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

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– 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 boot-leg to refer to illicit liquor began in the late 1880’s, well before Prohibition.

"Boot leg?" - 1922 (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)


  • Barrère, Albert and Charles G. Leland. A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon, and Cant. [London]: The Ballantyne Press, 1889.
  • 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.

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