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Nubbing-cheat

Pronounced /ˈnʌbɪŋ tʃiːt/Help with pronunciation

This is a defunct thieves cant term for the gallows, first recorded at the end of the seventeenth century.

I will shew you a way to empty the pocket of a queer cull, without any danger of the nubbing cheat.

Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding, 1745. Cull is a fool, dupe or sucker.

It’s formed from two other obsolete words: nub, originally East Anglian dialect meaning “neck” (which is probably related to the sense of “protuberance” and to our surviving use as “the gist or point of a story”) and cheat, another item of thieves’ cant for any sort of thing or article.

In similar vein, the nubbing-cove is the hangman (using cove in the ancient sense of “man” that still survives in some places) and nubbing-ken is the court house, a name that indicated the likely fate of anyone who ended up there (ken is yet another bit of slang from the world of vagabonds, thieves and beggars meaning “house”).

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 28 Mar. 1998

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-nub1.htm
Last modified: 28 March 1998.