Criminal Cant

A
•Alderman: A man’s pot belly.
•Ameche: Telephone
•Ankle:
◦(n) Woman
◦(v) To walk
B
•Babe: Woman
•Baby: A person, can be said to either a man or a woman
•Bangtails: Racehorses
•Barber: Talk
•Baumes rush: Senator Caleb H. Baumes sponsored a New York law (the Baumes Law) which called for automatic life imprisonment of any criminal convicted more than three times. Some criminals would move to a state that didn’t have this law in order to avoid its penalty should they be caught again, and this was known as a “Baumes rush,” because of the similarity to “bum’s rush.”
•Be on the nut, To: To be broke
•Bean-shooter: Gun
•Beezer: Nose
•Behind the eight-ball: In a difficult position, in a tight spot
•Bent cars: Stolen cars
•Berries: Dollars
•Big house: Jail
•Big one, The: Death
•Big sleep, The: Death (coined by Chandler)
•Bim: Woman
•Bindle
◦of heroin: Little folded-up piece of paper (with heroin inside)
◦the bundle (or “brindle”) in which a hobo carries all his worldy possessions
•Bindle punk, bindle stiff: Chronic wanderers; itinerant misfits, criminals, migratory harvest workers, and lumber jacks. Called so because they carried a “bindle.” George and Lenny in Of Mice and Men are bindle stiffs.
•Bing: Jailhouse talk for solitary confinement, hence “crazy”
•Bird: Man
•Bit: Prison sentence
•Blip off: To kill
•Blow: Leave
•Blow one down: Kill someone
•Blower: Telephone
•Bo: Pal, buster, fellow, as in “Hey, bo”
•Boiler: Car
•Boob: Dumb guy
•Boozehound: Drunkard
•Bop: To kill
•Box:
◦A safe
◦A bar
•Box job: A safecracking
•Brace (somebody): Grab, shake up
•Bracelets: Handcuffs
•Break it up: Stop that, quit the nonsense
•Breeze: To leave, go; also breeze off: get lost
•Broad: Woman
•Broderick, The: A thorough beating
•Bruno: Tough guy, enforcer
•Bucket: Car
•Bulge, as in “The kid had the bulge there”: The advantage
•Bulls: Plainclothes railroad cops; uniformed police; prison guards
•Bum’s rush, To get the: To be kicked out
•Bump: Kill
•Bump gums: To talk about nothing worthwhile
•Bump off: Kill; also, bump-off: a killing
•Buncoing some (people): Defrauding people
•Bunk:
◦"Take a bunk" – leave, disappear
◦"That’s the bunk" – that’s false, untrue
◦"to bunk" – to sleep
•Bunny, as in “Don’t be a bunny”: Don’t be stupid
•Burn powder: Fire a gun
•Bus: Big car
•Butter and egg man: The money man, the man with the bankroll, a yokel who comes to town to blow a big wad in nightclubs (see reference)
•Button: Face, nose, end of jaw
•Button man: Professional killer
•Buttons: Police
•Butts: Cigarettes
•Buy a drink: To pour a drink
•Buzz, as in “I’m in the dump an hour and the house copper gives me the buzz”: Looks me up, comes to my door
•Buzzer: Policeman’s badge
C
•C: $100, a pair of Cs = $200
•Cabbage: Money
•Caboose: Jail (from “calaboose,” which derives from calabozo, the Spanish word for “jail”)
•Call copper: Inform the police
•Can:
◦Jail
◦Car
•Can house: Bordello
•Can-opener: Safecracker who opens cheap safes
•Canary: Woman singer
•Case dough: “Nest egg … the theoretically untouchable reserve for emergencies” (Speaking)
•Cat: Man
•Century: $100
•Cheaters: Sunglasses
•Cheese it: Put things away, hide
•Chew: Eat
•Chicago lightning: gunfire
•Chicago overcoat: Coffin
•Chick: Woman
•Chilled off: Killed
•Chin: Conversation; chinning: talking
•Chin music: Punch on the jaw
•Chinese angle, as in “You’re not trying to find a Chinese angle on it, are you?”: A strange or unusual twist or aspect to something
•Chinese squeeze: Grafting by skimming profits off the top
•Chippy: Woman of easy virtue
•Chisel: To swindle or cheat
•Chiv, chive: Knife, “a stabbing or cutting weapon” (Speaking)
•Chopper squad: Men with machine guns
•Clammed: Close-mouthed (clammed up)
•Clean sneak: An escape with no clues left behind
•Clip joint: In some cases, a night-club where the prices are high and the patrons are fleeced (Partridge’s), but in Pick-Up a casino where the tables are fixed
•Clipped: Shot
•Close your head: Shut up
•Clout: Shoplifter
•Clubhouse: Police station
•Coffee-and-doughnut, as in “These coffee-and-doughnut guns are …”: Could come from “coffee and cakes,” which refers to something cheap or of little value.
