A Hardboiled Slang Glossary for Something More Than Night

Introduction & Table of Contents
Drinking / Drugs / Drug Use
Weapons / Violence
Greetings / Goodbyes / Get Losts / Generic Addresses
Police Work / Jail / Crime
Money / Valuables / Estimations of Value
Body Parts / Bodies / Health
Sex / Sexuality
Generic Actions & Activities


ride: give a hard time; rib; needle

squawk: harp at somebody; talk at length; make a nuisance of oneself by pestering

"Christ! It'll be easier on my head than sitting here listening to you squawk." (TMF, p153.)

cut up: make trouble; talk big; prod or needle somebody

"Now listen, kid. If you come over here and start cutting up I'm going to kick you in the face." (TMF, p 194.)

"If she cuts up on you, throw her in the can." (RH, p185)

pump: get information from

"What's Mamma trying to do to you?" "Nothing. Pump me. She'd like to know what you did and said last night." (TTM, p27.)

peddling your fish in the wrong market: telling your story (alibi, excuse, justification) to the wrong person

"That's all swell," I said, "only you're peddling your fish in the wrong market." (TTM, p31)

(doing) figure eights: nervous; highly concerned; agitated; climbing the walls

"...she thinks both answers are yes, and it's got her doing figure eights." (TTM, p46.)

gyp: cheat; short-change (considered off-color today)

"That's funny. I never thought she'd gyp him." (TTM, p64.)

put (your) mouth in: chime in to a conversation or argument

"All right," he told her... "Put your mouth in and I'll pop a tooth out of it." (TTM, p88.)

soak: trade; hock

"...and the banks were closed, so he soaked his watch." (TTM, p168.)

drift with the tide: pass unobserved or unremarked-upon

I nodded and let that one drift with the tide. (THW, p11)

skip out: leave; depart; connotation is furtive, tinged with guilt

"How and when did he skip out?" (TBS, p19)

"Doc Sonderborg?" He spread his hands. "The whole shebang skipped." (FML, p216)

drop the veil: drop the pretense; stop pretending; abandon the cover story or lie

"Drop the veil," I said. "I'm in the business, too."

(have a) blanket on (something): is covering something or keeping it quiet

"Well, Joe and me watch the papers, and we don't see anything, so we know that old Sternwood has a blanket on it." (TBS, p166)

tramp: ride; give a hard time; browbeat

"That's all right," I said. "That's just something I said when you were tramping me." (TLL, p17)

slip (one's) clutch: losing it

"You're slipping your clutch," I told him. "I didn't come up here to enquire into your love life." (TLL, p39)

lam: run away; escape; go on the run; disappear; go away; get lost

"That straight goods little roundheels lammed off?" (TLL, p47)

"Why the hell don't you lam out of here, bud?" (TLS, p107)

take a flutter (at something): to make a passing attempt

She looked me over thoughtfully. A lot of guys had probably tried to show her things, including etchings. At another time I wouldn't have been above taking a flutter at it myself. (TLL, p128-9)

ribbing: teasing; giving a hard time

"He was ribbing Mrs. Almore about her husband's practice." (TLL, p131)

lead (someone) a pretty dance: to lead on; to make a fool of; to string along

"I can tell you she led him a pretty little dance." (TLL, p190)

jack: grab; take; reach for; wield

"You look to me like a fellow who would jack his gun out kind of fast." (TLL, p247)

make a monkey of (somebody): (make a fool of)

"But I can't let you make a monkey of me in my own territory, either." (TLL, p263)

let this one ride: let it go; I'm okay; I'm good; I don't need any more (drinks, etc.)

"Here you go, stock up." "Let this one ride." (TTM-F)

pipe down: be quiet; shut up; etc.

"Aww, pipe down." (TTM-F)

apple-polish: bribe; sweeten up

"Why try to apple-polish the dinge* downstairs?" (TMB, p14) [*offensive]

polish an apple: talk up; chat up; suck up to; ingratiate oneself; schmooze

A dark-haired headwaiter who looked like a road company Herbert Marshall circulated among the tables offering his intimate smile and stopping here and there to polish an apple. (PB, p45)

sick up: vomit; throw up

"Big blonde bruiser, plays a fair game of golf, thinks he's hell with women, drinks heavy but hasn't sicked up on the rugs so far." (TMB, p28)

horse around: fool around; goof off

"Let's all quit horsing around and talk sense." (TMB, p33)

bug: talk; squeal(?)

"Used to be a dummy chucker, then found out he could bug his way outta raps." (TMB, p33)

touch: hit up; ask somebody for money

"Until Hawkins comes up to touch me for another ten." (TMB, p40)

"They know who he is, they touch him big when they got a fund-raising drive..." (PB, p97)

"Also, he was broke. Had to make a touch for dinner money." (PB, p106)

park the body: don't move; stand still; sit down, take a seat, take a load off(?)

