SSoIH Hobo Terms and Definitions

We have nearly 1,900 definitions of slang terms used by Hobos, tramps, bums, migratory workers, railroaders and lumberjacks.

Some of the descriptive text may seem a little strange as it was copied from the source as displayed.
Some of the terms and descriptions can be offensive in nature but this is part of history. Some terms have been edited in extreme cases.

SSoIH Slang Word Lookup

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A1 - Prime ; the best ; altogether trustworthy. Taken from the Lloyds rating for ships of good condition. An old tramp, now almost legendary and with many poor imitators, who once ranged over America as an example of the perfect “ stiff.” No train travelled too fast for this tramp to board, no inhospitable town failed to feed him, and never did he want for any- thing that might be had for the telling of an artistic “ ghost story.”
Accommodation car - the caboose of a train
Ace - See "A1", "aces"
Ace In - To secure one’s self or a friend the notice and favourable attention of some one in authority.
Ace In The Hole - Something to give the holder an advantage; a sum of money reserved for emergencies-—“ fall money ” or “ trail stake ”—or some hold over one in authority which may be used to secure a release from imprisonment or freedom from prosecution. The term is taken from the game of stud poker, where the concealed or “ hole card” is of especial value to the player if it happens to be an ace.
Ace Note - A one dollar bill.
Admiral's Watch - A good sleep or opportunity to rest. Brought to the road by the "sea stiffs" and former navy men, who so called that full night’s sleep which comes to a sailor now and then from a combination of watches.
Air - Loose or misleading talk ; idle chatter ; cf. English slang, "hot air"
Airdale - a hobo who is an extreme loaner
Albert - A watch chain. Named after Prince Albert, the Consort of Queen Victoria.
Aligator Bait - Fried liver, so called from its unpalatable, indigestible character as served in construction camps and cheap lunch rooms. The term is often applied to any poor food or meal, from the same reason. Also used as a generic term for negro children, this largely through the South, where it is considered humorous in the extreme to frighten the pickaninnies by threatening to throw them to the “ ’gators ” which they fear.
Alki - Alcohol, more especially when mixed with water and consumed as a beverage. Beore prohibition this was popular and relatively inexpensive drink with the lower grade tramp and hobo, who were looked down upon as "alki stiffs" ; now the ability to secure alcohol which may be drunk stamps the individual as a good "moocher" and makes him popular with his less fortuante fellows. See "smoke", "hooch", "lush".
Alki Stiff - One who habitually drinks alcohol or inferior liquor. See "alki", "stew bum".
All Tramps Sent Free - Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe RR
All To The Mustard - Correct; perfectly satisfactory; desirable. From the fact that much of the food the tramp is able to obtain needs plenty of condiment to render it at all palatable or appetizing.
Alley Apple - A stone or piece of brick or paving used as a missile in street fighting.
Altar - A toilet, more especially the porcelain bowl. No doubt from the mind of some thorough anti-claric who recognized in the white porcelain of the modern toilet or bathroom something cleaner and more desirable than that to which he had been accustomed. Perhaps from a grosser explanation, for which see "kneeling at the altar."
Angel - (1) A person who give more than you expect. (2) A male pervert ; from the quiet, rather subdued, ladylike manners of these men when in the company of others who have more easily accepted ideas of morality. Also, anyone who furnishes money for an enterprise, theatrical or otherwise; or for some extensive crime which requires a great deal of planning and preparation.
Angel Food - The doctrine or teaching expounded at a mission or other religious centre. The better read tramp regards the religious teaching offered the unfortunates as something rather impractical and good for use only after death, and refers to it in slighting terms. See “ pie in the sky.”.
Angelina - a young inexperienced child. A punk or road kid acting as a hobos companion.
Annie Oakley - A free ticket or pass to an amusement or entertainment. So called since these pasteboards are punched to prevent their sale, the holes resembling those in a target, Annie Oakley being for many years a champion rifle shot who appeared with large circuses. The term was originated in the Clrcus World, spread to the stage, and is now in general use among " grifters ” and others.
Anoint - To flog or whip, especially as a part of prison discipline. An excellent example of the derisive and cynical way the criminal has of making reference to the unpleasant things of life,
Antique - An old timer on the road.
Artillery - Beans, or any other food likely to ferment. The term, of army origin, is another instance of the apt and none too refined application the man at large is able to place on nearly any action, reaction or incident which comes to his notice when away from the refining influence of home and mother.
Artist - Any skilful crook or confidence worker who inspires respect in his work by other less gifted criminals.
Auntie - Angelina grown older.
Australian - The underworld cant and slang from Australia composed largely of rhythmic and colourful couplets, and often spoken with a affected " English " accent. Much of this cant was "undoubtedly derived from the Cockney rhyming slang taken to Australia by English emigrants any time after 1850. Largely used and improved upon (?) by the Anzacs in the World War, the slang lost much of its appeal merely because it was so much used that it became wearisome, while a fair amount of it was in poor taste, even for the trenches. It is but little used in America today and may be regarded as a schoolboy's hot Latin rather than as a true slang.
AoEs - Anything or anyone considered to be the best or most desirable. The foregoing explanations are all, of course, taken from the place held in the deck or pack of cards by the ace.
Apple Butter Route - Norfolk and Western RR (Southern Ohio)
Apple Knocker - An apple-picking hobo
Axel Grease - One of the many slang terms for butter. Every trade and craft has its own words for articles of food, each suggested by some fancied likeness to a staple of the trade or craft, and with but little sense to outsiders. “ Shackles,” “ pin grease ” and “ sand ” fall in the same category.
Axel Swinging - Riding under a railroad car

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B.N. - Burlington Northern
Badger Game - A blackmailing scheme, once much more common than at present, in which the victim is taken to a room or apartment by the woman accomplice, and there discovered by the “ husband.” Hush money is demanded under threat of exposure or injury, and in many cases, when the victim’s identity is known, a long and expensive acquaintance with the blackmailers follow.
Badorder - A wrecked boxcar on its way to the repair yard
Bad Road - A railroad, or a railroad division, whereon trainmen are especially hard on tramps and other trespassers. This enmity is generally the result of depredations committed by tramps, or the killing of some trainman by a tramp or yegg, and is not usually due to any official order or regulation. See " fishing ", " dew drop ".
Bakehead - A locomotive fireman ; since many railroaders claim these workers are non too bright merely because of the intense heat they face while firing their engines. The term is also applied to stokers of any boiler or engine, and has become fairly common as a substitute for fool or idiot, especially among migratory workers. Of like construction are " hoghead ", " pinhead " and " swellhead ".
Bald-Headed Lump - A “ lump " or package of food given a tramp which contains nothing but coarse, hearty food, without pie, cake or other sweets. See " lump ", " robbing the mail ".
Baldy - A generic term for an old man, regardless of the hair he may or may not have.
Bale of Straw - A blonde woman. Very generally used in circus and carnival circles, and obvious as to origin, the more so since the large and sturdy type of woman is the one which makes the greatest appeal to the men who follow the shows and demand their play, to match their work, in large doses.
Ball Lump - Sandwiches or cake wrapped up and handed to a hobo or tramp.
Balling the Jack - Speeding
Balloon - Bedding, especially when carried over the shoulder in a roll which when loosely tied does resemble a balloon in some degree. See also “ crum roll ”, “ bindle ”, “ soogan ”.
Bally - See " ballyhoo".
Ballyhoo - Loud talk; noisy conversation. Originally, the free entertainment or “lecture” given outside a sale or entertainment to attract a crowd. Also called “ bally ” by pitchmen ” and carnival workers.
Bally Stand - The platform or stage from which a ballyhoo is delivered.
Band House - A gaol or prison. Old yeggs say the term simply means a group of men banded together, but probably the old English " band " or " bond ", something to fetter the individual, is the origin.
Banjo - (1) A short-handled scoop shovel, especially one used for coal, and so called from its similarity in shape to the musical instrument. (2) a small portable frying pan.
Bang Out - Excellent or successful ; desirable. See " bang up ".
Bang Up - The same as " bang out ", and perhaps more generally used. When everything goes well for the tramp, and he is able to live easly, he says " things are bang up by me ", and thus expresses his contentment.
Baraby - A genteel, quiet, respectful hobo or tramp.
Barber - To talk. The legendary ability of the barber in the matter of gossip has been made into a verb, and is one of the oldest tramp expressions known when lengthy talk is concerned.
Barbering - Conversation. “We was barbering” is merely a tramp’s way of saying he was having a talk with his associates.
Barnacle - a person who sticks to one job a year or more
Barrel - To drink, especially to excess. This word, as well as the related terms which follow, all arise from the fact a barrel invariably means liquor when a tramp is concerned.
Barrel Dosser - See “ barrel stiff.”
Barrel Fever - Delirium tremors.
Barrel House - Originally, and before prohibition, the cheap Bowery resorts where the dregs from liquor barrels were served at as little as a penny a drink. More lately the term has come to mean any cheap lodging-house, speakeasy or brothel of the lowest, filthiest sort, where the money to pay for a drunken sleep is all that is asked of a patron.
Barrel House Drunk - Hopelessly intoxicated ; the term arising from the condition of those tramps who patronize a " barrel house ". Of all the synonyms for intoxication this is without doubt the one which idicates the last stage, and is more forefull in its proper application than is " paralysed ". For lesser degrees of intoxication see " high ", " rum dumb ", etc.
Barrel Stiff - An old, worn-out bum, living in barrel houses, eating whatever may be salvaged from garbage cans or cheap lunch rooms, and absolutely without hope or ambition. See " speck bum ", “ tomato can stiff ”.
Bat - A prostitute ; possibly since they are more often seen about after dark, perhaps since they flit around in a furtive manner much of the time. The word is also used to indicate a prolonged or unusually heavy bout of drinking, as “ he’s on a bat,” “ batting around,” but not referring to the presence of a prostitute in the party or with the individual. See “batty”.
Bat House - An insane asylum; a place where are confined those “batty” or with “bats in the belfry,” which expression has been shortened in vagabondia to “ bats ” or “ batty.” Never a brothel. See “ bat ”.
Bats - Insane or erratic. More extreme than “ dopey ” or " cracked ”.
Bat Shit Crazy - Insane, totally mental. Throwing a fit.
Batter - To beg or solicit alms ; originally when the charity was sought at the door of a private house, at which the tramp knocked or “ battered.” The term has been expanded, as see below.
Batter The Drag - To beg on the street. See “ drag.”
Batter The Privates - To beg from door to door in a residential district. A tramp who has a flair for this type of mendicancy will never lower himself to beg on the street, feeling it below his dignity, as well as more dangerous, to do so.
Batting - Traveling aimlessly and without purpose, much as a bat flits from place to place.
Battleship - A high-sided steel coal car, usually with a hopper or dump bottom. Not to be confused with "battlewagon", which sailor term has been adopted by the road and underworld to indicate a man-of-war.
Batty - Insane ; erratic. See "bat house".
Bazoo - (1) A person's mouth. (2) A person's buttocks or anus.
Beachcomber - A tramp or bum who hangs about water front saloons and the docks and begs food and drink from the sailors. Adopted from the correct use to indicate a tramp in the tropics, and used in its newer sense exclusively by the Fraternity of the road.
Beagles - Sausages, merely another, possibly more esoteric, name for “hot dogs,” it being an old tradition that stray animals such as dogs and cats found their way into these articles of Food. See "dogs".
Beak - The nose. Less frequently heard of late to indicate a police judge or justice of the peace, and in this sense taken from the English criminals’ cant, in which it doubtless indicated the official’s habit of nosing out the facts of the case.
Bean - The head. “ Use your bean” means merely “ Think for yourself, show good sense.” Also, but less frequently of late, one dollar. ie: bean counter is an accountant.
Bean Town - Boston, Mass., from the famous vegetable so intimately connected with that city, the “ Home of the bean and the cod.”
Beard Jammer - One who conducts a disorderly resort; a whoremaster. In 18th century English slang, a “ beard-splitter.”
Beat - (1) A neighbourhood or district controlled by a politician, or upon which a criminal or a criminal gang is supposed to have a monopoly; no doubt from the “ beat ” patrolled by a policeman.
Beat - (2) To evade or escape the consequences ; as " He escaped from prison " or managed to escape a sentenence ; " he beat the rap ", the charge against him was dismissed, or he evaded a sentenance. In the first example the escape does not necessarily mean that violence was used ; in that case the word would be "crush", which see.
Bee - “ To put the bee on ” is to beg or borrow, usually with a hard luck story. To say, I put the bee on him,” usually means that the donor has been “ stung ” when he gives up the loan, since seldom is it repaid. See “ sting ".
Beef - Traveling the country by bicycle
Beef - To complain against a criminal or an information laid against a criminal or suspect. In 18th century England, “ to cry beef” was thieves’ cant for “ to give the alarm ”.
Beefer - An informant or complainant; but not as strictly applied to the former as “rat,” “stool” or “snake".
beezer - The nose, hard to trace as to origin, and now falling into disuse in favor of "beak".
Belcher - A protest or complaint, usually from an individual aggrieved by some one of his associates. The application is as full-bodied as any in the lexicon of slang.
Bellyache - To complain or protest, escpecially when this is carried on over a long period. This word, like the next, is connon English low slang.
Bellyful - Enough, or more than enough, of anything. Much the same, and from the same basis, as " fed up", although in stronger measure.
Belly Of A Drag - The underside of a freight train. See "rods", "gunnels". One who states that he has been "riding the belly of a rattler" means he has been riding the rods, or trucks, of a fast train. See "guts".
Belly Robber - A pook cook, commissary steward or other official entrusted with the feeding of a gang of labourers or prisoners, and with little or no qualification or the job or consideration for his charges. In the army, a poor mess sergeant.
Ben - A vest.
Benny - An overcoat, a contraction. of " benjamin " once used to designate a particular type of Outer garment
Bent - Crooked ; criminal ' outside the law. Directly the opposite of " straight ", and applied to individuals, enterprises or goods.
Bent One - A stolen automobile.
Berries - “ The berries,” anything particularly worth while or valuable. Much the same sort of expression as “ the cat’s meow ” (taken from a much more lurid phrase), and with as little reason or purpose, except if taken from “ berry,” which see.
Berry - One Dollar.
B1 (Unknown if B1 or BI) - A Buick automobile. Originally and generally used by automobile theives and " fences ".
Bible Ranter - A preacher or evangelist. A logical term for many of these " inspired " uneducated and over-zealous individuals.
Biddies - Eggs, from the old farmyard word for hen. See also " cackler ".
Biddy - A woman or girl. usually the latter, and originated by the tramps who found that most of the cooks or serving women at the houses where they were fed were Irish, and as like as not “ Bridget ”, "or " Biddy ", by name.
the Big Burg - New York City.
Big Four - Duck Egg Omelet.
Big Guy - Properly, God. a logical if not an elegant term. More lately and leading criminal or official in charge. See " big shot ".
Big Hole - (1) A quick stop ; an emergency application of the air brakes, so called since the brake valve permits an immediate and heavy flow of air to the brake mechanism when placed in the emergency position or on the " big hole ". Boomers (q.v.) carried the term to the tramps, who in turn passed it on to the criminal element at large and it is now widely used to indicate an immediate cessation of any activity. See " wipe the clock ".
Big Hole - (2) To stop quickly.
Big House - A State or Federal Prison. Although sometimes used to indicate a penitentiary, the term is properly used only for a prison, and never for a penal institution operated by a unit smaller than a State.
Big Man - The Pinkerton Detective Agency, or one of its operatives, much feared and respected by old time criminals, who found their stay in a town or city with a venal police force was not so safe when " the pinkertons " were called in by victims of the gang's activities.
Big O - A railroad conductor ; from the Labour Union, The Order of Railroad Conductors, or " Big O ", to which practically every conductor belongs.
Big School - A penitentiary ' possibly from its size, but more probalby since so many of its " graduates " eventually enter the " big house " or States Prison. See " little school " , " little house ".
Big Screw - The Deputy Warden. of a prison or penitentiary. See " screw ".
Big Shot - A leading character ; one with authority over a number of underlings or henchmen. Although more usually applied to important gang leaders, the term also used for politicians with a great deal of authority, or able to secure protection for a consideration.
Big Smoke - London. Introduced from England by British soldiers in the World War, the term has been in general use in America ever since. In the United States the reference is usually Pittsburgh, PA.
Big Spuds - Any group in authority, such as a Parole Board, Board of Directors, etc. An opposite to " small potatoes ", or those with no power.
Bindle - A bed roll carried by tramps and migratory workers, and no doubt a corruption of " bundle ". Also, a packet of narcotics retailed on the street to the addict.
Bindle stick - a collection of belongings wrapped in cloth and tied around a stick
Bindlestiff - (1) A tramp or worker carrying his bedding. Also, but more rarely, a drug addict, under the influence of narcotics at the moment. See " stiff ". (2) A hobo who carries all his gear in a sack (berlap gunny sack) (a bindle). Also used to refer to old fashioned hobos.
Biinte - An overcoat. Possibly a corruption of " benny " q.v.
Bike Tourism - Traveling the country by bicycle
Bird - Anyone not moving in the same circle as the speaker or his gang ; an outsider or newcomer ; a queer or unusual individual.
Biscuit Shooter - A waitress or short order cook. The average tramp and migratory worker is not used to restaurants where the food or service is of the best, and the manner in which the dishes are “ shot ” at the diner is reflected in the term for the person responsible.
Bit - A penitentiary sentence. While during the World War. " doing one's bit " was the accepted thing, the criminal has long used the same term to indicate the length of time he was forced to labour for the state.
Bitch - A loose woman. Also, a can of grease with an improvised wick, used in tramp “jungles” as a lamp, and so called from the torch used by a locomotive engineer in “ oiling around ” and under his engine.
Bitches' Heaven - Boston, Mass. The city was once noted for the number of cheap prostitutes to be found there ' and hobohemia, concluding that condition must be ideal for sisterhood, coined the phrase.
Black Bottle - Knock-out drops (chloral hydrate), or poison. It is a legend with the poor and in the underworld that doctors in charity hospitals keep a black pottle (of poison) hand in order to avoid the work of caring for tramps and other penniless patients. The legend will not die, and many a desperately ill tramp prefers to hide away with his misery rather than risk a trip to the ward where he feels short shift will be his.
Black Jack - Orginally, in America, any strong purge like jalap ; but the sailor and lumber jack have long so called the strong black coffee server aboard ship and in lumber camps. The term no doubt originated in Scotland to indicate a waxed leather jug used for ale or beer. Also, a short slung-shot or sandbag used by police or thugs.
Blacklist - (1) The list of discharged or other undesirable former employees kept by many large corporations, and often, although such practice is regarded as unlawful, open to the scrutiny of other corporations. Men on such a list for actual or fancied dishonesty or other faults often find themselves unable to secure employment in the line for which they are best suited and are forced to fall back upon whatever work they can get. Every old boomer can recall the case of the railroader, blacklisted and desperate after a long search for work, who finally returned to the official who had discharged him, and at the point of a pistol compelled him to restore his position, seniority rights and back pay.
Blacklist - (2) To place on the blacklist ; to defame or decry.
Black Maria - The police patrol, used to carry prisoners to the station house or prison. One explanation for the phrase is that a negress, one " Maria ", once kept a sailors' boarding-house on the Boston waterfront, and was a terror to her boarders from her size and temper. Rumour adds that when sailors rioting along the docks became too much for the police they set up the call for " Black Maria ".
Black Strap - Coffee, so called from the black-strap molasses with which the beverage is sweetened in logging camps and on tramp ships in lieu of the more expensive refined sugar. The word is more often used in sailors' and lumberjack' talk than in the usual tramp circles, where " murk " or " jamoke " are used. See " black jack ".
Blankets - Griddle, or pancakes, the staple food in many logging and contractors camps, and so called from their weight and thickness.
Blanket Stiff - See " bindle stiff ".
Blast - To shoot; to assassinate, the victim being often blasted from the face of the earth, especially when a heavy calibre revolver or rifle is used in the shooting, or when more than one weapon is used.
Blind - (1) The front end of a baggage or mail car on a passenger train ; more especially and more correctly when the door is locked and when there is no platform. A dangerous place on which to ride, but much favored by the younger, more daring tramps, especially for night riding. Also used in the plural. Also a legitimate business enterprise used as a cover under which to operate a criminal enterprise.
Blind - (2) Hopelessly intoxicated. (Common post-war English slang).
Block - The head. A watch. While the first application is usual and not hard to follow, it is rather difficult to trace the second, unless it came from the size of many of the older watches.
Bloke - A casual name for any individual, and used as in the English.
Bloomer - An error ; a failure. To say " He pulled a bloomer", is to declare someone made a bad mistake or failed in an attempt. An empty safe ; in which case, " They cracked a box, but it was a bloomer. ", merely means the cracksmen forced open a safe, only to find it empty.
Blot Out - To kill, as one is " blotted out " or erased from life.
Blow - To leave hastily ; to travel like the wind. To spend money foolishly, to throw it to the winds, the English form being " to blew ". To take cocain by inhaling.
Blowed-in-the-glass - Genuine; to be trusted. From the old time liquor bottles and other containers, which had the name of the maker or the product blown in the glass to insure the quality. A “ blowed in the glass stiff,” then, is one who never works one in the know, and able to take care of himself in any situation.
Blow In - (1) An arrival. " Where did you blow in from? " is merely to ask " What ill wind brought you here? ".
Blow In - (2) To spend money foolishly.
Blow Off - The end of anything ; a culmination. Much as one realizes a boiler is at its full pressure when the safety valve " blows off " steam.
Blow One's Top - To commit suicide, correctly, by shooting, although sometimes extended to include any means of self distruction.
Blow Out - A festive occasion or big "drunk". Usually this term is applied to "parties" given by an individual or small group, as against the term " racket " as applied to large parties or festive gatherings sponsored by an association, club or society.
Blue Goose - The general cage or cell, shared by all the prisoners, in a convict road camp or on a chain gang. Also, the general room in a prison or jail from which access is had to the cells. The open mesh or steel barred sides of this enclosure, through which small articles may be thrown, is responsible for the expression, " Like mud through a blue goose", which indicates any swift or easy passage through a town or district.
Blue Liz - A patrol wagon. Probably a light-hearted play on the older term " Black Maria " which see.
Blue One - A poor location for business or store. Originated by " pitchmen " and other street hawkers to indicate any place where passers-by fail to stop for a " bally ". See " red one ".
Bo - (1) A contraction of " hobo ", which see. Generally applied to all vagrants on railroad property by trainmen, railroad police and officials. (2) The common way one hobo referred to another: "I met that 'Bo on the way to Bangor last spring."
Bo Cave - A shack or hut where tramps congregate, usually near a railroad yard or water tank, where trains may be boarded.
Bo Park - A jocular term for any railroad yard around which tramps and hobos congregate while waiting for a train on which to leave town.
Board Stiff - A sandwich man or itinerant advertiser. Not that the individual is "bored stiff" by his occupation, but from the " boards " carried fore and aft. See " stiff ".
Boarding House - Originally applied to the Tombs, New York's City prison, the term has become known as the popular reference to any city prison.
Bob - A shoplifter. One of these individuals has declared that the manner in which he and his kind " bobbed " in and out of a crowd looking for an opportunity to pilfer gave raise to the word ; certainly the origin is no more far-fetched than many another underworld idea.
Bob Tail - Originally, a dishonourable discharge from the Army, Navy or Marine Corps, so called since the day when stripping badges, buttons and epaulets from the uniform was part of the ceremony of discharging a useless and unwanted member of the service. Now, the loss of a job. Also a street car, formerly of scant length. An old term.
Bob Tail - A semi-truck without a trailer on the back.
Boiled - Intoxicated, usually when incapable of thought or action.
Boiler - An automobile. A camp cook. A still used by bootleggers.
Boil Up - A period of rest, usually beside the railroad right of way and near a stream of some sort, with an opportunity to wash the clothes and person, repair clothing, etc.
Boil Up - To wasn and boil the clothing, the latter to kill vermin. The true " hobo " is a cleanly individual, and welcomes any opportunity to keep his person clean and neat, since a good " front " is essential in looking for work.
Boil Up - specifically, to boil one's clothes to kill lice and their eggs; generally, to get oneself as clean as possible
Bone Head - A dolt or simpleton. A stupid error or faux pas, in this connection usually a " bone head play ". In both instances the term is apt, for no one whose head was not thick, or largely of bone, would make a mistake.
Bone Orchard - A graveyard. To most vagabonds the material things of life far outweigh any other consideration, and the one crop a graveyard may be depended on to yield is certainly bones.
Bone Polisher - A Dog, usually a vicious one. A mean dog
Booob - An uninitiated person or a thieves' victim. In general use by Americans as a slang term ; the underworld, however, places an entirely fresh meaning on it, and with a scornful context quite apart from the original meaning of dunce, stupid fellow or booby.
Booby Hatch - A petty gaft exacted from prisoners by a turnkey or " trusty ", the original meaning of the word, bribery or gaft, having been adopted by the men whose meagre wealth is preyed upon.
Boogie - A negro, probably from " bogy-man ", some thing to scare children. Also a prison hospital ; in the sense the word arises from the fact that many of the men who require treatment are suffering from a disease which renders the use of a bougie necessary. Despite its probable origin, the word is pronounced with a long sound to the double o, as spelt.
Book - Everything, especially used to indicate life imprisonment ; as " doing the book ", serving a life sentence.
Book - To list on the " blotter " or other police records, but not to be confused with " mugging ", which see. A suspect or criminal is " booked " when first taken to the police station after his arrest. In most cities he is " mugged " only after he has been convicted and sentenced, although in some jurisdictions he is photographed and finger-printed after he has been taken into custody.
Book - In the 1980's the term meant to leave or get out quickly. "Let's book" meant "Let's get out of here now."
Boomer - A migratory worker with some particular trade, traveling from town to town and from locality to locality as work offers. Orginally applied to the settlers who joined the first rush to a newly opened section of country, the present-day application is no less pointed. Up to a few years ago the railroad men who drifted about the country were generally referred to as " boomers ", but since employment is harder to find the class has largely passed out of existence, most of the men even going so far as to join the ranks of the " home guards " they once despised. A leading railroad executive recently stated the case very well indeed when he said " Boomers played a great part in railroad history years ago, and most of them were good men, but there aren't many of them left now. Times have changed, and nowadays it's the home guard who brings home the bacon." See " home guard ".
Booster - Originally any helper or confederate, the word is now used more often to denominate a shoplifter, probably as a play on the verb " to lift " since a booster is one who shoves or pushes upward. On a railroad, a second or third engine attached to a heavy train load to assist it over a hill or up a heavy grade. In modern locomotives an auxiliary engine built under the tender to assist in starting the train, and cut out after the train is moving.
Bootlegger - One who sells contraband liquor, of whatever degree of excellence. Originally applied to those men who sold whisky to the Indians, the flasks being carried in the tops of the boots which were widely worn in those days. Now, usually as " legger ".
Booze Fighter - A heavy drinker, one who habitually fights John Barleycorn and comes out second best - not applied to the person who occasionally drinks to excess.
Booze Run - A settled or more or less regular business of running liquor across a Federal border, or of smuggling it from place to place. See also " runner ".
Bossy - Beef, as a food. From Latin, bos, an ox, whence " bovril " " bovex ".
Bossy In A Bowl - Beef Stew. These two terms are not hard to understand, even though the hardfaced and horny-handed worker who brawls for " bossy in a bowl " when he wants beef stew may be hard to reconcile with the little boy who regards all cattle as " bossies ". SSoIH note: Possibly where "Bessie" came from when referring to cows.
Bouncer - The employee who ousts disorderly or quarrelsome persons from a saloon, a brothel or other resort. In English slang, " chucker out ". In a mission, the attaché who keeps the congregation from sleeping during the services, and prevents their worthless or " rubber " check, which see.
Box - A box car. A safe or money-box.
Boxcar Hobo / Boxcar Tramp - A hobo who regularly rides boxcars
Boxer - A box car. A safe-robber, and not applied to the burgler or prowler who steals from the home, disregarding sch hard and dangerous work as opening a safe.
Brace - To ask for money. To address or speak to, usually when in search of alms.
Braers - Legs
Brains - In railroad circles, from which the term was adopted, this applies to the train dispatcher almost exclusively, although the conductor is sometimes so called. In general, anyone directing a gang or party of workers, as a foreman. ie: " Who's the brains of this operation? ".
Brakie - Railroad Brakeman
Braky - Railroad Brakeman
Brass - Fake, jewelry, or that peddled by " pitchmen ". Used in this sense far more than as a synonym for impudence or forwardness. " Nerve " or lack of caution.
Brass Pounder - A telegraph operator, or one who pounds a brass key.
Break - A bit of good fortune or luck, sometime anything which makes possible the attainment of an end. Possibly from the oppening shot or " break " in a pool game, by which the balls are spread apart so as to make other shots easier.
Break - To " demote " or reduce in grade or rank. To solve a case or to arrest a criminal wanted for some particular crime.
Break One's Guts - To flog or beat a prisoner until his spirt is broken ; to destroy the " nerve " or " backbone " of an individual. More often then not applied in prisons and gaols.
Breeze - Idle character ; talk of no importance. False information. ie: "shoot the breeze" means to casually talk with someone.
Breeze - To depart ; see " blow ". To deceive.
Breezer - An open automobile, such as a roadster or touring car. In general use by automobile thieves.
Brig - A police station. Originally, on a U.S. man-of-war, the place of confinement for general prisoners; taken by the Army and Marine Corps to designate the guard house, used for a like purpose, and then adopted by the tramp to its present usage.
Broad - A woman, more especially one of loose morals, and therefore to many men broad-minded, willing to listen and accede to a plea for .
Brodie - A fall ; leap failure or unsuccessful attempt. All of these meanings, from Steve Brodie, the man who jumped (or didn't jump) from the old Brooklyn Bridge above the East River, and afterwards ran a very prosperous saloon on the Bowery. SSoIH note: To do a brodie in a car, was to turn around quickly or make a U-turn much like Steve Brodie turned his life around. Later called "Flipping a bitch".
Broker - A narcotic peddler ; a go-between who buys the drugs from the man higher up, who acts as the agent for a " ring ", and sells, at high prices and in small lots, to the addict..
Buck - A negro ; probably from the same name applied to an Indian brave. A dollar. A Roman Catholic priest, so called since many old-time tramps could always raise at least that sum from a priest for telling them an artistic " fairy story ".
Buck - To oppose ; to contend with. In railroad circles, one " bucking the board " is working as an extra employee, being paid only when taking the place of a regular employee on leave, or when work is heavy.
Buddy - A pal, or a good friend. The word seems to have originated among miners, especially those who worked in narrow coal seams, where two men usually lay or kneeled, back to back in their narrow working space in order to get at the mineral with their picks. In this postion their buttocks or " butts " were naturally close together. See " butt ". The writer has heard miners in several parts of the United States thus refer to their working mates, and the word is in common use, in ordinary slang as well as in the underworld.
Buddy Up - To make friends, to form a friendship, as " Me and Slim buddy up and take a trip " - Slim and I struck up a friendship and went for a trip together.
Buffalo - A negro, especially in the Western States. The dark, closely curling hair of the negro is probably responsible for the name, which is replaced by [edit] " N word ", " C**n " or " skunk " in other parts of the country.
Bug - An insane or simple-minded individual. See " bug house ". An artificial sore or wound, made by applying acid or a blister, such as "Spanish Fly" to the skin. Formerly much used by beggars to excite sympathy, and by prisoners to gain admittance to the prison hospital, where conditions were easier than in the cells ; these devices have been forced out of any practical use by better police supervision of beggars and by experience with their use in institutions. " Jigger " is an almost synonymous term.
Bugger - Any disagreeable or offensive individual, and while by no means an elegant term, not one quarter so vulgar an expression in America as in England. Seldom if ever used to indicate a sodomite. See " burglar ".
Bugger - Specifically to commit the criminal act ; more generally, to upset another's plans.
Bug House - A lunatic asylum ; a place where " bugs " are confined.
Bug House - Crazy, simple-minded or idiotic ; usually showing that the speaker has a poor opinion of the subject's mentality, and not necessarily to indicate a complete and admitted state of insanity, in which case " crazy as a bed bug " would be the term used. It is said that " Boston Mary ", a famous tramp character some fifty years ago, first coined the word when she was growing old and felt her brain was not as nimble as it had been, and thought she had insects crawling within her skull. Generally, anyone with ideas not conforming to the usual trend is said to be " bugs ".
Bughouse Square - Washington Square, Chicago ; so called since there assemble those of the fraternity of the road, and others, who think they have a message for the world. The name has lately been applied to Union Square, New York, and for the same reason.
Buggy - An automobile ; a contraction of the term " gasoline buggy ", by which the earlier automobiles were known.
Buggy - Crazy. See " bug house ". Verminous ; although seldom so used.
Buggy Bandits - Car theives ; automobile theives.
Bugs - Crazy. See " bug house ".
Bull - (1) A policeman, usually when a member of the uniformed force, and so called from the bullying attitude many of these men adopt to tramps and other unfortunates who fall into their hands. Deceit ; in the sense a contraction of the vulgar term for a bull's excretion, something offensive, worthless.(2) A railroad officer, police/security.
Bull - (3) To deceive ; to lie to. See above. To force an issue, in which case the origin was probably the strength and aggressive attitude of the animal.
Bull Buster - One with a morbid passion for assaulting the police.
Bull Cook - A camp flunky or waiter. From the language of the loggers, where it was applied to the rather dull, spiritless man who helped the cook ; a being but little better than the bullocks that haul timber, as far as intellect is concerned.
Bull Fighter - An empty passenger coach, usually when attached to a freight train or when standing idle in the yards. Just where the name originated is hard to say.
Bull Horrors - A morbid fear of the police, usually the result of a previous ill-treatment in their hands, or from the realization that an arrest would mean a long term of imprisonment. See " horrors ".
Bull Local - a freight which travels between divisions, often stopping at local yards
Bull Pen - The sleeping quarters or barracks in a lumber camp. The cage or pen in a prison or gaol in which general prisoners are kept while awaiting trial or transfer ; or, in the case of " trusties ", when allowed special privileges and not confined to their cells. In both instances from the likeness to a stock pen or corral. See " bull ring ".
Bull Ring - The gaol or prison walk about which prisoners are made to walk as a punishment or for exercise. A prison stockade. From the bull rings in which the animal is baited and fought.
Bull Simple - Afraid of the police. See " bull horrors ", " simple ".
Bull Wool - Shoddy clothing, so called from the rough texture, which feels as if filled with hair.
Bull Wool - Cheap ; Shoddy ; worthless.
Bullets - Beans, often served so poorly cooked they are hard and as indigestible as their namesake.
Bum - (1) A tramp who does not travel and who will not work ; one who lives on charity from choice, although in many cases able to earn a living. One of the most generally misapplied definitions in the underworld and tramp argot, but clearly explained in the words of an experienced hobo : "Bums loafs and sits. Tramps loafs and walks. But a hobo moves and works and he's clean." See " hobo ", " moocher ", " stiff ", " tramp ".
Bum - (2) A skid row alcoholic, found infrequently on freight trains. Does not work, stays drunk, usually drinks wine.
Bum - (3) Cheap ; undesirable ; inferior.
Bum - (4) To beg or solicit, from the habit of the " bum ".
Bum Beef - A unjust accusation. A prisoner who says "I was jugged on a bum beef", is merely declaring "I was imprisoned after an unjust accusation and undeserved arrest, for am innocent.".
Bum Factory - A mission or a cheap lodging-house. The fact that both of these establishments lead to a life of ease and indolence, since free food and clothes may be had from the first, and cheap lodging from the second, cause the true tramp and hobo to regard them as important factors in creating the " bums " which both despise.
Bum Sick - Inimical to all vagrants ; applied to those towns or cities which have had too many tramps and beggars to feed, and which are heartily tired of all such characters. More extreme in many cases then " hostile ", which see.
Bums On The Plush - The idle rich. Although the true " bum " is one who " loafs and sits " and neither works nor wanders, this term is given those members of society who need not work for a living and who are able to travel about on " the plush ", that is, in passenger coaches and Pullman cars, the general association of plush with riches. Of I.W.W. origin, the mouth-filling size of the phrase has added to its popularity. The hobo's idea of the " bum on the plush " and his reponsibility for social misery is well put in the verse which declares :

"The bum on the rods is a social flea
Who gets an occasional bite,
The bum on the plush is a social leech,
Bloodscuking day and night."

