Hard Boiled Slang

A glossary of noire slang and terms used in original form and derivatively in Frogland.

A

  • Alderman: A man’s pot belly

  • Ameche: Telephone

  • Ankle

    • (n) Woman

    • (v) To walk

B

  • Babe: Woman

  • Baby: A person, can be said to either a man or a woman

  • Bangtails: Racehorses

  • Barber: Talk

  • Baumes rush: Senator Caleb H. Baumes sponsored a New York law (the Baumes Law) which called for automatic life imprisonment of any criminal convicted more than three times. Some criminals would move to a state that didn’t have this law in order to avoid its penalty should they be caught again, and this was known as a “Baumes rush,” because of the similarity to “bum’s rush.”

  • Be on the nut, To: To be broke

  • Bean-shooter: Gun

  • Beezer: Nose

  • Behind the eight-ball: In a difficult position, in a tight spot

  • Bent cars: Stolen cars

  • Berries: Dollars

  • Big house: Jail

  • Big one, The: Death

  • Big sleep, The: Death (coined by Chandler)

  • Bim: Woman

  • Bindle

    • of heroin: Little folded-up piece of paper (with heroin inside)

    • the bundle (or “brindle”) in which a hobo carries all his worldy possessions

  • Bindle punk, bindle stiff: Chronic wanderers; itinerant misfits, criminals, migratory harvest workers, and lumber jacks. Called so because they carried a “bindle.” George and Lenny in Of Mice and Men are bindle stiffs.

  • Bing: Jailhouse talk for solitary confinement, hence “crazy”

  • Bird: Man

  • Bit: Prison sentence

  • Blip off: To kill

  • Blow: Leave

  • Blow one down: Kill someone

  • Blower: Telephone

  • Bo: Pal, buster, fellow, as in “Hey, bo”

  • Boiler: Car

  • Boob: Dumb guy

  • Boozehound: Drunkard

  • Bop: To kill

  • Box:

    • A safe

    • A bar

  • Box job: A safecracking

  • Brace (somebody): Grab, shake up

  • Bracelets: Handcuffs

  • Break it up: Stop that, quit the nonsense

  • Breeze: To leave, go; also breeze off: get lost

  • Broad: Woman

  • Broderick, The: A thorough beating

  • Bruno: Tough guy, enforcer

  • Bucket: Car

  • Bulge, as in “The kid had the bulge there”: The advantage

  • Bulls: Plainclothes railroad cops; uniformed police; prison guards

  • Bum’s rush, To get the: To be kicked out

  • Bump: Kill

  • Bump gums: To talk about nothing worthwhile

  • Bump off: Kill; also, bump-off: a killing

  • Buncoing some (people): Defrauding people

  • Bunk:

    • “Take a bunk” - leave, disappear

    • “That’s the bunk” - that’s false, untrue

    • “to bunk” - to sleep

  • Bunny, as in “Don’t be a bunny”: Don’t be stupid

  • Burn powder: Fire a gun

  • Bus: Big car

  • Butter and egg man: The money man, the man with the bankroll, a yokel who comes to town to blow a big wad in nightclubs (see reference)

  • Button: Face, nose, end of jaw

  • Button man: Professional killer

  • Buttons: Police

  • Butts: Cigarettes

  • Buy a drink: To pour a drink

  • Buzz, as in “I’m in the dump an hour and the house copper gives me the buzz”: Looks me up, comes to my door

  • Buzzer: Policeman’s badge

C

  • C: $100, a pair of Cs = $200

  • Cabbage: Money

  • Caboose: Jail (from “calaboose,” which derives from calabozo, the Spanish word for “jail”)

  • Call copper: Inform the police

  • Can:

    • Jail

    • Car

  • Can house: Bordello

  • Can-opener: Safecracker who opens cheap safes

  • Canary: Woman singer

  • Case dough: “Nest egg … the theoretically untouchable reserve for emergencies” (Speaking)