"Park the body, friend. No false moves." (TMB, p44)

lamp: see; spot; observe

"Okey. Drop over to the main drag and snap it up," he said. "But that don't mean trying to sideswipe a prowl car, if you lamp one..." (TMB, p86)

put the bee on (something): finger? put the word out? put the heat on? [Perhaps derived from "bullet", as in to put the bullet on somebody?  Suggested etymology from Andreas Skrziepietz.]

"Hell! You're the guy who put the bee on that hot rod." (TMB, p94)

"After you, I visit that kid. I tailed him home from Headquarters, but I figure you're the guy to put the bee on first." (TMB, p179)

shoot (one's) cookies: throw up; vomit; toss your cookies; etc.

Ohls said: "You better go lay down somewhere, buddy. If I'm any judge of color, you're goin' to shoot your cookies." (TMB, p102)

scrape (one's face): shave

Then I phoned down for another pint, scraped my chin, changed clothes, and looked up Frank Dorr's number in the book. (TMB, p107)

brace: question; shake down; prod

"He's the only roomer I've got now, and I'd kind of go in by his door and listen to him talking to himself. That way I got enough to brace him. He told me the rest." (TMB, p119)

"Why'd you brace me?" "You had the word, didn't you?" (TMB, p137)

shake: (shake down); also, to chisel or finagle money from somebody

"What's your racket?" I asked him. "Racket?" He looked hurt. "Sure. What do you shake them for? How do you make your dibs?" (TLS, p29)

"Make the sneak and keep under cover till noon, and his frame-up will be a wash-out." (RH, p55)

lay an egg: ?

"You haven't murdered anybody, the way you tell it, but you laid an egg down at police Headquarters." (TMB, p199)

eat: to buy; to accept at face value; connotation of reluctance

"I'm eating this dish, but as a cop you can't expect me to like it." (TMB, p209)

drop (a / one's) nickel: commit; put one's time in; join in (from paying a nickel into a pay phone)

The drunk promptly slid off the seat and landed on the blacktop on the seat of his pants. So I went over and dropped my nickel. I guess it's always a mistake to interfere with a drunk. (TLG, p4)

nickel drops: something registers; the other shoe drops (again, as a nickel in a pay phone)

He was halfway to the door before the nickel dropped. He swung around fast then. (TLG, p155)

squiff out: pass out

"You squiffed out at The Dancers in a Rolls. Your girlfriend ditched you." (TLG, p7)

ham it up: play along; go along with the fiction or farce

"Why ham it up any more, Spencer? Paul Marston and Terry Lennox were the same man." (TLG, p304)

hold the line: wait a moment (on the telephone)

I heaved up on the feet and lumbered into the living room and pulled the phone off the cradle and said into it: "Hold the line." (TLG, p317)

to have someone's number: to have evaluated somebody accurately; to sum somebody up; (to have someone's number)

"Only with the eggheads," Lonnie Morgan said, "and they already had his number." (TLG, p341)

miscount the trumps: to overlook something, or misunderstand a situation, or misinterpret

And for some reason I had that empty feeling of having miscounted the trumps. (TLS, p20)

take all the tricks: clean up; to get everything one wants, or to have a situation play out to one's inclinations

He smiled thinly. "I let them take all the tricks and then salve my dignity by working out on you, eh?" (TLS, p226)

shack up: take up with; move in with; possibly, have a tryst (as in a hotel)

"I'm not talking about her love life," I said. "She doesn't have to shack up with a redhot." (TLS, p118)

"They can drop the arm on you for shacking up in a hotel in this town. I'll admit it has to be pretty flagrant." (PB, p38)

set a man nuts: drive somebody crazy

Under those blue pajamas was a shape to set a man nuts, and how good I was going to sound when I started explaining the high ethics of the insurance business I didn't exactly know. (DI, p6)

beef: complain, or harangue somebody

"What are you beefing to me for? I remember that case..." "Walter, I'm not beefing to you. I know you said he ought to be investigated." (DI, p8)

peel off: to undress, or to remove an article of clothing, such as a coat

She was standing there in a raincoat... When I got her peeled off, she was in sweater and slacks, just a dumb Hollywood outfit, but it looked different on her. (DI, p14)

rip out: unleash

He ripped out a flock of cusswords, and at last I heard the crutches rattling against the side of the car. (DI, p43)

go (out): date

"He's going with Phyllis." (DI, p79)

squawk: make noise; complain

"Lots of reasons. It's not fair to you, for one." "Did you hear me squawk?" (DI, p82)

make a gag (with): to make a joke; to joke around with somebody

The waiter knew me. I made a gag with him, to fix it on his mind it was Friday. (DI, p91)

paw: grab; grope; fondle (unwanted advance)

"There's one thing I like about you. You don't paw. And you have nice manners--in a way. " (PB, p6)

draw a lot of water: to have a lot of influence; to exert great influence [Possible reference to the Owens Valley water wars?]

