Sanas of the Grifter and the Gimmick

Daniel Cassidy DanCas1 at AOL.COM
Mon Dec 13 04:01:02 UTC 2004

A Grubber, a scrounger   (for suckers and marks)

The Grift unlike the Graft is not driven by politics, but by the  “craving” 
(mianta, desire, lust, craving) of the mark (marc, target) for  the sure thing 
scam at the end of the Grifter’s crooked rainbow. 
HICKEY: (exhortingly): Next? C’mon, Ed. It’s a fine summer’s day  and the 
call of the old circus lot must be in your blood. (Mosher glares at  him, then 
goes to the door...Hickey claps him on the back as he passes)  That’s the 
stuff, Mac.
MOSHER: Goodbye, Harry. (He goes out, turning right  outside.)
MCGLOIN (glowering after him): If that crooked  grifter has the guts — (He 
goes out, turning left  outside...)      (O'Neill, The Iceman  Cometh, p. 685.) 
In Goldin & O’Leary’s American Underworld  Lingo, Grift and Graft are 
“Grift, v. To work any of the less brazen forms of crime;  to live by graft 
and cunning in criminal operations; to operate  as a pickpocket, shoplifter, 
card-sharp, carnival swindler.” 
At the end of the day, a grifter - like a grafter - is a grubber and  
scrounger for moolah (muil oir, piles of gold or money).  “I tell you,  Grubber, 
there ain’t big scores on the grift, but there ain’t no big hits (long  prison 
terms) either...”  (Goldin & O'Leary, American Underworld  Lingo,Underworld 
Slang,  NY, 1950,  p. 87).
Up until the 1960s, the head-grifter in a carnival was called the  “Conducer.”

Conducer, (Carnival). A carnival man who controls the gimmick on the  crooked 
gambling wheels and games of chance. “That conducer has plenty of  grift 
sense (sixth sense of a thief). He feeds out a lot of  come-on (inducement) 
prizes, and the suckers love it.” (Goldin, O’Leary, p.  47).  
Ceann duaiseoir (pron. kan-doozer)
Manager of the prizes  and prize winners. 
Ceann-,  head-, a manager. 
Duaiseoir: (pron. doozher): prize,  prize winner. 
The conducer controls the “gimmick.” The gimmick is the “hook” or trick. 
“ The dicks (detectives) won’t bother the combo (syndicate) in this  tank  
(town). The gimmick is in.” (Goldin & O'Leary, pp. 80-81.)  
Here is gimmick as it’s spelled and defined in Irish dictionaries,  followed 
by its American “slang” definition.
Camog:  A trick, a deceit; a hook; anything crooked; a stick with a  crook;  
anything curved; a device; a catch, a clasp. (see Dineen,  O’Donaill, Dwelly)  
“Gimmick, 1. (Carnival) Any of the various devices to control a gaming  
wheel. Gimmicks may be operated by means of a footboard (see “Ikey Heyman” axle)  
or hidden lever to control the spin of the wheel... The tripod, gaff, or 
gimmick  is always rigged so it can be dismantled at a minute’s notice if police  
investigate. 2. The trick; the catch; the deceptive element, whether concrete 
or  abstract. 3. Any safety attachment on a lock; any gadget that complicates  
matters and confounds the tamperer. 4. Any device or means by which the 
element  of chance is removed and an outcome prearranged: the fix. Gimmick, v. To 
trick;  to cheat; to use any kind of gimmick.” (Goldin & O'Leary, pp 80-81)  
“Gimmick, slang, 1926, American English. A gadget or device for a trick or  
deception. Perhaps, alteration of “gimcrack,” a useless trifle.” (Barnhart, p. 
Gimmick is not in Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology
A Camog (Gimmick) is the opposite of a gimcrack. A gimmick  (camog) is very 
useful. If it's useless, it ain't a gimmick. 
Daniel Cassidy
The Irish Studies Program
New College of California
San Francisco
12.12. 04

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