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Scrumping and bilking

November 20, 2012

In Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, he refers to Adam and Eve’s ‘scrumping episode’ and adds in a footnote for the benefit of American readers that scrumping means the crime of stealing apples, and only apples, commenting what a deliciously specific word it is. I agree, and it got me thinking as to whether there are any other equally specific words for crimes. The only one I could think of was bilk which means to run away without paying one’s taxi fare. Unlike scrump it is used transitively – you bilk the taxi-driver, or, if you are the taxi-driver, you are bilked. (Incidentally my spell-check knows bilk but not scrump.

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  1. Jams O'Donnell permalink

    How about jaywalking (US)?
    Bigamy is fairly specific, though I suppose it can be subdivided into male/female categories.
    And now I’ve started thinking about it, most crimes are pretty specific. Murder, for example, is the crime of killing another person – and only that. You can’t – legally, at least – murder a dog or a banana. Of course, there is necessarily a specific legal definition for every crime.
    Your examples are crimes of theft, which does cover a wide spectrum of offences (all now legally defined with great precision according to the Theft Acts, though scrumping and bilking are more specific than any codified offence).

    • Hi Jams. Good points. ‘Bigamy’ is very specific, but it’s not specific in contradistinction to anything – whereas ‘scrumping’ is in contradistinction to every other type of theft. I don’t think ‘murder’ is as specific as ‘scrumping’ because it says nothing about who gets murdered (other than the fact that they are human). But your comment has made me realise that there are very specific categories of murder: parricide, matricide, regicide etc.

      • Jams O'Donnell permalink

        I thought of the -cides just after I had posted the reply. A kind of esprit d’escalier (an excellent term I recently read about).

      • I know of at least one specific kind of theft, although it’s simply a compound (!): “tenter-robbing”. An ancestor of one of my friends (an amateur genealogist) was found guilty of this offence, which the records didn’t explain, but we surmised was the theft of dyed cloth from tenters.


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