Bump - To displace a junior from a prised job, usually on a railway, where seniority rules the roost very strictly. It is now generally used to explain a worker's shift in employment when his place has been taken by an older man in length of service.
Bumper - The end sill of a freight car, and usually referred to in the plural. By straddling the space between the cars, the edge of each foot on either bumper, with the hands pressing against the ends of the cars, it is sometimes possible to ride a freight train for a long distance, when all cars are sealed and the crew is watchful. A dangerous place in which to ride, as once the train is in motions it is practically impossible to leave one's perch, where the train crew is able to " dew drop " q.v., at will.
Bump Off - A killing ; the end of anything, usually of a criminal " job ".
Bump Off - To kill now often replaced by " blast ". The term is a development of " bump ", and was originated by criminal tramps with a knowledge of railroad slang.
Bundle - Loot or plunder, usually that which is bulky to carry. Seldom used save by older thieves or yeggs.
Bundle - To steal from the person. Usually by pick-pockets, who " bundle " their victims about in order to rob them, even though the loot they secure is seldom referred to as a " bundle ".
Bundle Bum - A low grade " bindle stiff ", especially when food, clothing or other articles are carried. Also applied to the vagrant who creeps about the streets, pulling discarded food or clothing from refuse cans, bundling his acquisitions together until he returns to his " hang out " or lodging, where he is able to sort over his finds.
Bunk - Buncombe ; politeness. This last because most tramps feel it is often possible to secure more consideration with excessive politeness than with a more direct approach. Also, a hiding place ; in this case no doubt from the seaman's habit of concealing little personal belongings about his bunk, or berth. More recently, synthetic liquor.
Bunk - To conceal. Never used in America to describe an escape or quick disappearance.
Bunk - Nonsense or bullshit. "Anyone with a brain would never believe such bunk."
Bunker - A sodomite or pervert. Here again it is likely that the sea is responsible for the use of the word " bunk ", since it is a legend with most vagrants that the sailor leads a very depraved sexual life.
Bunker Shy - Afraid of being forced into unnatural sexual relations or in fear of a pervert. Usually said of a " prushun " or " lamb " not yet completely under the control of his " jocker " or " wolf ".
Burger - today's lunch
Burglar - An active pederast ; a play on the word.
Burly - An active, able-bodied and aggressive tramp or yegg.
Burn - To electrocute ; especially when this is done as a means of capital punishment. Since few of these executions are done without producing extensive burns on the body or limbs of the victim, the application is most forceful.
Burn Up - To defraud a partner, or to " frame up " another, since the vicitim is said to be " burned up " when he grows " hot under the collar " at the treatment received.
Burr Head - A negro, from the tightly curling hair, which resembles the " burr " or metal shavings turned off by a lathe. Usually applied in the West and North-West.
Busher - An amateur or outsider trying to enter a wider field of endeavour or travelling on sufferance in a more experienced company than that to which he as been accustomed. From the sporting slang, " bush leaguer ", a member of a relatively unimportant team, one from the " bush " or the " back woods ".
Busking - Playing music for money while traveling.
Bust - An error or bad " break ". A drinking bout. An emotional outburst in a prison as the result of cruel or unfair treatment, which may amount to actual mania, in which case the victim is well on the way to become a " stir bug ", which see. In all these uses the words is, of course, a mispronunciation of " burst ", something broken or broken out.
Bust - To strike, also to demote in grade or rank. The last from the Army, where is man is " busted " when he loses his rank for some act of insubordination or inefficiency.
Butcher - A physician or surgeon, especially one of the staff of a prison or charity hospital. Men treated in such institutions feel their doctors are political appointees in the main, and as such, none too able.
Butcher - To kill ; and used in correct English except that the one to be killed is the victim of a gang or individual, and not an article of food. Also applied in legal executions.
Butt - A cigar or cigarette stub ; a cigarette ; the buttocks.
Buttermilker - A tramp or migratory worker form the Pittsburgh district. No one seemd to be able to say just where this term originated, and it is certain that no particular amount of the beverage is consumed in the neighbourhood of Pittsburgh, yet the term is in common use all over the United States.
Buzz - (1) Talk ; idle chatter ; general conversation. See " bee ".
Buzz - (2) To question or converse with. To beg from.
Buzzard - An amateur thief, or one preying upon women, but not to be confused with " moll buzzer ", which see. No doubt from the bird of the same name, which feeds upon weak animals and those unable to defend themselves, or on carrion. See also " jungle buzzard ".
Buzzer - A policeman's badge, not unlikely because it is his mark of authority, that which allows him to question or " buzz " a suspect.

C - back to top ↑

C -- Cocaine - an easliy understood, quickly pronounced name for the narcotic, and used generally by addicts and those of the underworld who come in contact with them. Also, less fequently, 100 dollars, short for " centum ".
C. S, - The Criminal Syndicalism Act of California, under the provisions of which much of labour’s freedom is restricted.
Cab Joint - A brothel ro " heifers' den " to which patrons are driven by taxicab, the drivers usually, or in many instances, receiving a certian fee or percentage of what the patron spends in the " joint ". This arrangement was much more common in the days of horse-drawn cabs, and before the reformers had managed to upset such procedure on the part of the disorderly resorts, but the term has survived.
C and A Pocket - A large pouch or pocket in the coat, somewhat similar to that in a hunting jacket, made by cutting through the ordinary pockets so that food and other articles may be carried on the person, leaving the hands free. In some towns the mere fact that a man's clothing has been so altered has brought gaol sentence for vagrancy, even though the man was not soliciting alms or carrying anything which might have been begged or pilfered. The name originated along the Chicago and Alton Railroad, much of which ran through territory providing a poor living for tramps, who carried enough food with them to enable them to pass through this section of the country and into greener pastures.
C, H, and D - Cold, Hungry and Dry (thristy). The tramp " calling in " at a jungle fire will declare he is "C., H. and D." to indicate he wants food and drink, with an opportunity to warm himself. A play on the initials of the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad.
Cackleberries - Eggs. From the 18th century English thieves' slang. " cacklers' ken ", a hen roost and " cackling cheats ", fowls.
Cackler - An egg. A white collar worker ; this name originated by the I.W.W., who have had a hard time interesting this class of worker in their movement, and who say a clerk or office worker will talk " cackle ", all day and do nothing to improve his condition.
Cadillac Car - Riding in the unit/locomotive of the train.
Cali - California. Pronounced as " cally ", but not to be confused with it.
Call - To force an issue. From the same expression in poker, to call for a show of hands so as to determine the winner. See " call the turn ".
California Blankets - Newspapers, when used as bedding or stuffed inside the clothing to keep out the cold. So called since much of the southern part of the State has a climate which allows of sleeping out of doors with but scant covering.
Calling In - using another's campfire to warm up or cook
Call The Turn - To identify a criminal or solve a problem. From certain card games in which the player wins as he calls correctly the card or cards to be turned up by the dealer.
Cally - A police station ; from " calaboose ", sea slang, which originated in the Spanish " calabozo".
Camera Eye - A detective or police officer with a good memory for faces. Several old-time police officers were particularly known by this term ; this was sincere flattery from the criminals, who knew that once they were seen and recorded in the officer's mind they were " marked men ".
Camp Eye - The worker assigned to look after a camp while the other men of the gang are out at work ; a tramp performing a like duty while his fellows are looking for food. " See " crumb boss ".
Can - A prison or gaol ; a toilet. Both of these definitions may be traced to the prisoners who are forced to use a " night bucket " or can when locked in their cells.
Canister - A watch, probably from the correct usage, " a small box ". Also, among older yeggs, a revolver, in which sense the reference is to the case shot used by artillery. -
Can Moocher - A tramp or bum, filthy, lost to hope and ambition and often demented, and exile from everything worth while. Originally the tomato can was used as a container into which were drained the dregs from beer kegs outside of saloons ; later the smae recptacle came to be used as a catch-all fro begged or salvaged food. See " tomato-can stiff ".
Cannon - A pistol or revolver. A clever thief or pick-pocket. No doubt from the Yiddish, " gonoph ", a thief, which became " gon " and then " gun " and so to its present form. In the argot, " cannon ", " rod ", " gun ", " gat ", " heater ", and " torch " are all used to designate a revolver or pistol, but cannon is the only word of the group used synonymously with " gun " as a derivative of the root word " gonov ", a thief, which see.
Cannon Ball - A fast, scheduled freight or express train. A note or other message sent by one in gaol through a trusty. In both cases the questoin of speed is responsible for the word.
Cannonball - a fast train
Canuck - In the United States, any Canadian ; properly, in Canada, a French-Canadian.
Captain - A railroad conductor, the man in charge of the train and its movements. One free with his money, and so able to command respect and enforce orders. The latter use probably comes from the negro's delight in bestowing titles on anyone in authority, whether that person is entitled to the rank or not.
Car Catcher - A railroad brakeman ; the employee who boards a train or car while it is in motion, and therefore is said to " catch " it.
Car Knocker - A yard man who assembles trains
Carrying the Balloon - (1) Travelling about with one's bedding, and often the cooking utensils and clothing. See " balloon ".
Carrying the Balloon - (2) In search of employment ; applied principally to migratory workers traveling from one section of the country to another in pursuit of some definite kind of work, such as harvesting.
Carrying The Banner - Walking the streets all night, keeping in constant motion so as to avoid arrest as a vagrant or being picked up for loitering or to keep from freezing.
Carrying A Flag - Travelling under an assumbed name or with an alias. In railroad parlance, a train or engine is carrying a flag when signals are displayed to indicate that the train is not on the schedule, or that it is travelling in sections, and therefore not merely as it appears.
Carrying The Mail - Travelling at high speed ; running swiftly. Said of any person in a hurry.
Car Toad - On a railroad, the car inspector and similar workers who are concerned with the examination of wheels, bearings while a train is at a station or in the yard ; in carnival and circus circles, the mechanic who looks after minor repairs on the cars. The work requires the men to stoop or squat by the side of the rolling stock, in which position their likeness to a toad is not hard to see.
Case - A silver dollar. An observation or spying. The first sense is from the Hebrew " caser ", a crownpiece (five shillings, English money), " case " being English slang for a bad crown piece about 1870. The second may have originated from the expression " a case ", to indicate the person was unusual, and therefore worth watching, but this seem far-fetched.
Case - To observe from ambush ; to look over the scene of a proposed robbery, or to look over the route to be used for a getaway after the crime. To shoot down from ambush.
Case Note - A dollar bill.
Casey - Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas City Southern Railroad.
Cash In - To die, and taken from the gaming tables, where a man is said to " cash in his checks " when he redeems his counters for cash and leaves the game. A very old term in America. See " check out " for a somewhat similar term. SSoIH note: Has been altered to "cash in his chips".
Cat - A itinerant worker. A person on the fringe of hobo, yegg or criminal groups, beating his way about the country and working at this or that as opportunity offers. Possibly so called since he slinks about like a homeless cat. See " gay cat ".
Catter - A tramp or hobo riding the " blinds " or on back of the engine tender, in which position one must hang on for dear life and keep on the alert to prevent discovery. See " rambler ", " wolf ".
Catting Up - Robbing " cats ", which see. This was often, and is now occasionally, done by criminal traps, yeggs or jungle buzzards who enter a freight car with the unaware " cats " and make them disgorge at a pistol's point. Often the victims are made to jump from the moving train after the robbery. See " red light ".
Catch - To board a train
Catch Back - To ride the way you have come on a freight
Catch him on the run - To board a train that is moving.
Catch on the Fly - Catching a train while it's moving.
Catch the Westbound - to die. When a hobo dies they say he caught the westbound.
Catching Out - Jumping on a train to leave.
Century - $100. A hundred dollar bill.
Chain Man - A thief or pickpocket specializing in watches. Another example of the specialization which has been so popular with master craftsmen!
Chalked - Detained by the police, often with no definite charge as yet entered against the prisoner. It was formerly the custom to mark with chalk the doors of those cells from which the prisoner was not to be released without special orders.
Charlie Paddock - An escape ; a swift departure. Both of these from the champion runner, said by many to be the swiftest human being.
Chatter Talk - Talk, conversation, especially when without purpose.
Cheaters - Horned-rimmed spectacles. Marked cards or dishonest dice, no matter how marked or in what way they may be used to cheat. There are many different kinds of " cheaters ", all with some peculiarity givin an advantage to the gambler familiar with their use.
Checkerboard Crew - A working crew or chaingang of white and colored men together.
Check Out - To die ; to give up or abandon. From the term applied to an hotel guest when departing and checking his goods out of the establishment.
Chew - To eat ; to talk
Chewins - Food, that which is chewed.
Chew The Fat - To talk, an elaboration of " chew ", and yet more often heard than the former. Also used as " chew the nag".
Chi - Chicago. One of the many abbreviations given to the names of American cities of which " Casey ", " Los ", and " San Berdoo " are other well-known trampisms.
Chicken Feed - Small change ; a small amount of money. Probably from the fact that money would not feed anyone with more appetite than a fowl.
Chin - To talk.
Chink - A Chinaman
Chippy - A young girl, and generally in a derogatory sense.
Chisler - A petty thief, a cheap gambler or one of scan ability and essaying to a postion of importance in his sphere of activity. Probably since a tool of the same name take small bites from the wood it is used on, and since the " chisler " usually makes only enough to support himself, at the same time making things hard for his " superiors " in the underworld. Loosely, a term of opprobrium.
Choker - Cheese. Largely used in the harvest fields and in the lumber camps, and so called from its effect on the bowels.
Chopper - a machine gun, or the man operating such a weapon with a gang of racketeers or robbers. Anyone who has seen a machine gun mow or chop down those who come within its range will appreciate the application. See also " dropper ", " trigger man ".
Chow - Food. First employed in America by sailors who saw the dog of that name used in China as an article of food, although some claim that the animal's appetite was responsible for the application.
Chronic - To beg ; to investigate.
Chronicker - A confirmed beggar. An ill-natured tramp.
Chuck - Food. Probably from the cut of beef so called, a cheaper part of the animal, and as such frequently served in cheaper restaurants. To eat.
Chuck a dummy - To simulate a faint on the street to excite sympathy, a device formerly much adopted by tramps and beggars in a district where many women were to be found in the crowd.
Chuck House - A mine or mill eating-house. A restaurant.
Cinci. - Cincinnati. See " Chi ".
Cinder Bull - A railroad policeman or detective. A " bull " who works on the cinders or right of way.
Cinder Sifter - A tramp, especially one travelling along the railroads.
Circus Bees - Body lice, frequent enough about the smaller circuses and tent shows, in many of which the roustabouts and labourers are forced to " double up " or sleep two in a berth, and where cleanliness is next to impossible.
Cicrus Squirrels - See " circus bees ".
Claw - To arrest, probably since the hand or " claw " is laid on the person taken into custody.
Clean - Out of funds ; penniless ; " broke ". No doubt free from that which defiles ; without " filthy lucre ". (In colloquial speech, " clean broke ".
Clean - To rob ; especially when a clean sweep is made of the money-box, pockets or house of the victim.
Clean One - A stolen automobile from which all identification has been removed. An empty safe.
Clem - A general fight or riot. Originated in the old days of horse-drawn circuses when the townspeople or " towners " and the show folk were usually at odds. A resident " short changed " or otherwise " gyped " by a member of the troupe or an attachѐ was usually at the bottom of the row, enlisting his friends in an attack on the show, which was usually repulsed by the entire personnel. " Hey Rube ! " was the showman's war cry and rallying call.
Click - To succeed. No doubt from the " click " of a roulette ball when it drops into the division of the wheel, and by which some one is lucky enough to win. The term is widely used by actors and stage folk.
Clock - The face. From the face of a clock or watch.
Clothes Line - Neighbourhood gossip, from the backyard chat between housewives while hanging out the wash.
Clout - To steal, generally by force, from the person. To strike.
Clown - a countryman, generally used among tramps and lesser criminals, even though this application of the word is seldom heard in everday conversation. A sheriff constable to town marshal. In both these uses the derisive element is large, since the countryman and the country law-officer is regarded as a poor sort by the more sophisticated tramp and vagabond, although the deadly hatred of the rustic " law " is well know.
Coke - Cocaine. An unlikely or exaggerated story, from the well-known effect of cocain on the addict's power of reasoning and ability to stick to the truth.
Coke Party - A gathering at which cocaine or some other drug furnishes the stimulation usually found in liquor.
Cold - Dead or unconscious. Unlikely to furnish action or give results, outmoded. From a corpse, cold as death, etc.
Cold Cock - To render insensible by a blow with a bottle, club, etc.
Cold One - An empty wallet, money-box or safe.
Cold Slough Prowler - A thief who specializes in robbing empty houses.
Collar - An arrest, since the person wanted is taken by the collar.
Collar And Shoulder Style - The system adopted at many boarding-houses and construction camps, where the food is placed on the table in front of the boarders, not served to them individually, and where each man serves himself by a fast dive at the platter.
Combination - Vegetable stew ; a tramp dish cooked up on those days when materials for " mulligan " are not to be had. See " mulligan ", " peoria ".
Comeback - A retory or reply ; a ready answer or explanation to an accusation or question.
Comet - A tramp new to the road, or to tramp life. So called since these persons are invariably nervous, inclined to move quickly when any one seems to be watching them, and worried lest they be arrested. Also a tramp or hobo, usually with a decided psychosis, riding only fast trains, and for long distances, even though there be no reason for such moves. See " rambler ".
Confidence Game - A swindling operation in which advantage is taken of the victim's trust in the swindler. This takes many forms, from the simple, old " gold brick " game to more elaborate deals in which a long and extensive preparation is necessary to perfect the swindle.
Conk - (1) The head. Although for what reason it is hard to say.
Conk - (2) To strike on the head.
Connect - To meet ; to enter into an agreement.
Conny - A railroad conductor.
Con Racket - A confidence game ; merely a contraction of " confidence racket ".
Consent Job - A theft or arson committed with the consent of the owner or landlord. An automobile stolen with the consent of the owner. The insurance money reimburses the owner, often far above the value of the property, and no attempt is made to prosecute the person responsible.
Contact - A connection or affiliation made by a criminal to protect himself from arrest or to make crime easy. This may be through friendship with some powerful politician, by a threatened blackmail over some one in authority, or through money paid the police for protection.
Cook Up - To arrange or " frame up " a situation or a plan. To prepare opium for smoking.
Cooler - A police station, or a punishment cell in prison or penitentiary. More frequent in the latter use, where it indicates a dungeon, usually below the ground, and without a spot of light, in which refractory prisoners are confined for breaking the rules. Damp and cold, these cells are literally " coolers " for the pseron, as well as for the hot temper which is not infrequently to blame for the confinement. Also, a silencer for pistol, rifle or small machine gun.
Coop - A police station. A coupé. The former term in general use, the latter more usually heard among automobile thieves.
Cootie Cage - A berth in a carnival or circus sleeping car. A bunk in a construction camp or logging camp. The term was used before the World War had made the word " cootie " so familiar.
Cooties - body lice
Cop - A policeman. A theft or unlawful acquisition. The root word is " cap " to seize or steal ; it comes very probably from Latin capere, to take, through medieval and debased Latin, although the following explanation has much in its favour.
Cop - To steal. Possibly the fact that the " cop " or " copper " is to be watched for when a crime has committed has something to do with the word, and a very plausible American explanation is that the old-time police badge was of copper, with no nickle plating. See " copper ".
Cop A Plea - To accept the opportunity of pleading guilty to a lesser crime than that charged with, or to plead guilty to the charge, thus saving the State expense and (possibly) winning leniency from the court.
Cop A Sneak - To walk away ; to leave, generally in haste and quietly.
Cop Out - To arrest, to haul a criminal from his hiding place or out of a crowd. In English slang, " cop out" is to " catch it ", to get into trouble.
Copper - A policeman ; usually applied directly, and as a term of derision. Also the good-behaviour allowance on a prison sentence by which it is possible to excape serving the full term. Misbehaviour, or a loss of favour in prison may cost a man all or part of his " copper ", which is carefully counted by every experienced prisoner.
Corn - Small change. See " chicken feed ". Liquor made from corn, especially that home-made product of the Southern States properly known as " moonshine ".
Cover With The Moon - To sleep in the open.
Cow crate - a railroad stock car
Crab - A body louse, especially of that variety infesting the pubic region ; short for " crab louse ". Also a disagreeable ro testy individual, in the latter case since this short person is as much of an annoyance as the insect from which he takes his name.
Crab - To complain or find fault.
Crack - Any statement or remark considered in bad taste, ill advised or insulting. No doubt another survival from Scottish dialect, where the meaning was " talk gossip ", with no especial construction.
Crack Down - To pay close attention to, or to work unusually hard. From rifle shooting, when one is said to " crack down " when he sights and fires.
Cracked - Simple-minded ; having peculiar or extreme ideas on any one subject. See " bats ", " bughouse ".
Cracked Ice - Diamonds, usually those stones which have not yet been set, or those removed from their settings.
Crap - Anything regarded as foolish or without value. Deceit, false information. The origin is the same as that of " bull " which see.
Crash The Gate - To join a party without an invitation or to enter a theatre or other place of amusement without a ticket, usually by pretending a right of entry even though not holding a pass.
Crawler - A legless beggar, one who crawls about the streets in search of charity. See " joy rider ", " flops ".
Crazy As A Bedbug - Erratic, especially when given to sudden, aimless moves or actions, much as the vermin rush about when a light is suddenly introduced into an infested room or bed.
Creepers - Felt or rubber-soled shoes worn by prison guards to sneak thieves ; tennis shoes.
Creep Joint - A house or apartment especially prepared to make the robbery of amorous males more simple. Enticed to the " joint " by a woman, the unwary victim places his clothes on a chair, clothes hook or rack near a wall, cupboard or chest of drawers. In due time a panel in the wall or chest of drawers is quietly opened and the woman's " pimp " or associate searches the clothing for money or valuables. The name comes into use since the thief quietly sneaks or creep behind the wall or panel so as not to awaken or warn the victim. Also called a " panel house ".
Crew Change - Place where a train stops and swaps out conductors and engineers.
Crib - A safe or money box. A gambling dive. A harlot's house or room, usually one of many in a group, rented from the same owner or agent. The first meaning undoubtedly comes from England, where it has been part of thieves' cant for years ; in the second sense the word has long been used in America, and is even older than the third, which is that most widely accepted to-day.
Crimps - Rheumatism, not improbably since many of those afflicted with this trouble are more or less deformed or " crimped ".
Crimpy Weather - Inclement weather, which usually agravates the " crimps ". Crip - A cripple.

Croak - To die ; to kill. Perhaps the frog's mournful voice was once thought to resemble the death rattle, or perhaps the term may have been taken from the croak or cry of the raven, always a bird of ill omen.
Croaker - A physician. See " black bottle ", and " butcher " for the application of the word, which is never applied to a butcher, as a man who kills animals for food.
Croaker Joint - A physician's office ; especially that in a prison.
Crocus - See " croaker ".
Crum - A body louse. The word is used as here or as " crumb " with equal frequency, although just where it started is not easy to say, unless from the insect's likeness in appearance to a crumb of bread.
Crum Boss - A bunk house janitor, so called since many of these men have enough to do to keep down the vermin in their premises.
Crum Hill - Jefferson Hill, Chicago ; a favourite gathering place for tramps, and during the summer months infested with vermin.
Crum Roll - A bed roll or " balloon ".
Crum Up - See " boil up ".
Crummy - Verminous ; undesirable ; inferior or cheap.
Crummy - A railroad caboose. These cars, especially those which are “chain ganged,” used in succession by various crews, are not always the cleanest places, and as the crews sometimes sleep in the caboose when out on a run, there have been cases where vermin were too numerous for comfort. Few crews will permit a stranger in their caboose lest they introduce lice or bed bugs.
Crumbs - lice
Crummy - The caboose
Crustfunder"Kid living the gutterpunk/crusty lifestyle out of laziness and have a steady income from their parents.
Crush - To escape from a prison or gaol. See “beat,” “crush out.”
Crush Out - To break gaol, especially when this is accompanied with violence to guards or when a wall or building is blasted or dug away. See “break,” “crush.”
Crusher - A policeman, first so called when some luckless prisoner or vagrant was badly beaten by his captor.
Crusties - A more extremist form of gutterpunk, intentionally not using hygiene, and usually identified by tons of tattoo's, piercings, dirty clothes, and the smell of a dogs ass.
Culls - Hash, usually made of inferior or culled meats and vegetables.
Cupid's Itch - Any venereal disease.
Curbstones - Cigar and cigarette ends picked up on the street or in the gutter. Also called “stoop tobacco.”
Curtains - Death; the end. From the usual practice in the death house or on “murderers’ row “a in a State prison, where a curtain is drawn before the cells of the Inmates when one of their number is led out to be executed.
Curvs - A beautiful woman, which in a tramp’s eyes means one with a deal of form and substance.
Cush - Money; perhaps from “cushions,” which see, perhaps as in the English “cushy,” from the Hindustani. The letter word, widely heard among the Tommies during the World War, is seldom if ever used in America.
Cushions - Comfort; ease; luxury. The tramp riding the “rods” or “deck " of a train feels that those within the cars on the cushioned seats are in the lap of luxury, and the word has come to mean any state of affairs or condition of living above the average.
Cut - A division of loot; a share in the proceeds of a crime.
Cut - To divide the spoils. To dilute genuine liquor with alcohol and water, by which means the original stock may be doubled or even tripled in bulk.
Cuties / Cooties - Body lice.
Cutor - A prosecuting attorney.
Cutting Up - Discussing an absent person’s actions or morals, usually in an uncomfortably accurate and uncomplimentary manner. Akin to the adverb “cutting” in the usual sense.
Czar - The warden of a penitentiary or prison, a man with absolute power over his charges, and from whose rulings there usually is no chance of appeal. Not unlikely from Dannemora, New York’s State Prison at the northern end of the state, where discipline is severe, and which institution has long been called “Siberia” by the underworld.

