In the eighteenth century, ‘cant’ was a word widely used in controversies to disqualify the opponent's language and rhetoric. It first referred to the secret language of thieves but then was used to criticise an excessive use of ready-made phrases.
Conversation was a polysemic practice of sociability in leisured and learned classes. Ideally, it cultivated politeness, pleasure, ease and reciprocity. At the same time, its plural meanings also accommodated tensions within the conversable world, encompassing controversy and collision of mind as well as harmony.