"shyse" in the 1865 Cincinnati Enquirer

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Fri Sep 26 01:21:44 UTC 2003

>At 5:25 PM -0400 9/25/03, Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:
>    OED does not have "shyse."  The HDAS stops at the letter "O" for
>now, but perhaps this helps.
>    4 October 1875, CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, pg. 4, col. 4:
>       _"Queer" People._
>(...)  Three $5 bills of the "queer" were found on their persons.
>(...) On searching a trunk six more of the "shyse" bills were found.

  This is an alternate spelling of cant "shise" (from German, where it
has the basic meaning "excrement"), possibly under the influence of
the -y- in "shyster." In 19th century British (American too?) cant,
"shise" was used to mean "something worthless (e.g., worthless
merchandise); nothing; worthless; no good."
I saw at least several attestations of it in the 1865 _Leaves From
The Diary of A Celebrated Burglar and Pickpocket_. Here's one example
I have handy; the reference is to a thief's "moll":
(p.63): 'He had striven much to civilize her during the time she had
been with him, but 'twas "no bottle" [G. Cohen: = nothing doing, no
dice]--she couldn't "collar" the idea.  Whatever else she could
"collar" was natural to her, but all the "kid" he could use on her
was, as he said afterwards, "chucked away for 'shise.' 'Twarn't in
the red headed cow."'

    Btw, Partridge's _Dictionary of the Underworld_ presents the
spellings "shise" and "shice."

Gerald Cohen

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