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Daddy - A Cadillac automobile, a make fairly common in America, and popular with “buggy bandits” from its size, speed and sturdy construction.
Dago Red - Cheap red wine, such as that usually drunk by Italian labourers.
Damper - A cash register or money drawer, presumably so called since it checks petty thieving much as a damper checks a fire or draft.
Dangler - An exhibitionist. A “rambler” riding the “rods” or brake beams, in both of which cases he more or less dangles from his perch.
Darb - Unusually skilled or able; excellent. Probably a corruption of English “dab,” the short form “dabster,” as indicating one with unusual skill at a certain trade or art. Certainly there is connection with “darbies,” manacles, which term is but little used in America.
Date Back - To recall or remember, as one would say: “I can date back to the time when—“
Dauber - A painter who does quick jobs for automobile thieves, changing the appearance of the car so that it can be held in safety until such time as it may be sold.
Davy - An affidavit, and now seldom heard except among the older tramps.
Dawg - a traveling partner
Dead - Out of touch with events and persons in the underworld or on the road; the opposite of “wise.” Reformed. A crook or tramp who has forsaken the old ways will state he is “dead,” meaning, perhaps, that lie has had a new birth in righteousness, and at any rate meaning most decidedly that his past is buried, dead. See “square it.”
Dead One - A reformed criminal; a former tramp. Any stingy person. One who refuses to accede to a plan or who is of no use in an enterprise.
Deck - The roof of a railway car, mainly used in the plural, to indicate the roofs of a train. A pack of cigarettes or a packet of drugs.
Deck - To board a train and climb to the roof to ride.
Deckhand - A domestic, one who does the ordinary work about a house.
Dee Dee - A deaf mute, or one feigning the affliction.
Dehorn - Anything inimical to I.W.W belief or welfare, or anything which seemed likely to weaken the movement or its workers. Probably since many of the early I.W.W. members, were from the West, and knew that much of a bull’s anger and power was removed when the animal was dehorned.
Dehorn Committee - A delegation of workers picketing brothels or saloons during labour troubles to keep workers from becoming disorderly and so running the risk of arrest.
Deuce - A two-dollar bill, considered as bad luck by the superstitious (two or the deuce being the lowest throw at dicing), whence the name. Note the old (English) cant “dews” or “deux,” i.e. two; and the deuce, a natural dicer’s exclamation, being considered as equivalent to the devil!
Dewdrop - To hurl lumps of coal back over the train in hopes of striking a tramp riding between the cars. See “bumpers.” Tramps or other train riders struck by coal thus thrown are likely to be stunned and knocked off the cars and under the wheels, one of the reasons a tramp always avoids a “bad road,” which see. See “fishing.”
Diamond Pusher - A railroad fireman, from the term, “black diamonds,” applied to coal.
Dicer - A hat. A fast freight. Just where these two terms came from is open to question; old tramps say the first is taken from the cups used for throwing dice, and the second from the motion of the train, not unlike that used in shaking the dice.
Dicer Hobo Nickel - In January of 2013 "The Dicer Hobo Nickel" sold at auction for $24,200. The Dicer Hobo Nickel
Dick - A detective; a corrupt contraction of the word, and widely used.
Dick - A hiding place for stolen goods, probably from the fact that the old yeggs not infrequently laid their spoils away under the ground until the hue and cry had subsided and they were able to return and dig up the loot. The word is never used in America, as the plural is in England, to indicate a lodging; the English word starts from the same idea, but is short for “diggings.”
Dimmer - A dime, a ten-cent piece; another case of corrupted pronunciation. See “fin.”
Dine - Dynamite. An old-time yegg, one who used dynamite or “soup,” which see, to open safes or strong boxes.
Dinero - Money. Used generally through the West and South-West, and, of course, taken from the Spanish.
Dingbat - A bum or tramp of low degree, usually a “bindle stiff.”
Ding Dong - A bell, usually a door-bell or one used to announce meals. A childish allusion, yet used generally by the older tramps. See “toot the ding dong.”
Dingoes - Tramps or vagrants who refuse to work when the opportunity is offered them, even though they may claim to be looking for a job. Any connection between such a person and the Australian wild dog, commonly known by the same name, may seem a little far-fetched, yet no other explanation offers.
Dip - A pickpocket. The word is understandable enough, since the pickpocket “dips” into the victim’s pockets. An old word which is still used by everyone familiar with the underworld.
Dippy - Crazy. It seems likely that this word originated with “dopey,” under the influence of a drug, yet it is applied to any person not quite “all there,” and has no reference to any narcotic. This word, figuring neither in Hotten nor in Farmer and Henley, dates apparently from about 1900; probably from dipsomaniac, one “mad “ for intoxicants.
Dipsey - A workhouse sentence; perhaps connected with “deep-sea;” by sailors pronounced “dipsey.”
Dirt - Money. Gossip. The first reference may easily be seen as applying to “filthy lucre”; the latter is meant to include all the “dirty details” of the matter under discussion. See “dish the dirt.”
Dirty - Having money; in contrast to “clean,” which see.
Dirty Dog - Greyhound. See Doggin' it.
Dirty Kids - Usually a laid-back form of crusties or gutterpunks, no sense of hygiene, traveling by any means necessary, with no specific goals or jobs attached to their destination.
Dish The Dirt - To serve up all the scandal or gossip; to explain the details of a projected enterprise or to clear up a misunderstanding.
Ditch - To hide, to secrete; to desert; to put off a train by force or threat. In the first three instances, from the fact anything placed in a ditch is not readily seen; in the last, from the ditch along the right of way into which one falls when thrown from a moving train.
Dive - Any place of ill repute, from the point of view of the underworld but not necessarily from that of the world at large.
Division - Main freight yards, usually five hundred miles apart. Through freights stop only at divisions. Also called "Five-hundred milers"
Division Leap - A long ride on the same train; from one division point to another, or beyond. Originated by the old yeggs who beat their way across the country in long jumps to out-distance pursuit, and now adopted by the “comet” and “rambler” and by the migratory worker who is anxious to reach a certain job as soon as possible. Experienced tramps and hobos have been known “hold down” a certain train for almost incredible distances, riding with no opportunity for rest or food, and in constant danger of detection and arrest, or of being so tired they of the will lose hold e rods or trucks and so fall under the wheels.
Divvy - A share, as of loot or funds. From “division.”
Divvy - To divide or share; to make a division.
Docandoberry - anything edible that grows on a riverbank
Dog - The foot. Possibly from the expression “dogging one’s footsteps;” more likely from a humorous reference to the size of an individual’s feet.
Dog Eye - A close inspection or scrutiny, implying all that a dog’s inspection of a stranger contains, not merely an eyeing, but a sniffing about as well.
Dog Eye - To inspect or scrutinize.
Dog House - A railroad caboose. A small garage in a residential neighbourhood, often owned by a householder, and rented by a gang of automobile thieves in which to store their stolen cars until pursuit and discovery seem unlikely. In both cases, from the size, although the caboose on all through freight trains is now as large as most of the cars in the train.
Doggin' it - traveling by bus, especially on the Greyhound bus line
Dogs - Sausages. See “beagles.”
Donegan - A toilet or wash-room. The English low-slang equivalent is “dunnyken” or “dunnaken,” originally “dannaken,” a water-closet, from “danna,” human ordure, and “ken,” a place, especially a house; these two words belong to 17th and 18th century thieves’ cant.
Donegan Worker - A criminal who robs men in toilet or wash-rooms. There are several methods, one of which is for the crook to enter the next cubicle to that occupied by his intended victim, drop a collar stud or some article of small size, and request the victim to look for it on the floor of his compartment. If the victim does this the crook reaches over the top of the partition while the “sucker” is peering about the floor, and abstracts the wallet or other valuables from the clothing hung on the wall. Having secured the loot, the crook thanks his victim for his search, declares he has found what he was looking for, and departs. Even if the victim is at once aware of his loss, he can seldom pursue the thief as his clothes are in disorder, and not having seen the one who robbed him he has small chance of identifying him once he has caught up with him and made an accusation.
Dope - Narcotics; information; a stupid person; the grease-soaked cotton waste used to pack axle boxes on railroad cars; the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The dictionary gives the Dutch doop, a dipping, as the basis for the word as used here. Narcotics and a stupid individual (as for instance, one under the influence of a drug) arc logical translations; information, especially any secret news, owes its application to the nice track, where a “doped” horse is known to only a few, who are able to make use of this information in their betting. As used on a railroad the word is similar to that used in dynamite factories, where dope is any absorbent material mixed with the explosive to render its transportation less dangerous. As designating the B. and O. Railroad, the word has been in use for years, and, according to Flynt originated because the road was so liberal in the use of the packing on its rolling stock.
Dope Peddler - One who retails narcotics to drug addicts.
Dopey - Under the influence of a drug; slow of thought, simple-minded.
Doss - A sleep; not, as in English slang, a place to sleep, and not used for bed. See “flop.” Originally “dome” in old English cant, the word is believed to have had its origin in the Latin dorsum, or back, upon which one lies resting. No doubt some educated rascal, taking to the open road in years gone by, was the coiner of the word.
Doss House - A lodging, but rarely used in America, where “flop-house” or “flea-box” are preferred.
Double Cross - A trick or “frame up,” especially when played upon an associate or partner.
Double Cross - To cheat a companion or friend.
Double O / Double Ought - An observation or spying. A play on the expression “once over,” meaning to cast the eyes over, to examine. Jethro of The Beverly Hillbillies used to "Double Ought Spy", meaning double zero. Also a reference later to James Bond 007.
Double Sawbuck - A twenty-dollar bill; a twenty years sentence in gaol. In both cases from the double X as indicating twenty in Roman numerals.
Dough - Money; an old and widely-used term in America. Rather obscure of origin, but perhaps since dough is a potential food, and money leads to good things or to the attainment of an end.
Doughnut Lane - The Trenton-Harrisburg cut-off or short line on the Pennsylvania Railroad, so called since the tramp finds that much of the food to be had from the farmers along this line is the popular fried cake, “sinker” or doughnut.
DPU - Locomotives that are located in the middle or the rear of the train.
Drag - Influence; a railroad line; a street; loot; a slow freight, i.e. a goods train. Influence because it is through this “pull” or “drag” one is often able to obtain a desired end or to secure preferment; a street or railroad line since a tramp drags his weary way over these means of communication; loot, since this often has to be dragged away from the scene of the robbery; and a slow freight, always so called on a railroad, since these trains drag their way over the road.
Drag Line - The track onto which a train is pulled when being passed on the main line
Drag One’s Piles - To walk; a crude and vulgar way of expressing the fact that one is weary, barely able to progress after a long walk.
Drill - A freight train or engine doing odd jobs over a division, or a freight engine or switcher working in the yard, making up trains, etc.
DRILL - To work; to walk; to shoot. In the first two applications much the same meaning as in proper English. Used in America ever since the days of the first transcontinental railroad, when the Irish “Paddies” in the track gangs laboured to the refrain:

“Drill, ye carriers, drill,
Drill, ye terriers, drill;
Oh, it’s work all day,
And no sugar in your tay,
Workin’ on the U.P. Railway”

Drip - Nonsense; non-essential detail; useless matter or material; worthless advice. No doubt from the waste or unwanted material which is allowed to drip away or run down the drain. “That’s a lot of drip” — that is unnecessary.
Drive - A thrill. Formerly that exhilaration derived from narcotics; now, any temporary pleasure or uplift of spirit.
Dropper - A paid killer, one who “drops” his victim much as a hunter drops his game. Usually a gun-man, although sometimes applied to a killer armed with a machine gun. See “chopper.”
Drunk - A debauch.
Drum - A crooks’ hangout or den; a safe. In both cases since “tight as a drum” represents the security, real or fancied, of the resort and the box.
Ducat - A dollar, merely a play on the word for the old Italian coin, first struck in the 12th century. See also “ducket,” sometimes confused with this word.
Duck - To escape; to run. Much as a duck or other water fowl escapes or evades notice by “ducking” under the water ; cf. the old English colloquial phrase “to duck and run,” to bob one’s head in order to avoid a blow, and then to lose no time in running away.
Ducker - A Dodge automobile, and no doubt a play on the word “dodge.”
Ducket - A begging letter carried by a cripple or a deaf and dumb person, by means of which it is sometimes possible to avoid arrest as a common beggar, since the letter usually purports to be from a minister or charity worker vouching for the bona fides of the beggar. A railroad ticket and the money for expenses while on the trip. A Union card. In all these uses the avoidance of trouble is indicated; this may have given rise to the word, as in “duck” and ducker.”
Duck The Nut - To hide; to drop quietly from sight. See “duck.”
Ducks - The hands, especially when raised in defence or offence. From English rhyming slang, “Duke of Yorks," forks, i.e. fingers, hence hands; one of the unexpected subtleties of vulgar speech.
Dummy - A mute; a pretended faint to gain sympathy. Also one who is slow of thought or speech?
Dummy Up - To become silent; to cease talking or giving information.
Dump - A hangout or place of refuge; any dirty resort. In both cases from a “dump” or place where refuse is deposited, an unpleasant spot.
Dump - To get rid of; to abandon. More especially; used for inanimate objects; “ditch” being used when an individual is to be abandoned.
Dust - Money. From the use of gold dust as currency during the early days of the West, and before much minted money was to be found in the mining camps and nearby cities.
Dust - To leave in a hurry. To move so swiftly that one raises dust.
Duster - A box car or freight car thief; a chicken thief. In both cases since once the theft is made the thief “dusts” or leaves hastily.
Dynamiter - A tramp who begs from his fellows in preference to begging for his own food from the public, and thereby upsets all tramp custom. No real tramp or hobo with any pride will beg from another of his kind unless he has something to contribute in exchange, be it food, liquor or clothing. A railroad car with faulty brake mechanism, on which the brakes go into emergency when a service application of the air is made.
Dyno - Liquor. A pick-and-shovel worker. A tramp travelling the highway in preference to the railroad, in most cases an older, less able individual. In these three terms the liquor largely consumed by the individual, and responsible for their condition in many instances, is cheap, powerful stuff, not unlike dynamite in its effect.
Dyno Rouster - A tramp or yegg who robs drunken men. See “roll.”

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Eagle Eye - A locomotive engineer, the man whose eagle eye watches out for signals and for obstructions on the tracks. An especially prepared narcotic, with some other drug added to counteract the effect on the eye and thus make the user's detection less likely on casual observation.
Ear Wigging — Eavesdropping, “wagging” the ear to catch every word of a conversation, and not, as ordinary colloquial American speech, to influence by talk.
Easy - Soft-hearted; charitable; easy to influence.
Easy mark - a hobo sign or mark that identifies a person or place where one can get food and a place to stay overnight
Eight-Wheeler - A box-car burglar, one who robs trains while in transit or while unguarded in a yard or station. A locomotive with eight wheels.
Elbow - A detective, and often used as a word of warning from one crook to another when a detective is about. Anyone who has watched a detective elbow his way through a crowd to get at a criminal will see the reason for the word.
El or L - The elevated train in a city
Elevated - Under the influence of liquor or drugs; from the fact that one is then high-spirited.
Em - Morphine. See “C,” “M.”
Empty - An empty boxcar; a boxcar without a load. A boxcar with hobos in it is still called an empty
End - A share, or portion. “What’s my end”— what is my share to be. See also “cut,” “divvy.”
Ex Con - An ex-convict, one who has served his time and, although a free man again, always an object of suspicion to the police and trusted by the underworld under any circumstances until he proves himself a " rat," or until he " squares it " definitely.
Execution Day - Monday, when the washing is “hung,” Straight from 18th century English slang.
Exhibition - A meal given a tramp or beggar to eat on the back porch or steps, where he is easily seen by the neighbours. See “lump,” “sit-down,” “feed”
Eye Opener - A big drink of liquor, something to waken one. A pederast, in this case since most people refuse to accept the existence of these perverts until they are only too strongly made aware of them.

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Face Lace - Whiskers, usually those of the old-fashioned type, which cover much of the face. See “lace curtains.”
Fade - To go away; to disappear, especially when the departure is made quietly and without ostentation.
Faded Boogie - A negro informer or stool pigeon. See “boogie.” Why the adjective “faded” is applied is hard to say, unless it is felt that the negro who turns informer has still less claim to identity than as a negro, and that he has faded from what small importance he formerly had.
Fag - A homosexual. Widely used, this word seems to owe its use to the fact that these unfortunates seem fagged out, drooping, languid, much of the time. A cigarette; which use has been brought back for American use by soldiers who learned it from the Tommies during the World War ; short for “fag-end.”
Faggot - See “fag.”
Fairy - An effeminate man or boy. Not as extreme in its meaning as “fag,” this word, nevertheless, denotes an individual whose mannerisms and actions make him an object of suspicion to the more normal members of society.
Fairy Story - A pitiful or misleading story told in order to gain sympathy or achieve an end, and apparent as to origin. See “ghost story.”
Fakeloo - See “fairy story, “song and dance.”
Faker - Used as spelled here, and not as “fakir” One who shams or pretends; one who “fakes” or improvises an excuse.
Fall - To believe a misleading or unlikely story, to be tripped up by such a means, and to accede to the demand or request of the story-teller. To be arrested, in this case falling from one’s freedom and into the hands of the law.
Fall Guy - A scapegoat, one who is made to take the “fall” for another or upon whom the blame for a crime or accident is thrown.
Fall Money - Money set aside to secure release on bail after an arrest or to provide for a lawyer, etc. Every experienced criminal always has such a fund safely in the bank to cover any emergencies, and never touches the money unless in dire need, or in gaol. It is his “ace in the hole.”
Fall Togs - Clothing especially selected by a criminal or by his lawyer to give him a good appearance on trial and so possibly influence the jury or judges in his favour.
Fan - To search, especially a person or his clothes. To beat with a club. In the former sense, from the machine of a like name which cleans or “fans” grain; in the latter, from the draught created by the blows of the club.
Fanning A Sucker - Searching a victim’s clothes for loot which he has not disgorged on command.
Fanny - The buttocks, and never used in its more vulgar meaning as in England.
Fed Up - More than satisfied; sated; sick of a bargain or unexpected development. “I’m fed up” — I’ve had enough.
Feds - Federal law enforcement officers, especially those charged with suppressing the liquor or drug traffic.
Feed - Any meals, regardless of where eaten or how secured.
Feed - Free food for homeless people and travelers, usually donated by a local church or non-profit organization.
Fence - A receiver of stolen goods. He may merely buy the goods from the thief, or he may even indicate in advance what he is willing to take. The word comes originally from the thieves’ cant of London, where it was much used in the 18th century.
Fiddle - To conceal, Possibly originated when some one seemed to be “fiddling” aimlessly about with his fingers to hide away some loot before he was searched, but now used to indicate any concealment. See also “ditch,” “stack,” “stash”
Fielder - A railroad brakeman. From the same term in baseball, in which game the fielders are the men in the outfield who catch the balls batted far out from the home plate, and are like the brakemen’ in that both work away from the centre of things, catching cars which are switched from the train, turning switches, flagging, etc.
Fifty Cards In The Deck - Two short of the pack; hence not quite “all there” in the head; simple. An apt description of many unfortunates who, without being actually simple-minded, are yet not as bright as their fellows.
File - A pickpocket. This term, like “wire” and “tool,” used by every crook and many policemen, is seemingly without much reason, but is one of the oldest crook terms in general use and comes from Middle English “file,” an artful man.
Fin - Five dollars; a five-dollar bill; a five years’ sentence. There is probably some connection between the hand or “fin,” with its five fingers, and the word as used here.
Finger - A uniformed policeman, who enjoys “fingering” or beating his prisoner, or who searches him before taking him into the station house, either in the search for weapons, or, which was not unusual in the past, to see what money he could thus obtain.
Finger - To betray to the police, probably in the sense of pointing out the person betrayed.
Fingy - One who has lost one or more digits from the hand.
Finif - See “fin” Some claim this is a corruption of a Yiddish word, and it is generally used to indicate a five-dollar bill.
Fink - A strikebreaker who does no work, but who goes from one labour disturbance to another and lives on the pay offered for men who are willing to risk injury to work where the danger from strikers is not a light threat. A fink is, next to an informer, about the most degraded person on earth in the estimation of most tramps “scab,” workers, since he is not even man enough to “scab,” but takes work from a wage-earner and yet does nothing useful for his pay. Also, any questionable person.
Fire Boy - A railroad fireman, so called, from the name applied to these workers in the South, where most of them are negroes, “boys” being used to designate any male coloured person, without regard to age.
Fireworks - Gun play, in which powder is burnt. Any disturbance of a sharp and transitory character.
First Of May - Properly, any one newly employed by a circus, where the season starts about the first of May. By adoption, any tramp but newly arrived in a “push” or new to tramp life and as yet inexperienced.
Fish - A newly sentenced prisoner. Probably a term of derisive sympathy, as one would say "the term fish.”
Fishery - A mission in a neighbourhood which fishes among the unfortunates for “suckers” or “poor fish" who will listen to and accept its teaching.
Fishing - Attempting to secure anything by dubious means. On a railroad, the method taken by a hostile train crew to get rid of a tramp known to be riding under the cars on brake beams or “rods”’ A coupling pin is tied firmly to a length of bell cord, and let down from the front end of a car under which the tramp is known to be riding, so that the pin bounces on the ballast and ties as the train moves, By moving the cord from one side of the car to the other, paying out the line and hauling it in, the pin plays a devil’s tattoo on the entire under side of the car, and sooner or later strikes the tramp, stunning him or breaking his hold on the car so that he falls off and under the wheels. Of course, when the mangled remains are discovered it is merely another case of a trespasser killed by a train. One of the reasons why all experienced tramps avoid “bad roads.” See “dew drop”
Five-hundered miler - see Division
Fix - To bribe; to arrange things.
Fixer - One who squares a crook’s affairs with the police. This may be a “mouthpiece” or lawyer, some member of the force with authority and willing to accept a bribe, or a powerful politician. The employee of a circus or carnival who travels ahead of the show, arranging all matters to do with the exhibition, securing the licence, quieting any fears the town may have as to dirty exhibitions, disorders, etc.
Flag - An alias. See “carrying a flag.”
Flag - To pass by; to ignore. Also to accost or detain. To warn. All these uses come from the same origin, the flag used as a railway signal, by means of which a train is advanced, halted or controlled by a brakeman or “flagman.” A crook “flags” a victim when he allows him to pass without any attempt to molest him; on the other hand, a tramp or beggar “flags” a citizen when he stops him to ask for charity. One crook warns another of impending danger or of the presence of a police officer when he “flags” him, usually in a quiet and unobtrusive manner.
Flash - A gaudy or well-dressed person. A good appearance, as of an individual, merchandise, or act upon the stage. In pitchmen’s slang, the display of merchandise on the “pitch,” or any striking “bally” or cheap show to attract prospective purchasers or a “push.” None of these uses, to the people who are concerned, has any context of vulgarity or ostentation.
Flash - To display or exhibit. To turn State’s turn evidence. (Anglicé, King’s evidence.)
Flat - Penniless; “flat broke.” Seldom used to indicate tasteless, without sparkle, or the like, but sometimes in describing an attempt as, “Our play went flat,” our attempt failed entirely.”
Flat - a flat railroad car
Flatfoot - See “flatty.”
Flats - Flat cars. Pancakes, this last another commonly used term in a railroad eating-house, where “a string of flats, plenty of pin grease and a tank, of murk,” would be merely an order for a plate of griddle or pancakes with plenty of butter, and a cup of coffee.
Flatty - A uniformed policeman, who one has pounded the pavement so long that his feet have become flat; often applied to a detective promoted from the uniformed force. See “flatfoot.”
Flat Tyre / Flat Tire - A woman cast aside by her lover of yesterday or abandoned by the “pimp” who has exploited her as unproductive of any further income. Also an impotent man. Both adaptations of the motoring term are pointed.
Flat Wheeler - A bad-riding car, or an old fashioned boxcar with "hotbox" axles instead of those equiped with Timkin roller bearings
Flea Bag - A bed roll or sleeping bag. Originally used by tramps and migratory workers, the term was extended to designate an officer’s sleeping bag or bedding during the World War.
Flea Box - A cheap lodging-house or hotel, establishments in which vermin are certain to be abundant.
Flicker - A faint, or pretended faint.
Flicker - To faint, or pretend to faint, usually as a bid for sympathy or to avoid further questioning by the police. In both these cases the definition “to waver unsteadily like a dying flame” has been taken from the dictionary.
Flip - To board a moving train, the rider being flipped or flirted against the side of the train as he boards it.
Flip - Flippant; pert; outspoken. Usually applied to anyone with a great deal of' “brass,” “never,” “gall.”
Flip - to board a moving train
Flipper - A hand, being a reference to the flipper of a seal or walrus. A tramp who “flips” or rides trains, as opposed to the “dyno” who uses the highways to get about the country.
Flipping - Train riding.
Floater - A migratory worker, one who moves from place to place, but who has some excuse for this in that he works occasionally. No doubt taken from the commonly accepted meaning of the word, a voter who shifts from party to party, especially one who is venal; but never used in this reference by the underworld. An order from the police to leave town within twenty-four hours, often given an undesirable against whom no definite charge can be made, but who is not wanted. Vagrants who may be picked up by the police are sometimes released if they can show that they are not begging, especially in the West, when they have a “bundle,” by which their status as a migratory worker is supposed to be indicated. This latter application is well shown in the tramp verse, part of a long poem on a vagabond’s experiences:

“They were booked as vags, for they had no kale,
And the judge said, “Sixty days in jail,”
But the ‘bo had a bindle, the worker’s plea,
So they gave him a floater and set him free.”

Floating Game - A game of chance, usually a dice or “crap” game, which is held in a different location each night to lessen the danger of discovery by the police or by rival gangsters or gamblers who might rob the players or “muscle in on the proceeds.
Flop - a place to sleep, by extension, "flophouse", a cheap hotel. Noun, meaning a place to sleep (e.g. "I took a flop") or verb (e.g. "I'll flop here")
Flop - A bed, or a place to sleep. A failure. From the fact that one drops heavily asleep or with a dull thud when failing. Also used to indicate a fall
Flop - To sleep. To fail.
Flop House - A dormitory or bunk house provided for workers in a mill or factory or on a construction job. A “flea-box.”
Flopper - A beggar who sits on the sidewalk or in the entrance to a railway station or other public place, usually feigning deformity.
Flops - Legless beggars, and used in the singular or plural as indicated.
Flop Worker - One who robs sleepers in railroad waiting rooms, public parks or on the trains.
Fluke - Any chance advantage or lucky stroke of fortune. Known to English slang for a century; probably from a luckily-misdirected stroke at billiards.
Flukum - Nickel-plated ware as sold by pitchmen. Just why it was given this name is hard to say, although it may be from the fact that occasionally, by some lucky chance or fluke, the pitchman is able to sell his wares quickly and depart before the “plating” wears off and his customers return for their money. The term is used all over the United States.
Flunkey - A porter, waiter or any servile worker. Applied by the tramp who feels himself above such a thing as labour, and by the worker who regards as inferior any individual not doing hard, manual labour. From the original English sense; a footman.
Fluter - A degenerate. The reference is apt enough, but impossible to give here, and the term is universal in America.
Fly Ball - A detective, especially one who is a member of a city police force. A “fly ball” in the game of baseball is one batted out to the fielders for practice, and usually one which travels swiftly, hence the application to a detective as one not held down by the regulations of the uniformed force or bound by any prescribed “beat” or territory. The long-established English slang word “fly,” designating a knowing or artful mind, may also have some bearing on the term as used here.
Fly Cop - See “fly ball,” which is less frequently used than this term.
Fly Dick - See “fly ball,” “fly cop,” “dick.”
Flying Jib - A talkative person, more especially when alcohol is behind the desire to be heard. A flying jib, in the proper use, is the foremost sail on a ship, which, set to catch the first breath of wind, moves restlessly and lightly at any cat’s-paw.
Flying Flag - Holding a sign for money or food at an intersection, median, or entrance of a store.
Flying A Kite - Passing worthless cheques, an occupation which makes it necessary for the “shover” to keep constantly on the move to avoid arrest. Sometimes “shoving the queer,” which see.
Flying Light - Hungry; without food; travelling without any excess impediment such as a “bindle.” From the railroad; where a “light engine” is one travelling over the line without a train, and so able to move swiftly and without needless delay.
Flying Sign - Holding a sign for money or food at an intersection, median, or entrance of a store.
Foamers - Railroad fans (railfans) that are obsessed with freight train culture. Ones who are said to "foam at the mouth" at the sight of a train.
Fobber - An old pickpocket, or one who has lost his dexterity and cunning, and able only to steal from outside or fob pockets.
Fog - To shoot, since after gun-play a haze of powder smoke hangs over the scene. See “smoke,” “smoke wagon.”
Foolish Powder - Originally, heroin; more lately, any narcotic which robs the user of his senses and judgment.
Ford Children - Illegitimate children; especially those born of a “Ford marriage,” which see.
Ford Family - A family cruising about the country in a cheap automobile. The man sometimes works, at fruit-picking or in the harvests, and the children as like as not steal to help support the group.
Ford Marriage - A union usually born of gasoline and good nature. The man and woman continue live together, travelling about the country from job to job in a car until the man tires of his consort, or until she becomes pregnant and seems likely to be a burden, when she is deserted. If the two get along well together, or if the man is “easy” or has a sense of responsibility, a “Ford family” result.
Ford Mother - The female side of a “Ford family,” or a woman travelling by automobile with a migratory worker.
Fox - A “rambler “who rides, in a train, on forged or stolen hat checks or conductors’ identification slips, or in the toilet of a passenger car. This class of tramp usually has a fair “front” and enters a day coach late at night, when the through passengers are asleep, and quietly lifting the check from the seat or the hat of an unwary passenger, settles down to sleep, displaying the check as his authority ,for being aboard the tram. The trick is usually “pulled” at a division point, where one conductor has left the train to his successor, who has nothing to go by as to the through passengers’ destinations save the hat checks left them by the first conductor when he collected the tickets.
Fox - To out-think or out-manoeuvre another; to outwit; to defeat the purpose or plans of another by any craft or slyness.
Frail - A woman or girl, one of the “weaker sex,” but not applied with any reflection as to the subject’s morals.
Frame - See “frame up.”
Frame Up — A false accusation, with evidence presented in such a manner that the guilt of the accused seems certain, or with witnesses secured to swear falsely to the facts of the case. The frame up may be made in a court by the police themselves; or by the associates of the victim, in which case the procedure is another way of placing the luckless one “on the spot.” Also a citizen robbed by a pickpocket. In all these uses the inference is plainly that has been shaped, fashioned or arranged.
Frame Up - To so arrange things that one under arrest is sure to be convicted, regardless of actual guilt. To arrange things in advance so that a crime may be successfully carried out. To pre-arrange any scheme or projected enterprise, usually when there is an element of underhanded procedure invoked.
Fresh Bull - An energetic policeman, or one who cannot be bribed or silenced when aware that something unlawful impends or that a crime has been committed. From the word “fresh,” as used in the United States to indicate a state of forward or presumptuous.
Fresh Cat - A neophyte tramp. See “cat.”
Fresh Cow - One with a newly developed venereal disease.
Frisk - A search, especially of the person.
Frisk - To search or ransack, not necessarily for loot, but for anything desired by the searcher. The two uses of the word may have originated when some unwilling victim of a search “frisked” about in an attempt to prevent the ransacking of his clothes, and whatever the origin the word is ancient. The word in its specialized sense occurs in George Parker’s Life’s Painter, 1781.
Frolic - An entertainment or performance, originated by professional entertainers to indicate the number of times they appear in any one day, and used by the criminal to denominate any lawless activity.
Front - A good appearance; anything designed to make a good impression or to belie hidden criminal activity. A well-pressed, clean and neat suit, with clean linen and polished shoes is the “front” of an applicant for work; a grocery store may be the front for a bootlegger’s dive. A watch and chain, this because of the impression of and respectability given the wearer. Jewellery for the same reason.
Frontier - One who maintains an apparently innocent enterprise or store as a blind behind which bootleggers or other lawless persons may work without fear of molestation.
Front Office - The detective bureau at police head-quarters.
Front Room - A sedan or limousine; automobiles with glass windows which allow of a good view of the interior, usually with a glimpse ladies and gentlemen taking their case within, as in a parlour or “front room.”
Fruit - An “easy mark.” A girl or woman willing to oblige. Probably in both cases from the fact they are “easy picking.”
Fruit Tramp - A migratory worker who travels from orchard to orchard or from one fruit-producing region to another, according to the crops which are to be gathered or packed. This worker, if he cares to, may work practically all the year round, and the degree of speed and skill which he develops affects his earning power, since practically all his work is paid for according to quantity. The word “tramp is almost a misnomer here, since many of these men are well-to-do, steady workers.
Full - Intoxicated ; full of drink.
Funk - A sneak thief. Here the fearful attitude and cowardice of the individual gave rise to the term.
Fussy Tail - Any individual with a “grouch” or hard to please.
Fuzz - A detective; a prison guard or turnkey. Here it is likely that “fuzz” was originally “fuss,” one hard to please or over-particular.
Fuzz Face - A young tramp or gay cat; one not old enough to raise a beard, but with a growth of fuzz on the face.