  • Cat: Man

  • Century: $100

  • Cheaters: Sunglasses

  • Cheese it: Put things away, hide

  • Chew: Eat

  • Chicago lightning: gunfire

  • Chicago overcoat: Coffin

  • Chick: Woman

  • Chilled off: Killed

  • Chin: Conversation; chinning: talking

  • Chin music: Punch on the jaw

  • Chippy: Woman of easy virtue

  • Chisel: To swindle or cheat

  • Chiv, chive: Knife, “a stabbing or cutting weapon” (Speaking)

  • Chopper squad: Men with machine guns

  • Clammed: Close-mouthed (clammed up)

  • Clean sneak: An escape with no clues left behind

  • Clip joint: In some cases, a night-club where the prices are high and the patrons are fleeced (Partridge’s), but in Pick-Up a casino where the tables are fixed

  • Clipped: Shot

  • Close your head: Shut up

  • Clout: Shoplifter

  • Clubhouse: Police station

  • Coffee-and-doughnut, as in “These coffee-and-doughnut guns are …”: Could come from “coffee and cakes,” which refers to something cheap or of little value.

  • Con: Confidence game, swindle

  • Conk: Head

  • Cool: To knock out

  • Cooler: Jail

  • Cop

    • Detective, even a private one

    • To win, as in a bet

  • Copped, To be: Grabbed by the cops

  • Copper

    • Policeman

    • Time off for good behaviour

  • Corn: Bourbon (“corn liquor”)

  • Crab: Figure out

  • Crate: Car

  • Creep joint: ?? Can mean a whorehouse where the girls are pickpockets, but that doesn’t fit in Pick-Up

  • Croak: To kill

  • Croaker: Doctor

  • Crushed out: Escaped (from jail)

  • Cush: Money (a cushion, something to fall back on)

  • Cut down: Killed (esp. shot?)

D

  • Daisy: None too masculine

  • Dame: Woman

  • Dance: To be hanged

  • Dangle: Leave, get lost

  • Darb: Something remarkable or superior

  • Daylight, as in “let the daylight in” or “fill him with daylight”: Put a hole in, by shooting or stabbing

  • Deck, as in “deck of Luckies”: Pack of cigarettes

  • Derrick: Shoplifter

  • Diapers, as in “Pin your diapers on”: Clothes, get dressed

  • Dib: Share (of the proceeds)

  • Dick: Detective (usually qualified with “private” if not a policeman)

  • Dingus: Thing

  • Dip: Pickpocket

  • Dip the bill: Have a drink

  • Dish: Pretty woman

  • Dive: A low-down, cheap sort of place

  • Dizzy with a dame, To be: To be deeply in love with a woman

  • Do the dance: To be hanged

  • Dogs: Feet

  • Doll, dolly: Woman

  • Dope

    • Drugs, of any sort

    • Information

    • As a verb, as in “I had him doped as” - to have figured for

  • Dope fiend: Drug addict

  • Dope peddler: Drug dealer

  • Dormy: Dormant, quiet, as in “Why didn’t you lie dormy in the place you climbed to?”

  • Dough: Money

  • Drift: Go, leave

  • Drill: Shoot

  • Drink out of the same bottle, as in “We used to drink out of the same bottle”: We were close friends

  • Drop a dime: Make a phone call, sometimes meaning to the police to inform on someone

  • Droppers: Hired killers

  • Drum: Speakeasy

  • Dry-gulch: Knock out, hit on head after ambushing

  • Ducat

    • Ticket

    • For hobos, a union card or card asking for alms

  • Duck soup: Easy, a piece of cake

  • Dummerer: Somebody who pretends to be (deaf and?) dumb in order to appear a more deserving beggar

  • Dump: Roadhouse, club; or, more generally, any place

  • Dust

    • Nothing, as in “Tinhorns are dust to me”

    • Leave, depart, as in “Let’s dust”

    • A look, as in “Let’s give it the dust”

  • Dust out: Leave, depart

  • Dutch

    • As in “in dutch” - trouble

    • As in “A girl pulled the Dutch act” - committed suicide

    • As in “They don’t make me happy neither. I get a bump once’n a while. Mostly a Dutch.” - ?? relates to the police (Art)

E

  • Eel juice: liquor

  • Egg: Man

  • Eggs in the coffee: Easy, a piece of cake, okay, all right

  • Elbow:

    • Policeman

    • A collar or an arrest. Someone being arrested will “have their elbows checked.”

