HeyI Rube! (1879)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Sat Jun 28 16:36:48 UTC 2003

   Found in the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 7 September 1879, pg. 10, col. 7:


_Of Ye Dramatic Artist, Ye Variety Per-_
   _former and Ye Circus Man._

_How Any One Can Get Up in_
   _the Vernacular._

_And Patter Flash Like a Real Call_

   There are many of those who patronize the theater, the circus or the
varieties, who, were they to overhear two members of the "profession" conversing
and interlarding their speech with the peculiar technical names and phrases of
either of the above branches of the profession, would be greatly at a loss to
understand what they were talking about.  For the benefit of those not up in
the vernaculr we give the following, beginning with the
   Immense--Any thing or any body that is good is immense, as well as a big
house or a large person.
   Great--Qualifies the "goodness" in a still larger degree, and is accepted
as _the_ adjective of the profession.
   Nibs, Cully, Pard, Rocks, Rocksy--All are endearing or friendly titles,
but are mainly used by the circus and variety performers, while shaking hands
with or addressing those with whom they are, or wish to be, familiar.
   Tumble, Drop and Fall, are salutations which greet the person who fails to
please the professional whom he is addressing, or when an improbable and
unbelievable story is toldf, as well as to check a bore when the hearer's
tympaneum is endangered or a limb about to be sacrificed.
   Nixey means "no" or "don't," and very frequently is the prefix of Cully,
Pard, &c. and is considered as strong as the most emphatic "no."
   Cheese it; Stop it--Quit.
   Stow it and stack it, means the same as the above.
   Lush, Budge, Bilge-water, Tamshack (?--ed.), Fire-water, Tangle-foot,
Elixir, Dew-bowl, and various other terms denote whisky.
   Slush and German Decoction--Greet the ears of our Teutonic saloon-keepers
when any of the "profesh" call for beer.
   Wealth, Ore, Dust, Rocks, Spondulicks, Shekels, Ducats, Nicks,Filmsies,
Filthy Lucre, Trash, Shiners, Shinnies--Are the synonyms of money, and all who
know them will surely say "the boys" have given some appropriate names (as
concerns them) to the "lever of the world," for they spend it as though it were so
much trash and filthy lucre.  No matter how famous and how prosperous they
are, or have been, the greater majority of them go to the grave leaving very
little for their relatives or friends to quarrel over.
   Crooked, Handed in His Checks, Gone to That Bourne, Given His Last Show,
Skipped the Earth, Flying Above--That one more has gone to his final rest.  The
above may sound as harsh terms for the conqueror of all, Death, but we have
heard them given in as sympathetic tones as e'er one relative mourned another's
   Croak also means to speak forebodingly of some coming disastrous event, or
the non-success of any thing before it has been tried and found wanted.
   Back-cap, Blast--Is to speak ill of a person or play, the former being the
term most generally used, and we regret to say with much cause, for among no
other class of peopledoes the tendency to back-cap exist.  'Tis true, each and
every person in the business has a great opinion of his or her own merits,
and through jealousy caused by their confidence in their own ability to do this
or that better than another, back-capping is very general.
   Beat--Is used as both a noun and verb, the former meaning a person who
does not pay his just debts, or one who, on account of some former connection
with the profession, still clings like a parasite to them, begging and borrowing
(and sometimes stealing) all he can from them; as a verb it expresses the
desire or declaration that the speaker will accomplish or attempt the above.
   Mace, Bilk, Give, Roast, Skin--Are all synonymous to the verb "to beat,"
and are terms that have been felt by many hotel-keepers, saloonists, boarding
houses, &c., as they are about the only terms they couldever get out of some of
the graceless scamps of the profession, who "flew" without liquidating the
claims against them.
   Fly, Cute, Up to Snuff--Denotes smartness in the ways of the world, and
that no one can get the best of them, although they sometimes run across one who
is flyer or cuter.
   Fakir--Is a very general term, and means street-corner peddlers, who gull
the people with great bargains at small figures.  THis class is divided into
jewelry peddlers, cement sellers, medicine quacks with long hair, stationers, &
c.; also a country showman or a country actor; an actor who, whem imperfect in
his lines, has the ability to substitute language, and one who, with a very
small wardrobe, dresses by some book or crook every thing he is cast for--all
are fakirs.
   Fake, Filch, Cheese--Are to steal in a small way.  The word Fake also
means a predicament, an article or thing, as well as to scheme.
   Tile, Cady--A silk hat.
   Drum--Any other kind of hat, but generally spoken of "A straw drum," "A
stiff drum," &c.
   (?--ed.), Breast-plate--A tie that serves to cover the breast and hides a
dirty shirt.
   Peck, Chuck--Food.
   Peckish--Hungry, and very many of the fakirs know what the word means.
   Togs, Raiment--Clothes, or which they possess a great amount, when in an
engagement, as most managers require them to dress well.  But when the tide of
ill luck strikes them, all their best togs soon reach the mawleys of their
   Uncle or Old Sol--The Pawnbroker.
   Wardrobe--Stage clothing.
   Pedestrianate--Counting ties, plodding the weary way, measuring telegraph
poles, hoofing it--Mean to walk, and many is the uncarpeted tie that has been