•Con: Confidence game, swindle
•Conk: Head
•Cool: To knock out
•Cooler: Jail
•Cop
◦Detective, even a private one
◦To win, as in a bet
•Copped, To be: Grabbed by the cops
•Copper
◦Policeman
◦Time off for good behaviour
•Corn: Bourbon (“corn liquor”)
•Crab: Figure out
•Crate: Car
•Creep joint: ?? Can mean a whorehouse where the girls are pickpockets, but that doesn’t fit in Pick-Up
•Croak: To kill
•Croaker: Doctor
•Crushed out: Escaped (from jail)
•Cush: Money (a cushion, something to fall back on)
•Cut down: Killed (esp. shot?)
D
•Daisy: None too masculine
•Dame: Woman
•Dance: To be hanged
•Dangle: Leave, get lost
•Darb: Something remarkable or superior
•Dark meat: Black person
•Daylight, as in “let the daylight in” or “fill him with daylight”: Put a hole in, by shooting or stabbing
•Deck, as in “deck of Luckies”: Pack of cigarettes
•Derrick: Shoplifter
•Diapers, as in “Pin your diapers on”: Clothes, get dressed
•Dib: Share (of the proceeds)
•Dick: Detective (usually qualified with “private” if not a policeman)
•Dinge: Black person
•Dingus: Thing
•Dip: Pickpocket
•Dip the bill: Have a drink
•Dish: Pretty woman
•Dive: A low-down, cheap sort of place
•Dizzy with a dame, To be: To be deeply iin love with a woman
•Do the dance: To be hanged
•Dogs: Feet
•Doll, dolly: Woman
•Dope
◦Drugs, of any sort
◦Information
◦As a verb, as in “I had him doped as” – to have figured for
•Dope fiend: Drug addict
•Dope peddler: Drug dealer
•Dormy: Dormant, quiet, as in “Why didn’t you lie dormy in the place you climbed to?”
•Dough: Money
•Drift: Go, leave
•Drill: Shoot
•Drink out of the same bottle, as in “We used to drink out of the same bottle”: We were close friends
•Drop a dime: Make a phone call, sometimes meaning to the police to inform on someone
•Droppers: Hired killers
•Drum: Speakeasy
•Dry-gulch: Knock out, hit on head after ambushing
•Ducat
◦Ticket
◦For hobos, a union card or card asking for alms
•Duck soup: Easy, a piece of cake
•Dummerer: Somebody who pretends to be (deaf and?) dumb in order to appear a more deserving beggar
•Dump: Roadhouse, club; or, more generally, any place
•Dust
◦Nothing, as in “Tinhorns are dust to me”
◦Leave, depart, as in “Let’s dust”
◦A look, as in “Let’s give it the dust”
•Dust out: Leave, depart
•Dutch
◦As in “in dutch” – trouble
◦As in “A girl pulled the Dutch act” – committed suicide
◦As in “They don’t make me happy neither. I get a bump once’n a while. Mostly a Dutch.” – ?? relates to the police (Art)
E
•Eel juice: liquor
•Egg: Man
•Eggs in the coffee: Easy, a piece of cake, okay, all right
•Elbow:
◦Policeman
◦A collar or an arrest. Someone being arrested will “have their elbows checked.”
