Selected Flash Terms
Bottom - Stamina.
Claret - Blood.
Daffy - Gin.
Dominoes – Teeth, especially if discoloured.
Domino Box – The mouth and teeth.
Drawing the Cork - To draw blood, to give a bloody nose.
Facer - A blow in the face.
The Fancy - Collectively, comprised those who followed sporting events, particularly prizefighting.
Fib – (verb) To strike, beat, or deliver blows, 1665. Hence, Fibbing.
Flash - The slang, or sporting argot, used by this social set.
Gammon - plausible talk, humbug.
Gluttony – Fortitude in taking punishment.
Hell - A gaming house.
Ivories - Teeth.
Knowing One[s] – Person[s] professing to be knowledgeable on sporting intelligence (the odds men).
Level – Knock person down. Leveller – A knock-down blow.
Milling - Bareknuckle prizefighting. A term firmly appropriated by the Fancy as a verb to denote fighting, or as a noun signifying a beating.
Rhino - Money.
Ruffian – ‘A fellow regardless […] of the science […] who hits away’.
Serve Out – To punish, i.e. punish your opponent in the ring.
Settler - Something that settles an antagonist in an encounter or argument; a crushing or finishing blow
Shifting - Shuffling to evade blows. Somtimes implied running away.
Although probably born in Ireland, Pierce Egan (c. 1772-1849) was raised in London. Apart from sports journalism and editorship, Egan’s principal publications were the Boxiana series, which comprised ‘sketches’ of pugilism (1812-29), and a controversial metropolitan tour, Life in London (1821). Egan was ‘a valued member of sporting and drinking clubs. A self-educated man who knew the ephemera of his day. A man of the underworld of literature and journalism’.
Egan’s use of sporting and fashionable argot, especially those terms peculiar to members of the Fancy, is a pervasive feature of his writing. This trait would excite widespread popularity and censure when it claimed such prominence in Life in London.
Blurring of identity featured prominently in Life in London, disguise forming an integral part of the low-life sprees and the general flow of infiltrators between different social spheres. This reinforces Egan’s affinity with theatrical performance. Containing slang dialogue, and depicting reprobate behaviour, this text, like the Boxiana series, courted censure and controversy.
Byron writing to Moore (1814): ‘Half of the Scotch and Lake troubadours, are spoilt by living in little circles and petty societies. London and the world is the only place to take the conceit out of a man – in the milling phrase’.
(Byron’s Letters and Journals)
Hen Pearce ('the Game Chicken'); Prizefighting Champion 1805-7.
Defeated John Gully to win 'the World Championship'.
Died of consumption 1809.
'Can Achilles be compared to the Game Chicken? Pshaw! Hen would have threshed Mars himself'. (Egan's Book of Sports)