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The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: assay

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– to commence; to try it.

Possibly derived from the phrase “to take the assay or essay,” i.e., to taste wine to prove that it is not poisoned. It may have been brought into use by counterfeit coiners.

Red Wine
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  • Barrère, Albert and Charles G. Leland. A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon, and Cant. [London]: The Ballantyne Press, 1889.
  • Matsell, George W. Vocabulum: Or, the Rogue’s Lexicon.. New York: George W. Matsell, 1859.
  • Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary of the Underworld. New York: Bonanza Books, 1961.

Note: See “Cant: The Language of the Underworld” to learn more about the background of the American Malefactor’s Dictionary.

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