“Flash Mob” in 1800s Australia?

July 10th, 2006

Just when I thought I could stop writing about flash mobs, more strange news emerges.

For the record: it seems I wasn’t the first person to use the words “flash” and “mob” together. Apparently “flash mob” was a name used in the 1800s to describe an Australian subculture of female prisoners, based on the term “flash language” for the jargon these women used. For whatever it’s worth, the 1800s Australian term “flash mob” referred to a segment of society, not an event, and had no other similarities to the modern “flash mob” term.

Details at Boing Boing and at Derek Lackaff’s weblog. (Note that the postcard image at the top of these entries was created in 2004, not in the 1800s.) More about the 1800s “flash mob” subculture in Tasmania here.

3 Responses to ““Flash Mob” in 1800s Australia?”

  1. comment number 1 by: Derek

    I think your place in history remains assured. Although it would be cool if this little historical revelation inspired a contemporary flash mob…

  2. comment number 2 by: Terry Karney

    “Flash crowd” was a term coined by Larry Niven in the early (time line) stories of his “Known Space” series.

    It happened when something caused people to teleport (by means of booths) to suddenly exciting events.

    That use goes back to the early ’70s.


  3. comment number 3 by: sean

    Terry: correct.. and I read the short story “flash crowd” after folks pointed me to it, during the flash mob craze. But in this post I was referring to “flash mob” not “flash crowd.” Different terms, different meanings.