barrow man

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Short for wheel-barrow man

Noun[edit]

barrow man (plural barrow men)

  1. Alternative form of wheel-barrow man
    • 1922, Quaint Corners in Philadelphia:
      As the term "barrow men" is all but incomprehensible to readers of the present day, it may be pertinent to explain they were convicts who were hired out to do paving and similar work on the city streets. The jail at that time was at the southeast corner of Sixth and Walnut Streets. The five "barrow men," it appears, while at work on Market Street near Thirteenth accidentally discovered a drover who had in his possession a large sum of money just received from a sale of live stock.
    • 1926, Joseph Jackson, America's most historic highway, Market street, Philadelphia, page 286:
      In those days convicts from the prison at Sixth and Walnut streets were taken out to mend the highways, do grading, and other similar tasks. They were popularly known as barrow- men.
    • 1980, Martin B. Miller, Dread and Terror:
      Essentially, the first reform took the "barrow men" off the streets and placed them within the prison walls, to labor there at the pleasure of the keeper/agent.
    • 2006, Susie Dent -, The Language Report, page 72:
      With late eighteenth-century prisons bursting at the seams, a new system had to be developed. 1787 saw the 'first fleet' arrive at the penal colony of Botany Bay, and transportation, the original use of lagging (today meaning any sentence), lasted for sixty years. Where lagging dues were concerned, the convicts- lags or barrow men (those awaiting their ship did hard labour- took a punning botanica ...
      .

References[edit]

Grose, Francis, The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue / Lexicon Balatronicum: A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence: altered and enlarged (London; 1811)