  • Electric cure: Electrocution

  • Elephant ears: Police

F

  • Fade: Go away, get lost

  • Fakeloo artist: Con man

  • Fin: $5 bill

  • Finder: Finger man

  • Finger, Put the finger on: Identify

  • Flat

    • Broke

    • As in “That’s flat” - that’s for sure, undoubtedly

  • Flattie: Flatfoot, cop

  • Flimflam(m): Swindle

  • Flippers: Hands

  • Flivver: A Ford automobile

  • Flogger: Overcoat

  • Flop:

    • Go to bed

    • As in “The racket’s flopped” - fallen through, not worked out

  • Flophouse: “A cheap transient hotel where a lot of men sleep in large rooms” (Speaking)

  • Fog: To shoot

  • Frail: Woman

  • Frau: Wife

  • Fry: To be electrocuted

  • From nothing, as in “I know from nothing”: I don’t know anything

G

  • Gams: Legs (especially a woman’s)

  • Gashouse, as in “getting gashouse”: Rough

  • Gasper: Cigarette

  • Gat: Gun

  • Gate, as in “Give her the gate”: The door, as in leave

  • Gee: Man

  • Geetus: Money

  • Getaway sticks: Legs (especially a woman’s)

  • Giggle juice: Liquor

  • Gin mill: Bar

  • Gink: Man

  • Girlie: Woman

  • Give a/the third: Interrogate (third degree)

  • Glad rags: Fancy clothes

  • Glom

    • To steal

    • To see, to take a look

  • Glaum: Steal

  • Go climb up your thumb: Go away, get lost

  • Go over the edge with the rams: To get far too drunk

  • Go to read and write: Rhyming slang for take flight

  • Gonif: Thief (Yiddish)

  • Goofy: Crazy

  • Goog: Black eye

  • Goon: Thug

  • Goose: Man

  • Gooseberry lay: Stealing clothes from a clothesline (see reference)

  • Gowed-up: On dope, high

  • Grab (a little) air: Put your hands up

  • Graft:

    • Con jobs

    • Cut of the take

  • Grand: $1000

  • Greasers: A hoodlum, thief or punk

  • Grift:

    • As in “What’s the grift?”: What are you trying to pull?

    • Confidence game, swindle

  • Grifter: Con man

  • Grilled: Questioned

  • Gum:

    • As in “Don’t … gum every play I make”: Gum up, interfere with

    • Opium

  • Gum-shoe: Detective; also gumshoeing = detective work

  • Gun for: Look for, be after

  • Guns:

    • Pickpockets

    • Hoodlums

  • Gunsel:

    • Gunman (Hammett is responsible for this use; see note

    • Catamite:

      • A brat

      • An informer; a weasel; an unscrupulous person

    • Note Yiddish “ganzl” = gosling

H

  • Hack: Taxi

  • Half, A: 50 cents

  • Hammer and saws: Police (rhyming slang for laws)

  • Hard: Tough

  • Harlem sunset: Some sort fatal injury caused by knife

  • Hash house: A cheap restaurant

  • Hatchetmen: Killers, gunmen

  • Have the bees: To be rich

  • Have the curse on someone: Wanting to see someone killed

  • Head doctors: Psychiatrists

  • Heap: Car

  • Heat: A gun, also heater

  • Heeled: Carrying a gun

  • High pillow: Person at the top, in charge

  • Highbinders: Corrupt politician or functionary

  • Hinky: Suspicious

  • Hitting the pipe: Smoking opium

  • Hitting on all eight: In good shape, going well (refers to eight cylinders in an engine)

