Wilmer Cook: Keep on riding me and they're gonna be picking iron out of your liver.
Sam Spade: The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.
-The Maltese Falcon
That famous quote sets the stage for Alan Axelrod's latest book, "The Cheaper the Crook, The Gaudier the Patter: Forgotten Hipster Lines, Tough Guy Talk and Jive Gems". Take a step back in time to the Roaring 20's, the Depression, World War II and the 50's when slang didn't have to fit in Twitter's 140 letter limit. Axelrod breaks down the early American lexicon into 6 chapters. So, next time you want to talk tough, here's some gems to help you out.....
Gumshoes, Gunsels, Mugs and Molls
The real tough guy talk...this is a film noir smack down in its' finest form. Whether someone pulled a Brodie (committed suicide) or had a Button man (Hired Killer) plug you (kill) and put you in a Chicago Overcoat (coffin) you could bet a Private eye or Dick would look into it for a price. If you did get caught, you could be a rat fink and try and cut a deal or do the time and get three hots and a cot (the optimistic look at the prison system). Just remember, you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs; or as Al Capone said, "You can get much further with a kind word and a gun that you can with a kind word alone.
Daddies, Dishes, Dreamboats, and Drugstore Cowboys
Girls, are you tired of hearing the same old pick up lines? Well, just think, guys could be telling you that you're all meat and no potatoes (well built) or that you're built like a brick shithouse with hot and cold folding doors and running water (might be a good time to fake a cell phone call and leave if that comes up). If a guy asks you Cash or check than you should reply Cash please (Kiss me now), unless he's all show and no go.
Hipsters, Hepster, Daddy-O's and Zoot Suiters
If you were hep (with it) you wouldn't want to be seen near a Moldy Fig (conservative who liked traditional jazz music). After you cut a rug since the joint was jumping'; you could invite a V-8 (girl who is too independent for a relationship) back to your pad.
Swabbies, Sad Sacks, Broke Dicks and Jodies
In the army, never trust the brass and make sure Jody (the civilian at home) keeps away from your girl. Keep your brain bucket on your head and make sure you have a shit screen (fall guy) in mind when you encounter a SNAFU, FUMTU, or a JANFU.
Wood Pushers, White Shoes, Kibitzers and Knuckle Busters
If you were living in a Hooverville you better hope you don't get Circus Bees (lice); though you could crab about how it's cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey. Once Prohibition was over you could strike a blow for liberty (have a social drink) with your fellow knuckle busters (mechanics). Even if you were a working stiff as long as you got three squares (meals) a day; there was no reason to go and take the pipe (commit suicide). Yes, we have no bananas (saying no when you want to say yes).
Four-Flushers, Two-Timers, Bad Eggs, and Egg Suckers
If a gal was married to a Dewdropper (loafer) and he said she was "cracked" she could say, "Yes, cracked in the right place" if she had moxie. If you're co-workers are less than stellar you could call them a whole slew of zingers...invested in a Ponzi scheme? Then they are dead but won't lie down. Upper management steal your thunder? Well....you could call them an egg sucker, a four flusher, a pantywaist (sissy), they could be as popular as a pork chop at a synagogue, or you could tell them to take a long walk off a short pier.
Our personal favorite has to be the whole nine yards.
This is the tale of Andrew MacTavish who was courting the lovely Margaret Mary. MacTavish knit Margaret a scarf for her birthday and in his fervor didn't stop until it was nine yards long. After completing the scarf MacTavish donned his finest kilt and went to the local pub for a dink with the boys. One drink led to another and another (he needed to build up his courage after all)....Well, when the boys got liquored up they started to make fun of the "ugly" scarf MacTavish was hoping would catch his ladies eye. His confidence shaken, MacTavish made the journey to get Margaret's opinion. Somewhere along the way he lost his kilt (don't you just hate when that happens?).
Naked except for the scarf, he threw rocks against her window and was greatly invigorated by the notion of seeing his lady love. Greatly. Margaret opened up the window and heard, "Margaret Mary, I have made this just for you. I'm going to give it to you on your birthday. How do you like it?"
Margaret replied, "Just fine, Andy dear, just fine. It is magnificent". She wasn't looking at the scarf, but just to make sure MacTavish called out, "The whole nine yards?"