Still Further Antedating of "Joker" (Cards)

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Mon Mar 25 15:47:14 UTC 2013

In gambling, the "little Joker" was originally the pea in the
pea-and-thimble game.

1846:   Playing the little "Joker."  [headline]  [A rube visits a]
"crib" in Park Row, where . . . the "boys" were playing the thimble
rig, commonly called the little Joker.
New York Herald, February 8, 1846, p. 1, col. 4

1855:   So dexterously are the cup and balls shifted by the party
leaders, . . . that the rank and file of the different cliques can't
tell where the "little joker" is. . . .
Q. K. Philander Doesticks [Mortimer Neal Thomson], Doesticks: What He
Says, N. Y.: Edward Livermore, 1855, p. 271.

HDAS: 1856 (ref. to the pea);
OED lacks this, but under Joker, 3a, "Something used in playing a
trick." has a 1858 quote referringto "The thimble-rigger’s ‘little
joker’", from OWHolmes

(I may have posted these quotes, many years ago, since they have been
in my notes since more than a decade ago, probably two decades.)


On Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 7:06 AM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at> wrote:
> joker (OED, 3.b., 1885)
> 1869 _Harper's Bazaar_ 3 Apr. 222 (American Periodical Series)  We confess our ignorance of the "origin of the 'Little Joker' in the game of 'Euchre.'"
> Fred Shapiro
> Fred Shapiro
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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 -

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