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Gumshoes and Other Slang

Even fiction writers need to do research – if you don’t get things right it will be obvious and annoying to some people. In the novel I’m writing from the Abandoned Wives and Widows series the girls considered private investigating as an occupation to keep them out of trouble – some hopes!

Did you know even small towns often have a firm of private investigators? Try looking up your own home town on Google.

When researching private investigating I came across some of the slang words used for police or investigators and wondered how these words started. Some are obvious: sleuth, constable, officer but others not so clear.

Flatfoot – a term for a police officer patrolling a beat – all that walking!

Cop – this was originally slang for catch or capture so maybe that meaning transferred to the police. Unfortunately, cop was also slang for steal or swipe – where does this fit in?

Bobby – a British slang word for police. Many people know that this comes from 1829 when Sir Robert Peel created the first Metropolitan police force. These were known as peelers or bobbies. Did you know, though, that on day 1 and day 2 of the new force two officers were sacked for being drunk on duty?

Gumshoe – this was the slang word for a private investigator that started me searching. Originally in the late 1800s some shoes were made of gum rubber – they were the precursors of our present-day trainers. The soles were soft and quiet so a person could sneak around and their footsteps not heard.

The first slang use of the word, though, was to describe a thief, but around 1908 it started to be used for a private detective.

Strange where research takes you.

Look out for the first in the series of The Abandoned Wives and Widows’ Club to be published later in the year. In the meantime check out #Deathly Inheritance and #Deathly Greed at

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