The scene: a small-town café somewhere in America

Waitress: How can I help ya, Hon?

Young Man: I’m gut-foundered, so I’d like a couple of cackling-farts and some rough-peck.

What does the waitress say next?

Naturally she asks him how he’d like his eggs cooked.

The young man was using Thieves' Cant, a type of slang used by thieves and beggars in England from the Elizabethan era until the mid-1800s. In fact inmates in one English prison revived the practice in the 2009, using an Elizabethan form of Thieves' Cant to confuse the guards.

Various forms of argot or secret languages have been used for centuries by disenfranchised sections of society to hide their meaning and protect themselves from the uninitiated. However, when a word is used often enough its meaning tends to become known. It often becomes part of the common language, although sometimes the meaning can morph somewhat. In Thieves' Cant “to screw” meant the same thing it means today, however “a screw” meant a strumpet or common prostitute. Prison guards are now commonly called “screws” by the inmates, but the etymology for that dates to 1812 and is supposedly a reference to the key the guards carried.

Some words which are now in common usage with essentially unaltered meanings: Filch still means to steal and a Fence is still a receiver of stolen goods. Other terms are seldom-used or have disappeared from use altogether, such as: Rum-Mawnd—one that counterfeits himself a fool; Son of Apollo—A scholar; Son of Venus—A lover of women.

The following is a short list of Thieves' Cant terms to work into insults with perhaps a “Sirrah” or “Wench” thrown into the sentence for good measure (such as “Sirrah, you are the veriest Flogging-cully!”).

Beard Splitter

Whore master


A Pocky (Poxy) Whore


A clap or pox


An old Letcher, who, to stimulate himself to Venery, causes himself to be whipp'd with Rods

Forman of the Jury

One that engrosses all the Talk to himself




A fulsom, beastly, nasty Woman.


A very lewd woman


A profligate, lewd fellow

Horn Mad

Stark staring mad because Cuckolded

Jingle Brains

A Maggot-pated fellow


A lewd Spark or Debauchee.

Shot 'twixt Wind and Water

Clap't or poxed


The Pox




Farting and coughing at the same time


Giddy-headed, hare-brained.


A Whore, also a Tinker's traveling Wench.
Woolly-Crown A soft-headed Fellow.

 Answering Wertperch's node challenge for Thieves' Cant

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