cloven hoof. The young man jumped up and shouted to his friends that the stranger had a cloven hoof! 

With that, the young men realized that the stranger who had joined them in their game of cards was none other than the Devil.  Terrified, they fled the room, vowing never again to go against the rules of the Sabbath.

While there’s no indication how old this bit of folklore is, one could assume that it may be as old as the phrase “Devil’s Bones” and “Devil’s Prayerbook” and “Devil’s Book” which date back to the Poor Robin Almanac of the 1670s. It was certainly an established phrase back in the early 1800s in Captain Frederick Chamier‘s time.

And so there’s a 100-year window in which the phrase Devil’s bedpost could have come about when speaking about the Four of Spades.  Unfortunately, Idiomation was unable to pinpoint the exact date for this phrase.)

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Blue Train Books Historical Fiction Section

Blue Train Books Historical Fiction Section (Photo credit: Blue Train Books)

I found a disturbing article today about writing historical fiction.  The Ugliest Word in Historical Fiction: Anachronism

So apparently after pouring your heart and soul into writing a book for years, then struggling years more to find an agent and publisher, its likely some historical fiction aficionado will pick up some detail inappropriate for your historical period that you missed in your exhaustive research and shout “Anachronism! Anachronism!” to the social media world.

Yikes! As if this job wasn’t hard enough already.

I’m sure there are anachronisms in my writing despite my years of research. Unless you have a time machine and can check things out personally there are bound to be errors. Even if you do have a time machine, how good are your powers of observation? And even if you get thing right, they might well seem wrong to our ears.

So to anyone who has a burning desire to wheedle out errors and shout them to the world, please don’t read Lady Blade when I finally get it published. It’s meant to be enjoyed. It’s meant to introduce you to characters that I love and a world I find fascinating. It’s meant to explore concepts of honor and right and wrong. My intent was never to accurately display my knowledge of a certain historical period – although I tried to do that as well. And if there is anyone out there with a time machine who has recently visited the 1720s, I’d love to buy you dinner and pick your brain.

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

Tramps in boxcar playing cards

Tramps in boxcar playing cards (Photo credit: amphalon)

Needy: a nightly lodger, or tramp.

Needy Mizzler: a shabby person; a tramp who runs away without paying for his lodgings.

(I love Needy Mizzler. There is a beautiful musical quality to it. But then, I might feel differently if I were renting out rooms.)

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From the Dictionary of Nautical, University, Gypsy and Other Vulgar Tongues first published in 1859.

William and Mary on a guinea of 1691

William and Mary on a guinea of 1691 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neds: guineas. Half-Neds: half guineas.

(Hmmm, I wonder why? Who was this Ned? Ned is short for Edward isn’t it? But there were no pictures of Edwards on guineas. There were Georges and James, a William and a Mary, but no Ned.  Interesting.

I did always wonder about the name “guinea” though, since it seems so un-English. Here’s what I found out:

“Guinea” was not an official name for the coin, but much of the gold used to produce the early coins came from Guinea in Africa.

So I guess Guinea itself is a slang term. We have a slang term for a slang term.)

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