•Electric cure: Electrocution
•Elephant ears: Police
F
•Fade: Go away, get lost
•Fakeloo artist: Con man
•Fin: $5 bill
•Finder: Finger man
•Finger, Put the finger on: Identify
•Flat
◦Broke
◦As in “That’s flat” – that’s for sure, undoubtedly
•Flattie: Flatfoot, cop
•Flimflam(m): Swindle
•Flippers: Hands
•Flivver: A Ford automobile
•Flogger: Overcoat
•Flop:
◦Go to bed
◦As in “The racket’s flopped” – fallen through, not worked out
•Flophouse: “A cheap transient hotel where a lot of men sleep in large rooms” (Speaking)
•Fog: To shoot
•Frail: Woman
•Frau: Wife
•Fry: To be electrocuted
•From nothing, as in “I know from nothing”: I don’t know anything
G
•Gams: Legs (especially a woman’s)
•Gashouse, as in “getting gashouse”: Rough
•Gasper: Cigarette
•Gat: Gun
•Gate, as in “Give her the gate”: The door, as in leave
•Gaycat: “A young punk who runs with an older tramp and there is always a connotation of homosexuality” (Speaking)
•Gee: Man
•Geetus: Money
•Getaway sticks: Legs (especially a woman’s)
•Giggle juice: Liquor
•Gin mill: Bar
•Gink: Man
•Girlie: Woman
•Give a/the third: Interrogate (third degree)
•Glad rags: Fancy clothes
•Glom
◦To steal
◦To see, to take a look
•Glaum: Steal
•Go climb up your thumb: Go away, get lost
•Go over the edge with the rams: To get far too drunk
•Go to read and write: Rhyming slang for take flight
•Gonif: Thief (Yiddish)
•Goofy: Crazy
•Goog: Black eye
•Goon: Thug
•Goose: Man
•Gooseberry lay: Stealing clothes from a clothesline (see reference)
•Gowed-up: On dope, high
•Grab (a little) air: Put your hands up
•Graft:
◦Con jobs
◦Cut of the take
•Grand: $1000
•Greasers:
◦Mexicans or Italians.
◦A hoodlum, thief or punk.
•Grift:
◦As in “What’s the grift?”: What are you trying to pull?
◦Confidence game, swindle
•Grifter: Con man
•Grilled: Questioned
•Gum:
◦As in “Don’t … gum every play I make”: Gum up, interfere with
◦Opium
•Gum-shoe: Detective; also gumshoeing = detective work
•Gun for: Look for, be after
•Guns:
◦Pickpockets
◦Hoodlums
•Gunsel:
◦Gunman (Hammett is responsible for this use; see note)
◦Catamite.