"Listen, chum, you were hired to do a job. Better do it and do it right. Clyde Umney draws a lot of water in this town." (PB, p12)

win the wrist watch: persevere; come out on top; win a contest/fight/etc.

Mine was the better punch, but it didn't win the wrist watch, because at that moment an army mule kicked me square on the back of the brain. (PB, p32)

work the same side of the street: to have similar goals; to work together or to be in competition; to have common (but possibly competing) interests

"Don't worry about anybody losing anybody. There's two other guys working the same side of the street. One's a local boy named Mitchell..." (PB, p40)

chew (someone else's) face: kiss; neck; connotation of heavy kissing, possibly unwanted advance

He pulled harder and pushed his flushed face down on hers. She struggled but he was too strong for her. He chewed her face some more. (PB, p46)

The three couples began to chew each other's faces as soon as we left the shore. (FML, p242)

hang a red light on (somebody): make trouble for; mark somebody for trouble; run out of town

"Just watch your step. Very carefully. I have enough influence around this town to hang a red light on you." (PB, p69)

button the lip: be quiet; shut up; pipe down; put a sock in it; etc.

"Button the lip, kid," Jack said tersely. (PB, p81)

hang out (one's) ear: eavesdrop; listen in

The bell captain was hanging out his ear six feet away. (PB, p84)

neck: (neck) make out

"Whatcha go up on the hill for?" "I thought maybe we could neck. She wasn't in the mood." (PB, p93)

fumble: neck with; grope; feel up (connotation of heavy petting)

"Cut the doodads and get back to Mitchell," he said briskly. "And to the dish you was trying to fumble up on the hill." (PB, p96)

milk: question; get information from; squeeze

He had milked me dry-- of everything that was printed on my business card. (PB, p109)

brush (off): (brush off)

"He got the brush, but good, from Captain Alessandro. He can't hurt you." (PB, p151)

licked: beat; defeated (licked)

"So you have me licked. I don't have any defense, except to have you killed." (PB, p160)

hire a gun: hire a killer; have somebody murdered

"You hired a gun. That puts you out of the class of people I shake hands with." (PB, p161)

warble: sing

"Velma did some warbling. A redhead she as. Cute as lace pants." (FML, p11)

fancy pants: to get fancy; to get a smart or clever idea; to try to be clever

"Don't nobody try to fancy pants," he said cozily. "Freeze the mitts on the bar." (FML, p14)

ride: tease; josh; give a hard time

"Okey, go ahead and ride me. Everybody else does. What's another one matter? Poor old Nulty. Let's go on up and throw a couple of nifties at him. Always good for a laugh, Nulty is." (FML, p17)

take a gander: (take a gander); have a look around; assess; look (for)

"I mean you got time to sort of take a gander around for this dame. That's a good idea you had there. You might pick something up. You can work under glass." (FML, p20)

work under glass: without scrutiny? without raising suspicions? Or, under (police) auspices?


barber: cooperate; share; negotiate (?) be nice to (?)

"I shouldn't ought to barber with you. But when I like a guy, the ceiling's the limit." (FML, p30)

(get or have) a piece (of somebody): to date / make out with / sleep with

"Cute," he said. "Cute enough. I could of used a piece of that once. Haw, haw." (FML, p39)

bear down: dig in; get stubborn; wait someone or something out; get serious or violent

"But don't forget he's looking for her and he's a man who would bear down." (FML, p39)

stooge: secretly work for; foolishly do somebody else's work for them

"We're glad to stooge for a shamus of his standing." (TBS, p112)

"I just don't have time to stooge for you or any other cop." (FML, p45)

keep one's nose clean: (keep one's nose clean) stay out of trouble; avoid making trouble

"That's all," he said. "And keep your nose clean." (FML, p85)

hammer: question; interrogate

"They would suspect some guilty reason and hammer at me until I was a wreck," (FML, p89)

paper flower: something with false or shallow beauty; a pale imitation of true beauty (?) OR something fragile

The muscles in it were strong. She was a well-built woman, and no paper flower. (FML, p134)

browse: make out; kiss; chew; etc.

