Burglar Bill

< Previous | Next >

pinpirulin

Member
Italian
Hello,

I know this is the title of a children book (I discovered today it was actually an even older book, adapted for children in the 80s), but is it also used as a set phrase?

I'm reading a book set in London in the late 20s, and I bumped into the following:
(widow, standing on her doorstep, does not want a new neighbour, who came to introduce himself, to get into the house)
"I'm understandin' of yer womanly fears, Mrs P", said he, nodding, "but I'm more well-known for bein' a protector of ladies than a Burglar Bill. In fact, I ain't known as a Burglar Bill at all, 'aving lived an honest life from the time I was born..."

I do understand the meaning, but having never come across this expression before, I was wondering whether it is just something the author made up, or a figure of speech, or maybe it was a common figure of speech in the 20s and has now fallen out of fashion?

Many thanks.
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I would say it's been lurking in folk memories for a long time. If you're going to put a burglar in a children's story, or sing a comic song about a burglar, Burglar Bill would be the obvious name to use. The original may have been a recitation piece by F. Anstey from about 1889 - and that could well have been popular enough that it was genuinely in common use in the 1920s.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top