trod by the weary but not heart-broken actor, who has had to foot it all the
way home.
   Going In Style--On the cars, with a reserved berth in the sleeper.
   Optics--The eyes.
   Oliver--The nose.
   Lugs--The ears.
   Gash--A large mouth.
   Molars--The teeth.
   Hooks--The hands.
   Ham--Is the most derisive word in the professional vocabulary, and if you
wish to lose the friendship of any one in the business call him a "ham," and
that settles it.  A person who can do nothing at all, can not speak his lines
properly, or is very bad in any way in his calling, is denominated a "ham."
   Jonah ranks next to him, but is more generally used in derision of the
person so called.  The difference between the two is, that a good performer or a
clever actor may become a Jonah and yet not be called a ham.  The Bible tells
how Jonah took passage in the good ship --.  When midway the voyage a fearful
storm arose; the sailors, superstitious  beings as they were, declared the
presence of some one on board who was the cause of all this commotion of
Neptune's breast, and demanded that he be cast overboard to appease the enraged sea
god.  Straws were cut, lots were drawn, and Jonah drew the shortest straw.  With
a hearty "Heave-yo!" Jonah was heaved over and landed in the belly of a whale
(not a white one, science has since proved).  The waters calmed down, the
sailors drank their grog with thanks that the sacrifice was accepted.  But the
whale didn't think he could stomach Jonah either, and so heaved him out onto the
land, where we must leave him.  Since that day every misfortune, mishap,
accident or failure has been attributed to the presence of a Jonah in the venture
or in the party.  As the Biblical Jonah was the cause of such ill-luck, so now
is dubbed by the name Jonah the person who is suspected of being the
harbinger or producer of misfortune to the profession.  Bad business comes to a
heretofore successful party, and some one is selected as being the Jonah, and is
immediately hustled out of the gang.  Cross eyes, blindness, lameness, deformity
of any kind, is considered the sure sign of a Jonah, and as such he eventually
becomes known.  In our own city there are at least a dozen persons who are
called Jonahs, and who have become known to the entire profession as an
   Papered--When the house contains a large number of persons who have come
in on complimentary tickets.
   Bloke--A person not liked by the speaker.
   Kid--A child.
   Kidding, Codding, Guying--Making fun of; telling in all seriousness what
is intended for sarcasm; praising when the opposite is meant.
   Gaff, Taffy--Almost similar to the above, but in milder form.
   Puff--Favorable newspaper criticism for which they strive manfully, and
maketh their heart glad when it is attained.
   Blast--Adverse newspaper criticism, for which they threaten to kill the
   Guys--Young men who "set 'em up" for the "profesh."
   Snap--A traveling party comprised of persons whose talent is more often
below than above mediocrity, and who generally "bust up" in a few days.
   Gill--The man who backs the "snaps"--a party with a few dollars, no0
brains and less experience in the show business.  He always returns a sadder,
wiser, broke-up man, his shekels gone, and the only satisfaction left of being
added as one to the number of gills.
   Snide--Very bad, and we may remark by way of parenthesis, that more snide
actors infest our sacred corporation, and more snide shows leave it, than of
any city three times its size on either hemisphere.
   Tart--Pretty bad, but a little better than snide.
   Fired, Banged, Shot Out--When a performer is discharged he is one of the
   Dates--Engagements to open at a stated time.
   Serio-comic Balladist--Females who most generally possess more legs than
musical ability.
   Pasteboards--Tickets, playing cards, and they all know how to handle the
latter pretty well.
   Sucker--A person caught for money or drinks.  Vide several of our variety
shows, where the sucker most doth seek the wine-room, there to be played by
the female talent.
   Jump--Distance to travel; to leave without paying a bill--a thing seldom
heard of, because the parties losing the money don't like to acknowledge their
failure to judge human nature.
   Masher, Mash, Mashing--This is the order in which they should be classed.
The masher can be either male or female, traveling on their beauty, shape or
talent, and sometimes on all three.  The mash is the party willing to be
mashed, and who is generally made to pay for the pleasure of the mash in a good
round sum.  Mashing is the attempt of both to succeed in their object.  The
female masher monopolizes the most of the mashes.  The process can be witnessed in
its most bald-headed form almost any night over the Rhine.
   "Hey! Rube!"--The circus-man's shout, which has been heard from Maine to
Oregon and from Hudson's Bay to Brazil.  When the countrymen get too fresh and
too full of fight, they generally get it.  The first performer attacked sends
forth the thrilling war cry, and every man and boy connected with the show arm
themselves with some weapon, and sally to the aid of their brother.  Swarming
from all quarters, they soon conquer the countrymen, and after hustling out
the disturbers, (Col. 8--ed.) who have gained several broken hands, the shows
go on, the weapons are laid aside, and all is serene until the next war-cry
assails their ears.  The above constitutes a great many of the slang terms used
by the profession, but to enumerate all would occupy more space than we are
permitted to use.

(No "turkey"?...The HDAS has 1882 for "fire," meaning to "discharge or
dismiss from employment"--ed.)

More information about the Ads-l mailing list