  • Hock shop: Pawnshop

  • Hogs: Engines

  • Hombre: Man, fellow

  • Hooch: Liquor

  • Hood: Criminal

  • Hooker, as in “a stiff hooker of whiskey”: A drink of strong liquor

  • Hoosegow: Jail

  • Hop:

    • Drugs, mostly morphine or derivatives like heroin

    • Bell-hop

  • Hop-head: Drug addict, esp. heroin

  • Horn: Telephone

  • Hot: Stolen

  • House dick: House/hotel detective

  • House peeper: House/hotel detective

  • Hype: Shortchange artist

I

  • Ice : Diamonds

  • In stir: In jail

  • Ing-bing, as in to throw an: A fit

  • Iron: A car

J

  • Jack: Money

  • Jake, Jakeloo: Okay

  • Jam: Trouble, as in “in a jam”

  • Jane: A woman

  • Jasper: A man (perhaps a hick)

  • Java: Coffee

  • Jaw: Talk

  • Jerking a nod: Nodding

  • Jingle-brained: Addled

  • Jobbie: Man

  • Joe: Coffee, as in “a cup of joe”

  • Johns: Police

  • Johnson brother: Criminal

  • Joint: Place, as in “my joint”

  • Jorum of skee: Shot of liquor

  • Juice: Interest on a loanshark’s loan

  • Jug: Jail

  • Jujus: Marijuana cigarettes

  • Jump, The: A hanging

  • Junkie: Drug addict

K

  • Kale: Money

  • Keister, keyster:

    • Suitcase

    • Safe, strongbox

    • Buttocks

  • Kick, as in “I got no kick”: I have nothing to complain about

  • Kick off: Die

  • Kicking the gong around: Taking opium

  • Kiss: To punch

  • Kisser: Mouth

  • Kitten: Woman

  • Knock off: Kill

  • Knockover: Heist, theft

L

  • Lammed off: Ran away, escaped

  • Large: $1,000; twenty large would be $20,000

  • Law, the: The police

  • Lay

    • Job, as in Marlowe saying he’s on “a confidential lay;” or more generally, what someone does, as in “The hotel-sneak used to be my lay”

    • As in “I gave him the lay” - I told him where things stood (as in lay of the of land)

  • Lead poisoning: To be shot

  • Lettuce: Folding money

  • Lid: Hat

  • Lip: (Criminal) lawyer

  • Lit, To be: To be drunk

  • Loogan: Marlowe defines this as “a guy with a gun”

  • Looker: Pretty woman

  • Look-out: Outside man

  • Lousy with: To have lots of

  • Lug

    • Bullet

    • Ear

    • Man (“You big lug!”)

  • Lunger: Someone with tuberculosis

M

  • Made: Recognized

  • Map: Face

  • Marbles: Pearls

  • Mark: Sucker, victim of swindle or fixed game

  • Mazuma: Money

  • Meat, as in “He’s your meat”: He’s the subject of interest, there’s your man

  • Meat wagon: Ambulance

  • Mesca: Marijuana

  • Mickey Finn

    • (n) A drink drugged with knock-out drops

    • (v) Take a Mickey Finn: Take off, leave

  • Mill: Typewriter

  • Mitt: Hand

  • Mob: Gang (not necessarily Mafia)

  • Moll: Girlfriend

  • Monicker: Name

  • Mouthpiece: Lawyer

  • Mud-pipe: Opium pipe

  • Mug: Face

  • Muggles: Marijuana

  • Mugs: Men (esp. dumb ones)

  • Mush: Face

N

  • Nailed: Caught by the police

  • Nevada gas: Cyanide

  • Newshawk: Reporter

  • Newsie: Newspaper vendor

  • Nibble one: To have a drink

  • Nicked: Stole

  • Nippers: Handcuffs

  • Nix on (something): No to (something)

  • Noodle: Head

  • Nose-candy: Heroin, in some cases

  • Number: A person, can be either a man or a woman

O

  • Off the track, as in “He was too far off the track. Strictly section eight”: Said about a man who becomes insanely violent

  • Op: Detective (esp. private), from “operative”

