"making streaks"

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Mon Jun 18 15:22:27 UTC 2012

[An overdressed pimp -- not that there has ever been any other kind --
appears before a police justice to lodge a complaint against one of his
whores; the judge sends him off, and he is razzed by the hangers-out in the
court room as he leaves.]

The way the fellow made streaks was truly laughable, and afforded capital
fun to the spectators.  If he infests the office again, quod will be his
pass word.

     New York Daily Express, October 15, 1839, p. 2, col. 5

"Make streaks" seems to fit better into OED's 3d, "a rapid move"; if so, it
is an antedating.  If it belongs with 3c, then it runs a dead-heat with the
passage from The Knickerbocker.

OED, "streak", noun:

 3 *c.* *slang*. *streak of lightning*, ? a glass of gin (cf.
lightning *n.*2<http://ezproxy.library.nyu.edu:32445/view/Entry/108232#eid39153024>).
*like a streak, like streaks* : with the swiftness of lightning; also *quick
as a streak* and *transf.*

1839   *Knickerbocker* *13* 298,   I see him yesterday afternoon..starting
off like a streak, to go to Norridgewock.

1849   C. Lanman *Lett. Alleghany Mts.* xi. 89   The water wheeled my head
round to the hole, and in I went quick as a streak.

1859   C. Mackay *Life & Liberty Amer.* I. 169   ‘Ginsling,’
‘brandy-smash’, ‘a streak of lightning’, [etc.].

1887   M. E. Wilkins *Humble Romance* 376   He went past me like a streak
when I was coming up the road.


 *d.* *slang* (orig. *U.S.*). A rapid move; (a journey undertaken at) a
fast rate. Also *fig.*

*a*1861   T. Winthrop *John Brent* (1862) xxii. 243   She's got the old man
to take care of and follow off on his next streak.

1865   A. D. Whitney *Gayworthys* 141   She's going a good streak, ain't

1875   J. G. Holland *Sevenoaks* iv. 60   We'll wopse 'im up in some
blankits, an' make a clean streak for the woods.

"Quod will be his pass word" is an odd expression.  Evidently it means
""quod" is the word that will gain him admission to the jail", which is to
say, the next time the judge sees him, he will send him to jail on general
principles.  (As in the OED definition of "Password": "a selected word or
phrase securing admission".)  Are there other instances?  Or parallels (X
shall be his password)?

* *

OED, "quod":

Prison, the state of imprisonment; (also) †a prison. Freq. in *in quod*.

1699   B. E. *New Dict. Canting Crew*,   *Quod*, Newgate; also any Prison,
tho' for Debt.

1752   H. Fielding *Amelia* I. i. iv. 30   There is not such a Pickpocket
in the whole *Quad*.

1795   in *Spirit of Public Jrnls.* (1801) IV. 226   Coming home, was cast
in quod Till subjects paid his ransom.

1848   Thackeray *Vanity Fair* liv. 487   She's..grudged me a hundred pound
to get me out of quod.

[I have 3 or 4 examples from NYC sources of the 1830s, the earliest 1830]

OED, "Password":

 *1.* *a.* A selected word or phrase securing admission, recognition, etc.,
when used by those to whom it is disclosed; (*Mil.*) a watchword, a parole.

1799   Scott tr. Goethe *Goetz of Berlichingen* ii. iii. 69   George
shall..force the fellow to give him the pass-word.

1811   F. Plowden *Hist. Ireland 1801–10* II. iv. 443   The secret passages
to the back of the throne were daily thronged by those, who had the *pass
word* or private key.

1855   T. B. Macaulay *Hist. Eng.* III. xv. 555   Ferguson..longed to be
again the president of societies where none could enter without a pass-word.

1890   ‘R. Boldrewood’ *Colonial Reformer* (1891) 142   That fresh,
unspoiled, girlish heart to which he alone had the password.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much since then.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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