Victorian era criminals, especially those from the East End of London (one of the worst and most crime infested regions of the City) had a distinctive slang, that allowed them to recognize each other and help conceal their intentions from the authorities and their intended victims…
A few examples:
The Family= The Victorian criminal fraternity.
On the Game= Thieving.
All Gay= Used by lookouts to indicate that the coast is clear
Ramp= A violent crime or mugging
Rampsman = A mugger
Angler= A thief who uses a hook tied to a stick to steal from open windows
Smasher= Someone who passes counterfeit money
Arab= A street urchin. Also, “street arab.”
Hunter= A street robber
Dragsman= A robber of vehicles or carriages.
Badger= A riverside thief who throws his victims into the Thames after overpowering or killing and robbing them.
Macer= A conman or cheat
Duffer= Someone who sells stolen goods, also someone who sells fake jewelry.
Bit Faker= A crafter of counterfeit coins
Palmer= A shoplifter
Blower= An informer
Nobblers= Violent robber
Punisher= Hired muscle
Bludger= Hired muscle known for using a club or bludgeon
Esclops (or slops), crushers, rozzers, pigs, and peelers= Various names for the police
Mob= A Gang
Flash-House= Headquarters for a mob or a Duffer
Lurkers= Lookouts for a flash-house
Screwsman= A Burglar who specializes in opening safes
Mutchers= Pickpocket who robs drunks
Tooler= A particularly skilled pickpocket
Broadsman= A cardsharp; anyone who cheats at cards for profit.
Mobsmen= Someone who work with a mob
Life-Preserver= A sap or blackjack
Barker= A pistol or revolver
Cutter= Tool to cut holes in woodwork
Jemmy= A small crowbar
Chiv= A knife. Used as a verb, it means “to slash.”
Lists= Strips of cloth that the tools are wrapped in to facilitate easy disposal if a search by police seems likely.
Jack-in-the-box= A special tool designed to pry open all but the toughest safe.
Crow= A lookout for a cracksman
Canary= A female lookout for a cracksmen
Cop= To arrest, capture, or ensnare.
Copper: A penny or, by extension, a police constable (whose buttons resembled pennies).
Buer= Professional (full time) prostitute or streetwalker
Ladybird= Professional (full time) prostitute or streetwalker
Troopers= Professional (full time) prostitute or streetwalker
Dollymop= Part time prostitute
Toffer= High end prostitute
Toff= A well to do gentleman
Cab= A brothel.
Snoozers= Criminals who steal the luggage of hotel guests while they are out or sleeping.
Skinner= Usually a woman, who lures children into an alley and strips them of their clothes to sell.
Caddee= An especially lowly underling or assistant to a thief
Chokey= Police custody or prison
Dry Room= A cell, or a prison as a whole.
Scurf= Leader of a gang.
John Darbie= Handcuffs
Esclop (pronounced “slop”)= A policeman
The Factory= Scotland Yard.
The Eye= A place where a fence hides stolen goods
Flash Notes= Crudely fashioned paper designed to resemble bank notes; counterfeit bank notes.
Gagger= Con man specializing in hard-luck stories
Gift= Stolen property sold cheaply.
Hempen Fever= Hanged
Kicking the Clouds= Hanged
Leaping at a Daisy= Hanged
Hustling: Robbing In pairs, one man holding the victim while the other robs him.
Jack= A detective
A Peach= A detective
Fitter= A locksmith specializing in making burglar tools.
Kate= A skeleton key.
Kidsman= A recruiter of gangs of child thieves
Leaving Shop= Pawnbroking without a license.
Cosh= A blackjack
Macer= A cheat.
Mil Tonian= A policeman.
Mud Lark= A scavenger along the Thames.
Mug-Hunter= A street robber.
Neddy= A life-preserver.
Old Bird= An experienced thief.
Out of Twig= In disguise; undercover.
Peter= A safe.
Pipe= A private detective. A reference to Sherlock Holmes?
Rook= A small crowbar or “Jemmy”
Readers= The marked cards used by card cheats
Smashers= Passers of counterfeit bills
Snide Pitching= Th act of passing counterfeit money.
Spike= A workhouse. Where the Destitute often wind up.
Spring the Rattle= To call the police or otherwise raise an alarm. Referencing the Rattles formerly carried by the Police.
Stand the Racket= To take the rap for a fellow thief.
Tiddlywinker= A cheat.
Timber Merchant= A match-seller on the street.
Tom Sawyer= Rhyming slang for a lawyer.
Tombstone= A pawn ticket.
Twirls= Skeleton keys.
Under and Over= a swindle.
Vampsman= A robber
Vamp= A robbery.
Virtue Rewarded:= Taken away in a police van