◦"1. (p) A male oral sodomist, or passive pederast. 2. A brat. 3. (By extension) An informer; a weasel; an unscrupulous person." (Underworld)
◦Note Yiddish “ganzl” = gosling
H
•Hack: Taxi
•Half, A:50 cents
•Hammer and saws: Police (rhyming slang for laws)
•Hard: Tough
•Harlem sunset: Some sort fatal injury caused by knife (Farewell, 14)
•Hash house: A cheap restaurant
•Hatchetmen: Killers, gunmen
•Have the bees: To be rich
•Have the curse on someone: Wanting to see someone killed
•Head doctors: Psychiatrists
•Heap: Car
•Heat: A gun, also heater
•Heeled: Carrying a gun
•High pillow: Person at the top, in charge
•Highbinders
◦Corrupt politician or functionary
◦Professional killer operating in the Chinese quarter of a city
•Hinky: Suspicious
•Hitting the pipe: Smoking opium
•Hitting on all eight: In good shape, going well (refers to eight cylinders in an engine)
•Hock shop: Pawnshop
•Hogs: Engines
•Hombre: Man, fellow
•Hooch: Liquor
•Hood: Criminal
•Hooker, as in “a stiff hooker of whiskey”: A drink of strong liquor
•Hoosegow: Jail
•Hop:
◦Drugs, mostly morphine or derivatives like heroin
◦Bell-hop
•Hop-head: Drug addict, esp. heroin
•Horn: Telephone
•Hot: Stolen
•House dick: House/hotel detective
•House peeper: House/hotel detective
•Hype: Shortchange artist
I
•Ice : Diamonds
•In stir: In jail
•Ing-bing, as in to throw an: A fit
•Iron: A car
J
•Jack: Money
•Jake, Jakeloo: Okay
•Jam: Trouble, as in “in a jam”
•Jane: A woman
•Jasper: A man (perhaps a hick)
•Java: Coffee
•Jaw: Talk
•Jerking a nod: Nodding
•Jingle-brained: Addled
•Jobbie: Man
•Joe: Coffee, as in “a cup of joe”
•Johns: Police
•Johnson brother: Criminal
•Joint: Place, as in “my joint”
•Jorum of skee: Shot of liquor
•Joss house: Temple or house of worship for a Chinese religion
•Juice: Interest on a loanshark’s loan
•Jug: Jail
•Jujus: Marijuana cigarettes
•Jump, The: A hanging
•Junkie: Drug addict
K
•Kale: Money
•Keister, keyster:
◦Suitcase
◦Safe, strongbox
◦Buttocks
•Kick, as in “I got no kick”: I have nothing to complain about
•Kick off: Die
•Kicking the gong around: Taking opium
•Kiss: To punch
•Kisser: Mouth
•Kitten: Woman
•Knock off: Kill
•Knockover: Heist, theft
L
•Lammed off: Ran away, escaped
•Large: $1,000; twenty large would be $20,000
•Law, the: The police
•Lay
◦Job, as in Marlowe saying he’s on “a confidential lay;” or more generally, what someone does, as in “The hotel-sneak used to be my lay”
◦As in “I gave him the lay” – I told him where things stood (as in lay of the of land)
•Lead poisoning: To be shot
•Lettuce: Folding money
•Lid: Hat
•Lip: (Criminal) lawyer
•Lit, To be: To be drunk
•Loogan: Marlowe defines this as “a guy with a gun”
•Looker: Pretty woman
•Look-out: Outside man
•Lousy with: To have lots of
•Lug
◦Bullet
◦Ear
◦Man (“You big lug!”)
•Lunger: Someone with tuberculosis
M
•Made: Recognized
•Map: Face
•Marbles: Pearls
•Mark: Sucker, victim of swindle or fixed game
•Mazuma: Money
•Meat, as in “He’s your meat”: He’s the subject of interest, there’s your man
•Meat wagon: Ambulance
•Mesca: Marijuana
•Mickey Finn
◦(n) A drink drugged with knock-out drops
◦(v) Take a Mickey Finn: Take off, leave
•Mill: Typewriter
•Mitt: Hand
•Mob: Gang (not necessarily Mafia)
•Moll: Girlfriend
•Monicker: Name
•Mouthpiece: Lawyer
•Mud-pipe: Opium pipe
•Mug: Face
•Muggles: Marijuana
•Mugs: Men (esp. dumb ones)
•Mush: Face
N
•Nailed: Caught by the police
•Nance: An effeminate man
•Nevada gas: Cyanide
•Newshawk: Reporter
•Newsie: Newspaper vendor
•Nibble one: To have a drink
•Nicked: Stole
•Nippers: Handcuffs
•Nix on (something): No to (something)
•Noodle: Head
•Nose-candy: Heroin, in some cases
•Number: A person, can be either a man or a woman
O
•Off the track, as in “He was too far off the track. Strictly section eight”: Said about a man who becomes insanely violent
•Op: Detective (esp. private), from “operative”
•Orphan paper: Bad cheques
•Out on the roof, To be: To drink a lot, to be drunk
•Oyster fruit: Pearls
P
•Pack: To carry, esp. a gun
•Palooka: Man, probably a little stupid
•Pan: Face
•Paste: Punch
•Patsy: Person who is set up; fool, chump
•Paw: Hand
•Peaching: Informing
•Pearl diver: dish-washer
•Peeper: Detective
•Pen: Penitentiary, jail
•Peterman: Safecracker who uses nitroglycerin
•Pigeon: Stool-pigeon
•Pill
◦Bullet
◦Cigarette
•Pinch: An arrest, capture
•Pins: Legs (especially a woman’s)
•Pipe: See or notice
•Pipe that: Get that, listen to that
•Pipes: Throat
•Pistol pockets: ?? heels?