G - back to top ↑

G - One thousand dollars; a contraction of “grand”
Gab - The mouth; idle talk or chatter. Taken from the Scotch, where the same meaning applies. An old word, still widely used.
Gadget - An unknown or unfamiliar object; a term taken from the Navy, and more widely used as time goes on.
Gaff - Punishment; a hard pace. From the gaff or barbed spear used in securing fish, hence something which hurts or punishes.
Gaff — To punish. To remain in any one place for too long a time.
Gaff Wheel - A gambling wheel controlled by the foot of the operator, who by pressing upon a board built into the platform upon which he is standing is able to stop the wheel at any desired point. In general use at carnivals, amusement parks and circuses. Here the players, the “suckers” or “fish” are secured, gaffed, and their money taken from them.
Gag - Any begging trick, “ghost story” or other recital. The word was in general use by the American tramp thirty years ago, and no doubt meant that the telling of a “gag” effectually choked off any protest from the one applied to for alms, leaving him but one course of action, that of bestowing charity. As listed in the dictionary—” a joke or hoax; offhand interpolation by an actor—”the word indicates that the interpolation disturbs the cue line for the next speaker, and therefore chokes him off or “gags” him, and while the actor adopted the word from the tramp, its general meaning on the stage to-day is: “sure-fire,” comment, aside, or action, something certain to bring a laugh or other response from the audience.
Gagger - One who lives on the earnings of his wife; or one who forces his wife into prostitution, such an action being enough to make the average man, tramp, criminal or otherwise, ill ; something too low for tolerance.
Gall - High spirits, courage, impudence. A survival of 18th century English low slang, and by no means peculiar to criminal slang in America.
Galway - A Roman Catholic priest; the reference is entirely geographical, since many of the men referred to were of Irish stock.
Gams - A girl’s legs. Current about carnivals and the stage, an acceptable explanation for the term comes from an old circus worker, who explained that when any group of men were casually chatting about a show—having a “gam,” or talk — the most frequent subject of discussion was the legs and general attractiveness of the girls and women who passed. Not a hard explanation for the non-expert to believe, if one takes into consideration the usual talk between a group of idlers. The word comes from 18th century low slang, “gambs,” meaning thin, unshapely legs, and a corruption of the French jambes. In heraldry, “gamb” is the technical word for a leg. The word, “gam,” as indicative of talk, is seldom, if ever, used by American tramps and criminals, who prefer to say “barbering” “chewing the fat “ or “chinning.”
G.N. - Great Northern
Gandy - A railroad section hand or labourer; a worker who walks with a peculiar gait, not unlike that of a gander or goose, when working with a tamping bar or pick along the tracks. The word was used as far back as the 1860’s, when thousands of Irish labourers worked on the first trans-continental railroad, and it may be that one of these workers coined the word. “See drill.”
Gandy Dance - See “gandy.”
Gandy Dancer - A railroad worker
Garbage Can - An old prostitute; probably, therefore, none too clean. A construction camp where the food is poor or ill-cooked, hence none too palatable and regarded as garbage.
Gas - Talk; idle chatter. Impure liquor, such as doped cider or wine, “needle beer,” “smoke” and the like.
Gal — To talk. Much as in English slang, except that and in America there is no sense of “brag” to the conversation.
Gas Hound - One who drinks inferior liquor or “gas” One habitually under the influence of such drink.
Gash - The mouth. A street woman, or one willing to ignore her virtue. This last from the vulgar name for a woman’s private parts.
Gat - A pistol or revolver. Two explanations are offered; the first and most likely one, that the word is a contraction of Gatling gun; the second that it is derived from “catting up,” which see.
Gate Crasher - An extremely unpopular individual, who habitually “butts in” where he is not wanted. See “crash the gate.”
Gates - Railroad switches; the devices which permit trains to enter or leave the yard or sidings.
Gat Up - To hold up a person or place with a gun or “gat.” See also “caning up.”
Gay Cat - A tramp who works on occasion, and who, if he finds it hard to beat his way, will purchase a ticket. One who travels only when the weather it fine, works only to accumulate a “stake,” criticizes everyone and everything and lives on charity in the larger cities during the winter. Often, a newcomer to tramp life, forced to work at times when unable, because of his inexperience, to live without working; sometimes a “spotter” for a gang of yeggs; or a tramp, who, able to get along without work, yet goes to work here and there for no good reason that a tramp can see. This last individual is looked down upon as unworthy by the “blowed in the glass stiff.” The word is derisive in all its significations.
Gee - A glass of liquor; a gallon, especially when alcohol or liquor in large quantities is referred to. Also, of late, a contraction of “guy” or “geezer” as a reference to any individual.
Geezer - Any man, regardless of his age, but used much as in ordinary slang to represent someone rather queer, out of the ordinary, or not of the speaker’s clique or gang. From the medaeval guiser, a mummer, which disappeared from good English, survived in dialect, was transplanted to America, and has been revived in ordinary English slang.
George - To be in the know or aware of what is impending.
Getaway - An escape from pursuit or confinement, also the means to the end, be it money for bribes or transportation, a weapon, or some means of conveyance, such as a motor car.
Get By - To earn a bare living; to escape or evade trouble or arrest.
Get To - To bribe. See “fix,” “reach.”
Ghost Story - A story or long tale of woe to gain sympathy; a begging yarn. Like fashions, those “ghost stories” in vogue and “just the thing” this year are soon out of date and must be altered to meet changed conditions, and it is a matter of pride with every real tramp to have a good string of stories at his command.
Gill - Not, as in ordinary usage, a country girl or wench, but any man from the country, or a confidence worker’s victim; one likely to Call an easy prey to a sharper.
Gimick - A lame person. Of obscure origin.
Gimpy - Lame; crippled.
Gin - A coloured prostitute; from the negro’s favoured drink.
Gin Mill - Any saloon, but more frequently a low, dirty dive.
Gink - A generic term for man, rather slighting in its use, and when applied to a tramp, especially so. The word, which is commonly used, is possibly, derived from “gink,” trick, whence “ginkie, a term of reproach applied to a woman in Scottish dialect.
Ginned - Intoxicated, whether from too much gin or any other liquor.
Ginny - An Italian; probably first applied to some Italian, Spanish or Portugese seaman from the Guinea Coast, and used generally throughout America to designate anyone the Latin races, especially in a derogatory way.
Glad Rags - One’s best clothes, or those worn on occasions of recreation or to give an air of prosperity and wealth. See “rags,” “fall togs.”
GLASS JAW - A coward; one easily defeated. From the same term as applied to a weak or sensitive chin, one upon which a comparatively light blow is enough to cause a “knock out,” no matter how valorous the fighter.
Glaum - To take or seize; to grab or snatch. Another very old word, yet widely and frequently used. Possibly from the old Scottish word in use as early as 1715, meaning “to snatch,” and, intransitively, “to make threatening movements.” See “glom,” practically the same word, and so pronounced.
Glim - A light; an eye; an eye-glass ; all three senses obviously connected with “glimmer” ; the first comes direct from old English cant, “glim,” a candle or dark lantern, the other two meanings being natural developments.
Glom - To snatch; seize; grab; steal; and used as is “glaum,” q.v., one of these two words being a mistaken form of the other, both being identical in pronunciation ; “glom” is the derivative and corrupted form.
Glue Neck - A filthy prostitute; a term with a none too relined and yet an obvious origin.
Goat - A scapegoat; one blamed for another’s crime or mistake. A switch engine, since much of the yard work consists of pushing can about, much as a goat “butts “with its head.
Go By - A slight or “cut.” An evasion, as “I gave him the go by,” meaning, “I took no notice of him,” or “I evaded him.”
Go By Hand - To walk; a painfully slow and laborious method of progression as compared with travel by train.
Go Junking - To scavenge for scrap metal or other materials to sell for salvage
Gold Brick - Anyone who shirks or malingers ; from the same term in correct speech to designate the confidence game in which a swindler sells his victim a bar or brick of brass or other base metal instead of the gold which is promised.
Gold Brick - To defraud or represent falsely.
Gold Digger - Any woman who gets whatever she can from men, avoiding the necessity of making any return. The popular conception of the term, a young girl who makes her “friend” or lover pay dearly for her favours, is not correct, although generally used.
Gold Dust - Cocaine, so called from its value and from the happiness and comfort, however fleeting, which it gives to its devotees.
Golfer - A Cadillac automobile; originated by the automobile thieves who found that many men of leisure and wealth, club members and the like, owned such a car.
Gondola - a train car typically used to haul trash such as scrap metal, construction debris, etc. A shallow, uncovered car. You will usually eat dust riding these.
Gonger - An opium pipe; an opium addict. The mispronounced Chinese word which developed into this one is rather hard to isolate, but as the habit was introduced by the Chinese, there is but scant doubt that the word is of Chinese origin.
Gonoph or Gonov - A thief, usually allied with pickpockets or cheap pilferers. See “cannon,” “gun.” Properly, gonoph or gannabh. An old English word (from the Hebrew), but resurrected about 1852 and much used ever since.
Gonsil - A young tramp, not yet taken in hand and bent to his will by an older man. A boy. A passive male homosexual, usually a youth or younger man. Also gunsel. See “prushun”
Good — Dead, when applied to a criminal much as the old frontiersmen declared: “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”
Good Head - One favourably inclined or kindly to tramps. One to be trusted, or a charitable person.
Goofer - A simpleton; a dupe. From “goofy,” which see, and not to be confused “gopher.”
Goofy - Foolish; simple-minded.
Goog - A black eye. No doubt a corruption of goggle, something peered through. The term is usually applied to an eye injured in a fight, rather than to one which may have suffered through an accident.
Googs - Spectacles, especially the cheap variety peddled on the street or sold by “pitchmen” or medicine “fakirs.”
Gooseberry - A clothes-line. The origin may be that that frequently the housewife spreads her clean linen on bushes in the yard to dry; any other explanation seems hard to find. See “gooseberry ranch.”
Gooseberry Pudding - A wanton, especially one not too clean or neat in appearance or dress.
Gooseberry Range - A brothel. Just why this name was given no one has ever explained, but it seems likely that the origin lies in the verb “to goose,” meaning to tickle, especially when unexpectedly done. Certainly the reference is a coarse one.
Goosing Ranch — See above.
Goozlum - Gravy. A long-winded play on the slang word “gooey,” thick or gummy in substance, probably originally from either glue or gumbo, the latter a silty, alkaline soil of the South-Western United States, which becomes very sticky when wet.
Gopher - A gangster or other hard character. One of New York city’s old-time gangs went by the proud name of " The Gophers,” who may have taken their name from the fact they had many hiding places in cellars along the waterfront, in which they were like the rodents of the same name. Also a safe. See “gopher men,” “goofer.”
Gopher Men - Safe-robbers, no doubt since they borrow into the safes with drills before blasting them open with dynamite or power.
Gorilla - A thug or bully, one depending on brute strength to attain his ends.
Gow - Opium. Here again it seems that some Chinese word is the root, as in the case of “gonger.”
Gowed Up - Under the influence of drugs or of liquor.
Grab - To arrest. To seize or lay hold of.
Grab Iron - A bar welded onto a boxcar over the couplings which can be used to hold on to when jumping over the couplings
Grabbing Scenery - Looking from a box car or other place of concealment on a train, a procedure which, marking the inexperienced tramp, is frowned upon by the older, wiser ones, since it is likely to lead to detection and a consequent “ditching” by the train men.
Grab Iron - A handrail on the side or end of a rail-road car, near the steps or ladder.
Graft - A generic term for any criminal activity or for any practice frowned on by the law, or any deal which may be within the law but at the same time unfair to another. Also any particular variety of work or any trade. “What’s your graft?” “What trade do you follow?” or “What land of crime do you specialize in?” “The world’s a graft anyway you take it,” seems to be the opinion of most of those living largely by their wits.
Grafter - Anyone living by his wits, and not necessarily one who lives on money procured for favours or for influence used for another. A “fakir” or street peddler; a short-change artist; a “pitchman.”
Grainer Car - A train car used for carrying grain, often with porches good for riding.
Grand - One thousand dollars; an arbitrary definition, and one with no very precise reason.
Graveyard - The mouth, in which the teeth represent gravestones. To state that one’s “gravestones are mossy,” is merely to declare that one’s teeth need cleaning.
Graybacks — Body lice an old, old name the “cooties,” and coined by the Federal soldiers in the American Civil War, who found they were often seriously annoyed by the Graybacks or Southern troops.
Graveyard Shift - The midnight to eight a.m. shift at a mill or other place of employment working twenty-four hours a day. The term came into general use during the War, when many industrial plants never closed down; it was applied since many accidents, often of a fatal nature, took place when the men were not as wide-awake as they might have been.
Graveyard Trick - See “graveyard shift.” Also heard on railroads, where the telegraphers and other workers on duty through the night are often called “graveyard” men.
Graveyard Watch - The midnight to four a.m. watch aboard ship, when everything is as quiet as the grave.
Gravy - Any unearned, easily acquired money: An easy piece of work, or a crime simple to commit and not likely to lead to any great trouble for the criminal.
Grease - To pay for protection; to “grease the palm” of a venal official or someone able to secure preferment for the greaser.
Grease - Butter. Money paid the police for protection or immunity, as by “greasing the palm.”
Grease Ball - A low-grade tramp, especially one with scant personal cleanliness, where the term originated. More lately, a garage or machine-shop assistant; a cook or dishwasher, or any worker of an unskilled or inferior nature. A term of derision when applied by one mechanic to another.
Grease The Track - To commit suicide by leaping in front of a train; to be run over. See “hobo short line”
Grease The track - to be run over by a train
Grease Joint - A dirty restaurant or lunch-room, or the cook tent on a construction ‘job. In show circles, a “hamburger” or “hot dog” stand, and to those who have seen these eating places the word is apt.
Greasy - A cook, especially on a construction job or in a labour camp.
Greenhorns - Rail riders that are inexperienced with hopping freight trains.
Griddle - To sing hymns in the street as a means of attracting sympathy. Although in use in England at least as early as 1850, its origin is uncertain. It was a favourite trick of a certain class of mendicants in the United States many years ago, and has now fallen into disrepute as too exhausting and not sufficiently productive.
Grift - See “graft,” of which this word is an adaptation.
Grifter - A grafter or thief, especially one who lives on his wits and does not resort to violence as a regular thing. A gambler or other hanger-on with a circus or carnival. Sec “lot lice,” “grafter.”
Grind - The speech or “spiel” delivered in front of a tent show or cheap auction to attract attention to the proceedings inside; usually a set speech which is ground out by the “grinder” but sometimes a work of more or less art, to suit the need of the moment or to attract the attention of some particular person or group in the " push."
Grinder - The man who “grinds.” A good “grinder” must have more than a voice that can be made to express every nuance of expression; he must be a keen student of human nature, and know just when to stop his “grind” and enter upon the exhortation.
Ground Hog - A railroad brakeman; sausage. In the former, a rather difficult term to trace; in the latter, a mere play upon words.
Ground-score - Finding something valuable on the sidewalk or ground (cigarette, jewelry, money, food, etc)
Groom - To beat, especially with a club or stick. To run another out of a town. Used in the same sense as one would say a “dressing down” had been administered.
Grumble — To pay, simply because the majority of men do part with their money unwillingly.
Grunt - A helper or ground worker in a gang of electrical linemen, the assistant who hands up tools and materials to the men working on the poles who prepares the hot lead for repairing cables, dogs holes for the poles, etc. Any form of pork as food.
Guff — Any meaningless or misleading talk or conversation.
Gull — A thieves’ victim, and no doubt from “gullible”
Gull — To deceive or defraud; “good English” gone to the bad.
Gum - To spoil; to interfere with; to upset a plan or arrangement. From gummy or old oil in the works of a machine, something which slows down the movement.
Gummy - Glue, especially that more or less valuable commodity when peddled by street fakirs or “pitch-men.”
Gump - A chicken, an ancient and frequently used word, yet one with a long-forgotten origin.
Gumshoe — A detective, from the “gum” or rubber soled or heeled shoes often worn by them, and from their silent, unobtrusive manner of appearing just where a criminal does not want them. See “soft heel,” “ dick,” “fly cop,” “flatty.”
Gumshoe - To Spy on or to observe.
Gun - A crook, gunman or thief; any hard character originally applied to pickpockets. See “cannon,” “gonoph.”
Gun Boat - A steel coal car. See “battleship.” An empty tin can, used in the “jungle” for cooking, carrying water or liquor, or for boiling the clothes. Save that the container is made of metal, there seems to be no reason for the name.
Gun Mob - A gang of pickpockets or thieves originally, but now used to designate any “mob” or collection of “guns” or thieves.
Gun Moll - A crook’s consort one who travels with and belongs to a “gun”. Often a woman thief, especially if she carries a revolver or pistol. In the first place the woman carries the weapon for her man, so that if he is picked up on suspicion he will not be found in possession of it, and thus liable to punishment for having a gun. Also, a woman vagrant who carries a gun for protection amorous trainmen or tramps.
Gunnels — The curved rods or braces underneath a car upon which tramps often ride. There is no irrefutable reason to suppose that the word has anything to do with “gunwale” as used here, although some former sailor may have been responsible for the allusion. See “rods.”
Gut - Sausages, no matter of what kind or of what materials they may be made. From the fact this food is packed in the intestines of the animals. See “guts.”
Gut Hammer - The bell or triangle angle hung beside the cook house on which the meals are announced. In this case the word “gut” refers to the inner man, which responds immediately to the signal.
Gut Plunge — A trip to the butcher to beg meat for “mulligan.” Any kind of scrap meat will do, and the old cry of the tramp in response to the butcher’s query as to what was wanted is a classic of the road. “Any meat, butch, we ain’t particular - eye holes, ear holes, air holes, anything at all, butch - just want to make some mulligan.” See “mulligan.”
Gut Reamer — A vulgarism best undefined. (An active partner in anal intercourse.)
Guts - Bravery or courage: “nerve” The inside facts of any story or happening. The essentials of railroad rolling stock, as “the guts of a rattler”- underneath a fast train, upon the rods or brake beams. Anything hidden. The bowels.
Gutterpunk - A hybrid of punks and anarchists that ride trains as a symbol of rebellion from modern culture.
Goy - A generic term for a man, and not used with any special meaning as a rule. See “wise guy” for special application
Gyp - A confidence game or confidence worker. It seems likely that the word has been contracted from gypsy, which class is often sly.
Gyp - To flimflam, cheat or defraud.
Gypo - A piece-worker; one paid by the work he does, not by the time he works at his bench or machine. Coined by the I.W.W., the word illustrates the feeling held by many workers that if one works on piece-work he is cheating — “gypping” — himself and others who might be employed did he not work so hard and fast.

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Habit - The drug habit, much the same meaning as in proper usage, but belonging, in the underworld, to the one vice.
Hack - A night watchman; a patrolman or marshal; all of these men regarded as mere hack workers by the flightier members of society.
Hair Pin - A woman, even in these days of bobbed hair.
Hair Pounder — A teamster or mule driver, and for the same reason that these workers are often termed “mule skinners.”
Halfy - A beggar with both legs off at the hips; any legless individual; a half a man.
Halleluiah Peddler" - A minister; one who tries to “Sell” salvation.
Ham - An inefficient worker; a poor actor; an inexperienced telegraph operator. The term originated with the last-named trade, where a ham is an operator who works as though he were pounding on it with a ham, and not with his fingers.
Ha - To walk, to travel by means of the ham or leg.
Hand Out - A meal given a tramp at a house or restaurant to carry away and eat somewhere else. See “exhibition,” “sit down,” “lump.”
Handle — A name, that by which a person is called or handled. See "monica" or "moniker".
Handy Wagon - A police patrol; always handy for use when needed.
Hang Out — A resort or place frequented by an individual or gang.
Happy Dust - Cocaine or any other powdered narcotic, from the state of exhilaration it induces in the addict.
Hard Oil — Butter. See “axle grease.”
Hard Tail - A mule, so called since the buttocks or “tail” of the animal is hard to make an impression upon with a whip or goad.
Hardware — Weapons in general; knives, guns or razors.
Harness - The equipment or “rigging” worn by gamblers to hold cards up the sleeve until wanted to cheat with. A shoulder holster with the straps and thongs to secure it in place. In both cases from a likeness to the harness placed on a horse or other draught animal.
Harness Bull - A uniformed policeman; from the fact he is “harnessed up” or dressed in uniform.
Harp - An Irishman, more especially an ignorant or stupid one. From the musical instrument always representative of the Emerald Isle.
Harvest - To arrest or “gather in” a criminal or suspect.
Hash House - A restaurant or eating-house a place where hash is had.
Hatch — A country gaol or police station, see, “booby hatch.”
Hat Trick - Passing the hat among a crowd for contributions.
Hay Bag - A woman vagrant. Probably since many of these unfortunates have but little more shape than a bag of hay.
Hay Burner - A horse. An old or worn out locomotive, which may be so leaky in respect of boiler and flues as to be able to burn nothing more steam-inducing than hay.
Hay Wire — Gone wrong; broken down; inefficient. From the West, where the poor rancher mends his broken implements and tools with the iron wire used to bale hay, and which is always to be found about a ranch when proper repair material is lacking.
Hay Wire Outfit — A job on which poor living accommodations are to be had by the workers; an inefficient factory or shop.
Head end - The front section of the train
Head Screw - Chief turnkey or keeper in a prison. See “screw.”
Heat - The state of mind of the police or public following a crime or series of crimes, when the people are “hot under the collar” or “all heated up.” More lately, any trouble, as “in hot water.”
Heater - A revolver or pistol; perhaps since it is from the weapon that proverbial “hot lead” is discharged.
Heaven Reacher - A minister of the gospel; one who preaches about salvation and Heaven, as often as not with many skyward gestures.
Heel - Any incompetent or undesirable person; a hanger-on; one who pretends to a criminal ability he does not possess. From “heeler” one who follows at the heels of another, or from “down at heel.”
Heel - To walk, and perhaps a contraction of “heel and toe,” a form of competitive walking once extremely popular.
Heeled - Armed, or provided with money.
Heifer - A young woman.
Heifer Den — A brothel, a “den” where young women are to be found.
Helpers - Extra engines usually attached to the middle of the train to pull it over an upgrade
Hick - A farmer; one who is in ignorance of impending events. A term of derision originally applied as in the former instance, and not unlikely, as far as the general American public considers the matter at all, since the word is used in ordinary slang to some extent, to be connected with the hickory-stained homespun clothes in which the American pioneer farmer dressed ; but in point of fact the cant dictionary of 1690 defines the word thus : “ Any person of whom any prey can be made, or booty taken from; also a silly country fellow,” and its origin is that it is a familiar by-form of “Richard,” just as “Rob” is a familiar by-from of “Robert.”
Hideout - A place in which to remain hidden from the police or from personal or gang enemies. Any individual so hiding. Not used to designate a hiding place for loot, for which see “dig,” etc.
High - Elevated through drink; in high spirits.
High Ball — A “proceed” signal on the railroad which the hand or lantern is raised or swung above the head as a command to the engineer to start the train. Also commonly, a drink of whisky and soda.
High Ball — To travel swiftly; to go away.
Highball - To go full speed
Highballin' - Train is given full clearance and is allowed to maintain or increase speed through a high traffic area; a train given priority clearance to depart yard with high speed.
Highball Whistle - One short and one long whistle, means the train is about to be underway
High Grade or Higrade - To procure illegally. From the mining term indicating that a worthless shaft or prospect hole has been “salted “ or filled with rich ore from another mine to induce the unwary to purchase.
High Jack — To rob. Originally, to rob a tramp or hobo, but now more generally applied to a crook who robs bootleggers of their wares, especially when the liquor has been safely smuggled through the lines of the revenue men. The generic term for a tramp or hobo is “Jack,” and the usual term of greeting between two of the fraternity is “Hi, jack,” a contraction of “How are you,” or “H’are Ye?” Once the greeting has been extended and a conversation entered Into, the “buzzard” or “catter” seizes the first opportunity to produce his gun and demand “Hands up!” If the command is not quickly and thoroughly obeyed, the command, “High, Jack!” is not long in coming.
High Jacker - One who robs tramps and hobos, or a liquor bandit
High Pressure - To force or argue another into a deal or action; to intimidate. From the term, “high pressure salesmanship,” indicating a method of selling by which the prospective customer is bulldozed or argued into buying something not really wanted or needed.
High Roller - A tramp with money; a high liver. No doubt from some “high” or intoxicated individual staggering or “rolling” in his walk. [SSoIH Note: We feel this is from someone spending large amounts of money at the dice table, rolling dice.]
High Tail - To move swiftly and adopted from the range country, where a startled mustang or steer elevates his tail in a sudden gesture and runs like the wind.
High Line - The old Great Northern route through the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho and Washington
High Line Hotshot - The "through" freight on the high line
High Roller - Originally a gambling term. Means a hustling hobo, a particular style of acting.
Hiker — A town marshal, one who walks over his territory.
Hip — Wise, knowing. See “hep.”
Hipe - To cheat or short-change. Unless applied because the one who does the cheating is more “hip” to things than his victim, it is hard to say where the term originated. Perhaps connected with the North-England “hipe” to find fault with, to slander; perhaps from “high pressure,” which see.
Hiram - The self-chosen term for a band of yeggs, adopted when the former word became too common. No doubt a play upon the fact that many of the old-time yeggs preyed upon the country post offices in the districts populated by farmers or, traditionally, “Hirams.”
Hister - A “stick-up” man or gunman; one whose first care is to see that his victim “hists” or hoists his hands above his head.
Hit The Ball - To work hard; to travel swiftly. From railroad parlance, where once the “high ball” has been given the train moves.
Hit The Grit - To go away from; to get a move on. As a command, “Get off the train,” “Put your feet on the ground.”
Hobo - A migratory worker, especially one who will work whenever he finds an opportunity; a tramp who works. According to some the Latin, “homo bonus,” or good man; others say that the word was first used after the Civil War in the United States, where soldiers walking home through the country replied, “Homeward bound,” when questioned as to their destination. From homeward bound to hobo seems a far cry, yet is scarcely more involved than that given by some lexicographers, who assert that the strolling musicians who played on the hautboy were the first hoboes. The O.D., like Weekley, essays no etymology of this late 19th century Americanism. The usual dictionary is an entirely incorrect definition, since a hobo is not by any means a “professional tramp.” See “bum,” “bo,” “tramp.”
Hobo Belt - The citrus fruit belt of California, to which many migratory workers repair during the picking season.
Hobo Night Hawk - A railroad detective travelling as a tramp to spy on the operations of a gang or to check up on trainmen and their work.
Hobo Short Line - Suicide by leaping in front of a train, a death not infrequently chosen by old or discouraged tramps. See “grease the track.”
Hock - To pawn or pledge as security for a loan. An old term, and very probably from the expression “on the hocks,” meaning down on one’s uppers, hard against it, in which condition one hocks or pawns his valuables; or else from the old English thieves’ cant, “in the hock,” in prison, or the old slang, “in hock,” fleeced, bated.
Hog - A locomotive; a “hog” for coal.
Hogger - A locomotive engineer, the man who handles the “hog.”
Hoghead - A locomotive engineer. An old railroad joke on the book of rules answer the question, “Of what does a train consist?” as “A hoghead, a bake head, two pinheads and a swellhead,” thus referring to the engineer, fireman, two brakemen and the conductor.
Hog Law — The Federal Sixteen-Hour Law prohibiting railroad workers front working more than that time without suitable rest. The expression, “The hog law’s got me,” properly means that the speaker is unable to work until he has had some rest, or that he is completely worn out.
Holding The Lady Down - Riding on the “rods” or “gunnels” over a rough stretch of track or on a fast train. Since the tramp lies prone on the “rods” and holds on tightly to prevent his being shaken off, the expression is apt, if not elegant.
Hold Out — Money retained from a division of spoils, or to assure one of attaining a desired end, and some-what like a fund of “fall money “ in many cases; Also a “harness” in which a gambler “holds out” or secretes cards to be used for his own advantage in a game of chance.
Hold Out — To retain more than one’s share of loot; to withhold information of some value to another.
Holler - The plaint of a victim, who “hollers” or calls for assistance.
Homeguard / Homebum - A hobo or bum that has stayed in one camp for a long period of time and has no plans to travel onward to a new place.
Home Guard - A citizen, especially one who has travelled but little; a steady worker, one not easily upset or driven to strike. The term was originated by the old-time yegg and tramp for the simple countryman who grew up in one village or town, and had but little experience with the world and its wiles, and was eagerly seized upon by the “boomer,” who stands in direct contrast to the other class. Looked upon as inferior by their flightier companions, the home guard plugged alone at their work during the slack season, and were glad to have the capable boomer’s assistance when busy times arrived. The boomer’s ability was never questioned and many a superintendent was glad hire him when he had an excess of traffic to move over his division, although there were exceptions to the rule, as witness the old story. A boomer applied for work as a brakeman and learned that the “super” was training his own men from among the local talent to avoid a heavy labour turnover. A young farmer who entered the office with the boomer was promptly hired, and the official turned to the boomer.

“Any railroad experience?”
“No,” lied the boomer. “Raised on a farm up in the hills and never saw a railroad.”
“Why do you want to work on the road?”
“Better chance to work up in the world.”
“Why did you leave the farm?”
“Well,” said the boomer, lapsing into railroad slang unconsciously, “I was first out to ride the hayrake, but they run a home guard around me and I pulled the pin.”

Honey dipping - working with a shovel in the sewer
Hooch - Liquor, of whatever description. The name comes from the Western States, probably from Alaska in the first instance, where the Indian tribes call spirituous liquor of any description “hoochcno” or “kootznahoo.”
Hoofer — In theatrical circles, a dancer, and usually one working on a cheap circuit ; on the road, any cheap actor, the word originating from the classic joke which pictured the unfortunate members of a stranded show walking home.
Hook - A crook; more especially a pickpocket, in the sense that some pilfered article has been taken by means of hook or crook.
Hook - To steal. The word is commonly used in America to illustrate anything taken unlawfully, even the boys who catch rides on the back of drays and wagons referring to the practice as “hooking” a ride.
Hook Alley - The restricted district or “tenderloin” of a city or town; the neighbourhood where gather the criminal and fast element.
Hook Shop — A house of prostitution. See “hooker.”
Hooker - A drink of liquor. A harlot. The first use may be from the same word as designating a vessel; the second is hard to define unless it be either a reference to one who lives within the district frequented by criminals, or a survival from the 16-18th century English cant, “hook,” to trick, to catch, to take by angling; in both cases the words are very old and frequently used.
Hoop - A ring; on the finger or off.
Hoople — A ring, more frequently used by pitchmen selling “slum.”
Hoosgow - A jail. Where the term originated no one seems to know, yet it is in common use, especially among tramps.
Hoosier - Originally designating an inhabitant of, Indiana and allegedly derived from who’s here? the word has been extended in application to designate any countryman, a farmer, an inefficient worker or a victim of some confidence game. A term of profound scorn.
Hop - Opium or narcotics in general; a dance. The latter meaning is obvious, and seems to have been originated by sailors; the first sense of the word as given here, although quite old, is seemingly a reference to some Chinese word, although a number of these people have said they do not know the origin.
Hop Head - An opium addict; more loosely, any drug addict. See “junket,” “hypo.”
Hop Hog — See “hop head?.”
Hop Merchant — A drug peddler with no stated headquarters; one who meets his customers on the street, in doorways, etc. See “dope peddler.” “peddler.”
Hopped Up - Under the influence of opium or any narcotic.
Hop Out - The place in town where it's easy to catch a train or get off a train.
Hop Toad - A derailing device on a railroad. A stiff drink, one to make the drinker “hop,” or move in a lively fashion.
Horn In - To intrude; to edge one’s way into a party or a discussion.
Horny - Amative; lewd, with an obvious and vulgar origin.
Horrors - Originally delirium tremens; in which affliction the victim is obsessed with violent and terrifying visions. More recently, any profound fear, usually described by some coupled word. See “bull horrors,” “stir horrors,” etc.
Horstile - Inimical to tramps and vagabonds. A corruption of the word “hostile,” this term covers the attitude taken by most trainmen, police officers and authorities to tramps, and covers especially the occasional concerted drives against all vagrants by any city or town. See “bum sick.”
Hot - (1) a fugitive hobo; (2) a decent meal: "I could use three hots and a flop" (3) illegal and dangerous (4) fast
Hot - Alive; lively; amorous; lewd. “Wanted” by the police for some crime but lately committed. Also, by way of irony, and in direct contradiction, used as a term of derision, as “A hot moocher,” “A poor beggar.”
Hot Boxes - Old-style lubricaiton on boxcar axles. Boxcars with hot boxes are rough riding.
Hot chair — The electric chair. See “hot seat.”
Hot Joint - A house or store to be robbed while occupied or while business is being conducted. Also a resort which is generally, or at the time, full of customers and lively.
Hot Seat - The electric chair. So called since executions by this method arc almost always accompanied by extensive and severe burns upon the victim's limbs where the electrodes are applied. See “burn.”
Hot Shot - A fast train, usually a fast or manifest freight. An automobile stolen during the preceding few hours, the theft not yet discovered and reported to the police.
Hot Shot - A good location for business. Generally used by “pitchmen.”
Hot Shot / hotshot - a train with priority freight, stops rarely, goes faster. Going a long distance with fewer stops than other trains. synonym for "Cannonball"
Hot Squat - The electric chair, and seldom used in comparison to “hot seat,” “the chair.” See “burn.”
Hot Stuff - Something remarkably well worthwhile. Stolen goods.
Hot Tongue - A passionate woman; another of the frequent and pointed allusions used the unpolished and uneducated male. The English equivalent is “hot stuff.”
Hot Yard - A freight yard where tramps are arrested for riding.
House For Rent - A widow; an understandable and apt illustration. In 18th century English slang, the phrase was “house,” or “tenement to let.”
Housework - Door to door peddling or soliciting for trade.
Hudson Pup — An Essex automobile, a smaller car manufactured by the makers of the Hudson, hence, by inference an offspring of the older, larger machine.
Hump — The summit of a railroad grade; the artificial hill in a classification yard over which cars are pushed to travel by gravity to their proper places in the lower yard, where they are made up into trains. The middle of a prison sentence, in this case the prisoner feeling the worst is over, and that in a sense he is able to “coast “ or slide down the other side. Sexual intercourse.
Hump - (1) A small, man-made hill in a yard over which uncoupled cars are pushed. A single track over the hill spreads into many tracks. Cars are reshuffled as a trainman in the tower switches the cars from ond order to another. (2) The continental divide. Riding over the "hump" is a trip over the Rockies.
Hump - To have intercourse. Grose, in 1785, wrote: “Once a fashionable word for copulation”
Hunger Lane — A railroad line though territory inimical to tramps.
Hunky - Any common labourer from North Europe; an allusion to the quiet, stolid manners of these clods of dirt to their quicker-witted companions. Any dolt or dullard.
Hurry Buggy - The patrol wagon; always on call and able to travel swiftly to wherever needed.
Hustler - A grafter; a criminal or street woman. In all three senses one who “hustles” or hurries, works quickly and in fear of detection. Seldom used in the underworld as it is in ordinary slang, to indicate one who moves quickly or with a bustle in any honest business.
Hustling Sheets - Selling newspapers; a procedure which in America requires the seller to move quickly, lest he lose his customers to another “newsie.” See “sheets.”
Hyper - A “short change” artist, one who habitually gives less than the proper change to a purchaser or customer. The logical explanation, yet one which seems beyond the grasp of the uneducated, is that the word came from “hyp,” a contraction of hypochondria, the victim usually melancholy enough when he discovers his loss, which is then too late to rectify. See also “hep,” “hip,” “hipe.”
Hypo - A hypodermic needle. A drug addict, especially one who uses a needle to administer the drug, as morphine or a solution of any powdered drug. See “Junker.”

