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Gangster talk

Ever wonder what the lingo was back in 1920's Chicago? Sure, we've heard a few lines in the gangster movies with Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney. Now lets go really see a small sample of  what was said back in the day.

Todays words with the gangster equivalents


Machine gun = Big rod, typewriter, tommy, grind organ , puff box.

Machine gunner = Chopper, organ grinder, tommy man.

To kill = Bump off, knock off, let him have it, bump, slip the bump, give it to him, take for a ride, give him the works.

Pistol  =  Rod ,gat, roscoe, heater.

Policeman = Copper, bull, John Law, flat-foot.

Detective = Dick, flattie , dummy.

To be killed = Get it.

Bullet = Slug.

Girl = Broad, dame, skirt, chippy, roach, moll, frail.

To flee = Lam.

Criminal charge = Rap.

Jail = Can, jug.

Prison = Big house, stir.

To steal loot or liquor = Hijack.

Illicit trade = Racket.

Thousand dollars = Grand.

Money = Dough.

Dollar = Buck.

Alcohol = Alky.
Bomb = Pineapple, Dago football, peanut.

Sawed - off shotgun = Long- cut -short.

To search pockets = Frisk, fan.

Hold up = Stick up, Heist.

Jail term = Hitch, stretch, bit , time , jolt.

Crime = Job.

Gangster = Hoodlum, hood, rod, red-hot, mugg, bird,guy, egg, racketeer, torpedo.

Face =Mug, lug, pan , mush.

Saloon or cafe =Joint, spot.

Gang = mob, crew.

Informer = Stool pigeon, pigeon, rat.

To arrest = Pinch, grab.

Gang leader = Big shot, red-hot, big rod, mokker, heavy guy.

Run = Scram,  screw, lam, beat it, duck.

Marked for death = On the Spot.

To decoy to death = Put on the spot.

Government detective = G Man.

Electric chair = Hot squat, hot seat, flame chair.

To force way into racket = Muscle in.

Lawyer = Mouthpiece, mouth, lip, shyster, front.

Physician = Croaker.

Follow = Tail, shadow.

To betray to police = Squawk, squeal, sing, cough up, spill the beans.

Dentist = Jawcracker

Name = Monicker, handle, tag.

Hint = Office.

Eyes = Peepers, glims.

Youngster = Punk.

Counterfeit money = Queer.

Purse = Kick, poke, leather.

Whiskey = hooch, booze.



Gangster words and definitions

Apron = Bartender.

Bazoo = An easy victim.

Bracelets = Handcuffs.

Broad = Mistress; immoral; prostitute.

Bought new shoes = Jumped a bail bond.

Big Time = The city; any metropolitan district.

Belch = To complain or make complaint.

 Bench nibs = A  judge.

Big boy = Federal judge.

 Badger = Person, ususally a woman, who lures victim of a consiracy into compromising or incriminating situation.

Below the line = Worst cells in a jail

Benny = Overcoat.

Big Cough =  Bomb containing a heavy charge of explosive.

Buzz = To interview; also in the sinister meaning of visiting to intimidate.

Bum = Pugilist; prize- fighter.

Button = Policeman's star.

Dance hall = Cell block where inmates are kept before execution.

Dip = Pickpocket.

Dizzy stick = Policeman's club or night stick.

Donkies = Ears.

Dynamiter = High pressure salesman.

Fish = One dollar.

Ghive = Stiletto.

Gyp = To defraud; to obtain money by threats or false pretences.

Heeled = Armed with a gun.

Hoop = Finger ring.

House work = Burglary; robbery done indoors.

Jib= To joke.

Jig = A  colored person.

Junker = Dealer of narcotics.

Jungle buzzard =  A hobo who steals from his own.

Kisser = Mouth.

Lamp = To observe.

Lulu = Gangster's sweetheart.

Lusher = An alcoholic.

Mack = Pimp.

Mexican stand off = To kill in cold blood.

Mush = Face.

Mouthpiece = Lawyer.

Nautch house = House of prostitution.

Necktie = Rope.

Needle = To inject alcohol in liquid, such as beer, to make it stimulating.

Oday = Money.

Oh, My = Near beer.

Over the fence = Disposed of.

Persuader = Billy club.

Plaster = Court order to close an establishment.

Playhouse = Jail with lax rules.

Porch cover = Fancy necktie.

Rib = To talk slander about anyone.

Roach = Immoral girl.

Rocks = Precious stones.

Round the horn = Taking a prisoner from police station to police station to avoid him getting a habeas corpus until some information can be obtained from him.

Sab Cat = One who sabotages for hire.

Sap = Billy club.

Silk Hat = Publicly respected member of the mob.

Sleigh ride = To use cocaine or morphine.

Sluch = Money for dirty work.

Soup = Nitroglycerine.

Snowbird = Addict who uses cocaine.

Sugar = Money.

Sweetheart = Anyone you particularly dislike.

Thinner = Dime.

Throw the boots into = To kick viciously.

Tip Chaser = Bell boy in a hotel.

Tops = Loaded dice.

Touch = Demand a bribe.

U- Boat = One who works secretly  to displace his boss or leader.

Up and Up = Honest.

Up the street = Bombed.

Uptown = To treat snobbishly.

Works = Violence used to obtain information.

Wrong Gee = The wrong person; one mistakenly  identified.

Yam = Talk too much.

Yell = Anything comical.

Yodeler = A pervert, an effeminate.

Zebra = A convict.



These words and definitions were taken from The life of Al Capone in pictures and also from the 1929 book called "It's a Racket" by Hostetter and Beesley.


First Posted December 2008