griffin 4 (betting tip, signal) antedated to 1866

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Fri Nov 26 12:27:56 UTC 2010

OED griffin 4
[Origin unascertained.]
    A tip (in betting, etc.); a signal, hint. Cf. GRIFF n.6
1889 Cassell's Sat. Jrnl. Jan. 305/3 Plank yourself at the corner to give the griffin (signal) if you hear or see owt. 1891 J. NEWMAN Scamping Tricks 95 When he wanted to give the chaps in the office the straight griffin, he used to say, ‘Nelson's my guide.’.......

Via Hathi Thust
The London Miscellany, no. 12, April 28, 1866, p. 186 col. 2, "London Revelations: No. 7--A Visit to a Thieves' Cellar"

As we walked along Gunn Street the prisoner (who was not manacled, but simply marched on between Mr. Addison and the detective) told the latter that he had "got the Straight Griffin to back Breadalbane," and "that as for the Sweep, it was a reg'lar moral for the City and Sub. for a place." He added that he didn't want to miss the tips, as they were both "good things.";q1=%22got%20the%20straight%20griffin%22%20;start=1;size=25;page=search;seq=192;view=image;num=186

Perhaps "straight griffin" was influenced by the long and commented-on discussion by John Ruskin (Modern Painters [London 1856]) of the "false [ancient] griffin" and the true [medieval] griffin."

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society -

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