  • Orphan paper: Bad cheques

  • Out on the roof, To be: To drink a lot, to be drunk

  • Oyster fruit: Pearls

P

  • Pack: To carry, esp. a gun

  • Palooka: Man, probably a little stupid

  • Pan: Face

  • Paste: Punch

  • Patsy: Person who is set up; fool, chump

  • Paw: Hand

  • Peaching: Informing

  • Pearl diver: dish-washer

  • Peeper: Detective

  • Pen: Penitentiary, jail

  • Peterman: Safecracker who uses nitroglycerin

  • Pigeon: Stool-pigeon

  • Pill

    • Bullet

    • Cigarette

  • Pinch: An arrest, capture

  • Pins: Legs (especially a woman’s)

  • Pipe: See or notice

  • Pipe that: Get that, listen to that

  • Pipes: Throat

  • Pistol pockets: ?? heels?

  • Pitching woo: Making love (Turner)

  • Plant

    • (n) Someone on the scene but in hiding

    • (v) Bury

  • Plug: Shoot

  • Plugs: People

  • Poke

    • Bankroll, stake

    • Punch (as in “take a poke at”)

  • Pooped: Killed

  • Pop: Kill

  • Pro skirt: Prostitute

  • Puffing: Mugging

  • Pug: Pugilist, boxer

  • Pump: Heart

  • Pump metal: Shoot bullets

  • Punk

    • Hood, thug

    • “A jailhouse sissy who is on the receiving end.” (Also as a verb, as in “to get punked.”)

  • Puss: Face

  • Put down: Drink

  • Put the screws on: Question, get tough with

Q

  • Queer

    • (n) Counterfeit, odd

    • (v) To ruin something or put it wrong (“queer this racket”)

R

  • Rags: Clothes

  • Ranked: Observed, watched, given the once-over

  • Rap

    • Criminal charge

    • Information, as in “He gave us the rap”

    • Hit

  • Rappers: Fakes, set-ups

  • Rat: Inform

  • Rate: To be good, to count for something

  • Rats and mice: Dice, i.e. craps

  • Rattler: Train

  • Red-light: To eject from a car or train

  • Redhot: Some sort of criminal

  • Reefers: Marijuana cigarettes

  • Rhino: Money

  • Ribbed up, as in “I got a man ribbed up to get the dope”: Set up, arranged for

  • Right: Adjective indicating quality

  • Right gee, Right guy: A good fellow

  • Ringers: Fakes

  • Rod: Gun

  • Roscoe: Gun

  • Roundheels

    • A fighter with a glass jaw

    • A woman of easy virtue

  • Rub-out: A killing

  • Rube: Bumpkin, easy mark

  • Rumble, the: The news

  • Run-out, To take the: Leave, escape

S

  • Sap

    • A dumb guy

    • A blackjack

  • Sap poison: Getting hit with a sap

  • Savvy?: Get me? Understand?

  • Sawbuck: $10 bill (a double sawbuck is a $20 bill)

  • Scatter, as in “And don’t bother to call your house peeper and send him up to the scatter”

    • Saloon or speakeasy.

    • A hideout, a room or lodging

  • Schnozzle: Nose

  • Scram out: Leave

  • Scratch: Money

  • Scratcher: Forger

  • Screw

    • Leave, as in “Let’s screw before anybody pops in”

    • Prison guard

  • Send over: Send to jail

  • Shamus: (Private) detective

  • Sharper: A swindler or sneaky person

  • Shells: Bullets

  • Shine: Moonshine, bootleg liquor

  • Shiv: Knife

  • Shylock: Loanshark

  • Shyster: Lawyer

  • Silk, as in “all silk so far”: All okay so far

  • Sing: Confess, admit secrets

  • Sister: Woman

  • Skate around, as in “She skates around plenty”: To be of easy virtue

  • Skid rogue: A bum who can’t be trusted

  • Skipout: Leave a hotel without paying, or a person who does so

  • Skirt: Woman

  • Slant, Get a: Take a look

  • Sleuth: Detective

  • Slug

    • As a noun, bullet

    • As a verb, to knock unconscious

  • Smell from the barrel, Have a: Have a drink

  • Smoked: Drunk

  • Snap a cap: Shout

  • Snatch: Kidnap

  • Sneak

    • Leave, get lost, as in “If you’re not a waiter, sneak”

