The Sanas of "On the Lam"

Daniel Cassidy DanCas1 at AOL.COM
Mon Dec 13 03:25:26 UTC 2004

On the lam. 

Léim, al. leum,  
To jump. To fly out. To leap. 
Lam: To flee; to jump bail or parole.
(Goldin & O’Leary, Dictionary of American Underworld  Lingo, NY, 1950, p. 

ERIE: “...these guys I put the bite on is dead wrong G’s, and they  expect 
to be paid back Tuesday, or else I’m outa luck, and have to take it on  the 
lam, or I’ll get beat up and maybe sent to the hospital.”  (Hughie, p. 289)

Lam: n. Slang. On the run, hurried escape, as in take it on  the lam or on 
the lam. 1897, from the verb meaning of run away. Origin  unknown. (The Barnhart 
Dictionary of Etymology, pp. 573-574). 
It is ironic that these so-called underworld “slang" terms  were the literate 
Irish words of early medieval Irish manuscripts  seven hundred years before 
Geoffrey Chaucer had his first spelling lesson. 
Daniel Cassidy
The Irish Studies Program
New College of California
San Francisco

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