Posted by Vanessa Carr on May 29, 2003
I wondered where the word 'rozzers' for policemen came from, and
the OED provided an earliest definition of 1893:
A policeman, a detective.
1893 P. H. Emerson Signor Lippo xviii. 87 If the rozzers was to
him in bona clobber they'd take him for a gun.
The use of the word 'bona' made me wonder if the 1893 reference
was a Victorian version of Polari, a gay slang system that I'd heard
of in use in the 1950s and 60s Britain, but not so early as this.
However, I had been recently reading about the gay codes used by
Oscar Wilde in the early 1890's (such as green chrysanthemum buttonholes
to signify homosexuality), and the existence of polari in that decade
would be logical.
So my questions are these:
Did Polari slang exist in London in 1893?
Did 'rozzers' originate as a gay slang word for policemen?
Do you have any further information about the text this quotation derives from?
Thanks for your time.