Cant (language)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Cant is an example of a cryptolect, a characteristic or secret language used only by members of a group, often used to conceal the meaning from those outside the group.

The original meaning of "cant" was a secret language supposedly used by rogues and vagabonds in Elizabethan England. This Thieves' Cant was a feature of popular pamphlets and plays particularly between 1590 and 1615, but continued to feature in literature through the 18th century. There are questions about how genuinely the literature reflected vernacular use in the criminal underworld.

In modern times "Cant" is used sometimes to refer to Shelta (alternatively known as Sheldru, Gammon, or The Cant), the cryptolectic language of Irish Travellers based on Irish Gaelic and English, indeed the word Cant is believed to be derived from the Irish word "Caint", to speak. In Scotland, it refers to the mix of Romani, Scottish Gaelic and Scots used by Scottish Gypsies and Travellers. Scottish Highland Travellers also used a form of Gaelic backslang known as Beurla Regaird.

An example of a cant language which has been introduced widely into the mainstream is the Polari language which was used extensively in the BBC radio series Round the Horne during the 1960s.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cant (language)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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