    • Type of burglary, as in as in “The hotel-sneak used to be my lay”

  • Sneeze: Take

  • Snitch: An informer, or, as a verb, to inform

  • Snooper: Detective

  • Snort (as in of gin): A drink

  • Snow-bird: (Cocaine) addict

  • Snowed: To be on drugs (heroin? cocaine?); also “snowed up”

  • Soak: To pawn

  • Sock: Punch

  • Soup: Nitroglycerine

  • Soup job: To crack a safe using nitroglycerine

  • Spill: Talk, inform; spill it = tell me

  • Spinach: Money

  • Spitting: Talking

  • Spondulix: Money

  • Square: Honest; on the square: telling the truth

  • Squirt metal: Shoot bullets

  • Step off: To be hanged

  • Sticks of tea: Marijuana cigarettes

  • Stiff: A corpse

  • Sting: Culmination of a con game

  • Stool-pigeon: Informer

  • Stoolie: Stool-pigeon

  • Stringin’: As in along, feeding someone a story

  • Sucker: Someone ripe for a grifter’s scam

  • Sugar: Money

  • Swift, To have plenty of: To be fast (on the draw)

  • Swing: Hang

T

  • Tail: Shadow, follow

  • Take a powder: Leave

  • Take it on the heel and toe: Leave

  • Take on: Eat

  • Take the air: Leave

  • Take the bounce: To get kicked out (here, of a hotel)

  • Take the fall for: Accept punishment for

  • Tea: Marijuana

  • That’s the crop: That’s all of it

  • Three-spot: Three-year term in jail

  • Throw a joe: Pass out ?? (Key, 86)

  • Throw lead: Shoot bullets

  • Ticket: P.I. license

  • Tiger milk: Some sort of liquor

  • Tighten the screws: Put pressure on somebody

  • Tin: Badge

  • Tip a few: To have a few drinks

  • Tip your mitt: Show your hand, reveal something

  • Tomato: Pretty woman

  • Tooting the wrong ringer: Asking the wrong person

  • Torcher: Torch singer

  • Torpedoes: Gunmen

  • Trap: Mouth

  • Trigger man: Man whose job is to use a gun

  • Trip for biscuits, as in “You get there fast and you get there alone - or you got a trip for biscuits”: Make the trip for no purpose, achieve no results

  • Trouble boys: Gangsters

  • Turn up: To turn in (to the police)

  • Twist: Woman

  • Two bits: $25, or 25 cents.

U

  • Under glass: In jail

  • Up-and-down, as in “to give something the up-and-down”: A look

  • Uppers, as in “I’ve been shatting on my uppers for a couple of months now” or “I’m down on my uppers”: To be broke

V

  • Vag, as in vag charge, vag law: Vagrancy

  • Vig, Vigorish

    • Excessive interest on a loanshark’s loan

    • Advantage in odds created by a bookie or gambler to increase profit

W

  • Weak sister: A push-over

  • Wear iron: Carry a gun

  • Wheats, as in “a stack of wheats”: Pancakes

  • White

    • Good, okay, as in “white dick”

    • Gin (“a gallon of white”)

  • Wikiup: Home

  • Wire, as in “What’s the wire on them?”: News, “What information do you have about them?”

  • Wise, To be To be knowledgeable of; put us wise: tell us

  • Wise head: A smart person

  • Wooden kimono: A coffin

  • Worker, as in “She sizes up as a worker”: A woman who takes a guy for his money

  • Wrong gee: Not a good fellow

  • Wrong number: Not a good fellow

Y

  • Yap: Mouth

  • Yard: $100

  • Yegg: Safecracker who can only open cheap and easy safes

Z

  • Zotzed: Killed

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