"pigeon" -- obscure English slang
laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri May 3 13:55:33 UTC 2013
This got me wondering about "stool(-)pigeon", and how it came to mean what it does. Apparently (the OED informs us) there was indeed a shift from 'a pigeon fastened to a stool as a decoy; chiefly fig. of a person employed, especially by gamblers, as a decoy' (attested in Washington Irving's _Astoria_, 1836) to 'a police informer', although I'm not entirely sure I see how this shift from decoy to snitch would have taken place. I suppose it hinges on who the employer is.
On May 3, 2013, at 1:17 AM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
> This week, I had an experience where it appears someone was trying to dupe me, giving me a bid that was way too high. So today, I was wondering how to use the word "pigeon" to describe myself, and I don't think I can.
> * I was a pigeon.
> * I was almost a pigeon.
> * I was his pigeon.
> * He was making me a pigeon.
> * He tried to make me a pigeon
> ??? He marked me as a pigeon.
> ?? He had me marked as a pigeon.
> If I were a con person, I could see myself saying to my buddy Buggs, "Charley ain't gonna make us the pigeon this time" in a situation where Buggs and I are up against Charley for the third time, seeing who's going to con who. And I can even see this working in a make-believe situation, such as where I put on an accent and mannerisms so it's clear I'm pretending to be a thief and say something like that to a friend.
> Rather than this being obscure, perhaps it's that this meaning of pigeon is designated as jargon, so pragmatic knowledge about the speaker is critical in making the correct interpretation.
> Benjamin Barrett
> Seattle, WA
> On May 2, 2013, at 10:04 AM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at ix.netcom.com> wrote:
>> You're just missing the first letter "g" :)
>> I'm not saying it doesn't exist or that people don't know it--I'm sure I've seen the word a couple times in the movie--but the sentence doesn't work without the explanation:
>> * The Socialist president has been viewed by some as an antibusiness leader and infuriated entrepreneurs last year by proposing increased taxes on investments. In response, entrepreneurs, calling themselves ‘‘pigeons,’’ launched an online opposition campaign that quickly got tens of thousands of ‘‘likes’’ on Facebook and trended on Twitter.
>> I'm not sure whether it's because that meaning is a little obscure (or not primary) or because the nuance is different from French, but without the explanation, it's unclear.
>> Benjamin Barrett
>> Seattle, WA
>> On May 2, 2013, at 5:44 AM, David K. Barnhart <dbarnhart at HIGHLANDS.COM> wrote:
>>> Dear Ben,
>>> What's your e-mail. The one I have (ogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM) didn't work?
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: David K. Barnhart [mailto:dbarnhart at highlands.com]
>>> Sent: Thursday, May 02, 2013 8:40 AM
>>> To: ogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
>>> Subject: RE: "pigeon" -- obscure English slang
>>> See eOED:
>>> II. Figurative uses.
>>> 6. colloq.
>>> Thesaurus >
>>> Categories >
>>> a. A naive or gullible person; a fool or simpleton; a person who is easily
>>> swindled, esp. in gambling.
>>> ?1525 Interlocucyon betwyxt Man & Woman sig. Aiij, When a younge pegeon
>>> a Woman hath gotyn She will make hym at length as stronge as a crane For
>>> surely she will neuer forsake hym Tyll that his croper bone wax very lame.
>>> 1639 S. Du Verger tr. J. P. Camus Admirable Events 112 This pigeon being
>>> not of full age, could not contract it without the consent of his mother.
>>> 1654 E. Gayton Pleasant Notes Don Quixot iv. iii. 187 Nor is Sancho
>>> behind him for a Pigeon; both deluded commit equall errors.
>>> 1785 M. Holford Fanny III. 256, I am not such a pigeon as he takes me
>>> for! I told him I had made a vow not to marry till I was twenty-one, and
>>> I'll stick to my text.
>>> 1788 J. Cobb Love in East ii. 28 Mush. My dear Colonel, ten thousand
>>> thanks. (aside) This fellow will prove a fine pigeon.
>>> 1809 B. H. Malkin tr. A. R. Le Sage Adventures Gil Blas II. iv. vii. 149
>>> A flatterer may play what game he likes against the pigeons of high life!
>>> 1861 Thackeray Four Georges iv. 201 He was a famous pigeon for the
>>> play-men; they lived upon him.
>>> 1941 Sun (Baltimore) 14 Aug. 13/7 These amateur gamblers are the
>>> greatest pigeons I ever knew.
>>> 1993 N.Y. Times Bk. Rev. 21 Mar. 10/1 Johnny Rich was a 'steerman' who
>>> led pigeons, or unsuspecting amateurs, into crooked card games with
>>> professional gamblers.
>>> OED editors have even found _pigeon_ in this sense in 1993. As too
>>> longevity see earlier among the quotes. _Pigeon_ is also found in Berrey
>>> and Van den Bark, Green, Wentworth mostly in the context of gambling.
>>> On May 1, 2013, at 9:55 PM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>>> a little obscure in English?
>>>> Benjamin Barrett
>>>> Seattle, WA
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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