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A.Word.A.Daywith Anu Garg
noun: A thief, especially one who steals from people’s pockets.
From the practice of cutting purses hanging from one’s clothing. Earliest documented use: 1362.
In earlier times, people had their purses suspended from a waistband or a girdle. Hence the need to cut a purse. Then came the innovation of a pouch sewn onto one’s clothing: a pocket. So a cutpurse evolved into a pickpocket. The earliest documented use of the former is from 1362, the latter from 1591. If the English language has a PICKpocket and a cutPURSE, why not a pickpurse? Good question. It does, since 1385. And all three are tosspot words.
Many years ago, in India, I was going home for the summer after my first year studying in an engineering school. The train stopped at a station and a few men boarded the compartment. One of them helpfully suggested that there were many pickpockets around and people should check that their purses and wallets were safe. Instinctively, my hand went to my pocket. The wallet was where it should have been. I felt assured for the remainder of the journey. When I got up to get off at my station, I realized I was a little lighter. Mr. Cautionpassenger and his accomplices had accomplished what they had boarded the train for.
Maybe they needed the money more than I did.
I’m a little wiser now. Since then I have traveled in 15 countries and that was the only instance in which I had my pocket picked, touch wood!
“There’s no avoiding the suggestion that the villains were Atlantic’s corporate cutpurses.”
David Kirby; How a Sound Found Its Soul; The Wall Street Journal (New York); Nov 16, 2013.
See more usage examples of cutpurse in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:Pardon him, Theodotus; he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature. -George Bernard Shaw, writer, Nobel laureate (26 Jul 1856-1950)