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Ice - Diamonds; a stud pin or other piece of jewellery with a diamond.
Ice Palace - A high-class saloon or brothel, so called from the many mirrors and cut-glass chandeliers found in these resorts.
Info — Information; advice.
Ink - Cheap red wine. See “dago red.”
Inkslinger - A clerk or other office worker. Used as a term of scorn by the husky, hard-working labourers who must depend upon the clerks for their pay and other accounts, and usually at odds with them.
Innocent - A convict or other prisoner. A term of derision, based on the fact that but few convicted criminals will admit their guilt, no matter what the evidence introduced at their trial.
Inside — Information or knowledge shared by only a few.
Inside — In prison; “inside the walls.”
Insider — One “in the know.” An employee or a criminal who has secured a position in order to work with his gang to better advantage in robbing the premises.
Inside Worker - See “insider.” Also an able pick-pocket, one who goes into the inside pocket of his victims for loot.
Intermodal - A train carrying cargo stacks that are usually going long distances.
In The Clear - Originally on a railroad, off the main line and on a side track or in a yard hence, clear of traffic, out of the way. By adoption, above suspicion; free from blame; out of danger.
In The Red - Unprofitable, from the fact debit entries in a ledger are made in red ink. In debt.
Irish Buggy - A wheelbarrow, another of the many popular references to the Irish worker, always an object of mirth to the public.
Irish Pasture - A faint or coma.
Irish Turkey - Corned beef and cabbage, a popular dish with many of the people from which it takes its name.
Iron House — A gaol or prison, from the metal which has such a large part in the cells and bars. An old cant name was “iron doublet.”
Iron Man - A silver dollar; a piece of hard cash. 4

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Jab - A hypodermic injection, which is of course, a “jab” under the skin. Any short, sharp blow.
Jack - A generic term for any tramp or other man. Generic also for money. Both these applications seemingly without reason. A locomotive, possibly because the engine “jacks” or forces a train over the road.
Jack Roller - A town crook who fleeces the workers; one who “rolls” them of their money. See “roll.” A tramp thief or yegg who robs his fellows, especially when they are intoxicated.
Jailhouse - A City or county jail, never applied to a penitentiary. No doubt adopted from the negro, who loves to use a big word, coined or otherwise, when a shorter, simpler term would do as well.
Jake - Jamaica ginger, used as a beverage and much favoured by the older tramp and more hardened drinker, but practically impossible for the average man to stomach.
Jake - Satisfactory; pleasing; quite correct. Some say that the word came from the French “chic,” but as “Jake” has been in general use for many years it does not owe its origin to the soldiers’ acquaintance with any foreign language. Often “It’s jake” in answer to “Is it all right? Is it straight? Is it safe?”
Jamake - See “jake.”
Jam — A difficulty or trouble, as one would say he was jammed in, or hedged about by circumstance.
Jamoke - Coffee, and without a doubt from the two words indicating the sections of the world, Java and Mocha, from which much of the coffee comes.
Jane - Any woman or girl, regardless of money, morals or appearance.
Java - Coffee.
Jaw Fest - A long talk; conversation. The longer the conversation the more likely is it to be called a “fest “or feast of talk.
Jazz — sexual intercourse. Jazz music was so named originally because it was first played in the low dance halls and brothels where sex excitation was the prime purpose, after having been adopted from the savage tribes in whose dances and sexual rites it played such part.
Jazz - To speed up. To have intercourse.
Jerry - Aware of what impends. There seems no reason for the term. From the Cockney verb “jerry,” which is short for the rhyming slang “jerrycummumble “ — “ to tumble,” itself slang for “to suspect,” “to perceive a trick”
Jessie - A bluff or threat. Here again one is at a loss for a reason, unless some vagabond once had a wife or consort whose mere name served as a threat to force him to mend his ways. Also, formerly, “to give a person Jessie” meant “to beat,” “thrash,” “defeat.”
Jesus Stiff - A tramp who travels about the country painting exhortations on boulders and fences along the way: “Jesus saves, come to Jesus,” and the like. A mental twist, seldom a paid job, is to be blamed for this occupation.
Jew Flag - A dollar bil - any paper money. A play on the Hebrew’s well-known ability to make money.
Jigger - A fake burn or wound on the arm or leg resulting from an acid or other blister, and applied to gain sympathy. See “bug,” “P. P.” The source may be the chigoe or jigger, an insect which burrows under the skin, setting up an irritation; or the device used to catch fish, in which case the “fish” to be caught would be the individual who gave his sympathy to the wearer of the jigger.
Jigger - To spoil or injure; to deface. Here from a jigsaw, by which wood or thin metal plates are cut into fancy pieces, or from the sense that a “jigger” spoils or defaces a clean stretch of skin.
Jigger Man - The lookout for a gang of thieves.
Jiggers — An exclamation of warning; as if to say, “Jig away, there is a policeman coming.”
Jim - See “jigger,” “bug,” "”P. P” To spoil or deface. From the sense that something is jammed and worthless when its mechanism has been tampered with, as a gun.
Jimmy - A burglar’s tool for forcing a door or window. Merely an Americanization of the older English word “jemmy.”
Jinx — Any unlucky object, person or place.
Jit - A “nickel,” or five cent piece, made of an alloy of nickel. A negro or, more usually, a negress, and seemingly a term of derision, indicative of cheapness.
Jitney — See “jit.”
Job - Any criminal enterprise; a piece of work. From 17-18th century cant; at that date it meant, specifically, a pre-arranged robbery. To accuse or, convict unjustly; to “frame up,” which see. In the sense that a “job” or crime is unjustly laid at another’s door.
Jocker — A young tramp’s foster-parent or companion. An old tramp exploiting a younger one. This exploitation may be merely as a means of securing food with little effort in the way of begging, since a young tramp is usually an object of pity; or the boy may be forced into homosexual relations with the jocker or with other tramps. See also “prushun.”
Joe - Coffee. Probably a contraction of “jamoke”
Joey - A circus clown. Although the circus clown goes back for much of his “business” and “mugging “ to the theatres of Greece and Rome, he owes a great deal to the court jesters and mediaeval French pierrots, but most of all does he owe to the great Italian pantomimist, Joseph Grimaldi, from whose name all circus clowns have become plain “Joey,” pronounced “joy.” Also, a hypocrite, although Just why it is hard to say.
John - A free spender, probably from John D. Rockfeller, whose ability to spend is certainly unquestioned. Also, a Chinaman, from the days when no one made any effort to find out what this Chinese or that was called, and merely used the convenient “John.”
John Family - A farmer, doubtless because the tramp saw that nearly every farmer appeared to have plenty of children about the place. The term was selected by the yegg for himself when the former term became too common. See “hiram.”
John Hancock - A signature, from the patriot of that name who set his name to the Declaration of Independence.
John Law - A policeman, sheriff or constable. Merely a coupling of the generic “John” with the authority which the individual exercises.
John O' Brien - A slow or ordinary freight train, as against the fast freight or “rattler,” An empty safe. In the latter sense, the origin is obscure; in the former, it may be due to the Cockney rhyming-slang phrase, “Jack O’Brine” (sic) for “trine,” i.e. train.
Johnny Come Lately - A tramp with but scant experience on the road. Another term borrowed from the circus, where it indicates a clown starting his second season “under canvas.” See “first of May.”
Joint — Any hangout or gathering place, and not always a “low resort” in the estimation of the underworld, although it is sometimes used in a slighting sense. A booth or tent in which a gambling game is conducted at carnivals or in amusement parks.
Jolt - A stiff drink. A stiff prison sentence. In either case, something which shakes up the recipient. A stiff blow.
Jolt - To strike.
Joy House — A brothel, merely a reversal of the term “house of joy.”
Joy Powder - Morphine.
Joy Rider — A legless beggar riding about the street on a low, wheeled platform. An excellent example of the cynical way in which much of the underworld regards misfortune, since in common usage a joy rider as one who rides swiftly and for purposes of pleasure in a car.
Jug - A jail or prison. The word — an abbreviation of “stone jug” — has been so long used for this sort of institution that it is widely accepted in ordinary speech.
Jug — To imprison.
Jug Head - A mule; a stupid person. Since both the animal and any stupid person are regarded as having a bone or earthenware head,
Juice - Electricity. A soft drink sold at fairs and circuses, and not infrequently made from a powder or an “essence.” See “juice powder.”
Juice - An electrician, one who deals with juice. In prisons where capital punishment is by electrocution, the State electrician or the executioner.
Juice Powder — A powder from which soft drinks are made, usually a compound of sugar and some form of lithia powder, together with a fruit salt or other flavour.
Juice Road - An electric railway, usually an interurban line, on which the motive power is “juice.”
Jump - A train ride, or a movement from one place to another. Intercourse (cf. “jumping Jude” — an obliging wench — in one of Randolph’s poems, 1638).
Jump - To depart; to ride on a train; to electrocute; to have intercourse; to admonish. It is probable that the use comes from the action of jumping on something which must be held in place, or from the action of electricity upon the muscles, which causes a violent reaction in the body.
Jungle - (1) A hobo camp usually with grill and seats, an area off a railroad where hobos camp and congregate, sometimes with mirror, wood supply and cooking cans. (2) A social group that regularly occupies a camp. (3) as verb, to camp together
Jungle buzzard - a hobo or tramp who preys on his own
Jungles - A tramps’ camp, usually near a railroad yard or a water tank, at either of which places it is easier to board a train than along, the line. The “jungles” is the centre of the tramps social life, a place where the vagabonds meet and compare notes on conditions along the road and through the country; where clothes are washed and boiled to kill vermin; where the opportunity to cook and eat a meal or to enjoy a drinking bout or “bust” is offered and where in one may sleep. On mainly travelled routes and in popular centres, well-established jungles are to be found, and old tin pans and pots, used for cooking and washing, are carefully hidden where they may be found by those who follow. Slack indeed is the hobo or tramp who fails to clean up after he has cooked or in other ways made use of the jungles. The word is always used as jungles, never in singular. There is the adjective, as in :
Jungle Buzzard - A tramp or yegg preying on others of his kind; one who bolds up the unarmed men gathered in jungles, robbing them of food, drink, money or clothes. Also one who begs for food and drink at jungles and makes no attempt to contribute to the communal store. A despised, hated and carefully avoided individual in either case.
Jungle Stiff - One who rarely leaves the jungles to travel. A bum who lives in jungles instead of in a town.
Jungle Up — To rest, wash and eat at jungles.
Junk - Anything regarded as worthless, from which application it has been applied, and widely, to narcotic drugs; opium and cocain as well as their derivatives, morphine, heroin, yen shee paregoric, laudanum, etc. Morphine, a derivative of opium, is the drug most commonly used, although cocaine is also popular with a great number of addicts, as is heroin, an acetyl derivative of morphine. This last is an anodyne and a sedative when properly administered, as the most powerful of habit-forming drugs, and it is this which causes much of the crime in America to-day, the addict not only stealing and killing to obtain the money necessary to purchase his drug, but losing much of his native sense and caution when under the spell of the drug, or when desperately in need of a does or “shot.” Opium itself is no longer used as commonly as before, since it requires an elaborate and often expensive smoking outfit, as well as a secluded room where doors and windows may be sealed to prevent the escape of the tell-tale odour. “Junk” origin unknown, was originally (15th century) used for an inferior cable or hawser.
Junker - A drug addict, also known as “dope fiend,” “doper,” “dope,” “snow bird?,” “junk” hound” or “hypo.” Drugs are self-administered according to their form and character; heroin and cocaine crystals being spilt on the back of the hand or at the base of the thumb, and inhaled, while morphine and cocaine tablets are dissolved in a little water and administered by a hypodermic syringe or needle. Not having a syringe, the desperate addict opens an area of skin and flesh with a needle or pin, and uses a fountain pen filler or small pipette to inject the solution. Ulcers, abscesses and blood-poisoning are not infrequent sequels to this practice, since but little care is taken as to cleanliness, while in time the irritant properties of the drugs as inhaled cause sloughing of the delicate membranes of the nasal ducts. The average opium smoker sooner or later turns to morphine, and the cocaine-fiend resorts to the same drug since cocaine robs him of his sleep and leaves him in a highly nervous state, whereas morphine promises quick relief in sleep.
Junk Peddler - A narcotic seller, especially one who retails the drug to addicts upon the street.
Just Busted Out — A tramp or hobo who has lately joined the fraternity or just broken out with wanderlust, much as one shows signs of the measles or any eruptive disease.

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Kabitz - Unwanted, unwelcome advice. From “kabitzer,” which see.
Kaditzer - One who volunteers advice and who endeavours to conduct another’s affairs. From the same term as applied to the individual who leans over a player’s shoulder in a card game and attempts to play his hand for him. Despite a periodic query in many newspapers, no one seems to know its origin, although the writer believes it of Hebrew extraction.
Kale - Money; bank notes. The “long green,” which may have been compared to the leaves of the plant by some fanciful tramp.
Kangaroo Court - A mock trial in jail. A crude organization of the prisoners waiting for trial in a county or city institution; with the tacit consent of the sheriff or gaoler, they elect their own “officials” and proceed to try each newly received prisoner or “fish” on a charge of “breaking into jail”. Upon being convicted a cash fine of two or three dollars is assessed, which money the prisoners use to buy tobacco for the “officials” of the court. If the prisoner has the money and refuses to pay he is severely hazed or sent to Coventry, while if he has no money the other prisoners compel him to do the dirty work of the gaol, scrubbing, etc., although the sheriff himself has no right in law to compel unconvicted prisoners to work.
Kate —A handsome or popular prostitute, possibly from the name of one of these women who at some time or other charmed a certain criminal or group, but probably from Dutch kat, a wanton ; Scottish poet Ramsay has, in 1721, the words "a poor country Kate.”
Kayoe — To achieve unusual success. From a “K.O.” or knockout blow, hence something to compel attention. Frequently used as a substitute for " O.K.:” “I understand,” “all right,” etc.
K.C - Kansas City, Mo. See “Casey.”
Keister — A suitcase. Less frequently, a safe or vault. The word seems to have been carried down from years ago, and from a gypsy term.
Kelly - A hat, more especially a derby.
Kennel - A house; presumably from “dog’s kennel.”
Kettle - A locomotive, usually a derisive term for one which leaks steam from every joint.
KFC - The Kolonel's Freight Crew. Coined by Stobe the Hobo in reference to his love for fried chicken when riding rails. - A play on Colonel Sanders and KFC chicken.
Kick - An objection. A feeling of exhilaration or pleasure. A pocket in the trousers, properly on in the front and side, as distinguished from those in the rear, which are called “pratts.” Just where the last meaning came from seems hard to find, but the word is in common and frequent use by criminals and the police. The first definition is obvious enough, since one objects strongly, or “kicks” against that which displeases him; the second application sets the subject in the place of something which has been “kicked” or raised above a common level of affairs.
Kick - To object or oppose.
Kick-down - Throwing in a few dollars for the group cause of buying something, usually beer, tobacco, food, or drugs.
Kick In - To contribute or donate, usually under duress.
Kick It Apart - To elaborate a plan; to lay every detail before one. Probably originated by some Marine or soldier who had demolished or “kicked apart” a native hut in the Philippines to make sure no lurking insurrecto was allowed to remain behind the line of advance.
Kicks - Shoes, those things with which a kick is delivered. See also “relievers.”
Kid — A young person, boy or girl. Merely applying the proper term for a young animal to a young human.
Kid - To tease, to mislead, much as one would make a young and inexperienced person believe an un-likely story.
Kid Show - A side-show or annex to the main circus tent or “big top.” Also a job on which the majority of the workers are young and without experience.
Kid Simple - Having a neurotic passion for boys or for one boy. Never applied to the moral degenerate who molests young girls.
Kids' Pen - A reformatory, or reform school, an institution in which “kids” are confined or punished.
Kike - A Jew or any cheap merchant. From the names of many Russian Jew immigrants, which ended in the typical “ki” or “Ky” These people were known as “kikis,” and the name was shortened to the logical “kike.”
King Snipe - A section foreman, the man who rules the “snipes,” which see. Also a steel or construction boss or foreman.
Kink - A criminal, who one is not straight.
Kinky - Criminal; crooked; unlawful. Said of stolen goods, or of an individual known to be without the law.
Kinker — An acrobat or circus performer, one who “ties himself in knots.”
Kip - A bed or place to sleep. Perhaps the word may have come into use from the old-time couches or beds, covered with the “kips” or skins of small animals. Also a night watchman.
Kip - To sleep. It has been adopted from English slang.
Kip Dough - Money for a bed or lodging.
Kip Jack - See “kip dough.”
Kisser - The face or mouth.
Kiss Off - A dismissal, usually when the one dismissed has been defrauded or injured in some way.
Kitty Hop - A “heads I win, tails you lose” proposition. A term coined by some nimble-minded scoundrel, and having no real basis to anyone to-day,
Kneeling At The Altar - Committing pederasty. See “altar.”
Knob Head - A mule; a stupid individual. See “jug head.”
Knock - To inform, and in this sense for more common than as a reference to defamatory. No doubt the word is used since the one informed against is knocked out of his security or “knocked down” to the authorities.
Knock Down - An introduction. Information. As one would knock something within reach of another.
Knock Off - To arrest. To force out of town. To rob. To kill. Possibly from the usually explanation, since once the desired end is achieved one “knocks off” work, or ceases.
Knock Over - To raid or to arrest. Since the premises and the individual concerned are both upset by the procedure.
Knowledge Box - A school house. In 18th and 19th century English slang, the head.
Knowledge bus - a school bus used for shelter
Kuter - Twenty-five cents, merely a play on the word “quarter” (of a dollar). Easy to confuse with “cutor," except that the context makes the application plain.

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Lace - To punch, beat or manhandle. Transplanted from England, where it was used as early as the 18th century.
Lace Curtains - Whiskers, especially when full and verdant. See “face lace,” “wind tormentors.”
Lag - A prison sentence, usually of a year or more. Seldom if ever used in America to indicate a criminal.
Lakers - Hoboes who work on the Great Lakes during the open season, and take to the road through the South during cold weather, or live on their savings or on their wits during the winter.
Lam - A hasty get-away or escape. To run; anon; to escape. To assault. Both these uses are common, although their origin is hidden. Possible explanations may be found in the lamb’s nervous habit of running from anything strange; and in “lambaste” as the origin of the last defile of the verb.
Lamb - A young tramp, especially one under the domination of his “jocker” or “wolf.”
Lambing - Sheep-herding, an occupation occasionally resorted to by hoboes when tired of the road and anxious to rest, although the monotonous life soon drives them from the country and back to their old familiar life. .
Lamister - A fugitive from justice; one “on the lam.”
Lamp - To see; to view to look at. To cast the “lamps” over. See “lamps.”
Lamps - The eyes. Not unlike “glim,” which see, in origin and use.
Law - An opportunity for escape through some loophole in the law. Any police authority. See “John law.”
Layout - The full details of a crime; the “lay of the land.” An opium smoker’s outfit, consisting of the pipe, the nut-oil lamp and the long needle upon which the “pill” of raw opium is cooked before being smoked. A gambling outfit of wheels, cards, dice, chips, ect.
Layout -To knock down; to render unconscious. To spy upon.
Lead Joint -A shooting gallery such as those found in amusement parks, at fairs, carnivals and the like.
Leary - Suspicious; afraid; dubious. Of ancient and obscure origin.
Leary - Damaged goods or inferior merchandise; especially that which is peddled by pitchmen, and which is likely to cause trouble for the seller when the purchasers see that what they have bought is not up to standard.
Leather - A wallet or Pocket-book; never a purse. See “poke.”
Lee Of A Reefer - The ice-box in a refrigerator car, in which, if the car is not under ice it is possible to ride in comparative safety. Instances have been known, however, of tramps who have entered these hatches only to have the cover sealed after them by some railway employee, in which case they have been forced to remain without food or drink for several days, narrowly escaping at last from a terrible death. The Word: "lee” is doubtless a reference to the lee side something offering shelter.
Lefty -One minus a left arm or hand. A left-handed person.
Legger -A bootlegger.
Letter Carriers - Young tramps, many of whom persist in writing letters home to tell of their “adventures” on the road.
Library Bird - A tramp who frequents libraries in order to avoid bad weather, or from an honest desire to read and improve his mind.
Life Boat - A pardon from the Governor or President, not necessarily from a life or capital sentence, but in any case something which saves the recipient from a nasty experience or from long confinement.
Lift - To steal, in the sense that the stolen article or goods are lifted from their proper owner. An old English word.
Lighthouse - A lookout man for a gang of thieves. A pimp, or the man on duty at a brothel door to inspect patrons and make sure they are not police officers bent on a raid; a like person at a “speak-easy.” Originally the term was applied to one who knew every detective and police officer in a town by sight, and who was well acquainted with local conditions, a man to whom the tramp just off the road, or a criminal new to a town, looked for advice. The lighthouse was depended on to warn one away from trouble just as a real lighthouse warns the mariner from shoals and reefs. It is a modification of the conditions in the underworld which gave the word its secondary meaning, and the first is now largely disused.
Lig Robber - A thief who hides under a bed or in a closet until the woman is alone in the house, when she is robbed and possibly assaulted. “Lig” is the old cant word for a bed.
Lilies - The hands, probably an ironic reference to their lack of cleanliness; cf. the 18th century “lily white,” a chimney-sweep.
Limey - An Englishman, so called since the days when English men-of-war and other sailing ships served lime juice as a preventive of scurvy. Years ago the term was one of profound contempt, as used by the American sailors who envied the English tar his immunity from this sickness which they suffered on long voyages; of late it is merely a casual reference, with no element of contempt.
Line - A tenderloin or restricted district. In smaller cities and towns the disorderly resorts are situated on one or more streets, close together, usually within one or two blocks. Going “down the line” is applied to the weekly or more frequent visits by the men who visit these resorts in search of “pleasure.” Also a variety of work or “graft” regularly followed. A persuasive manner of speech or a winning address, a contraction of “A fine line of bull.” See “bull.”
Line Up - The daily inspection of newly captured prisoners at a police headquarters. The detectives, masked, or hidden from the prison behind a curtain, are given an opportunity to look over the haul for possible suspect on other crimes. In modern practice the prisoners are “lined up” on a small stage, behind a strong array of lights, so that their every peculiarity is at once apparent.
Lingo - A language or a variety of speech; not, in the underworld, any foreign language or a dialect.
List -To record a criminal and his list of offences.
Lit -Intoxicated, “lit up” with liquor; light-headed “high”
Little House - A, reformatory. See “big house.”
Little School - A house of correction. These two terms are rather loosely used, and their application is in both cases due to their unimportant position, in a tramp’s eye, as compared to the “big house” and “big school.”
Live Wire - A criminal; a free spender; one “in the know.” From the convincing fact that a live wire, one through which an electric current is passing, is apt to cause an unpleasant shock to the man who touches or comes in contact with it.
Lizzie Stiff - A migratory worker who travels from place to place in an auto. The Ford car, popularly referred to as a “tin lizzie,” is the vehicle most often used, hence the name. See “wagon tramp,” “Ford family.”
Load Of Culls - A plate of hash. See “culls.”
Loco - Crazy; erratic; unbalanced. From the Spanish, and directly from the range country, where stock which has eaten certain weeds goes mad, often incurably so. The “loco weed” is a variety of the marajuana which is much used as a drug by Mexican Indians. Not unlike Indian hemp, cannabis saliva, its use produces a mild exhilaration and elaborate dreams, but does not appear to set up a habit as does the use of other drugs.
Locust -A policeman’s club or nightstick, made from the hard, durable wood of the locust tree. See “oak towel.”
Longhorn - A Texan, or any man from the South-West. Taken from the “longhorn cattle which once ranged the Western ranches. By and large, any wild and rather “hard” individual, one like a “longhorn “in action or habit;
Long Rod - A rifle. Merely an extension of a “rod,” which see,
Long String - A driver or teamster handling a four, six or eight horse “hitch up” on a circus wagon or other heavy vehicle.
Loogins - Recruits; amateurs or newcomers to a gang or tramp group.
Looker - A driver or a “observer; a “look out,” especially one of a a gang watching an individual or a “dump.” Also, an attractive girl or young woman, when the word is merely a contraction of “good looking.”
Look Out - The member of a gang who watches for the police during a robbery or other crime. A “jigger man.”
Loony - Crazy; erratic. A contraction of “loony tick,” i.e. lunatic, and applied to anyone who seems not quite right. (Originally English slang.) See also “bats,” “bughouse,” etc.
Looseners - Prunes, or any other fruit that acts as a regulator on the bowels. A very logical term, if none too delicate.
Lord's Supper - The prison fare of bread and water served the men in solitary confinement or the “cooler.” Another instance of the cynical way the criminal has of regarding the harder experiences of life, although there have been instances where this meal was the last the prisoner ever had, since he failed to survive his confinement in the dungeon.
Los -Los Angeles, Cal. See “Chi,” “Cinci,” “Casey,” etc.
Loser - An ex-convict, or one under restraint. The term indicates that the man has “lost out” or failed in his fight against the law, and is extended to indicate how many terms a man has served in gaol, as “a two time loser,” etc.
Lost - Murdered. A “prushun“ is lost when his “jocker,” tiring of him, or fearing arrest for kidnapping or mistreating the boy, knocks him under the wheels of a train from the rods or brake beams. Also applied to anyone who has been “put on the spot” or disposed of by gang justice or individual revenge.
Lot Lice - Circus and carnival hangers-on who follow the show but are not a part of the salaried staff. They are vermin in every sense of the word, and a thorn in the side of every well-conducted show, although tolerated by the smaller, less reputable establishments.
Louse Cage -A hat, which is supposed to confine the lice.
Lousy - Disreputable; inferior. Also infested with or rich in anything, as “lousy with jack,” well supplied with money.
Low Down -The truth; the inside facts; reliable information.
L.S. and M.S - Less sleep and more speed. Originated along the line of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad, a part of the New York Central Lines, over which it was possible to make speed if one gave up sleep and rest in order to watch for the railroad detectives who thronged the line. One of the famous “mobs” of vicious criminal tramps and yeggs, “The Lake Shore Push,” once infested this road until other vagrants avoided the line in terror of death.
Luey - A circus clown, and apparently a corruption of “Joey.”
Lug - A request, generally used as “dropping the lug.” Clearly from the old Scotch word for ear. Also the word lug is seldom if ever used by the underworld to indicate one who is putting on airs.
Lu Lu - Anything unusually worthy or desirable. A coined word of no readily traceable source, but widely used by the older tramp and crook.
Lump - A package of food given a tramp. See “handout.” A proper lump, to a tramp of discernment, is one which contains not only the food for sustenance, but some pastry or cake as well, hence a “baldheaded lump” is one with nothing but bread and meat.
Lump Oil - Coal, especially that used as a fuel on a railroad.
Lush - A drunkard, used chiefly among tramps; the criminal and “fly” element prefer any of the newer terms, “soused,” “high,” “lit,” as a reference to intoxication. Any of the made-up liquor to be found in tramp or carnival circles, such as essence of peppermint, Jamaica Ginger, paregoric or “rubbing” alcohol. In 18th-century, “lush” meant strong beer.
Lush - Hopelessly intoxicated.
Lush Worker - One who robs drunkards. See “flop worker.”
Lying Dead - A tramp or criminal who is in hiding or temporarily out of the life, living quietly on money begged or stolen. Also, and this is where it was found by the tramp: a train or engine which has pulled off the main line, and lying quiet or “dead.”

