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By the time slang has been written down, it has been in use some time and has, in some cases, become almost mainstream.The first books containing slang also appeared around that time: Robert Copland's The hye way to the Spytlell hous was a dialogue in verse between Copland and the porter of St Bartholomew's Hospital, which included Thieves' Cant; and in 1566, Thomas Harman's A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursitors, vulgarly called vagabonds was published.

Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo (see euphemism).

It is often used to identify with one's peers and, although it may be common among young people, it is used by people of all ages and social groups.

The Caveat contained stories of vagabond life, a description of their society and techniques, a taxonomy of rogues, and a short canting dictionary which was later reproduced in other works. It remained the predominant work of its kind for much of the 18th century, until the arrival in 1785 of The Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Captain Francis Grose, which ran to more than five expanded editions.

Grose's book was eventually superseded by John Camden Hotten's Slang Dictionary in 1859.

Slang is also used to create an identity or sense of belonging and a number of occupations have their own slang; most notably the armed forces, referred to as Forces or Service slang; and the construction industry. The introduction acknowledges that slang is an ever-changing language with new slang terms emerging all the time.

It also recognises that some service slang has made its way into civilian sometimes 'cor blimey' (archaic).knackered, meaning "exhausted"), others are restricted to smaller regions, even to small geographical areas.The nations of the United Kingdom, which are England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all have their own slang words, as does London.It is commonly believed that cant was developed from Romany but the Winchester Confessions, a pamphlet published in 1616, clearly distinguishes between Gypsy and Cant words.Sometimes the purpose of slang is to cause offence, insults such as wanker or gobshite for example; and sometimes the purpose is to prevent it by substituting a slang word for the offensive one, berk (rhyming slang for cunt) for example.Not only is the slang used by British expats, but some of these terms are incorporated into other countries' everyday slang, such as in Australia, Canada and Ireland.British slang has been the subject of many books, including a seven volume dictionary published in 1889.London slang has many varieties, the best known of which is rhyming slang.English-speaking nations of the former British Empire may also use this slang to a certain extent, but also incorporate their own slang words to reflect their different cultures.Chiefly associated with cockney speech spoken in the East End of London, words are replaced with a phrase which rhymes.For example: plates of meat for "feet", or twist and twirl for "girl".

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