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


bull: cop

"With every bull in town working overtime to pile up grief for me a little more won't hurt." (TMF, p 141.)

up the river: in jail; behind bars; caught by the police

"I haven't seen him since the time he went up the river in '23 or '24." (TTM, p31)

pinch: arrest; finger; nab; collar; also, catch red-handed

"It would serve me right if you had pinched me." (TTM, p90.)

"It's a swell pinch and I'm giving it to you," I said. (TMB, p184)

If he gets pinched with a girl in a hotel room, stop sexual intercourse. (TLG, p351)

hang a pinch: lay a charge on; accuse; indict; assign prosecutable blame to

"After that I guess you can go home. That is, if he doesn't hang a pinch on you." (TLS, p219)

"Maybe he knows something that could hang a pinch on her without opening up the other box of candy." (PB, p71)

copped: surprised (with)?; nabbed?; possibly revealed or caught

"The chances are they've copped Jorgensen and she wants to know if it can be fixed." (TTM, p93.)

"Our friend Nunheim was filled full of .32s just about an hour after he copped a sneak on us." (TTM, p105.)

"The rest of them got copped, but he made the sneak." (RH, p72)

buzzer: badge; identification

I flipped my wallet open on her desk and let her look at the buzzer pinned to the flap. (TBS, p28)

"I showed him a buzzer. He looked at the buzzer. He wasn't impressed." (TMB, p12.)

"If you're a cop, let's see the buzzer." (PB, p102)

buttons: cops

"I give up," I said. "Better call your friends downtown." "I don't get it," he snapped. "I don't get your game here." "Go ahead, call the buttons. You'll get a big reaction from it." (TBS, p72)

It was about three blocks from my office building that I saw a cop car double-parked and the two buttons in it staring at something over by a shop window on the sidewalk. (TLG, p9)

clubhouse: police station

"So come on, talk it up. Unless you want to ride down to the clubhouse and sweat it out under the bright lights." (TLL, p31)

floaters: corpses in the water; people dead by drowning

"They worked out the system back in New York where they're all the time pulling in floaters." (TLL, p102)

put the arm on: collar; nab

"I want to get out of here," he said at last. "Not very far, maybe, but no hick cop is going to put the arm on me." (TLL, p262)

"Get out before I put the arm on you for interfering with an officer in the performance of his duties." (PB, p150)

stir: jail

"How is Studsy? I didn't know he was out of stir." (TTM-F)

prowl car: police car

"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)

"The prowl-car boys came in about eight minutes." (TMB, p166)

The older of the prowl car boys opened the door to two men in plain clothes, one of whom I already knew. (TLL, p145)

When the prowl car boys stamped up the stairs, the bouncer and the barman had disappeared and I had the place to myself. (FML, p16)

stir-wise: wary of jail or returning to incarceration

"I'll stay under cover. He's too stir-wise for me. I smell of the bucket." (TMB, p139)

bucket: jail


sneezer: jail

He hadn't mentioned the girl again. Also, he hadn't mentioned that he had no job and no prospects and that almost his last dollar had gone into paying the check at The Dancers for a bit of high class fluff that couldn't stick around long enough to make sure he didn't get tossed in the sneezer by some prowl car boys or rolled by a tough hackie and dumped out in a vacant lot. (TLG, p7)

"No cure for lads like you, is there?" he said. "Except to throw you in the sneezer." (FML, p192)

drop the hook: nab; apprehend; snatch

It was pretty obvious that the buttons in the prowl car were about ready to drop the hook on him, so I went over there fast and took hold of his arm. (TLG, p9)

drop the arm: arrest; nab; apprehend; snatch

"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)

big house: prison (federal), as opposed to jail (local)

All this stuff you read about men yelling a screaming, beating against the bars, running spoons along them, guards rushing in with clubs -- all that is for the big house. (TLG, p52)

five spot: five years (prison sentence)

"A felony. It rates up to a five-spot in Quentin." (TLG, p62)

rap: conviction; legal entanglement

"You're the kind of wise guy I like to work over. This rap will be hanging over you for a long time, cutie." (TLG, p64)

cold storage: in jail; on ice

"No use to ask me. I've been in cold storage." (TLG, p68)

cooler: jail/in custody

"You sure you want to mix it with a guy who has been in the cooler?" (TLG, p82)

"I guess you knew I'd been in the cooler, Mrs. Wade." (TLG, p102)

