The Canting Crew is an informal name for a group of Ankh-Morpork beggars in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Too anarchic for the Beggars' Guild, which tends to constrain them with rules, they frequently beg from it themselves, and often come away successful, due to their being heroes to certain guild members. Members of the group may often be found beneath Ankh-Morpork's Misbegot Bridge and they are frequently, though not always, accompanied by the talking dog Gaspode. They have also been accompanied by Death (in Soul Music) whom the group called (for reasons unknown) 'Mr Scrub'. Death's presence was described as enhancing the group's earning power when, on being given money, he is referred to as '..the Grateful Death' (a play on the band, The Grateful Dead). Pratchett has taken the name of this group from a 1699 work by the pseudonymous B. E. Gentleman, who published a glossary of the language of the classes of people who would use cant (jargon). He gave it the unambiguous title of A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew. In fact, not leave any possibility of doubt the full title was: A new dictionary of the canting crew in its several tribes of gypsies, beggers, thieves, cheats &c., with an addition of some proverbs, phrases, figurative speeches &c. : useful for all sorts of people (especially foreigners) to secure their money and preserve their lives ; besides very diverting and entertaining being wholly new.
It seems that B E Gentleman's intention was to make the secret language used by underworld classes available to all, in order that law-abiding folk might be able to protect themselves from whatever criminal activity the 'Canting Crew' might have planned for them.
Foul Ole Ron[edit | edit source]
Excessively seedy, momentously dirty, overpoweringly smelly and entirely incomprehensible, Foul Ole Ron is the best-known member of the crew. He owns the world's only Thinking Brain Dog (as opposed to a "Seeing-eye dog"), Gaspode, and is a physical schizophrenic; his smell has become strong enough to not only melt earwax but to acquire a separate existence. In fact, it outclasses him, and is usually referred to in text as being almost another character entirely, who occasionally arrives ahead of Ron, opts to stick around for a while after his departure, and even goes to upper-class parties without him.
He is well known for his "catchphrase", "Bugrit, millennium hand an' shrimp...", which was the result of Pratchett feeding a random text generating program with a Chinese takeaway menu (shrimp) and the lyrics to They Might be Giants song, "Particle Man" (Millennium hand).
Another notable fact is that his catchphrase (minus "bugrit") is also used by Mrs. Tachyon, a character in the Johnny Maxwell series, also by Pratchett. Foul Ole Ron is in one verse of Sam Vimes 'City Version' of "Where's My Cow?". Young Sam enjoyed it, but Lady Sybil Vimes disapproved of this version.
Coffin Henry[edit | edit source]
Sometimes spelt Coffin' Henry. He has a habitual cough, hence his name, the result of his continuous smoking habit, again, hence his name. His cough is described as sounding 'almost solid'.
Unlike Ron, who asks people for money to stop him following them, Coffin Henry makes money by not going anywhere. People send him small sums so that he won't turn up at their parties and ask them to look at his interesting collection of skin diseases.
He also wears a sign saying "For sum muny I wont follo yu hom".
Altogether Andrews[edit | edit source]
Altogether Andrews is a mass of multiple personalities (none of them named Andrews) in one mind, many of which are of considerably higher social status than him; these include Jossi, Lady Hermione, Little Sidney, Mr Viddle, Curly, the Judge and Tinker; the eighth personality is simply known as Burke, who was only seen once by the canting crew (though not in any narrative), and they had no desire to ever see him again.
Altogether Andrews is a shot at the concept of multiple personalities within one person's body - the most famous of whom was Sybil. The psychiatric profession has been largely derided over its research standards in these cases and the research on Sybil has been discredited. The only obvious real world candidate for these personalities is the last personality- probably a reference to 19th century serial killer William Burke. The others are more problematic but could be as follows given historical context and the likelihood that Pratchett would want to play with a variety of odd roles for his character: Lady Hermione might be Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly, an English author who published her war diaries to great success in the 1990s. Little Sidney is likely Sidney Little, a civil engineer known as the 'Concrete King' on the south coast of England. He played a large part in designing the Mulberry Harbours used during the D Day Invasion of WWII. Mr. Viddle might be Mr. Biddle the bear character created by Anne Mason that lives in Leeds Forest in her books and blog and which was made into a hot air balloon in England in 1996. Curly was one of the Three Stooges. A Tinker is a hobo or itinerant traveller but is also short for Tinkerbell, from James Barrie's Peter Pan, a connection Pratchett made in The Hogfather. The personality of Burke that is kept hidden is an obvious reference to the famous body snatcher William Burke, who along with his partner William Hare murdered at least 16 people in Edinburgh in 1828 and sold the corpses to Dr. Knox for his anatomy classes. The crimes resulted in the popular 19th century verse:
Up the close and doon the stair,
But and ben' wi' Burke and Hare.
Burke's the butcher, Hare's the thief,
Knox the man that buys the beef.
The Duck Man speculates that Andrews was once a mild-mannered person of a psychic disposition who was mentally overwhelmed by the other souls. He is generally regarded as one of the most consistently sane of the group, as at least five of his personalities are capable of holding a sensible conversation with other people. His personalities 'voted' to decide whether to act as street vendors of The Ankh Morpork Times (in The Truth) and Andrews held up fingers to indicate the outcome of his personalities' decision.
The Duck Man[edit | edit source]
The Duck Man is regarded as the intellectual of the group. He is apparently unaware of the fact that he has a duck on his head. He appears to have been rich and well educated at some time in the past, and even as a beggar, his clothes are the tattered remnants of an expensive suit. As a boy, he "messed around in boats". Somebody obviously wants him killed, as the price on his head at The Assassins Guild is $132,000.
Arnold Sideways[edit | edit source]
A member noted for being completely legless. Literally; a cart ran over his legs several years ago and he now gets around on a wheelbarrow, usually pushed by the Duck Man. He carries an old boot on a stick, so muggers desperate enough to try and rob the beggars often find themselves being kicked on the top of the head by a man 3 foot tall.