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Category Archives: Dictionary

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: Now on Twitter (and Other Special Announcements)

Get a Daily Dose of Early American Crime! The American Malefactor’s Dictionary is now on Twitter at the username @EarlyAmerCrime. Entries for the dictionary will appear daily, Monday through Friday, and you can see all of them by clicking the #CrimeDict hashtag or typing it in the Twitter search box. Daily Twitter entries at @EarlyAmerCrime […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: break, give someone a

break, give someone a – to liberate someone from prison. Sources Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary of the Underworld. New York: Bonanza Books, 1961. Note: See “Cant: The Language of the Underworld” to learn more about the background of the American Malefactor’s Dictionary.

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: bread-bag

bread-bag – stomach. Have a great Thanksgiving! Sources Matsell, George W. Vocabulum: Or, the Rogue’s Lexicon.. New York: George W. Matsell, 1859. Note: See “Cant: The Language of the Underworld” to learn more about the background of the American Malefactor’s Dictionary.

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: bracelets

bracelets – handcuffs. Sources Barrère, Albert and Charles G. Leland. A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon, and Cant. [London]: The Ballantyne Press, 1889. Farmer, John S. and W. E. Henley. A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English. Abridged from Slang and Its Analogues. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1912. London Antiquary, A [Hotten, John Camden]. A […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: bowsprit

bowsprit – a nose. bowsprit in parentheses – a pulled nose. From the nose being the front-most part of the face, as the bowsprit is of a ship. Sources Barrère, Albert and Charles G. Leland. A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon, and Cant. [London]: The Ballantyne Press, 1889. Grose, Francis and Egan Pierce. Grose’s Classical Dictionary […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: bower

bower – a prison. Sources Farmer, John S. and W. E. Henley. A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English. Abridged from Slang and Its Analogues. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1912. Matsell, George W. Vocabulum: Or, the Rogue’s Lexicon.. New York: George W. Matsell, 1859. Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary of the Underworld. New York: Bonanza […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: boot-leg and boot-leg plan

boot-leg – 1. coffee or, more precisely, alleged coffee, served in prison; 2. illicit liquor (a witty play on the former definition). boot-leg plan – a set up based on trickery or evasion, in reference to the saying, “the boot is on the other leg,” i.e., not as someone would normally understand something. Use of […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: booly-dog

booly-dog – a police officer. From bulldog, via bouledogue (French). Note: This cartoon by Thomas Nast–which depicts a bulldog dressed in the uniform of a police officer–was inspired by charges of corruption and graft in the New York City Police Department by Rev. Charles Parkhurst in 1892. Parkhurst accused police officials of accepting money for […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: bone orchard or bone yard

bone orchard or bone yard – a cemetery, graveyard, burial place. Sources Farmer, John S. and W. E. Henley. A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English. Abridged from Slang and Its Analogues. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1912. Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary of the Underworld. New York: Bonanza Books, 1961. Note: See “Cant: The Language […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: bone

bone – 1. to take, steal, as in the way a dog runs off with a bone; 2. to be arrested, carried off, taken into custody; 3. to beg, to ask for. Sources London Antiquary, A [Hotten, John Camden]. A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words. 2nd ed. London: John Camden Hotten, 1860. […]