"About a year or so back we had him in the cooler on a Mann Act rap." (TBS, p49)

jugged: jailed; incarcerated; nabbed

"Thanks for the plug, but that's not why I got jugged." (TLG, p108)

birdcage: jail

"Would it be all right now if I assumed you were representing Mr. Harlan Potter when you came to see me in the birdcage." (TLG, p366)

splitting (bills/cash): counterfeiting technique

"He was doing twenty-seventh months for splitting twenty dollar bills." (TMB, p119)

jug: jail

"Don't you read the papers?" "I was in the jug." (ATM-F)

squibbed (off): killed

"You made a crack when you were up there that night -- the night Joe got squibbed off." (TBS, p163)

hot: stolen; illicit

"Hey, wait a minute, dope. It's nothing hot like you think. No ice. No emerald pendants." (TLS, p42)

in hock: in jail

Day when the ex-Cleveland gangster was supposed to be in hock at the County Jail, also day when ex-Cleveland gangster's onetime sidekick was shot dead on Franklin Avenue in Los Angeles. (TLS, p146)

fish: prisoner (HB)

foreign talent: crooks from other cities (HB)

show-up: parade of prisoners for observation (HB)

(in the) coop: (in) jail

"...No convictions, but prints on file." "Been in the coop," I said, looking up at Miss Vermilyea. (PB, p6)

stick-up, stickup (v. / n.) : to commit robbery / a robbery

If he had been a smaller man and more quietly dressed, I might have thought he was going to pull a stick-up. But not in those clothes, not in that hat, and that frame. (FML, p4)

"But there couldn't be many stickups with Marriott alone with women or things would get talked about." (FML, p197)

"The First National's been stuck up." (RH, p123)

hang (a) frame on somebody: frame somebody; implicate

"Velma did some warbling. A redhead she was. Cute as lace pants. We was to of been married when they hung the frame on me." (FML, p11)

caboose: jail

"Where you figure I been them eight years I said about?" "Catching butterflies." He prodded his chest with a forefinger like a banana. "In the caboose. Malloy is the name. They call me Moose Malloy on account of I'm large. The Great Bend bank job. Forty grand. Solo job. Ain't that something?" (FML, p12)

copper: cop

"You ain't no copper," she said softly. "No copper ever bought a drink of that stuff." (FML, p28)

K-car (men): police [definition courtesy of Sforza Hawke]

"And the prowl boys are not supposed to touch him until the K-car men come and they're not supposed to touch him until the coroner's examiner sees him and the photographers have photographed him and the fingerprint man has taken his prints." (FML, p72)

hammer: question; interrogate

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

glom: steal; pinch

"We got him in the back of the car." I looked in the back of the car. It was empty. "Hell, he ain't there," the big one said. "Somebody must of glommed him off. You can't leave nothing in a unlocked car any more." (FML, p162)

holdup / holdup men: robbery; stick-up; robbers; men who commit stick-ups

"Chauffeurs are not getting themselves pushed in the face with lead bullets by holdup men -- for ninety a month." (FML, p197)

racket: caper; approach; angle; job, scheme

"What's the racket, bum?" (TMB, p15)

"What's your racket?" I asked him. (TLS, p29)

"I've got nothing to do with Noonan except to queer his racket." (RH, p52)

numbers racket: illegal gambling game/lottery

...and the nice man down the hall is the boss of the numbers racket. (SAM, p17)

grift: con job; illegal job; scheme

"But hell, that's a small time racket. A peanut grift."

grease (v.): bribe

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

johns: cops

"The johns tied me to it?" "I don't know." (FML, p275-276)

knock-over (n./v.): robbery; to rob (a place)

"He was in on the Keystone Trust knock-over in Philly two years ago, when Scissors Haggerty's mob croaked two messengers." (RH, p72)

hoosegow: jail

"Oh, it's you," he said, as if it made any difference who took him back to the hoosegow. (RH, p111)

screwed up: incarcerated; in jail; in custody

"Noonan had ought to know he'd never keep that guy screwed up -- not in this burg." (RH, p111)

crush-out: breakout; escape

"He's likely all broken up over Whisper's crush-out." (RH, p112)

crack (the jailhouse, etc.): break out of (jail, etc.)

"If his friends try to crack the hoosegow again, thinking he's in it..." (RH, p194)

reader: bulletin; APB?

"Stick around. This is as good a spot as any while there's a reader on you." (RH, p194)

He went back to Headquarters and got out the Wanted file and started through the pile of readers. (FML, p289)

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