•Pitching woo: Making love (Turner)
•Plant
◦(n) Someone on the scene but in hiding
◦(v) Bury
•Plug: Shoot
•Plugs: People
•Poke
◦Bankroll, stake
◦Punch (as in “take a poke at”)
•Pooped: Killed
•Pop: Kill
•Pro skirt: Prostitute
•Puffing: Mugging
•Pug: Pugilist, boxer
•Pump: Heart
•Pump metal: Shoot bullets
•Punk
◦Hood, thug
◦"A jailhouse sissy who is on the receiving end." (Also as a verb, as in “to get punked.”)
•Puss: Face
•Put down: Drink
•Put the screws on: Question, get tough with
Q
•Queer
◦(n) Counterfeit
◦(n) Sexually abnormal
◦(v) To ruin something or put it wrong (“queer this racket”)
R
•Rags: Clothes
•Ranked: Observed, watched, given the once-over
•Rap
◦Criminal charge
◦Information, as in “He gave us the rap”
◦Hit
•Rappers: Fakes, set-ups
•Rat: Inform
•Rate: To be good, to count for something
•Rats and mice: Dice, i.e. craps
•Rattler: Train
•Red-light: To eject from a car or train
•Redhot: Some sort of criminal
•Reefers: Marijuana cigarettes
•Rhino: Money
•Ribbed up, as in “I got a Chink ribbed up to get the dope”: Set up, arranged for? “I have arranged for a Chinese person to get the information”? (Knockover, 203)
•Right: Adjective indicating quality
•Right gee, Right guy: A good fellow
•Ringers: Fakes
•Rod: Gun
•Roscoe: Gun
•Roundheels
◦A fighter with a glass jaw
◦A woman of easy virtue
•Rub-out: A killing
•Rube: Bumpkin, easy mark
•Rumble, the: The news
•Run-out, To take the : Leave, escape
S
•Sap
◦A dumb guy
◦A blackjack
•Sap poison: Getting hit with a sap
•Savvy?: Get me? Understand?
•Sawbuck: $10 bill (a double sawbuck is a $20 bill)
•Scatter, as in “And don’t bother to call your house peeper and send him up to the scatter”
◦Saloon or speakeasy.