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M - Morphine. See “Em,” “C,” etc.
Mac - A pander; a lover or associate of lewd women. No doubt from the French word for this class, “maqereau” (pronounced “macro”), although the shorter word has been in use in America for years. In England, “mackerel” for a pander, also for a bawd (procuress), was in general use from the 15th century (e.g. in Caxton) to the i8th century. Also, but less frequently, used as a generic and casual name for a chance acquaintance.
Madame - The woman in charge of a brothel, either running her own establishment acting as a manager for another. Usually, but not always, this lady (?) has been a prostitute in her day, and has either risen to her exalted position through the favour of some powerful criminal or politician, or managed to secure enough money to purchase or rent the house she operates and to buy off police interference.
Made - The train is "made" - Assembled
Maeve - a young hobo, usually a girl
Magazine - A six months jail sentence. The time one of the unlettered would require to read a magazine. See “book,” “newspaper.”
Main drag - the busiest road in a town
Main Drag - The main street of a town or city; the best street on which to beg; the street most frequented by tramps and hoboes. The main line of a railroad. See “drag.”
Main Guy -The boss; one with authority; God.
Main-line - The priority rail(s) running through a train yard that are designated for departing trains and through trains.
Main Stem -See “main drag.”
Make - To recognize; to discern; to discover; to accomplish. Much the same sense as in correct English, although applied to any object or piece of work.
Making The Riffle - Succeeding. From the gold-miner’s expression describing the collecting of the gold dust and small nuggets caught in the “riffles” or small cleats fastened across the bottom of a cradle or slide down which the powdered rock is carried in a stream of water, the lighter dirt running away with the water, the heavier metal sinking to the bottom of the sluice.
Makins - Cigarette tobacco and papers, the makings of a smoke. Before the days of cheap “tailor-made” cigarettes most vagrants carried their “makins” and rolled their own cigarettes as wanted.
Man -A prison guard. Perhaps from the sense of an adult male servant, since the prisoner considers himself far superior to the men set in authority over him; perhaps from the fact the word may be quickly said, and often used as a warning to another that a guard is coming ; to stop talking, to hide contraband, etc.
Man Catcher - An employment agency or labour exchange. See “slave market.”
M and C - A mixture of morphine and cocaine, usually four parts of to first to one of the second; thought by the addict to prevent too much of a “kick” or thrill, with a correspondingly weaker reaction.
Manifest - A fast freight train, from the “manifest” of the goods carried.
Mark - An easy mark; a town in which there is a charitable or tolerant attitude to tramps; one likely to respond to a “hard luck” yarn; a “sap” or “sucker”; a pickpocket’s victim. In each case, more or less derision goes with the word, no real tramp having much sympathy for anyone who falls prey to a vagrant's plea for sympathy, or for the individual who cannot protect himself from thieves.
Married - Handcuffed together. Having unnatural sex relations
Marry -To enter into homosexual relations.
Mawk - A slovenly, unclean harlot. In the 18th century in England “mawkes” is a corruption of “maukin,” “malkin,” a kitchen wench (“the kitchen malkin” is a phrase in Shakespeare’s” Coriolanus).
McCoy - Neat; good-looking; unusually excellent or genuine. From the pugilist, “Kid” McCoy, who was for time some at the head of his class.
Meal Ticket - A woman supporting a lover or pander; any free source of income; a stop-gap job, one which supplies a bare living until some better opportunity presents itself. In every case, from the card or ticket issued by a restaurant on the payment of a certain sum, and good for a certain amount of food or number of meals, until the value has been cancelled by punch marks.
Med Man - In pitchman’s argot and at a fair or carnival a “medicine man” or fake doctor; one who peddles proprietary remedies, most of which are absolutely valueless if not actually harmful.
Medical — A fake doctor or quack Something akin to the “med man,” but usually an individual with a fixed headquarters and one who treat as well as prescribes. Frequently a “pin artist,” which see, or a charlatan “specializing” in venereal work, and robbing his patients blind.
Meestle - A dog, taken from the gypsy, and very old indeed, although now seldom heard among the younger tramps and criminals. Probably a corruption of either “messan” (as in Robert Burns) or “messet” (provincial form of the same word) or a confusion of the two; both mean a lap-dog, and as used by Burns and Scott appear to have been associated especially with gypsies.
Meig - A five cent piece; also one cent when found in the plural, as “fifty meigs” for fifty cents. And for no particular reason, unless “meig” be a corruption of “meg” or “megg,” the 17th century English cant term for a guinea (coin).
Melt -Loot which may be melted down in a crucible. Any precious metal in bulk.
Mess Moll - A woman cook, merely a “moll” who attends to the “mess” served at meal times.
Michael - A bottle or flask carried on the hip, and hard to trace as to origin, but declared by one old-time tramp to be a reference to the fact a person proffering a drink on a cold, wet night is as welcome and as gracious as the archangel Michael.
Milk - An Irishman; so employed by “Mark Twain” in “Innocents at Home,” in 1869; usually applied to one of the labouring class.
Mill - A free-for-all fight. A typewriter. A locomotive. In all these applications reference seems to be made to the gears or the machinery involved or suggested, or to the fact, in the first instance, that one is altered in appearance after having been, the "through the mill” or in a fistic encounter. Dyche in his Dictionary, 5th edition 1748 says, “Mill in the canting language means to beat, thresh (sic), maul, or kill a person.”
Mill -To ramble aimlessly about this sense, from the West, where a herd of cattle “mills” when it moves in a great circle during a storm or when disturbed and kept in easy motion by its herders to prevent a stampede.
Minister's Head - Boiled pig’s head. Just why this term is used is hard to say unless it is a term of derision for two things but rarely admired by the tramp: the clergy and this particular article of food.
Minnie -Minneapolis, Minn. See “Chi,” “Cinci,” etc.
Mission Squawker - An evangelist, one who not infrequently “squawks” or raises his voice to unnecessary heights when exhorting his flock. See also “hallelujah peddler.”
Mission Stiff - A tramp or bum who makes it his business to be “redeemed” in order to obtain food and lodging at mission or rescue society shelters. He is looked down on through trampdom as one who has no “pride” or ability, although during unusually hard winters or in times of great financial depression many tramps are only too glad to avail themselves of such aid as missions offer them.
Mission Stiff - A hobo who lives in a mission. Also called a "nose diver".
Missionary - A pimp or procurer; a “white slaver.” These gentry are those who “convert “or lead their prey into the “easy life.”
Missionary Act - Begging, a reference to the plea for funds made more or less regularly by the Mission Boards.
Mitt - The hand, no doubt from the “mitte” or “mitt’ worn as a covering.
Mitt - To greet or shake hands with.
Mitts - A one-handed or a handless person.
Mob - A criminal band or gang; a group of tramps travelling together, sometimes under a generally recognized leader sometimes merely for protection or company. Never applied by the for underworld to a disorderly gathering of the common people, or to any crowd, where “push” applies.
Mob Of Cannons - A gang of criminals, especially a group of pickpockets, from ‘gun mob,” which see.
Moll - A woman, regardless of character or condition. From old English cant, but widened in its application, and indeed, seldom used to prostitute or a degraded female.
Moll Buzzer -A pickpocket preying on women; a purse snatcher; a store thief. No doubt the word “buzzer” indicates that in many cases the thief strikes up some sort of a conversation—“buzzes” the victim in order to gain her confidence and find an opening for the theft.
Moll Worker -See “moll buzzer.”
Mongee - Food, and no doubt from the colloquial French, manger, food, from the pure French, manger, to eat.
Mongee -To eat.
Monica, Monicker, Moniker or Monicker - A name, especially of an individual, hence a nickname; occasionally a signature or a pre-arranged sign marked on a wall or building as a guide. The word comes from old English thieves’ cant. The nicknames referred to are common, in fact almost in-variably used, in tramp and underworld circles, formed of the person's proper name and a characteristic, or of that characteristic and the name of the town or city from which he came, as “Blinky Smith,” “Dopey Benny,” “Chicago Red,” “Oklahoma Slim,” etc.
Moniker / Monica - A hobo's nickname
Monkey Chaser - A West Indian or Central American native; people the average tramp visualize as spending much of their time in chasing the monkeys and doing but little else.
Monkey Money - Script or tokens issued in lieu of cash for use in a company. Any foreign currency, generally .below the par of United States gold, and so considered as of small account.
Mooch - A beggar; the act of begging. A corruption of the obsolete dialect “mouch,” to sneak about, to pilfer, but never used in the latter sense to-day.
Mooch - To beg; to stroll about; to walk away from.
Moocher - A beggar, one who “mooches.”
Mooching The Stem -Begging on the street.
Moonshine - Liquor manufactured or sold, or both, outside the law. Originally and properly that which is made in the mountains of several Southern States. See “moon,” “white mule,” “corn.”
Mope -To walk away; to leave; to dawdle. Not altogether at variance with the same word in proper usage, meaning dull, spiritless or stupid, although these characteristics are generally feigned to avert suspicion.
Mop -The Missouri Pacific Railway, and another of the abbreviations and diminutives the tramp is fond of coining.
Mop Mary - A scrub woman, a charwoman.
Mouser - A degenerate; a lewd character. Evidently a reference to the quiet, mouse-like habits of these persons, who realize they are objects of derision and scorn to the more normal members of society, and who avoid any close contact with men who may be inclined to beat or otherwise molest them.
Mouthpiece - Formerly, a stool pigeon who spoke to the police about a criminal or gang; lately, and in general use, a mouthpiece is a lawyer, the man who addresses the Court and otherwise speaks for his client.
Mucker -A pick and shovel worker; not used, as in England, to designate a lower or character.
Muck Stick - A long-handled shovel one in general use by ditch-diggers and others working in the earth, as opposed to “banjo” or short-handled “scoop” shovel for coal, grain, etc.
Mud - Opium, from the gummy muddy appearance a of the drug in its crude state, and before being prepared for smoking.
Mug - The face; a grimace; a police record, containing the picture, fingerprints, measurements and general description of a criminal. The first sense is adopted from English slang.
Mug - To photograph, measure, and take the record of a criminal.
Mug of Murk - A cup of coffee.
Mugging - Making faces, on the stage as a means of creating a laugh; in criminal circles to give silent warning behind another’s back, or to warn, as if giving the “office,” which see.
Mugging Burg - A town or city in which all those arrested, on a definite charge or on suspicion, are “mugged.”
Mule - Corn liquor; cheap whisky. See “white mule.”
Mule Skinner - A teamster or mule driver, one who “skins” or beats the animals to enforce his orders or make them work.
Mulligan - The great tramp stew, composed or thrown together, depending on the ability of the cook, from anything and everything which is obtainable by theft, begging or purchase. The base of the proper mulligan is always meat of some kind, the cooking utensil varies from a stew-pan or pot rescued from a dump or stolen, and the dish is served in anything which will hold it, from a large leaf to salvaged tin cans. See also “combination,” “Peoria.”
Mulligan - a type of community stew, created by several hobos combining whatever food they have or can collect
Murk - Coffee, from its cloudy, murky appearance milk.
Muscle — To use force or intimidation so as to secure a share in a “racket” or graft, or to force one’s way into an enterprise use of firearms or other weapons is not absolutely needed to make the word applicable.
Mush - The face, from the food. An umbrella, probably from the resemblance to a mushroom.
Mush Faker - An umbrella mender, or a tramp who pretends to be mending umbrellas to avoid arrest as a mere vagrant. Any low-grade tramp.
Mush Worker - An attractive woman who fleeces men by some pitiful “ghost story” or “racket”; crying and showing a deep emotion by the working of her face.
Mustard Shine - The use of oil of mustard upon the shoes to prevent dogs from following the scent. Formerly much used by yeggs and the crooks who operated in the country or through the South, and dreaded more than anything else the bloodhounds sometimes utilized as trailers. The sharp odour of the oil of mustard effectually covers any scent, and no doubt actually hurts the delicate nose of the dog.

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N.P. - Northern Pacific
NAB - To catch; to arrest. English thieves’ cant of the 16th-18th centuries; now low English slang.
Nail — See “nab.” Especially used when the “catch” or arrest is a lasting one, and impossible to escape from.
Nail A Rattler -To board a fast train once it has got under way.
Neck - To stare at or watch closely. The word came from the much older “rubber-neck,” or one who stared until his neck was stretched, and has nothing in common with the commonly-used “necking” as indicative of love-making or fondling.
Necking -A close scrutiny.
Ned - A ten dollar gold piece or eagle, although why it should be thus called is hard to say. A “ned” or “neddy” was 18th-century English cant for a guinea; the first dictionary recording of the American sense was in 1859.
Needle - A hypodermic needle, or a dose of drug so administered.
Needle - To treat a soft drink or “near beer” with some form of alcohol, ether, etc. to give it a “kick,” make it intoxicating. It is necessary to make a proper beer before the near beer is obtained, which is done by boiling to remove the alcohol. This “legal” beer having no attraction for the drinker “the needle is given” to bring the product back to strength when it has been delivered by the brewer, often in no way concerned in the making of illicit drink. The needle is a hollow metal tube, perforated along its length, which is introduced into the keg of near beer, connected by a rubber tube to a can of the ether or alcohol, vapour from which is forced into the drink by a rubber bulb or bellows.
Needle Beer - Beer treated as above.
Nerve - Courage; “gall”; audacity. See “guts.”
Next -Aware of what impends; “wise” to what is going on.
Newsie - A newsboy, especially one who moves about the streets and who has no regular “stand” or place of business.
Newspaper - A thirty days’ gaol sentence. See “magazine,” “book.”
Nick - To steal; to arrest. Here the sense of something spoiled or defaced is perhaps behind the use of the word; as meaning to steal, to rob, to cheat, the word was quite frequent in 17th and 18th century England.
Nickel Note - A five dollar bill. Merely a play on the word “nickel” for a five cent piece.
Nickel note - a five-dollar bill
Nickel Nurser - A stingy individual, one who nurses his funds,
Nifty - Desirable; excellent. No reason can be assigned for the coining of this word, which has been widely used by the stage dialogue. In the underworld it indicates a witticism or an usually clever bit of dialogue. In the underworld in indicates also the “wise crack” or disarming speech by which suspect is able to extricate himself from trouble. Mark Twain, in 1869, had it to mean neat or smart, and in 20th century English slang it means quick, deft, skilful.
Niggle - To have sexual Intercourse. Probably from the proper use of the word as indicating something trifling, or a pottering about, but with scant sense as used in the underworld, unless coined by some rather delicate-minded individual to avoid the use of a coarser word. It may, however, well be the 18th century English cant word; Grose has it.
Nines -The absolute limit; finality.
Nip — To open a locked door by means of a small pair of hollow-nosed nippers, which grasp the end of the old-fashioned key from the wrong side of the door, allowing it to be turned in the lock. To steal a stud or other piece of jewellery from the person, especially with the aid of a nipper, which see; cf. the 17th 18th-century bung-nipper, a cut-purse.
Nipper - A small wire cutter used to cut a jewel from its setting or to cut a pin or watch-chain which cannot be loosened from the clothes of the wearer.
Nippers - The pliers serving to open a locked door. See “nip.”
Nob - The head, an old word, and still frequently used.
Nose Bag - A meal; food in a paper bag. See “lump.” Merely an adaptation of the same word as indicating a draught animal’s mid-day meal away from its manger or stall.
Nose Bag - To eat.
Nut - An insane or erratic individual; one out of the ordinary, and therefore a “hard nut” to crack for the rest of society. Also, and originated by “pitch” workers, expense money; that which has to be secured before an enterprise pays dividends, in which the likeness to a nut that must be cracked or opened is no doubt responsible for the use. The cost of an operation; overhead expense.
Nut House - An insane asylum. See “bug house.”
Nutty - Crazy; erratic; simple-minded.

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Oak Towel - A policeman’s club, often of oak, and used to “rub down” refractory prisoners. Grose (1785) has: “To rub a man down with an oaken towel; to beat him.”
Obie - A country post office. Originated by the old yeggmen, who merely reversed the initials, “P.O.,” to lessen the public’s understanding of their conversation, and from carelessness in speech corrupted to its present form.
Odds and Ends - The scrap meat begged from a butcher for “mulligan,” which see. See also “gut plunge.”
Office - A warning or sign of recognition from one crook to another. This may be a simple gesture, such as scratching the cheek, winking or the like, or it may be a set and pre-arranged phrase in answer to a certain question. It is, in the last analysis, distinctly what the dictionary declares it to be: “anything done for another.”
Oiled - Intoxicated. In England, “well oiled.”
Oil Of Joy - Any strong drink.
Old Head - Anyone with experience at any particular line of work or crime, or with a thorough knowledge of life.
Old Ladies' Home - A brothel where decorum and the proprieties must be observed. Despite the sordid nature of all these resorts, they were of many different classes, from those rough and ready places where “everything went,” to the better-grade, more carefully conducted sort, where order and a certain decent behaviour were expected.
Old Lady - Girlfriend / Wife
Old Man - Boyfriend / Husband
Old Man - Anyone in authority or in a superior position. On the road, and taken from the rail-roader’s slang, usually the division superintendent or a conductor.
On - Wise; experienced; aware of the facts. The “wise” individual purposes to be carried on to some definite end.
On The Beach - Down and out, and usually heard among sailors and “sea stiffs.” “beach-comber,” one down and out on the sea-board and combing the beach for a living.
On The Boost - Shoplifting. See “booster.”
On The Bum - Literally, broken in pocket and spirit. See “bum.”
On The Crack - Out for burglary or other theft. From “cracksman.”
On The Cushions - Originally applied to one riding on the cushioned seats of a passenger train, and therefore having money; the phrase has been extended to include any state of comfort, wealth or ease.
On The Dodge - Fleeing from justice; avoiding the police.
On The Fly - Moving swiftly.
On the fly - jumping a moving train
ON THE HOCKS - Literally standing. Impoverished.
On The Hog - Penniless; down and out ; forced to accept anything, much as a hog roots for whatever it can find.
On The Lam -Avoiding the police; running at top speed. See “lam.”
On The Legit - Honest; in earnest; trustworthy. From legitimate. In reference to an actor or other worker, engaged in the regular production or appearing in a play of some merit, as contrasted with the “rep” or repertory shows touring the country with cheap productions of old and usually inferior plays.
On The Loop - Travelling at high speed. Probably introduced by someone familiar with the wiring of electric motors, where the high speed is obtained when the controller handle is at the last point in its radius, or “on the loop.”
On The Make - Doing well; making money; succeeding. “Making good.”
On The Muscle - Quarrelsome; overbearing. See “muscle.”
On The Nut - Out of funds; living on the “nut,” which see.
On The Plush - See “on the cushions.”
On The Pork - See “on the hog.”
On The Prowl - Committing burglary, or looking for an opportunity to do so. Living on one’s wits.
On The Racket - Crooked; criminal. See “racket.”
On The Spot - Marked for assassination; in danger. Originally a railroad term, indicating that a car (anglice, a truck or a van) had been placed on a side track or alongside a platform for loading or unloading, “spotted” next to a certain desired place, it has been adopted by the underworld. One of the most eagerly quoted terms in use to-day in connection with the underworld. An individual is placed “on the spot” when he is lured to a certain place where he may be shot or bombed ; when he is “framed” by his former accomplices so that he is arrested and convicted of a capital crime, or when he is placed in danger. See also “spot.”
Oogles - Rail riders that are either inexperienced or simply stupid, usually in the form of gutter-punks, crusties, or greenhorns (rookies).
Op - A telegraph operator.
Openers - Certain cards in a game of chance which allow the player to open the play. Cathartic pills, and what could be plainer?
Open Work - Safe-blowing.
Open Up - To become confidential; to open one’s heart.
Oregon Boot - A heavy steel manacle worn on the ankle and foot to prevent escape, and perhaps first used in Oregon. A ball and chain.
Oscar - To walk; to go away. No reason for the word is known.
Out - An alibi or excuse. A means of getting out of trouble.
Outfit - A group of people or a commercial firm; a crowd of tramps travelling in company. See “push,:” “mob.” Also personal effects. Probably from American Army slang, where the company or other organization is always referred to and indicated by the word “Outfit.”
Out Of LIne - Unmanageable; hard to control; at variance with the usually accepted idea of things.
Outside - Out of gaol or prison; at liberty. Not included in an arrangement or plan.
Outside 'bo - A hobo who winters outside
Outside Ride - Riding a freight car exposed to the elements.
OVERNIGHT Jon - An automobile stolen within the previous twenty-four hours and not as yet reported to the police.
Owner's Job - See “consent job.”

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Pad - A bed. This meaning already obtained in the 17th century.
Padded - Having loot concealed upon the person, regardless of the bulk or amount of the loot.
Padding The Hoof - Travelling afoot. Both “Pad the hoof” and it’s now obsolete variant, “beat the hoof;” are old English cant phrases.
Padding the hoof - to travel by foot
Pad Money - Money for lodging. See “pad.”
Palm Oil - Money paid as a bribe or for protection against police interference.
Pan - The face, probably from someone whose face had but little more expression than such a vessel or container. P
Pan - To defame or belittle, probably since the person so talked of (behind his back) is “on the pan,” in an uncomfortable position.
Pan-Handler - A beggar who solicits alms upon the street; an old name for this type of mendicant, and hard to define as to origin, perhaps from his bowl for the receipt of alms
Pan-Handling - Begging upon the street. Rarely, applied to the tramp habit of asking alms at private houses. See “mooch,” “batter”
Papa - A Lincoln automobile, more or less the “old man” of the American automobiles from the standpoint of size and cost. Although manufactured by the Ford interests, this car was acquired by them from its former manufacturers long after the small, cheap Ford car had established Henry Ford as a manufacturer and capitalist.
Paper - A railroad ticket, especially if for a long journey, when the ticket usually requires several inches of paper, on which are indicated junctions, roads concerned, etc.
Paper-Hanger - One who passes bad cheques or counterfeit, money. A pointed play on words, since money so “passed” or “hung” on the victim is worthless to anyone else wise enough to detect its falsity.
Paralyzed - Intoxicated to a degree, but still able to move, even if limited in action and reaction. See “blind,” “rum-dum” etc.
Passenger Stiff - A tramp or hobo with a mania for riding only the faster freight or passenger trains. See “comet,” “rambler.”
Passer - One who passes or “shoves” counterfeit money.
Pathfinder - A police spy or “stool,” which see. Someone who guides or finds the path for the authorities.
Pay Off - The division of spoils after a robbery; the settlement of accounts; the profitable conclusion of an enterprise.
Pearl Diver - A dish-washer; a clownish reference to the worker who “dives” for the dishes in a large vat or pan of hot, greasy water.
Peddler - A slow or way freight or goods train; any train that stops at every station the line, much as a peddler calls from house to house to deliver goods. A “dope peddler.”
Peddling Out - Selling or trading the old clothes which have been begged from housewives, and which are not needed by the tramp, who obtains from his fellows food, drink or tobacco In exchange for his goods.
Pedigree - A criminal’s record as held by the police. This contains every detail of the individual’s life as far as known, together with his or her finger-prints, portrait (sic) and measurements as well as the crimes for which arrested, tried and sentenced, together with the sentences, if any, and the institutions where they were served. See “book,” “mug.”
Peg - A leg, artificial or otherwise. A one-legged person.
Peg - To watch or spy on a person or place. Before the days of the automatic burglar-alarms a thief or yegg looking over the scene of a proposed burglary would place a small peg in the crack of the door after the store or office was closed for the night, and on making an inspection before the day’s work began would note whether or not anyone had visited the prospective “job” according to the peg’s absence or presence.
Pen - A forger, one who uses a pen. A penitentiary.
Pen Man - A forger.
Pennsylvania Feathers - Coke, largely a product of the Pennsylvania coalfields, and of course much lighter in weight than coal.
Pennsylvania Slave - Apple butter, an article of food very popular with the farmers of the State.
Pennyweight Job - A jewel robbery, in which the standard of measure for precious stones has been taken as a noun.
Pen Yen - Opium. See “gow,” “hop.”
Peoria - A thin soup, perhaps so called from a similar article of food served in the Illinois State Prison at the city of the same name, perhaps from the fact that much of the State provides poor pickings for tramps who must get along as best they can on scant rations. See “combination” and “mulligan,” two tramp dishes which are made whenever possible, but which sometimes give way to “Peoria” under press or circumstances.
Percentage Bull - A policeman who will accept a certain part of the proceeds of a robbery or of the profits in a shady deal in return for his protection) assistance or indifference.
Perfesh - A professional, experienced tramp. Tramp life in general. Any expert in some particular line. The word is, of course, merely a corruption of “professional.”
Peter - A safe. Although the word has been in general and well understood use among criminals for years, few people know that it was first used to mean variously a portmanteau, box, trunk, or purse, in 17th-18th century cant; and there is perhaps a reference to the proverbial saying, “To rob Peter to pay Paul.”
Peter Man - A safe-blower.
Peter Work - Safe robbery.
Phoney - False; unreal; imitation; valueless. The adjective seems to have been coined when first some clever crook utilized the telephone to lure a victim to a false appointment so that an unguarded house or office might be robbed, and it is in wide use through-out the underworld.
Phoney Crip - A beggar who pretends a deformity or illness.
Phoneyman - A peddler of cheap jewellery. “slum.”
P.I - A Pimp or pander, merely euphemism by contraction.
Pickets - The teeth, a Playful reference to the “picket fence,” in which a series “pickets” or upright palings, generally painted white, are used to enclose a lawn or yard.
Pickins - Money obtained by beginning, or by any other dubious means or “graft” A corruption of “picked up” or pilfered,
Pick Up - An arrest; a solicitation for immoral purposes; the one who is arrested or solicited.
Pick Up - To arrest; to solicit for immoral purposes. The latter sense belonged originally (and still belongs) to English slang.
Picture Frame - The gallows, another euphemism originally, in English slang, “the Sheriff’s picture-frame.”
Pie - Easy; simple; desirable; pleasant; unusually welcome. In every application, from the article of food, which in America is understood to be a dessert of fruit, not, as is often the case in England, a meat dish.
Pie Book - A book of “meal tickets,” which see. Usually issued as an advance against wages by some large mills and mines. See also “monkey money.”
Pie-Eyed - Intoxicated, usually when hopelessly so, and probably from the round-eyed, blank expression of the inebriate.
Piece - A share or part of the loot or proceeds of a “racket” or crime. Also, a woman or girl who will “listen to reason.” Amplified and frequently used in this latter sense, as “a piece of tail,” or “a piece of skirt,” which last is not as frequently used in America as in England. See also “cut,” “divvy,” for the first; “tail” and “hump” for the second.
Pie In The Sky - One’s reward in the hereafter. From that parody on the hymn, “In the Sweet Bye and Bye,” which declares in the refrain:

“You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land in the sky;
Work and Pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.”

Pig - A locomotive. See “hog.” A dirty, worn-out old harlot. Also, a “blind pig” or resort where, liquor is sold illegally; a “speakeasy.”
Pigeon Joint - A store where burglars’ tools may be purchased, or a resort specializing in the supply of such instruments. Perhaps from the old cant word “pigeon” as indicating either a special class of sharper or more generally, a dupe, although the word is never used in the latter of the two senses in modern criminal argot.
Piggyback Car - A train car that is carrying semi-truck trailers.
Pike - A road, street or railroad, and an obvious contraction of turnpike. To “take him down the pike” means variously to take someone out and defraud him, or to so pummel an individual that he is no longer a nuisance or a menace, but amenable to instruction or discipline.
Pill - Originally, the pellet of opium cooked over the nut-oil lamp and ready for smoking in the pipe; more generally, and by adoption, a cigarette.
Pillinger - A beggar who solicits alms before public buildings and stores. Not unlikely a mispronunciation and a misconception of “pillage.”
Pill Shooter - A physician.
Pilot - A locomotive sent over a railroad line before a regular or special train to make sure the roadbed is safe, or that the line is clear for the passage of an important party or personage. A boy or dog leading a blind beggar.
Pimp - One who lives on the earnings of a street-walker or prostitute, or who solicits trade for his woman or “meal ticket,” which see. Another word extremely hard to define or trace as to origin, but largely and generally used. It is sometimes applied as a term of any foppish individual, even proof of his occupation as a pander is had. The word was used by Dryden in 1681; probably an Anglicism in form and an adaptation in sense of the old French pimpreneau, a knave, rascal, scoundrel.
Pimp Stick - A cigarette, since so many of the pimps, constantly smoke them, and of greater force before cigarette smoking became general.
Pin Artist - An abortionist. The reference is to the simplest, and at the same time the most dangerous form of abortion.
Pinch - To arrest; to steal or pilfer, usually when the haul is a small one, or when it is taken on the spur of the moment and without plan.
Pinch - An arrest, since this is often accomplished when the officer grasps or “pinches” the suspect’s sleeve or collar. See also “collar.” A small theft. Also a dishonest gambling wheel, one which may be halted or “pinched” to a stop at the will of the operator. See “gaff wheel.”
Pineapple - A bomb. So called, during the World War, from the segmented markings on the casing, which ensured the missile breaking up and covering a lot of ground when exploding. (Specifically, as above, the very efficient Mills Bomb.) The term, therefore, did not originate in the underworld, although it is now in common use, alike by racketeers, extortionists and police.
Pineapple - To bomb or dynamite.
Pin Grease - Butter, so called from the yellow lubricant used to grease the pins on a locomotive’s driving-wheel bearings.
Pinhead - A drug addict; a clerk; a railroad brakeman; a fool or numb-skull. The idea behind every use of the word seems to be the same; the underworld regards the one who uses drugs as a fool—the worker in mine, mill or factory regards the White-collar man as of little importance-and the brakeman is slightingly referred to by engineer, fireman and other motive-power department workers, although “pulling the pin,” which see, may have something to do with the letter use.
Pink - A Pinkerton operative, or more lately, any private detective. An urgent telegram, from the colour of the form which such messages are written in railroad practice.
Pipe - Easy; simple of accomplishment. Probably, in the original, something as easy to do as smoking a pipe of opium, which requires only two or three puffs to consume.
Pipe - To look; to spy on; to observe. Undoubtedly, a misconception of the old term “to pipe the eye,” but widely used in America. To speak.
Pipe Down — To be quiet, to cease talking. From the Navy, where the men are called to attention. or to formations by a whistle or pipe.
Pistol Route - Death by shooting.
Pitch - Money. A street salesman’s platform or working space. See “pitchman.” The first use is evidently from that which is to be obtained at “pitch” as a place of business.
Pitchman - A fakir or peddler of novelties or small pieces of merchandise who works on the street, in empty lots, or on a circus or carnival lot. He is said to be working a “low pitch” when standing on the ground; and a “high pitch” when standing on a platform or in an automobile or wagon.
Pivot - To solicit for immoral purposes. Of obscure origin.
P.K - The Principal Keeper or assistant to the Warden in a prison or penitentiary. The official in close touch with the inmates.
Plant - A pre-arranged job or crime; a hiding-place for loot; a situation or proposition designed to give advantage to the one responsible. In every case, from the fact that the end has been planned for by a careful arrangement (or “planning”) of essentials. Also a place where contraband liquor is made or hidden.
Plant - To bury, as loot or a corpse; to arrange a situation.
Play - To scheme or gamble on success as in a hold-up or robbery.
Pling - To beg on the street, probably a corruption of “pillinge.”
Plug - To shoot; to work hard. The former is contraction of “plug with lead”; the latter in English colloquialism is used in the form of “plug along,” as in ordinary American slang.
Pogey - A workhouse; a sentence to the workhouse. A prison hospital, in which case no doubt a corruption of “bougie.” The first application may have had much the same origin as “bougie,” although it seems more likely the word is in this case a corruption of “poky,” something dull or petty, since the workhouse is generally used only for those offenders whose misdemeanors are undeserving of a jail or prison sentence.
Poke - A purse or moneybag carried upon the person, from the same word as formerly applied to a pocket.
Poke - To strike, in the sense of pushing forward the hand or hands.
Poke Out — See “hand out.”
Pokey Stiff - A tramp or bum living entirely on the food or “poke outs” obtained from householders, and not begging money on the streets. Usually a term of derision for the individual not able to make a living by “mooching the stem.”
Polish The Mug - To wash the hands and face.
Ponce - A young man, but generally not a “pimp,” maintained by a woman of means as a lover or because his presence seems to rejuvenate his benefactress. See “Valentino.”
Poogh - A dog or pet. By extension, any prison mascot, be it dog, cat, parrot, parrot, monkey or any other animal.
Poor Fish - Any individual regarded as deficient or as being not quite as lucky or as well off as the average individual, and generally because of the “fish’s” own fault or actions. See “fish.”
Pop Off — To talk wildly or in threatening manner; to argue. From the safety or “pop” valve on a boiler, which lifts to allow excess steam to escape when the pressure is dangerous.
Pork - A corpse; seemingly a cold-blooded reference to the general appearance of a human cadaver, generally bloodless and not unlike a side of pork.
Possesh - A possession, but generally applied only to “prushun,” which see.
Possum Belly - A ride on top of a passenger train, in which the rider must remain flat on his belly to avoid being jolted off by the movement of the train, and taken from the habit of the “possum” or opossum which carries its young upon its back. Also the large tool or supply box suspended from the floor of a passenger car or caboose, in which it is sometimes possible for a tramp to ride, and in which, at one time, it was common practice for cheap circus and carnival bosses to require some of their labourers to sleep on the road, thus saving their car fare. Here, of course, reference is made to the marsupial’s pouch.
Possum Trick - A feigned injury or illness alongside a highway to persuade an automobilist to stop. Once the car has stopped and the motorist alighted, the thug jumps up and assaults the luckless samaritan.
Pot Gang - A group of tramps gathered about the “pot” or cooking vessel in jungles.
PoulticeE - A dish of bread and gravy; a not inapt reference.
Poultice Route - Any rail line through Utah, where the inhabitant are generally hospitable, and where bread and gravy is always to be had even though, on account of poverty, meat may be scarce.
Pound The Ear - To sleep, a generally-used metaphor; cf. the French “dormir sur les deux oreilles,” to sleep soundly.
Powder - A drink of liquor, seemingly taken from the fact that a drink often braces one up much as would a powdered medicine. Also in the form “he took a powder on us,” it is used to indicate that someone had taken a “run out powder,” that is, left hastily, or abandoned a friend or group of friends.
Powder - To go away; to pass by; to flee.
Powder Monkey - A dynamiter or powder man on a hard-rock construction job, and by extension, anyone using dynamite or explosives.
Powder Up - To drink; to become intoxicated.
Power - Engines. Also called "units"
P.P - A faked plaster of Paris cast on a limb to simulate a fracture. Sec also “jigger,” “bug.”
Pratt - The buttocks, hence a hip pocket in the trousers. No good reason has ever been given for the origin of “pratt,” but in 16th-18th century English cant, a “prat” or “pratt” is a buttock and “prat(t)s “ the buttocks (or occasionally the thighs).
Private - A private house; a home.
Prop - A diamond pin or stud, not unlikely a contraction of “proper,” something unusually valuable or true to appearance.
Prowl - An investigational work, especially one taken for the purpose of planning a robbery or estimating the opportunities for one.
Prowl - To look for information; to burglarize.
Prowler - A sneak thief, usually one working in hotels, prowling about until such time as the opportunity for sneaking into a room occurs.
Prune Picker - A Californian, or a “fruit tramp” working on the crop of prunes. See “fruit tramp.”
Prushun - A boy enslaved by an older tramp or “jocker.” The boy is forced to beg and at times to steal for the jocker, and is often forced into unnatural practices. Those “prushuns” who stay with their “jockers” for any length of time find themselves absolutely at a loss when the older tramp dies, unable to think or act for themselves. On the other hand, if the “jocker” fears that the “prushun” may betray him to the law, or if the boy grows so large that he is a danger to the older man, the “jockey” has little compunction about “losing” the luckless “prushun.” See “lost,” “jocker,” “wolf,” “lamb.”
Puff - Powder to be employed in blowing a safe. Any explosion. When properly used, the explosive makes very little noise in blowing a safe door from its hinges, merely a “puff” or sudden burst of air being heard as the door gives way. Inexperienced burglars and safe-crackers are easily recognized by the excess of explosive used on a safe.
Pull The Pin - To quit work; to leave, to go away. From the railroad, where to pull the pin is to uncouple a car or engine by lifting the coupling pin, hence, when a car is left standing, to finish a job.
Pullman - a railroad sleeper car; most were once made by the George Pullman company
Punish One's Teeth - To eat.
Punk - any young kid
Punk - Bread. It has been suggested that this was brought down from Canada, where some tramp may have heard a French-Canadian use the word “pain” for bread, but this seems very far-fetched. Much of the bread that a tramp manages to obtain is dry and old and suggestive enough of the artificial tinder or dry wood referred to as “punk” in proper usage; moreover, and by the way, “punk” is the United States for of the English “spunk” (“punk,” in this sense, being rare in English). Also, any boy, in which case the meaning was coined from the obsolete use of the word as representing a prostitute, since many of the older tramps travelled with their “prushuns,” which see. The word is never used to designate a prostitute in America.
Punk - Of little account; displeasing; worthless, in this case undoubtedly from the word as explained above for boy; generally scant account as a worker or beggar.
Punk and Gut - Bread and cheese,
Punk and Plaster Route - The territory peopled by the Pennsylvania Dutch, where bread and butter is the usual “hand out.”
Push - A crowd; a gang or clique, usually of tramps or criminals, but especially applied by “pitchmen” to the crowd attracted by the “spiel” or “bally.” Probably since the crowd pushes or presses about the “pitch.”
Pusher - A contractor’s foreman or boss of a working gang, who pushes the work along. An extra locomotive attached to heavy trains to give assistance in climbing heavy grades.
Pushers - Units/locotmotives on the rear of a train.
Push Over - Any easy job or a crime easy to commit without fear of detection. A prostitute or any other easily obtained woman. In both cases from the sporting slang term for the fighter who is easily defeated or who seems to be pushed over rather than knocked off his feet by hard fighting or by a knockout blow.
Put The Boots To - To have intercourse, especially when the woman or girl has been talked into the idea, and when no move to a room or brothel has been made.

