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Abram-Man

or Abraham Cove

A Tom o' Bedlam; a naked vagabond; a begging impostor.

The Abraham Ward, in Bedlam, had for its inmates begging lunatics, who used to array themselves “with party-coloured ribbons, tape in their hats, a fox-tail hanging down, a long stick with streamers,” and beg alms; but “for all their seeming madness, they had wit enough to steal as they went along.” —Canting Academy.

See King Lear, ii. 3.

In Beaumont and Fletcher we have several synonyms:—

And these, what name or title e'er they bear,
Jackman or Patrico, Cranke or Clapper-dudgeon,
Fraier or Abram-man, I speak to all.

Beggar's Bush, ii. 1.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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More on Abram-Man from Infoplease:

  • Abram-Man - Abram-Man or Abraham Cove A Tom o' Bedlam; a naked vagabond; a begging impostor. The Abraham ...
  • Frater - Frater An Abram-man (q.v.). (Latin, frater, a brother, one of the same community or society.) ...
  • Jarkman - Jarkman An Abram-man (q.v.). Jark means a seal, whence also a safe-conduct. Abram-men were licensed ...
  • Abraham, to sham - To Sham Abraham. To pretend illness or distress, in order to get off work. (See Abram-Man.) I have ...
  • Crank - Crank An Abram man (q.v.). So called from the German krank (sickly), whence cranky, “idiotic, ...

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