Just Peachy!

I’m minding my own business, reading along in that delightful tome, “English Society in the 18th Century,” when the author, Professor Roy Porter, quotes Macheath from The Beggar’s Opera as saying, “That Jeremy Twitcher should ‘peach me, I own surprised me.” Professor Porter goes on to explain that The Beggar’s Opera is a satire of the Earl of Sandwich’s betrayal of his former “companion-in-rakery,” John Wilkes.

That little apostrophe before “peach” precipitated a light bulb moment for me. I’ve occasionally had my Regency characters use the verb “to peach,” meaning… to give incriminating evidence against, to inform against, to betray. I used the verb as in the following examples from the OED:

1785    F. Grose Classical Dict. Vulgar Tongue at Gab,   To blow the gab, to confess, or peach.
1816    Trial Berkeley Poachers 34   An oath not to peach upon each other.
1847    G. P. R. James Convict xxxvii,   He might have got off himself if he had peached against others.

I like the informal Britishness of the word, the way it hints that an earl who uses it was once a first former much concerned with the requirements of loyalty to his schoolfellows. A cool word…but I never associated it with “to impeach,” from whence it sprang. How I missed this connection when I know peaches are not native to Britain, and were not grown there to speak of in the Georgian period, is beyond me..

So I didn’t connect these dots, but I have now. Just please don’t peach on me, ‘kay?

 

 

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