Flash language

Australian convict and colonial slang and terminology.

This is a brief list of terms and slang from the convict era. Most of these words are taken directly from James Hardy Vaux’s ‘A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language’, published in 1819. Other words and terms have been gleaned from early Australian newspapers and other sources.

  • Back-jump : A back window
  • Back-slang : to enter or come out of a house by the back-door ; or, to go
  • a circuitous or private way through the streets, in order to avoid any particular place in the direct road, is termed back-slanging it.
  • Back-slum : A back door
  • Banded : Hungry
  • Beef: Stop thief! To raise the hue and cry after a person to get them stopped.
  • Bolt: To run away suddenly.
  • Blowen : A prostitute; a woman who cohabits with a man.
  • Broads: Cards
  • Bushranger: A highwayman, preying on travellers, isolated homesteads and inns.
  • Certificate of freedom: Issued to a convict on the completion of their sentence.
  • Charley: Watchman or policeman.
  • Cove: Man
  • Crib : House
  • Currency lad or lass: The first generations of people born in Australia to convicts and colonists; also known as natives.
  • Daylights: Eyes
  • Feeder : Spoon
  • Flash: Fancy or showy
  • Flesh-bag : Shirt
  • Glim : A candle
  • Glim-stick : A candle stick
  • Gun: a view; look; observation; or taking notice; as, there is a strong gun at us, means, we are strictly observed. To gun anything, is to look at or examine it.
  • Hank: to have a person at a good hank, is to have made any contract with him very advantageous to yourself; or to be able from some prior cause to command or use him just as you please; to have the benefit of his purse or other services, in fact, upon your own terms.
  • Knowledge box: Head
  • Lag : A convict under sentence of transportation.
  • Lamps: Eyes
  • Mechanic: A tradesperson: carpenters, masons, metalsmiths etc.
  • Mollisher : Woman
  • Native: See currency lad and lass.
  • Nibbed : Taken into custody
  • Nose : A thief who becomes an evidence against his accomplices; also, a person who seeing one or more suspicious characters in the streets, makes a point of watching them in order to frustrate any attempt they may make, or to cause their apprehension; also, a spy or informer of any description.
  • Patter : To talk.
  • Phiz: Face
  • Pipes : Boots
  • Rum : Good, opposite to Queer.
  • Sack : A pocket; to sack anything is to pocket it.
  • Sneaksman: A man or boy who robs houses or shops
  • Slavey : A servant of either sex.
  • Steamer : Tobacco pipe.
  • Transportation: Sending a convict to serve their sentence in the Australian colonies.
  • Ticket of leave: A form of parole for convicts.
  • Titter : A young woman or girl.
  • Traps: police officers or runners, constables of any description
  • Weed: Tobacco

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