She fell softly across my lap and I bent down over her face and began to browse on it. (FML, p135)

give time to: put stock in; care about; devote effort to (caring about)

The big man said: "Now that we are all between pals and no ladies present we really don't give so much time to why you went back up there, but this Hemingway stuff is what really has me down." (FML, p164)

skim it: give a quick summary

"Try again. And skim it. All I want is the cream. Who put me in your private funny house?" (FML, p 181)

take to the cleaners: (take to the cleaners)

"I like smooth shiny girls, hardboiled and loaded with sin." "They take you to the cleaners," Randall said indifferently. (FML, p196)

crab: ruin; mess up; sabotage; bung up

"If you crab this case, you'll be in a jam." (FML, p215)

crab: complain; nitpick; pester; henpeck

But he was dumb, and kept crabbing. (PRT, p8)

grease: bribe

I thought of cops, tough cops that could be greased and yet were not by any means all bad, like Hemingway. (FML, p238)

play (v.): manipulate; trick; ("played for a fool")

"I bet it's fun to be played by handsome blondes," Anne Riordan said. (FML, p286)

play (n.): business (as a turn of business)

"Well, it's our summer resort, thirty miles up the canyon road. It's a dump, but it's cool in the summer, so it gets a good play." (RH, p87)

rope: question; feel out; brace (for information); possibly also in the sense of deceive/trick

"So you're a gum-shoe." "That's the bunk," I complained. "I come all the way down here to rope you, and you're smarted up." (RH, p29)

smart up: to get wise to something


rib: frame; put away; double-cross, as "shiv in the ribs" (?)

"And if Max Thaler means anything to you, you ought to pass him the word that Noonan's trying to rib him." (RH, p40)

(take a) plant: hide

"I went up the street and took a plant in the vestibule." (RH, p54)

string: frame; set up; in the sense of "throw under the bus"

"So I had to make an out for myself, in case something slipped. I strung the woman." (RH, p55)

(make the) sneak: slip out; escape; sneak out

"Make the sneak and keep under cover till noon and his frame-up will be a wash-out." (RH, p55)

give the air: dump; toss aside; to break up (from somebody)

"You're an ex-boy-friend of Dinah's who was given the air." (RH, p59)

flop: rest; sleep; reside (as in a hotel or flophouse)

"He flops at the Maxwell on Union Street. I guess maybe he's there now, resting up for the mill." (RH, p72)

(to take in) paint: stare at the walls; spend time somewhere; pass the time

"Had enough of this paint?" I said I had. We went down the street. (RH, p10)

(put) skids (under): put an end to; force out

"What did Noonan put the skids under you for?" "What skids? I quit." (RH, p95)

third-degree: to question; interrogate

Even the bad luck he had trying to third-degree Whisper couldn't spoil his happiness. (RH, p109)

throw lead: shoot

A load of coppers buzzed past, throwing lead at the first car. (RH, p111)

fan: rifle; search; rummage through

"Where were you raised? Fanning my baggage!" (RH, p128)

to get a rear out of something: to get a thrill; to get a rise out of something

"But this getting a rear out of planning deaths is not natural to me. It's what this place has done to me." (RH, p157)

hash things up: make a hash of things; make a mess of things; complicate or ruin things

I was making one of my favorite complaints -- that newspapers were good for nothing except to hash things up so nobody could unhash them -- when I heard a boy chanting my name. (RH, p186)

back-window: to skip out; to elude somebody; to escape

"When the circus cut loose I back-windowed them." (RH, p205)

shoot: speak closely

She was so close I could smell her. I shot it right close to her ear, almost in a whisper. (PRT, p7)

knock for a loop: (knock for a loop)

"Swell. That'll knock them for a loop." (PRT, p10)

boss (a job): oversee; issue orders; take charge

They were lifting him out when I got to the hospital, and the state cop was bossing the job. (PRT, p22)

tumble: deduce; figure out; realize; understand; have an insight

"It all depends on the stepladder, whether he tumbles what it's there for." (PRT, p23)

snap: toss; flick; fling

"You stay back there, now, and keep an eye on that cop. I'm going to snap these bearings into the bushes one at a time, and you've got to watch if he notices anything." (PRT, p24)

chin: flirt(?); talk to, or perhaps chuck one's chin, with connotation of flirting?

The cop was halfway down the hall, chinning a nurse. (PRT, p55)

flim-flam: dupe; deceive; trick; take in

"We've been flim-flammed, Cora." (PRT, p70)

turn yellow: chicken out; back out of something; lose one's nerve

"I turned yellow, that's all." (PRT, p77)

go off one's nut: to go nuts; go crazy; act illogically; lose one's marbles; etc.

I was afraid if she got sore at me for something, she'd go off her nut and spill it like she had that other time, after the arraignment. (PRT, p88)

spill (something) / spill one's guts: (spill one's guts)


dance on air: hang, as from a noose; be executed; get the death sentence

"It don't cost me a thing to make you dance on air." (PRT, p105)

burn the road: speed; drive fast, possibly too fast; burn rubber; leave marks; etc.

I put her in the car, started up, and began burning the road. (PRT, p112)

home words bio links