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Q - The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, a system which serves much of the farming territory in the Western Central area, and largely used by “bindle stiffs,” “hobos” and “boomers” during harvest time.
Quail - An old maid, probably since most of them are easily frightened by tramps or beggars.
Quarantine - An enforced delay or “lay over,” as when a man is thrown from a train and forced to wait at a water tank or town for a later one.
Queer - Counterfeit money in its usually accepted sense.
Queer - Crooked; criminal. Also applied to effeminate or degenerate men or boys. In England “queer” came, in colloquial speech, to mean “odd” in the 18th century; but in cant it had had the meanings “base,” “bad,” “scoundrelly,” also “of inferior quality,” “worthless,” ever since about 1530.

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Race - To extort; to run after for money: especially applied to the methods of “pimps” and “gold diggers.” The element of speed in pursuing the victim may be responsible for the word, or it may be adopted from the gouge or hooked knife of the same name.
Racket - Originally, an entertainment or a ball, especially one given by a semi-political or “social” club. Any “graft,” or type of criminal activity. The word was popular with the old-time safe blowers in referring to their work, and is now very generally used. No doubt the present-day application to the petty or major extortions so common in the United States is due to the practice of political heelers or toughs in taking tickets for the original “racket,” and forcing small shopkeepers to buy them on pain of bodily harm or destruction of their goods. The word covers every illegal or criminal activity, from the action of the Woman who tells her newly-acquired friend “Oh, you’ve torn my chemise,” or, “I was a good girl till I met you,” to the extensive liquor and drug-selling syndicates and the bands of blackmailers and kidnappers so frequent to-day.
Racketeer - One who operates a “racket.” In the by criminal sense. A word coined by newspaper writers, and reserved for the “big shots” in crime.
Rag - A newspaper. A woman. In both instance contemptuous; but with no regard to the appearance or the financial situation or standing of the woman.
Rag Front - A tent show, circus or carnival, or more strictly the canvas banners and signs erected in front of the show as advertisements.
Rag Head - An Oriental, one who wears a turban.
Rag House - A tent.
Rags - Clothing, regardless of condition. In “glad rags” the reference is to the best clothes, or those donned for some festive or other special occasion; this phrase has been adopted by the English.
Rail - A railroad worker, one in train service especially.
Rainfan - A rail buff or train buff. A railway enthusiast interested in trains, train yards and photographing their sightings.
Railroad Bull - A railroad policeman or detective. See “cinder bull.”
Rake - A comb.
Rambler - A high-class tramp or hobo, one who rides only fast passenger trains, and usually for long distances. See also “fox,” “wolf,” “catter,” “dangler,” “roofer.”
Rambling - Travelling at high speed, afoot or by rail or other means of conveyance.
Rank - A poorly-handled crime or job of work. A recognition, in this case, perhaps, in the sense of ranging or setting in order or in place.
Rank - To inform, generally when this is done inadvertently, on a pal. To be ranked is to be recognized or to be seen while committing a crime.
Rank - Poor; worthless; disagreeable Used much as in correct speech, although not so much in reference to the disagreeable things of life.
Rap - Any sort of betrayal or indiscretion, in the sense a blow is struck at his safety. An identification, as by a witness to a crime. A nod. A prison sentence. In law, an accusation; in goal, a laying of information.
Rap — To nod to or greet; to acknowledge a greeting or “office.”
Rapper - The principal witness or complainant in a criminal case.
Rat - One not to be trusted; a “squealer” or “stool.” A slinking, universally detested individual. Also a street car or a passenger train, in this case a contraction of “rattler.” See “short.”
Rat - To inform or betray; to turn against in an underhanded manner.
Rat Crusher - A box-car burglar. See “eight-wheeler.” Probably from the “rattler” or fast freight train in which the “rat crusher” finds his loot.
Rattler - A passenger train or fast freight, both of which rattle along the tracks when travelling.
Razor Back - A roustabout or circus labourer. Without much doubt taken from the semi-wild hog of the same name; a thin, active and aggressive animal, and not unlike its namesake in characteristics.
Rawhide - To work desperately. To force others to work.
RAWHIDER - A hard worker; a severe taskmaster, one who “rawhides” the workers under his charge. Undoubtedly from the South-West, where home-cured or “raw” cow and steer hide was turned into whips and quirts.
Reach - To bribe; to intimidate or buy off a complainant. Not a hard word to understand.
Reader - A warrant of arrest; a licence to exhibit a circus or carnival. A sign, advertisement, poster or announcement.
Readers - Marked playing cards, which may be read from the back by those who are familiar with them.
Ready-mades - Stor-bought cigarettes
Record - Tile history of a criminal’s career; arrests, sentences, and associates and peculiarities. See also “pedigree,” “list,” “mug”
Recruit - A newly “convened” tramp, thief or prostitute. Used in much the same sense as in proper speech.
Red Ball - A fast freight, one operating on a schedule and with timetable rights over other trains of lesser or equal importance. So called since cars for dispatch in such a train are “carded” or marked with cards bearing a large red ball to indicate at once the importance of the car and its contents.
Red Card - A membership card in the I.W.W., and printed on red stock.
Red Cross - Morphine, possibly chosen as a name for this drug since most sufferers from railroad and street accidents are eased by its administration at the hands of the ambulance surgeon.
Red Eye - Liquor; an egg, especially when fried. In both cases named from the danger signal on a railway, which goes by the same term in the slang of the worker.
Red Lead - Catsup. See “axle grease,” “flats,” etc.
Red One - A poor business stand, one in which the business is apt to go “in the red.” See “blue one.” Used especially by “pitchmen.”
Red Light - To do away with. The term originated with the quaint and effective custom of disposing of an undesirable member of a circus or carnival crew by taking him out on a train platform after dark and hurling him off the train or under the wheels. A red light is a danger signal in any case, and on a railroad indicates a full stop; so the term is not without basis. See also “catting up.”
Red Shirt - A refractory prisoner or one known to be “bad.” The red shirt was formerly worn by a prisoner who had attempted to escape or who was known to be dangerous, the brightly-coloured garment acting as a constant warning to the guards to keep an eye on the wearer, who was conspicuous among his fellows in their drab-coloured uniforms.
Red Ticket - A permit or pass to visit a prisoner.
Reefer - A refrigerator car, merely a corrupted abbreviation and universally used. See “lee of a reefer.”
Reefer - a compression or "refrigerator car"
Regular - One who plays e game, or who is known to be reliable. One who conforms to the usages of the underworld.
Regular - Trustworthy; reliable; not in any way irregular or unusual, and therefore not an object of suspicion
Relievers - Shoes, no doubt since a good pair often relieves the foot troubles to which many tramps are subject, especially when they have been forced to wear old and worn-out foot-gear.
Rep - Reputation, especially applied to some worthy crook or tramp whose ability or exploits have made him a topic of news.
Repeater - A tramp who is continually in trouble and more or less frequently confined in a police station or workhouse. The application is evident enough, and the word is seldom if ever heard as designating an illegal voter, as in ordinary use.
Repeaters - Beans. See “artillery.”
Rest House — A prison or other penal institution where the work is easy and the discipline not severe.
Revolver - See “repeater.” The word is seldom used as indicating a firearm. See “gat,” “cannon.” “rod,” etc.
Rhino - Money; cash. Widely used and such an old term it is hard to say just where it originated or why. It is English cant; the adjective “rhino-cerical,” wealthy, indicates some obscure allusion to rhinoceros; both noun and adjective first used by Shadwell in 1688.
Rib Up - A frame-up; an arrangement; a prearranged deal. Evidently employed in the sense something being strengthened in structure by the use of ribs or braces, as a ship, etc.
Rib Up - To “ frame “ or arrange.
Richard - A detective, merely a play on the word “dick.”
Ride - To mistreat or annoy; to bully, usually over a long period of time.
Riding It Out - Continuing to ride a certain train without the payment of fare, despite the train crew’s determination that such a ride shall not be had. There are many ways of accomplishing this, from pretending a loss of interest in the train, only to rush back and board it at the last minute, to concealing oneself in a car or on the rods without the knowledge or suspicion of the crew.
Riding The Rods - Riding on the braces beneath a car. See “rods.”
Riding Bull - Railroad police who ride on the trains to arrest riders after the train has left the main yard.
Rigging - A gamblers’ “harness,” which see. I.W.W. propaganda or literature, very probably in the sense that the use of such material will ensure harnessing a convert into the movement.
Rigging Packer - An I.W.W. organizer, one who “packs” or carries the “rigging.”
Right - Sympathetic ; a criminal’s friend or associate, in the sense such a person upright and square (as far as criminal is concerned)
Right Guy - A “square” pal. An automobile dealer who will buy a stolen car as long as he is not afraid that the theft will be discovered and in any way traced to him and his associates.
Righty - A “double,” or one who looks enough like another to be taken for him. A disguise. See “ringer.”
Ringer - Something or someone introduced into a game of chance or into a shady deal to give an unfair advantage; an accomplice. A “righty,” which see. The reference is no doubt to the target on which a “bull’s-eye” or centre, winning shot, rings the bell, or to a game of quoits in which the high score is made by the one throwing a quoit over the peg or “ringing” it.
Ring Tail - A grouchy individual. No doubt from the name of some especially vicious or dangerous animal which happened to have a tail marked with a ring of different coloured fur. The word is of very old use in America, and is sometimes used as “ring-tailed snorter,”etc.
Riser - Anything that stirs to action, as an alarm. Something which brings an individual or a group to its feet.
Road - A generic term f or the railroads and highways which all the world of vagabondia follows for travel, graft or amusement.
Road Dog - A traveling partner
Road Hog - A tramp who is always on the move, riding fast trains and seemingly unable to get enough of train riding. See also “comet.”
Road kid - a young hobo who apprentices himself to an older hobo in order to learn the ways of the road
Road Sister - A female tramp or hobo.
Road Stake - Money to live on while travelling, or with which to secure transportation. See “stake.”
Road stake - the small reserve amount of money a hobo may keep in case of an emergency
Roar - A protest or complaint, especially when against some criminal act or against a tramp’s actions or mere presence.
Roar - To protest or complain as to the authorities.
Robbing The Mail - Eating the pastry or cake from a “lump” or “hand out,” and said of the tramp who, foraging for food to be eaten with another or by a group, deliberately robs the parcel of its choicest bits before handing it over for a division.
Rock - A diamond or other precious stone.
Rod - A pistol or revolver. Seemingly from the same word as applied to an instrument of punishment. Also, a gunman, one who uses a revolver or “rod.”
Rods - The braces running lengthwise a freight or passenger car, and not found on the more up-to-date rolling stock, their place being taken by a steel beam. By means of a short, cleated board, or in many cases without this “ticket,” it is possible to ride on these rods, the body being supported diagonally across the two rods, the arms and legs hooked around them to prevent the motion of the car from hurling the rider off. See “gunnels,” “ticket,” “holding the lady down”
Roll - Money, as one would say “a roll of bills.”
Roll - To rob a drunken or sleeping person of his “roll” or by rolling him to one side or the other to secure his money or valuables. cf. French “rouler,” to rob, defraud, cheat. Also of a train moving swiftly.
Roofer - A “rambler” who rides the roofs of trains.
Rooting - Robbing. The term originated with the old yeggs, fell into disuse, and was revived after the World War by the younger bandits, who say they are “rooting” when they rob a bank, a pay-roll messenger or a mail car. No doubt first used in the sense that the stolen goods were “rooted out,” hauled away by main force, as with a safe which was blown open, or carried away and then broken into at leisure.
Roscoe - A revolver. Another old yegg term; although widely used even now by the older crook, the word is of obscure origin; one can, however, postulate a Roscoe famous in the manufacture, distribution, or use of a particular make of revolver
Rotary - A cell block or a group of cells in the form of a drum, containing two tiers of cells shaped like the cuts in a pie. The drum is revolved manually inside a circular cage of steel bars, the door of the cage and of a cell coinciding to permit entrance or egress.
Rot Gut - Poor liquor, that which “rots” or eats out the stomach.
Rounder - A “good fellow,” a free spender. A term of respect generally.
Round Nose - A old Great Northern engine, rounded in front with a single light
Roust - To crowd against a person or push into a crowd as on a street car or other public conveyance to permit the picking of pockets in the confusion. Possibly from “rouse,” to stir up or agitate, possibly from “rout,” a state of disorganization or, possibly again, an abbreviation of “roustabout.” Very old in use.
Rowdy Dowdy - The hustling and shoving about by a pickpockets’ mob in order to place the victim in an easy position to rob. No doubt coined from “rowdy.”
Rubber Check - A worthless cheque, one which is said to “bounce back” from the bank to the luckless one who cashed it, so quickly does this usually happen.
Rubber Sock - A delicate or timid individual, one who must wear rubbers lest he get his feet wet. Originated in the Marine Corps as a term of derision for a recruit, one not yet accustomed to campaigning and hard work.
Rubber Tramp - Someone who travels by car
Rube - A farmer; an outsider; a stranger to any circle of life. From the once generally accepted idea that nearly all farmers were named Rube or Reuben. See “Hey, Rube.”
Rumble - A recognition or acknowledgement, and often confused with tumble, which see. Evidently from the old Scotch word meaning a tumble or fall, and used almost as a synonym for “tumble” in the sense of a “knock down,” or recognition.
Rumble - To recognize. In English Army-slang in 1914-1918, to detect or discover or disclose.
Rum Dum — Intoxicated to the point of foolishness, but still able to walk, even if unable to talk with any intelligence. Merely a changing of “dump from rum.”
Rum dum - a drunkard
RUMMY - Nervously disorganized from drinks or drugs.
Run Around - To avoid or to fail to meet at a pre-arranged point. In the sense that one “runs around,” or circles an individual or a meeting.
Runner - One who transports liquor; short for “liquor runner.” A “trusty” or messenger.
Rust Eater - A track layer or steel worker, so called since much of these materials is covered with scaly rust.
Rustle - To secure. The term means more than merely obtaining; it indicates the ability to locate, estimate the chance of obtaining, and the actual pilfering, stealing or acquiring by any means.
Rustler - One who rustles; a thief. Used more frequently in the sense of an energetic person than in that of a thief, although the word “rustler” has long been applied in the South-Western United States to a cattle or horse thief.

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S.P. - Southern Pacific
S.P & S. - Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad
Sacred Tract Road - The Boston and Albany Railroad, a line which runs through a section where but little food and much pious advice is given to tramps.
Saddle Blankets - Griddle cakes. See also “flats,” “blankets.”
Sag - A policeman’s club or billy.
Sag - To beat, as with a club. No doubt the word owes its origin to the fact that one properly beaten with such a weapon soon sags down, unconscious and limp. See also “sap.”
Sal - The Salvation Army, visited by a true hobo or “blowed in the glass stiff” only as a last resort, regarded as but poor comfort to a tramp, and mentioned in the tramp, song already referred to:

“And the Salvation Army they play,
And they sing and they clap and they pray
‘Till they get all your coin on the drum;
Then they tell you when you're on the bum."
“Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.”

Sales-Lady - A prostitute and an apt term for the woman who sells her body.
Sally - See “Sal.”
Sally - Salvation Army
Salvation Rancher - A preacher; mission attaché or evangelist.
Salve - Butter. Conversation, especially that used to attain an end. In the last application much the same as “soft soap.”
San Berdoo - San Bernardino, Calif., a junction point on the Santa Fé Railway, and an important town in the intinerary of the hobo or tramp who here first sees green grass and trees once more after a hot and tiring trip through the deserts.
Sand - Sugar. Seldom, if ever, used in the under-world to indicate bravery or courage, where “guts” or “nerve” would be the term. See “axle grease,” “blankets,” “shackles,” for other terms in the same class.
Sap - A fool or sap-head. A policeman’s club or billy, but more particularly a piece of rubber hose, used to beat a prisoner or to force a “confession” from a suspect. The rubber will not leave a scar of any permanence, nor is it likely to cause fractures. In the last application the word seems to have been taken from “sapling,” a young tree, or a rod used to chastise, though it may be from the sense of beating the “sap” or life out of the victim.
Sap - To beat.
SavvyAVVY - To understand; to know; to realize. From the French or Spanish, as “savoir,” “saber,” to know.
Saw Buck - A ten dollar bill; a ten years’ sentence. Both from the X or Roman numeral.
Scab - A strike-breaker, or one willing to work for lower wages than those usually paid for a job or a certain class of work. A term of deep scorn and the meanest epithet one worker can bestow upon another. Sec also “fink.”
Scab - To work on a job where a strike is in progress; or to work for less than the usual wages.
Scab Herder - A guard or militiaman protecting a shop, mine or mill where a strike is in progress, and where “scabs” are employed.
Scenery Bum - A tramp who is continually talking about the glories of nature, or who persists in “grabbing scenery,” which see.
Scissors Bill - An outsider to any circle or clique; an inefficient worker; one who has “struck it rich” and who looks down upon his former associates. According to I.W.W. belief, a worker who loves his boss, his wife, his job and the capitalist system at large; in other words one content with his lot, and an impossibility as far as making industrial discord is concerned.
Scoff - Food. Widely used and understood among the tramps, none of whom seem to know where it first came into being or why. Originally Scottish, “scoff,” food of any kind, it became English nautical slang as “scoff,” and the earliest written American use appears to be in Flynt’s “Tramping with Tramps,” 1893. (“Scoff‘s always more plenty than money.”)
Scoff - To eat.
Scoff Jack - Money for food; usually a collection taken by of tramps and sent to town by one or more of their number to acquire food or “make a gut plunge on butch,” especially when it has been impossible to beg or pilfer food. See “gut plunge.”
Scram - To leave hastily, and no doubt a contraction of scramble. As an order or a warning, “scram” is obeyed at once and without question, the word being used only when there is some good reason for it. See “lam.”
Scrape The Mug - To shave.
Scratch - Money especially banknotes. Forged cheques. A forger.
Scratch - To forge. In both these uses the application is evident from “a scratch of the pen.”
Scratch House - A cheap lodging-house or brothel. Not because the accommodation costs money, but because the vermin inevitably found in such places cause the lodgers to scratch.
Scratch Man - A forger. See “scratch.”
Screw - A turnkey or gaoler, so called since a key, especially of the older types, is turned or “screwed” in the lock. Sexual intercourse. With the latter, compare 18th century “a female screw,” a common prostitute, and “to screw,” to have sexual intercourse.
Screw - To leave hastily; of obscure origin. Also to lock up. To have sexual intercourse.
Sea Stiff - A sailor tramp, or a tramp or hobo who has been to sea.
Set Off - Leave part of the train behind.
Set Over - To kill, probably since the victim is set over or apart.
Settle - To arrange or “fix.” To sentence to gaol. To kill.
Settled - Imprisoned, as in the sense of having settled down for a long stay; arranged for or concluded; finished up; ended.
Set Up - A pre-arranged deal; an “easy” proposition; a likely spot for a robbery. The plate, cup and saucer and “tools,” knife, fork and spoon, set at a table in readiness for a diner. In both cases something “set” or placed in readiness.
Sewer Hogs - Ditch diggers, or men “rooting” in the earth.
Shack - A railroad brakeman, especially on a freight train, since these workers make their headquarters in the caboose or “shack” attached to the rear of the train. See “pinhead,” “fielder.”
Shack Fever - That “tired feeling,” or a desire to rest. Originated on the railroads, where the caboose is equipped with bunks. See “shack.”
Shackles - Soup. No doubt the word was coined in some prison where the dish was of such a nature as to keep the prisoners near a toilet, or “shackled” to one place. It is generally used on the road to indicate any article of food that exercises a definite effect upon the elimination.
Shadow - One who follows or keeps under surveillance; usually applied to a police officer or detective.
Shadow - To follow or trail; to observe. The verb originated in England about 1600; it is now regarded, in England, as being almost within the pale of perfect literary English: cf. the use of the word in J. B. Priestley’s “Angel Pavement,” 1930.
Shag - A chase or organized pursuit by the police or an irate citizenry. The origin of this sense of the word is obscure. “Shag” is sometimes used also in reference to sexual intercourse, both as noun and verb, and comes from 18th century English slang.
Shake Down - Tribute levied by the police or by prohibition agents upon criminals or liquor runners and bootleggers to ensure their freedom from arrest or molestation. In the sense that the payee “shakes” the payor until he has dislodged the money he seeks.
Shake Down - To force a contribution, as from those outside the law.
Sham - A policeman, probably from the fact the majority of these men were from Ireland, and wearers of the shamrock.
Shamos - See “sham.”
Shamus - See “sham.”
Shark - An employment agent. See “man catcher,” “slave market.” The “shark” is seldom used by the vagabond to indicate one who is an expert at some illicit pursuit, although ordinary slang accepts this as the correct meaning.
Sharpen Up - To practice, as at picking pockets with crooked dice or marked cards, etc.
Sharps - Needles, of whatever grade, as peddled by tramps or beggars.
Shavetail - Originally, in American Army slang, a Second Lieutenant, the lowest commissioned rank, and that to which graduates of the Military Academy are appointed. The name was correctly applied to the green mules received for Army use, as dealers shaved the animals’ tail for a good portion of its length, leaving a tuft of hair at the end. To a soldier's mind, changing the name from a mule to an officer seemed not unnatural. Since the War, when many “shavetails” seemed rather hard taskmasters and but poorly fitted for their work, the name has been applied to anyone new at a place of responsibility and anxious to show his authority.
Shed - A sedan, coupe or other enclosed automobile, and widely used by automobile thieves.
Sheepskin - A pardon from the Governor or president, such a document formerly being written on parchment. See “life boat.”
Sheets - Newspapers.
Sheet The Scratch Man - A high-class forger. See “scratch.”
Shill — Buncombe. One of the apparently bona fide pleasure-seekers at a circus or carnival who starts buying novelties or playing at games of chance to lure the public on. A decoy for a confidence game. The word comes from “shilly shally,” perhaps, although it is sometimes given as “shillaber.” See also, “stick,” “push.”
Shine - Liquor, especially that manufactured or imported without the law. The word has been handed down from old Scotch and English border cant where “moonshine” or “moonlight” was the liquor smuggled across the border under cover of night, and from Kent and Sussex, whither brandy (cognac), was smuggled from France; and was first used in America by the mountaineer distillers of the Blue Ridge Mountains, most of whom were of English or Scotch stock. See also “moonshine.” Also a negro, from the sweaty, shiny appearance of the skin.
Shit Tickets - Any form of paper that can be used as toilet tissue, usually napkins or police citation tickets.
Shive - A razor, apparently from the Cockney mispronunciation of “shave,” yet more likely an adaptation of “shive,” a thin piece or splinter.
Shock Joint - A cheap saloon or speakeasy where the liquor is all of a sort which “shocks” or galvanizes the drinker for a short time or until two or three drinks are consumed, then sends him into a drugged sleep.
Shonnicker - A Jewish pawnbroker, more especially when also a “fence.”
Short - A street car, probably since most of them run for comparatively short distances.
Short Line - See “hobo short line.”
Short Staker - A migratory worker or a hobo who stays in one place or one on job just long enough to amass a “road stake,” q.v., and then moves on. See also “stake,” “stake man.”
Shove - A gang of tramps or criminals. Probably another way of saying “push,” which see; perhaps originated by reference to some gang which was passing or “shoving” counterfeit money. The word has been in use for years, and now seems to be dying out. See “shover,” “shoving the queer.”
Shove Across - To kill. See “set over.”
Shovel Stiff - An unskilled labourer, one who is forced to accept such hard and relatively unprofitable work as digging ditches and the like.
Shover - One who passes or “shoves” counterfeit money.
Shoving The Queer - Passing counterfeit money, or, but not so frequently, bad cheques or forged paper.
Shroud - A suit of clothes. Although it seems unlikely that the obsolete meaning of “shroud,” a garment, has been applied by the underworld, yet the fact that a “stiff” wears a “shroud” may have had something to do with the application as here, since, a stiff " is not only a corpse, but any individual as well.
Shuffling - Switching can on a railroad or in a yard, a not unhappy comparison to a pack of cards when it is passed from hand to hand, or shuffled.
Siberia - A prison where the discipline is unusually harsh. Usually applied to Clinton Prison, Dannemora, N.Y., to which institution are sent those convicts known to be refractory and hard to control, and where discipline is stern and unrelenting, and the climate severe. See “Czar.”
Side Kick - A partner or friend. An old term in vagabondia.
Side-lined / Sided-out / Sided - When your train has to stop on a side-track to allow a higher priority train to pass through.
Simple - simple-minded; deficient, or more specifically having a morbid fear or affection as “kid simple,” fond of children; “bull simple,” afraid of the police. See “kid simple” for another application.
Simp - A simple-minded or foolish person; one easily led.
Simp Trap — A commissary or company store operated by an employer. In many cases the employees are paid largely in script or “monkey money,” which has to be redeemed at the store, and in any case the commissary is run to show a profit to the employer; hence experienced workers will have nothing to do with such establishments and consider them as mere traps for the poor “simps” who are foolish enough to trade with them.
Single O - One working a lone “game” or “racket.” One travelling alone by preference.
Sinkers - Doughnuts or crullers, fried cakes, which unless properly cooked are heavy as lead and indigestible. See “submarines.”
Sit Down - A meal given a tramp within doors, at which he may sit down to a table and eat in comfort. See “lump,” “hand out,” “exhibition.”
Sitting Pretty - Contented; happy; well off. In a happy situation.
Siwash - An Indian of the Salishan tribe, none too clean in their habits and person, hence any unclean or uncouth individual.
Sizzler - A cook; a stove. One who works, or that which is used, where sizzling sounds are heard.
Skater - A legless beggar. See “joy-rider.”
Skeleton Screw - A master key. See “screw.”
Skid Row - The district where workers congregate when in town or away from their job. Originated by the loggers, from the “skid road” down which the logs are hauled or slid, in the woods. The term is sometimes mistakenly applied to the lower stratum of society, to which its denizens are said to have “skidded” from their former estate.
Skin — A wallet or pocket-book, the idea being that skin or leather has ok been used in the manufacture. See “leather,”
Skin - To cheat or defraud.
Skinning A Poke - Taking the money and other valuables from a stolen wallet, much as one would “skin” or remove the hide from an animal.
Skinning A Rattler - Robbing the tramps and hobos on a train. See “catting up”
Skinner - A mule driver or teamster. See “mule skinner,” “hair pounder.”
Skipper - One in authority or leading a group; a police captain, a foreman or boss. From the sea term for captain, and used much the same way. See “captain.”
Skirt - A woman, regardless of condition or morals. The English slang is “a piece of skirt,” meaning either sweetheart or mistress or again what is expected from the latter.
Skull Dragging - Begging for drinks in a saloon. Probably since one drags or hangs the head when thus employed
Skunk - A negro, from the characteristic odour these people generally give off. One not to be trusted, from the dislike manifested to this kind of person as well as to the animal from which he takes his name.
Skunk - To cheat or defraud; to inform; to generally act as an undesirable. The same term seems to be behind the further meaning, to defeat in a game of cards.
Sky Pilot - A minister, taken from the sea, where the chaplain is so called, and since the 1880’s in general use ashore as well as afloat. See also “heaven reacher,” “hallelujah peddler,” “mission squawker.”
Sky pilot - a preacher or minister
Slam - To strike; to hit.
Slamming The Gate - Begging at private houses idea perhaps being that one is generally repulsed so vigorously there is no time to close the gate as one leaves. See “batter the privates.”
Slant Eye - Any Oriental. An obvious application. See “rag head.”
Slave - A worker, especially a wage earner. An abbreviation of “wage slave,” and used most generally by the I.W.W. and others of a radical turn of mind.
Slave Driver - A foreman. See “pusher.”
Slave Market - An employment agency, or that section of a city or town where employment agencies are to be found. See “shark,” “man catcher.” The term is in general use among workers and hoboes.
Sleigh Ride - Originally a debauch on heroin, “snow,” amplified to include any dream or state of elation induced by drugs. More broadly still, used to indicate an absolutely impossible or unlikely idea or action, or to refer to the cheating or fleecing of a victim. “He took a sleigh ride” — he was under the influence of heroin; “We gave him a sleigh ride” — we cheated him by a false story or by sharp practice.
Slicked Up - Well dressed; clean and neat in appearance. From the fact that one’s hair is well slicked down and carefully brushed as a detail in the presenting of a good appearance or “front” when applying for work, or when anxious to look one’s best for any other reason.
Slicker - A skillful crook, one with a good appearance and so able to avoid the suspicion which attaches to an uncouth or ill-dressed individual. Also a newly-painted stolen automobile, for much the same reason, the averting of suspicion.
Sliders - Shoes. Sec also “relievers,” “kicks.”
Slops - Beer, probably so called since the beverage has not the same intoxicant qualities as strong drink. An abbreviation of “slipslops” (English, 18th century).
Slop Up - To become intoxicated; to be sloppy in speech and looks.
Slough - To strike or assault. To close a “pitch” or place of business for the day. The most logical explanation seems to be that the person struck, or the business closed, is sloughed or discarded, left behind. The word is widely used.
Sloughed - Arrested; here, widely sense, “mired” or held fast, as in a slough.
Slough Work - Robbing houses in the absence of the owner or occupant. See “cold slough prowler.” Here it would seem that the house was compared to a slough in which one might be caught or mired, while the adjective “cold” is used to show the lack of danger in the slough. For this explanation see “cold.”
Slum - Cheap jewellery, especially that peddled by pitchmen. Stew. Possibly the word as used here is in reference to the neighbourhood in which the jewellery is sold, and in which the dish is eaten, even though the explanation seems far-fetched but the word is a common one, especially in the army when the reference is to food.
Smacker - One dollar, especially a silver dollar. The inference is that the name comes from the fact that such a coin, being heavy and large, falls into the hand or on a counter with a noticeable sound or “smack.”
Smarten Up - To advise or explain to; to detail a plan. An individual is said to be smart when knowing, wise or experienced, hence the application of the phrase. Here the appearance of the person or of his dress is not concerned.
Smile - A drink of liquor, something which cheers the recipient, brings a smile to his face.
Smoke - The cheap, often poisonous post-prohibition liquor served in “shock joints” ; " and other Bowery resorts. Compounded of alcohol from shellac, or from other commercial alcohols or solvents, or distilled from garbage, the drink takes on a smoky appearance when water is added; hence its name. See also “rot gut,” “alki,” “lush,” “third rail,” “shock joint.”
Smoke - To shoot. Also used as “smoke up.” See “torch,” “heater.”
Smoke Pole - A pistol or revolver.
Smoke Wagon - A pistol or revolver. See “rod,” “heater,” “torch.”
Smoky Seat - The electric chair. See “burn,” “hot seat.”
Smudge - A small camp fire, carefully kept from burning too brightly lest it attract attention to the “jungles.” Much the same as a fire fed with damp wood in the jungles or forests so as to keep off insects, although the prime purpose of the smudge is some-what different.
Smuts - Obscene pictures or postcards. Smutty pictures or literature as peddled by fakirs or tramps. While most vagrants enjoy looking at such stuff, they feel that the man who peddles it is a low and rather despicable character.
Snag - To commit pederasty.
Snails - Cinnamon rolls, not unlike a snail in cross section, and a favoured food with coffee or tea. Chiefly used in the Western States.
Snake - A crooked individual; a “snake in the grass.” See “skunk,” “rat,” “stool.” Also, a railroad switchman, not because of any crooked characteristics but seemingly because the worker does practically all his work on the ground, and not on the cars or trains as do other train men.
Snaky Route - The Oregon and California Railroad, a line running through mountainous country, and line very crooked as to direction.
Sneak - To leave; to stroll away in a casual manner so as to divert suspicion. To steal (from, 17th -18th century English cant). See “mooch,” “mope.”
Sneaker - A motor-boat used in liquor smuggling or in running aliens or other contraband across a border, especially a craft which is silent in operation and which is thus able to “sneak” past the officers at night.
Sniffer - A cocaine addict. See “junker,” “dopey.”
Sniffer - A drink of liquor, possibly because the drink is often taken with great gusto, and hence with more or less noise, as though sniffed. The original use of this slang word is that which arose in England about 1880: a long-drawn breath.
Snipe - A cigarette stub; a railroad section-hand. In the former instance, since the hobo or tramp who retrieves the smoke from the street does so in a furtive manner, much as one hunts the wary bird of the same name; in the latter, perhaps since the worker is on the ground, and therefore, to a tramp’s way of thinking, not unlike the “snipe” he picks up.
Snipe Shooting - Picking cigarette stubs from the street or sidewalk.
Snipes - cigarette butts "sniped" (e.g. from ashtrays or sidewalks)
Soup bowl - a place to get soup, bread and drinks
Snitch - A tale-bearer; a spy, or “stool.” See “skunk.”
Snitch - To inform on one's partner or fellows; from 18th-century thieves’ cant. The unforgivable sin in the underworld, and the cause of more killings than any other underworld breach of custom or habit.
Snootful - Originally, too much liquor, intoxication, and by extension, too much of anything. See “bellyfull.”
Snow - Heroin, so called from the appearance of its crystals. See “junk,” “snow-bird” “dopey.”
Snow-Bird - A heroin addict, one who appears to live on “snow.”
Soap Racket - The prison trick of eating soap, which results in heart palpitation’s, rapid pulse, retching and prostration, and which is violent resorted to in order to secure entrance to the prison hospital, with consequently lighter work and easier conditions. A favourite trick among soldiers in the Great War of 1914-1918.
Sock - The pocket or bank-roll. From the habit of many people who secrete their money on their person or in an old sock or stocking, in preference to banking it.
Sock - To strike or slug. Probably from the fact a sock filled with sand is sometimes used as a blackjack or bludgeon, although the verb indicates any striking, and not necessarily with a weapon.
Sod - A drunken individual, one sodden with liquor. The word is not, as originally in England, used to designate a man with unnatural sex habits; indeed it is not quite proved that the ordinary, unsexual meaning does not represent a metaphor based on a sod, a piece of turf.
Soft Heel - A detective; one who wears rubber or “soft” heels.
Soldier - To loaf on the job, and merely an extension of the old sea term, which came into being when the Marines were carried on a man-of-war, these “soldiers” doing but little if any work, in comparison with the sailors who worked the ship.
Solid - Trustworthy; sound. To be trusted.
Song And Dance - A long story or recital; a story to excite sympathy. See “ghost story,” “fakealoo.”
Soogan - A blanket or comforter carried by a tramp or migratory worker. From the Montana and Wyoming range country where the cow-punchers and sheep-herders originated the name. Strictly speaking, a soogan is not a bedroll, although the name is often given to the complete outfit of bedding, which is, of course, far too heavy to carry on the person for any distance. See also “bindle,” “balloon.”
Sop - Gravy, that in which bread is sopped.
Soppins - See “sop.”
Soup - Nitro-glycerine, especially that recovered from dynamite by boiling the explosive in water, a process that drives the explosive liquid out of the “dope” or earth in which it is packed. The “soup” is used by safe blowers in preference to black powder or dynamite, since it penetrates the cracks of a safe door, and, when properly used, it is far more securely destructive than powder or dynamite. It is dangerous to handle and no one but a reckless dare-devil or a real expert will have anything to do with it.
Soup House - A cheap restaurant, one in which the only article of food at all palatable is soup. A nitro-glycerine mixing house in an explosives plant.
Sour - Anything undesirable or worthless.
Sour Paper - Bad cheques, “sour” or unpleasant to the individual who finds he has been cheated by means of such paper.
Souse - A drunkard, one who is saturated with liquor. Also a washup after a dirty piece of work.
Space - A year in gaol or prison, and by extension, any sentence, as “three spaces,” three years, etc.
Spange - Asking people for spare change.
Spare biscuits - looking for food in a garbage can
Speakeasy - A resort in which illicit liquor is served, the name being given because patrons desiring to gain entrance are usually forced to knock or ring, and whisper (or “speakeasy”) their name or that of their sponsor before gaining admittance. Although in the United States to-day everyone who resorts to such an establishment is technically breaking the law, not every speakeasy is a " hang out " for criminals, although many of them are. See also "joint", "shock joint". Also a sawed-off shot gun or "riot gun" as used by law enforcement officers and prison guards, merely a jocular reference to the roar of such a weapon when discharged.
Spear - To obtain, much as one spears a fish or wild pig. Also to arrest.
Speck Bum - A tramp or bum of low degree, “specked” as in inferior fruit or produce. See “bindle stiff,” “bundle bum,” “tomato-can stiff.”
Speed Ball - A glass of wine, more especially when “doped” or made stronger by the addition of some alcohol, ether or strong spirits. Before prohibition a “speed ball” was a glass of port wine, upon which had been floated an ounce or two of ether, one glass of this mixture being sufficient to intoxicate the drinker in a short time. The name seems to be a contraction of “high ball” or “ball” with the adjective indicating the effect so quickly felt.
Spider - A Ford car, the word coined and used widely by automobile thieves for the older model of this make, which did look rather light and spidery alongside the other more expensive and more stable cars.
Spiel — A “ghost story”; a speech; a “grind”; any article peddled by tramps or street fakirs. Also a fast, boisterous dance. The word is taken from the German “spielen” to play, and while some of its applications in slang are more easily seen than others, it is a widely-used and understood term. As designating the small articles, such as needles or shoe-strings—“sharps” or “stretchers”—peddled by tramps, its significance emerges from the fact that the mere offering of the merchandise gives the tramp an opening for a speech or “spiel,” and he is often able to induce the charitable to contribute something, even though the merchandise be unwanted. As serving to designate a dance, the word especially refers to the wild dances in which one’s partner is swung clear of the floor, formerly a feat attempted only by, the strong and experienced dancer at low resorts, in the days before adagio dancing became the a fast, rage.
Spieler - A “grinder” or “ballyhoo” man; a fast, able dancer. In English slang, the word implies trickery.
Spike - The workhouse; first used, according to an old-time yegg was sent to the workhouse as a vagrant while in a town spying out the ground for a robbery, his absence from the scene of the crime thus effectually “spiking” his associate’s plans.
Spike - To upset a plan or prevent the accomplishment of a design. Largely as used in proper speech.
Splinter Belly - A carpenter or a migratory worker employed with a gang of carpenters, especially when doing rough work.
Split - A share of the loot.
Split - To divide, as loot. To inform on an accomplice. Used in much the same sense as in ordinary speech.
Split Finger - A clerk or white-collar worker, one whose hands are unaccustomed to hard manual labour, and who would suffer from blistered, split fingers if forced into hard work. See “pin head,” “ink-slinger.”
Spoiled Water - Lemonade or other “soft” drinks. See “juice.”
Spokaloo - Spokane, Washington. Also known as Spokangeles or Spokompton.
Spot - A term in prison, more definitely as “a one spot,” one year, etc.
Spot - To discover; to place in a pre-arranged locality or spot. From the railroad. See “on the spot.”
Spotter - An employee paid to spy on other workers; a company detective, especially when spying on employees, not guarding against thefts by outsiders. Also one looking over the scene of a projected crime for a band of thieves or other criminals.
Spring - To free from gaol or prison, either by process of law or illegally. See “crush out.” Also used by pitchmen to indicate opening a pitch for business.
Spring Out - To escape from gaol, usually when no force is needed. See also “crush out.”
Spuds — Potatoes, from the spade used to dig them.
Spud Route - The Bangor and Aroostook Railroad a line which traverses a part of the State of Maine, famous for its potatoes.
Square - A square meal.
Square - To settle for; to arrange; to pay off; to repay the victim of a thief and thus avoid prosecution; to leave a life of crime or to abandon the road.
Square It - To abandon a “racket” or “graft.” To live honestly, especially after serving a term in prison by which one’s debt to the law may be said to have been “squared” or met. The tramp and the criminal regard anything as “square” when honest or above-board, and say that a matter has been “squared” when honest or above-board, and say that a matter has been “squared” when it has been arranged or “settled.”
Square Nose - Modern yard engine, angled front end
Square Shooter - A fair and square associate or acquaintance. One who “shoots square,” or asks no unfair advantage in competition.
Squawk - A complaint; a cry. See “beef,” “holler,” “roar.”
Squawk - To inform; to cry out; to complain. See “belch,” “rap.”
Squawker — A dissatisfied customer, or one who, having been defrauded, makes a “squawk” or complaint, either to the person responsible for the fraud or to the police.
Squeal - An information against an associate or one in the same gang.
Squeal - To inform, or to betray a secret. The ultimate crime in the underworld. See “squealer,” “rat,” “skunk.”
Squealer - An informer or police spy, especially when the “squeal” is against one of the gang or associates by the squealer has been trusted or with whom he has been working. While a “stool” is and as such avoided, the squealer is often unknown to his associates until his information has been given to the police and arrests made.
Stack - To hide or conceal, as loot. From “stach” or “stash” as corruptions of cache, to hide; or possibly a corruption of “stack,” a pile or orderly collection, in the sense that loot is carefully placed together before being hidden away. Also, to arrange a crooked deal, in which stack has much the same meaning as to arrange a pack of cards secretly, so that cheating may be done easily.
Stake - A sum of money, usually laid aside for a definite purpose, or designed to be applied, when acquired, to some definite end. In the first place, from “grub stake,” a sum of money for food and outfit, given to a prospector by a storekeeper or another, who then shared in whatever minerals the prospector might discover. See “road stake.”
Stake - To advance or loan money to another, usually so that the other may be able to attain an end or carry out an agreement.
Stake Man - A “short staker,” which see. A “gay cat” or migratory worker who works only long enough to amass a “stake” and then moves on, taking to the road and a life of ease until the money has been used.
Stakers - The circus and carnival workers who handle the stakes which secure the tents and guy lines to the ground. The stakes are driven with heavy mauls or mallets, and the staker is of necessity a husky fellow.
Stall - A pickpocket’s partner, the man who jostles the victim in order that the “wire” which see, may work to better advantage. Any; excuse or delay, possibly in the sense that a delay results in the project or plan being slowed down or stopped engine “stalled” or stopped by a heavy load or in deep snow.
Stall - To delay; to pretend; to fence for time.
Stash - To hide. A corruption of “cache.”
Steam Up - To become intoxicated; to become angry. See “pop off.”
Steer - An advice or direction, by which an individual is directed in his movements as a ship is steered by the rudder.
Steer - To advise or direct; to lead a victim to a gambling game or to a brothel.
STEM - A road or street; a railroad line. See “drag”
Stemmer - One who begs on the street. See “mooching the stem.”
Stemming - panhandling or begging along the streets
Stew - A drunkard. A state of intoxication. See “stew bum.”
Stew Bum - A drunkard, usually a drunken tramp or hobo, and especially an individual almost continuously sodden with drink.
Stick - See “shill.” The term is usually applied to the men or boys employed by the proprietor of a gambling wheel or other device at a fair or carnival, and who “win” enough to induce the “suckers” to play, and play, and play. The cash the “stick” wins is handed back to the operator of the game under any one of a dozen pretexts, such as getting change, and the stick never has enough of his employer’s money to make it worth his while to decamp.
Stick - To remain with; to stand by. To defraud or cheat. In the first, the sticker adheres or “sticks,” in the second the person defrauded is stuck with bad money or otherwise “knifed.”
Sticker - A knife. A scarf pin.
Stick Up - A robbery from the person, accompanied by violence if the robber feels so inclined or believes it bad policy to leave any one behind him to “holler,” or if the “sucker” fails to disgorge his valuables promptly. Also any robbery, or a highway robber or bandit. The term originated from the fact that the victim is told to “stick ‘em up,” that is, raise the hands above the head, or from the fact that a gun is “stuck” under his nose.
Stick up Man - See “stick up.”
Sticks - The country; an outlying district of a city; a man with an artificial leg or legs; or the centre poles of a circus tent. “Out in the sticks,” when used to designate the country, refers to the region where trees are growing; and a recalcitrant policeman is sent to an outlying district or away from his home when he is “sent to the sticks.”
Stiff - A corpse. A conceited man. A generic term for the worker, such as a “lumber stiff,” a wood-cutter; a “bindle stiff,” one with a bundle, etc.
Stiff - Dead drunk; stiff as a corpse.
Stiffy - A beggar feigning paralysis.
Stilts - Crutches.
Sting - To cheat or defraud. See “bee.”
Stinger - A railroad brakeman, one who boards a fast train, a “stinger,” when it is in motion. A fast freight.
Stir - Jail or prison, possibly since the inmate cannot stir from it.
Stir Bug - One who has become slightly simpleminded or actually insane from long confinement or from mistreatment in a jail or prison, or one with a greater than normal dread of imprisonment. See “horrors.”
Stir Horrors — Undue fear of punishment in jail, of the state of mind of a “stir bug,” which sec.
Stone Crock - A State’s Prison, and originally applied to the New York institution, Sing Sing.
Stone John - Jail or prison. See also “jug” “stone jug,” “stone crock.”
Stone Jug - An elaboration of “jug,” which see, and not so often used.
Stool - An informer or sneak, from the decoy used to lure wild birds near the hunter. In brief, a stool pigeon may be said to be a person used by police and detectives to secure information about the underworld and its denizens. As an individual the “stool” is usually to be regarded as a simpleton, lacking not only intelligence but those qualities which cause normal persons to have some regard for their obligations and a sense of right and wrong. Most stool pigeons are known to the underworld, and avoided; when a stool pigeon is at last known to have passed on some information detrimental to a crook or criminal his end is swift and unpleasant.
Stool - To inform on one’s friends or associates in the underworld.
Stool Pigeon — See “stool.”
Stoop Tobacco - Cigar and cigarette ends picked up in the streets, the picker having to bend or stoop over to reach them. See “snipe.”
Stop Over - A short jail sentence, regarded as but little more than a pause or interlude in the life of a criminal.
Store-Made Scoff - A meal for which the ingredients have been bought or begged in a store, and cooked by the tramps in their “jungle” or hangout. See “scoff,” “lump,” “gut plunge.”
Straight - Honest; reliable; to be trusted. The honesty or reliability is a relative term, and indicates the regard in which the subject is held by the speaker. In English colloquial speech, an essentially honest person.
Straight Crip - A crippled beggar with a real deformity. See “phoney crip,” “P.P.”
Stranger - A stolen automobile driven some distance away to be disposed of.
Streets — Freedom, and so called by prisoners in confinement.
Stretch - A prison sentence; the time which stretches ahead of the person confined.
Stretch - To hang (a person). Not an inapt application of the verb, since one executed by hanging certainly does stretch to full length. In the 18th century the verb was intransitive: “he’ll stretch for it,” he’ll be hanged on that count.
Stretchers - Shoe laces, in tramp and peddler’s slang; the workers who handle or stretch the tents and canvas, in carnival and circus slang.
Strides - Trousers. From England, where used at least as early as 1900.
String - A repertory of “ghost stories,” no doubt since the possessor is often able to “string along” (“string on” in England) his listeners to good purpose.
String - To mislead or jolly along; to lead another to a desired end as by a string or lead.
Strong Arm - A hold-up man, one who steals by virtue of his strength. Also a hired thug or guard charged with the protection of his employer’s person or authority, regardless of the legality of the position.
Strong Arm - To assult or beat; to rob by violence.
Student - A youngster from the farm or a country town, working about a railroad station to learn telegraphy. Formerly these boys had a certain standing with the railroads, even though they drew no wages; now they are usually friends of the agent, ignored by the officials of the road until they are able to take an examination and go to work on their own. Also by extension, any green employee on a railroad, chiefly in train service.
Submarines - Doughnuts. See “sinkers”
Sucker - An easy mark, one who will believe anything regarded he is told. The victim of a thief or gang, derided by the spoilers for being taken in yet always regarded as a potential danger by the wiser crook, who knows that to be “played for a sucker - cheater or robbed—is probably the ultimate insult to a man’s pride, and one that he will go to great lengths to avenge.
Sucking Bamboo — Smoking opium, the pipe being usually of bamboo.
Sugar - Money, usually that which is dishonestly acquired or not worked for. In use in English slang at least as early as 1862; but, in English, merely money.
Sugar Daddy - A fatuous, elderly man supporting, or contributing to the support of a “gold digger” or other loose girl or woman.
Suicide Car - Riding dangerously on a train car that has no solid floor or safe place to sit/stand.
Super - In pitchmen’s slang and about carnivals and other similar shows, a large and handsome watch displayed as a prize at a game of chance, and often merely a case without works. Also a superintendent, or anyone in charge of a job or piece of work.
Swamper - A porter or cleaner in a saloon, cook-house or dining-room. Probably since the place is cleaned by being liberally sprinkled, i.e. “swamped,” with water before being swept.
Sweat - To worry; to give the third degree. The term is not far-fetched, as anyone who has seen a criminal or his interrogators after a session of the third degree will admit.
Swellhead - A railroad conductor, supreme in authority while on his train, and not infrequently aware of his own importance. The term was doubtless originated by some boomer with distaste for discipline.

