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Carnival slang

Posted by R. Berg on March 21, 2001

In Reply to: Moniker posted by Newgirl on March 21, 2001

: : : Where does the word 'moniker' come from? (As in 'put your moniker on this(signature))

: : One entry found for moniker.
: : Main Entry: mon·i·ker
: : Variant(s): also mon·ick·er /'mä-ni-k&r/
: : Function: noun
: : Etymology: probably from Shelta (language of Irish itinerants) munnik, modification of Irish ainm
: : Date: 1851

: I'm Irish and I've never heard of this (though admittedly I'm not an itinerant). Is this an American expression?

It looks like it. From H. L. Mencken, chapter "American Slang" in "The American Language," first published 1919:

"The line separating the criminal argots from ordinary slang is hard to draw, and in certain areas the two are mixed. Consider, for example, the language of showfolks. . . . on the lower levels, as with traveling carnivals, it coalesces with that of hoboes, Gypsies and thieves. . . . there are many circus and carnival terms that are identical with criminal terms, e.g., . . . 'mouthpiece,' a lawyer; 'to lam,' to depart hastily; . . . 'moniker,' a person's name or nickname . . . and the various names for money, ranging from 'ace' for a $1 bill to 'grand' for $1,000."