◦A hideout, a room or lodging
•Schnozzle: Nose
•Scram out: Leave
•Scratch: Money
•Scratcher: Forger
•Screw
◦Leave, as in “Let’s screw before anybody pops in”
◦Prison guard
•Send over: Send to jail
•Shamus: (Private) detective
•Sharper: A swindler or sneaky person
•Shells: Bullets
•Shine
◦Black person
◦Moonshine, bootleg liquor
•Shine Indian: ?? (Knockover, 89)
•Shiv: Knife
•Shylock: Loanshark
•Shyster: Lawyer
•Silk, as in “all silk so far”: All okay so far
•Sing: Confess, admit secrets
•Sister: Woman
•Skate around, as in “She skates around plenty”: To be of easy virtue
•Skid rogue: A bum who can’t be trusted
•Skipout: Leave a hotel without paying, or a person who does so
•Skirt: Woman
•Slant, Get a: Take a look
•Sleuth: Detective
•Slug
◦As a noun, bullet
◦As a verb, to knock unconscious
•Smell from the barrel, Have a: Have a drink
•Smoke: A black person
•Smoked: Drunk
•Snap a cap: Shout
•Snatch: Kidnap
•Sneak
◦Leave, get lost, as in “If you’re not a waiter, sneak”
◦Type of burglary, as in as in “The hotel-sneak used to be my lay”
•Sneeze: Take
•Snitch: An informer, or, as a verb, to inform
•Snooper: Detective
•Snort (as in of gin): A drink
•Snow-bird: (Cocaine) addict
•Snowed: To be on drugs (heroin? cocaine?); also “snowed up”
•Soak: To pawn
•Sock: Punch
•Soup: Nitroglycerine
•Soup job: To crack a safe using nitroglycerine
•Spill: Talk, inform; spill it = tell me
•Spinach: Money
•Spitting: Talking
•Spondulix: Money
•Square: Honest; on the square: telling the truth
•Squirt metal: Shoot bullets
•Step off: To be hanged
•Sticks of tea: Marijuana cigarettes
•Stiff: A corpse
•Sting: Culmination of a con game
•Stool-pigeon: Informer
•Stoolie: Stool-pigeon
•Stringin’: As in along, feeding someone a story
•Sucker: Someone ripe for a grifter’s scam
•Sugar: Money
•Swift, To have plenty of: To be fast (on the draw)
•Swing: Hang
T
•Tail: Shadow, follow
•Take a powder: Leave
•Take it on the heel and toe: Leave
•Take on: Eat
•Take the air: Leave
•Take the bounce: To get kicked out (here, of a hotel)
•Take the fall for: Accept punishment for
•Tea: Marijuana
•That’s the crop: That’s all of it
•Three-spot: Three-year term in jail
•Throw a joe: Pass out ?? (Key, 86)
•Throw lead: Shoot bullets
•Ticket: P.I. license
•Tiger milk: Some sort of liquor
•Tighten the screws: Put pressure on somebody
•Tin: Badge
•Tip a few: To have a few drinks
•Tip your mitt: Show your hand, reveal something
•Tomato: Pretty woman
•Tooting the wrong ringer: Asking the wrong person
•Torcher: Torch singer
•Torpedoes: Gunmen
•Trap: Mouth
•Trigger man: Man whose job is to use a gun
•Trip for biscuits, as in “You get there fast and you get there alone – or you got a trip for biscuits”: Make the trip for no purpose, achieve no results
•Trouble boys: Gangsters
•Turn up: To turn in (to the police)
•Twist: Woman
•Two bits: $25, or 25 cents.
U
•Under glass: In jail
•Up-and-down, as in “to give something the up-and-down”: A look
•Uppers, as in “I’ve been shatting on my uppers for a couple of months now” or “I’m down on my uppers”: To be broke
V
•Vag, as in vag charge, vag law: Vagrancy
•Vig, Vigorish
◦Excessive interest on a loanshark’s loan
◦Advantage in odds created by a bookie or gambler to increase profit
W
•Weak sister: A push-over
•Wear iron: Carry a gun
•Wheats, as in “a stack of wheats”: Pancakes
•White
◦Good, okay, as in “white dick”
◦Gin (“a gallon of white”)
•Wikiup: Home
•Wire, as in “What’s the wire on them?”: News, “What information do you have about them?”
•Wise, To be To be knowledgeable of; put us wise: tell us
•Wise head: A smart person
•Wooden kimono: A coffin
•Worker, as in “She sizes up as a worker”: A woman who takes a guy for his money
•Wrong gee: Not a good fellow
•Wrong number: Not a good fellow
Y
•Yap: Mouth
•Yard: $100
•Yegg: Safecracker who can only open cheap and easy safes
Z
•Zotzed: Killed

Criminal Cant

Raze Your Awareness Eponymous Eponymous