Hurling insults and widening one’s vocabulary

How dull it was to view the unrest on our fair capital’s streets yesterday outside the Canon’s Gait, and how depressing to hear the lack of originality or creativity in the verbal clashes. My own daughter remarked upon the news reportage and began a discussion regarding the language. She suggested ‘damned hawkabite’ as a better riposte. My brows were raised, I have to admit. However, she reminded me about Mr Richard Carpenter’s rather fine Ghosts of Motley Hall and I understood where a girl of twelve had received her education in the insults and gang names of past centuries. This led me, dear reader, to a rather fine edition of Notes & Queries of 1897, where the origin of the word was considered.

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