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Tail - One who follows or trails. The buttocks (14th century English). Sexual intercourse (18th century English).
Tail - To follow or shadow. Used both to designate the shadowing of a suspected criminal by an arm of the law, and the observation of a prospective victim for a hold-up, as of a jewellery salesman, a collector, etc. “Trail” is often used in this sense, and is not at all correct in the underworld. “Tail” and “tailing” came from the word tail as applied to the buttocks, and hence, something corning after. See “shadow.”
Tail End - The back or end of the train
Take - A collection, or the proceeds of an entertainment or show. That which is taken or collected.
Take - To cheat or defraud. To “take one in.”
Take For A Ride - To take an unwanted or untrustworthy gang member or an enemy for automobile ride, the purpose being to kill the victim away from the city or in an infrequented street, where the shot or shots will not attract attention and where the body may be dumped out and left as the car speeds away with the killers. As pointed and cold-blooded a reference as “on the spot.” Amplified from “sleigh ride,” which see.
Talent — Clever crooks, the talented members of the underworld crew.
Tallow Pot - A locomotive fireman, so called since in the old days the tallow pot containing the lubricant was in charge of this man, whose duty it was to have the tallow warm enough to flow when needed by the engineer.
Tamp Up - To assault or beat. From the word as applied to pounding down (as e.g. pounding down a pavement).
Tank - The general cage for prisoners in a county jail, or the hall in which they are permitted to exercise. Perhaps since the enclosure is filled with “fish,” which see.
Tank - To drink.
Tanked — Intoxicated.
Tank Town - A small and relatively unimportant town on a railroad, one at which most trains stop, if at all merely to take on water from the tank.
Tank Up - To drink to excess, as if filling a tank.
Tape - The tongue.
Tape - To take one’s measure, or to carefully measure the chances of committing a crime.
Teck - A detective. See “dick,” “flat” “soft heel,” “Richard.”
The Ex - Any exclusive privilege granted by a carnival or circus; the right to sell sandwiches, soft drinks or tobacco, to gamble, or even with a crooked show, to pick pockets.
Thin One - A dime or ten cent piece, rather a thin coin.
Third Rail - Strong, cheap liquor, stuff which seems to galvanize the drinker much as would touching a “third” or electrified rail. See “shock joint,” in which type of place the liquor is all to be regarded as “third rail.”
Through Freight - Like a hotshot, a freight that goes from division to division without breaking up. Also called a time freight.
Throw The Feet - To beg. To hurry away. In both cases the idea is that more or less effort is indicated if anything is to be done.
Throw The Guts - To tell everything one knows; to break a confidence; to confess. Merely another way of saying one has given up all one has.
Throw Out - A fake paralysis, or a beggar feigning paralysis. Done by experienced beggars merely by throwing a joint out of place and by dragging the body along as if crippled.
Ticker - A watch; 18th century English slang had “tick,” which became “ticker” in the next century. The heart.
Ticket - A prison sentence, but not to be confused with the “ticket” or summons given a violator of the motor-vehicle laws. Also a short piece of usually cleated or notched, which the tramps board, use to ride on the rods or gunnels. See “rods,” “gunnels.”
Timbers - Tramps who beg under pretence of peddling pencil. Also the pencils carried by these tramps. Also, a wooden-legged man.
Tin Ear - To eavesdrop; to listen with especial care. See “earwigging.”
Tip - An advice; a bit of information. In pitchmen’s slang, the nucleus of a crowd, especially that attracted by the “ballyhoo.”
Tip Off - An information or advice, especially when given to assist another to avoid arrest, or when used to aid one in escaping justice.
Tip Off - To enlighten or warn.
Tip Up - To inform upon or “squeal,” especially to the police.
Toadskins - Paper money. An old term, and of relatively rare use, “scratch,” “jack” or “kale” usually replacing it.
Tokay blanket - drinking alcohol to stay warm
Tomato Can Stiff - One of the lowest bums, looked down upon by those of the fraternity who are as yet able to hold their own. See “speck bum,” “bundle bum,” “barrel stiff.”
Tombstones - The teeth. See “graveyard.”
Tool - A pickpocket, especially the one who does the actual work of lifting the valuables, assisted by his “stall.” The word is sometimes applied to the accomplice who takes the loot from the wire so that in case of a search that individual will be able to claim ignorance of any crime. See “wire.”
Toot The Ding Dong - To ring the (door) bell. Another picturesque and rather childish misuse of words, adopted in a desire to outwit or confuse the outsider who might be listening to a tramp conversation.
Toot The Ringing - See “toot the ding dong.”
Top - The head (of a Person).
Top - To hang. It has been said that this application of the word “top” originated at the California State Prison at San Quentin, where during an execution, the head of a certain criminal was jerked from his body by the noose. See also, “blow one’s top.”
Toppings — Pastry or cake, that which tops off a meal.
Tops - The roof of a railroad car. See “deck.”
Tops and Bottoms - Mis-spotted dice, those giving an advantage to their owner, or to one familiar with their use. See “cheaters.”
Torch - A revolver or pistol, a weapon which “smokes” its victim. See also “heater,” “gat,” “rod,” “cannon.”
Torpedo - A gunman, more especially when operating with a gang of thieves or racketeers, or as bodyguard for a “big shot.”
Touch - The act of borrowing, the lender being “touched” by a hard-luck story. In pitchmen’s slang, a sale.
Touch - To rob, especially the person. A hardy survival of 18th century English slang.
Town Clown - A constable, marshal or other law officer of a small town or village. See “hiker,” “clown.”
Towners - Townspeople, especially when they are, or seem to be, massed against a “mob” of tramps, or against a circus or carnival crowd.
Trailers - Tramps or beggars or “grafters” who follow a circus or carnival. See “lot lice.”
Trail Stake — See “mad stake.”
Train Riders - Trespassers on railroad property, whether or not it can be proved that they have boarded or ridden a train without paying for transportation.
Tramp - One who loafs and walks. In America the word is made to cover practically every unfortunate on the road or off it, yet there are thousands who no membership in the real tramp fraternity. Some of these outsiders are “hobos,” which see; some are mere adventurers, youths who pay their way so far as food and lodging are concerned, and “steal” rides; while others are mere gypsies. The real tramp is a being unto himself, one who “wanders and never works.” See also “bum,” “stiff,” “yegg,” “gay cat.”
Trap - A place of concealment for liquor or other contraband, especially in the body of an automobile or truck or in the hull of a boat.
Tribe - A group of tramps travelling together. Adopted from the same word in gypsy parlance, where it means a family. See “mob,” “push.”
Trigger Man - An assassin or gunman, especially one working with a gang.
Trim - To defraud or cheat. An old and an apt term.
Tripes And Keister - The tripod and case or suitcase from which a pitchman sells his wares. See “keister,” “pitch.”
Trouper - Anyone travelling as an employee with a circus or carnival. An actor.
Truces - The trucks beneath a passenger coach, upon which it was, and is, sometimes still possible to ride, crouched above the axles and beneath the floor of the car, in an uncomfortable, dangerous posture. Late improvements in the design of railroad rolling stock has largely done away with this style of truck, while a lack of nerve on the part of the present-day tramp has also reduced the numbers riding this way, yet there are a few ramblers left who will when Possible worm their way under a car and to the trucks, there to ride long distances without the necessity, provided they are not seen boarding the car, of dodging the train crew and railway detectives.
Trustafarian - Rich kid with money, pretending to live an authentic vagabond lifestyle.
Trusty - A prisoner allowed special privileges after having been on good behaviour, or after having done some favour or favours for the guards. They are usually allowed to roam more or less at will about the prison, and act as messengers, clerics, etc.
Tumble - A mishap. A recognition. See “rumble.”
Tumble - To become aware; to be “wise.” From English slang; Mayhew used it about 1851; it occurs also in Richard Whiteing’s remarkable novel, John Street, 1899.
Tumblings and Blankets - Tobacco and papers for cigarettes. See “making.”
Turkey - A canvas tool bag; a bed roll. There is no apparent likeness to the bird after which the two articles are named, yet the word is often used as here. Probably an ironic abbreviation of “Turkey carpet.”
Turn Down - To refuse an application or request. From English colloquial speech.
Turn The Joint - To solicit business or to make sales to the crowd attracted by the “ballyhoo” at a pitch. Perhaps in the sense that the corner between the idle chatter and the business end of the meeting has been turned, perhaps because pockets are turned out for money.
Turnpiker - A tramp on the road or highway. See “dyno.”
Twist - A woman, especially one with loose or “twisted” morals. It is not far from “twist and twirl,” rhyming slang for girl, to this shorter, more definite explanation.

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U.P. - Union Pacific Railroad Company.
Under Cover — Hiding; proceeding with an enterprise in a secret manner or unknown to others. Probably an extension from a hunting or sporting term.
Under Cover Man - An employer’s detective or spotter watching the workers without their knowledge.
Unit - Train locomotive/engine.
Unload - To alight from a train. To get rid of, as something of doubtful or little value.
Unmugged - Not listed on police records; a criminal not as yet identified or “wanted” by the police. See “mug,” “pedigree.”
Up and Up - Successful; doing well.
Up-on-top ride - Riding on top of a boxcar
Upholstered - Infected with a venereal disease.
Up The River — Originally Sing Sing, a New York, State prison, located on the banks of the Hudson River above New York City. By adoption, “up the river” means any prison or further; unavailable, out of things.

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V - Five dollars; a five-dollar bill; a five-year sentence. In every case, from the Roman numeral. For a parallel see “sawbuck,” “double sawbuck.”
Vag - A vagrant; usually anyone with no visible means of support, no matter how much of an appearance or “front” he may present. It is this particular definition which allows the police to pick up many a “pimp” and “grifter,” even though they appear to be respectable.
Vag - To arrest and sentence as a vagrant.
Valentino - A handsome young man maintained by an older woman. The term, of course, originated after the late Rudolph Valentino had made his reputation as a screen idol. See “ponce.”
Vic — A convict.

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Wagon Stiff - A worker who travels from job to job or from harvest to harvest in a wagon or automobile. See “fruit tramp,” “Ford fatally.”
Wally - A “small town” sport or gambler. The term originated with the tramps who found these gentry usually “wall-eyed” or inclined to be wary of the stranger, even though they often endeavoured to fleece them in card or dice games.
Weed - To take money from one's pocket as a donation to a beggar. To solicit alms. Also to take than one’s share of the loot.
Weeding A Poke — See “skinning a poke.”
Weeper - A lachrymose beggar, one who cries as he hears his own hard luck story.
Weeping and Waiting — Waiting in jail to learn the result of an appeal for a new trial or for a pardon.
Whale Belly - A steel coal-car, probably from the size and colour.
Wheel - A leg, so called since it is a means of locomotion. Anyone of several gambling devices in the form of a wheel, used extensively at county fairs, amusement parks and carnivals. The player places his money on a number or a series of numbers on the counter, and the wheel is spun. That number at which the pointer rests when the wheel stops pays a certain amount, or entitles the player to a “prize.” Dishonest wheels, and most of them are dishonest, are known as “gaff wheels,” the gaff being a board upon which the operator treads to control the wheel. See “gaff,” “stick,” “shill.”
Whirl - A trial or attempt; a “go” at a crime.
Whistle Stop - A stop in a division to change crews. Takes about twenty minutes.
White - Alcohol. From “white line,” which see. Trustworthy. See “white man.”
White Box - A "left over" / take-home box from a restaurant
White Coffee — Bootleg liquor. See “shine,” “moon,” “alki,” “hooch.”
White Cross — Cocaine, in contrast to “Red Cross,” which see. See also “junk,” “C.,” “gold dust.”
White Line - Raw alcohol, probably from the line of colour to be seen when water or a fruit juice is added to the liquid as a beverage. Also, by extension, any poor liquor. See “while mule,” “moon,” “alki.”
White Man - A good fellow; a trusted individual. A Gentile, or a native, as against a foreigner or undesirable alien, regardless of his colour. An extension of Frontier slang, when many Indians or “Red Men” were dangerous enemies, and when border ruffians sometimes disguised themselves as Indians when attacking a camp or isolated ranch.
White Mule - Corn liquor, originally that which, manufactured in the South from corn, was white or colourless in appearance, and possessed the “kick” of a mule. See “alki,” “third rail,” “white line,” “hooch,” “corn,” “lush,” etc.
Whiz - A fast or unusually capable worker. Possibly the word has reference to the speed with which a job is completed, more likely it is a corruption of the word “wizard” as indicative of the subject’s ability to accomplish things.
Wife - The ball and chain used to prevent escpe from a road or “chain” gang. A boy travelling with an older tramp, so called since there is often a homosexual relationship between them. In usual slang, of course, a “ball and chain” is a man’s wife, since the gay dog realizes that his freedom is restricted once he marries.
Wind Tormentors - Whiskers, especially those of luxuriant, heavy growth. See “face lace,” “lace curtains.”
Wingnut - A crazy person
Wings — Cocaine, from the sense of lightness it gives the addict.
Wingy - A man with one “wing” or arm.
Wino - Generally a bum; low-class tramp.
Winoes - Workers in the grape harvest, or those employed in a vineyard. The term is frequently used in the West, seldom in the East.
Winterning - Getting by in the winter.
Winter Stake - Money acquired and hoarded during the summer or working season to carry one through the winter or slack season. See “stake,” “ace in the hole.”
WIPE THE CLOCK - To halt; to stop quickly. From the railroad, where a full application of the air brakes (see “big hole”) so reduces the air pressure that the hand on the gauge or “clock “files around to zero.
Wire - A pickpocket; more especially that member of a gang who does the actual stealing, assisted by the “stall,” which see. Also see “stool”
Wise - Knowing; aware of what impends; possessed of “inside” information or knowledge shared by but a few. See “wise guy.”
Wise Guy - A “smart aleck” or “know it all,” as generally used. Although the term is sometimes used in a complimentary sense, the context is usually “You think you’re a wise guy, don’t you?”—You think you’re experienced.
Wolf - A “rambler,” which see, riding fast trains by virtue of nerve and main force, and despite the train crew’s opposition. A “jocker” with his “prushun,” or an active male pervert.
Wood Butcher - A carpenter, usually applied as a term of derision to an inefficient worker, or to one doing rough work, as on the moulds or forms for concrete work.
Wood Head - A woodsman or lumberman. “blockhead.”
Woody - Insane; stupid. One with a “wooden head.”
Wop - An Italian. From a Sicilian word meaning fop or dandy, and adopted from the Italian worker's banter.
Working Plug - A labourer “plugs along” at his work with but little hope of advancement.
Working Stiff - A hobo who regularly works.
Work Over - To administer the “third degree,” or to mistreat a prisoner; to assault. The idea is, of course, that after the use of violence one’s face and form are usually altered as though they had been actually worked over, as in a mill or shop.
Works - Everything; the end or termination. See “nines,” “curtains.” To give another “the works “ is to kill him, usually by shooting.
Work Stiff - See “working plug.”
Wren - A young woman or girl.
Wrong - Contrary to the underworld’s belief. See “right guy.”

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Yap - A farmer; newcomer; greenhorn. An old word, and possibly by some roundabout twist connected with the dog who “yaps” or barks.
Yard - The location (train-yard) in a town where all the trains stop to switch cars, refuel, switch tracks, change crews, disassemble cars, add cars, and check for inspection.
Yard Bull - Railroad police who stay in the yards.
Yard Dick - A railroad detective on duty in the yards or at a terminal. See “dick.” Also called “yard bull.”
Yard Donkey - Yard engine used to push segments of trains from one track to another
Yard Geese — Railroad workers in the yards; switchmen, yard-clerks, yard-masters, etc.
Yard Master - Railroad employee who supervises the yard activities
Yegg - a traveling professional thief, or burglar

Yegg - A tramp thief, to be found mainly along railroad lines, and specializing in burglary and the robbing of poorly protected and flimsy safes in country towns, or from railroad cars and freight houses (goods sheds). The old-time safe-blower, many of whom specialized in country post office robberies. Originally a man too wise, too cautious, too old or too cowardly to risk crime in a city, where police and private detectives were alert, and who took to “the road” for easier “graft” and “pickings.” The so called “yeggs” of to-day’s newspaper stories are seldom true “yeggs,” but are to be considered as “cannons,” “guns” or “stick ups.”
Yellow - Cowardly; lacking in nerve.
Yen - Opium; or the opium habit. A yearning; an “idle fixe.”
Yen Shee - Opium. Despite the declaration of several educated Chinese that they know of no word in their own language anything like the preceding as representing opium, it is easy to see that the underworld has taken the term from some Chinese root word or sentence.
Yip - A dog, especially a small, nervous animal who “yips” or barks in a shrill way.
Yip - To cry out; to complain; to seek redress.

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Zoo - A prison or jail. A “house of all nations” or brothel whose inmates are from many lands and places.
Zook - A worn-out old prostitute. A coined word probably from some intoxicated tramp who mispronounced “hooker,” which see.
Zulu - An immigrant car, provided for the transportation of the stock and household effects of a settler moving from one part of the country to another, and which presented a weird appearance when loaded with all the impedimenta.