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Stephen Hart’s Canting Lexicon, & More

A very quick post, because I’m running  against several deadlines but wanted to at least add something here…

For those interested in the “rogues’ cant” of Georgian England–something that interests me, though it’ll only get a certain amount of use in my ongoing project (since most of the characters aren’t criminals)–Stephen Hart has the best and most accessible canting lexicon index I’ve managed to find online. He has a bunch of pages of canting words and corresponding definitions arranged by topic or theme. The canting word lists are accessible from here. It’s a very useful resource for anyone in a position like mine, who’d like to look up a specific bit of slang or cant for something specific, but doesn’t care to dig out the PDF of one or another canting dictionary and search for ten minutes.

Yes you can.

Hart has also compiled a proper book containing the same indexed contents of several Georgian canting lexicons, but which is leavened with entertaining historical lecture and more details on the period. Now that’s a book I wouldn’t mind getting in print, I think, when I’ve a little more spare cash to burn, as he seems to be pretty knowledgeable and full of fun anecdotes from the period.

On his own biographical page, he also manages to put very succinctly what I find fascinating about the Georgian Era, in a way that I think makes it easy to understand why I see parallels between that era in English history, and recent South Korean history:

The 18th century in Britain is a fascinating period where the remains of an agricultural economy hit the rotating blades of the industrial revolution. Stuff flies in all directions and it never really settles down until the until later in the 19th century.

That’s pretty much what happened to South Korea during the 20th century, but also throw in a couple of large-scale wars, and full-scale modern capitalism, smart phones, and pop music. Sure, there are modern hospitals in Seoul and there’s internet connectivity and, you know, all kinds of other differences; of course there are.

But my point is that the older order his the rotating blades of modernity–and especially of the industrial revolution–recently enough that stuff is still flying in all directions in Korea, the way it still was in Britain even well into the 19th century. In Korea, it probably won’t settle until at least sometime much later in the 21st century, because while societies change at the speed of birth, cultures change at the speed of death.

I haven’t checked out Hart’s novel, but it seems to be a rogues’ adventure set in the 1720s, which is described in a review on as being a mix of “organized crime, Lovecraft-ian black magic and budding romance, set in Georgian London in 1725” which appeals to me, at least…

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