Today is Talk Like A Convict Day!

Several people have contacted us recently to alert us to a great new article about Convict Australia over on the (always-interesting and informative) Atlas Obscura. The article is about the “Flash” language that was used by convicts — a kind of “thieves cant” — and its collation into a book published in 1819. This was Australia’s first “dictionary.” The article’s a great read and we’d definitely suggest all Convicts & Cthulhu fans scoot over and read it.

The topic of convict slang and the “Flash” language are both mentioned in the core Convicts & Cthulhu book (see the box on the top of page 25 of the C&C 1e book). There you can find a few examples of terms from the dictionary as well as a link to the FREE copy of original book. We haven’t looked at the recently-published “updated” version of the book that’s mentioned in the AO article, but from the publishers website it seems to take the original 1819 text and add some historical footnotes about documented usage of some words. For gaming purposes, we’d suggest the free version — but then again we just like free stuff.

Liven up your next C&C game with some convict slang!  Why just have your credulous NPCs fooled by a run-of-the-mill conman peddling a tale when they could be the victim of a LETTER-RACKET (see below)?

LETTER-RACKET: going about to respectable houses with a letter or
statement, detailing some case of extreme distress, as shipwreck,
sufferings by fire, etc.; by which many benevolent, but credulous,
persons, are induced to relieve the fictitious wants of the imposters,
who are generally men, or women, of genteel address, and unfold a
plausible tale of affliction.

(from A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language, 
James Hardy Vaux, 1819.)

One response to “Today is Talk Like A Convict Day!

  • Graham

    I remember reading of a more elaborate version of the ‘letter game’. That version focused specifically on the shipwreck story. The participants were people who could pass as former sailors.

    The letter in that version was a quite elaborate affair, giving the name of the ship and where it was lost. It also listed the names and (forged) signatures of real notables who had supposedly contributed monies to the relief of the shipwrecked sailors so that they could travel to another port and find employment. Most importantly it provided a seemingly legal protection against charges of vagrancy and empowered those shown the letter to provide every assistance to those carrying it.

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