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Tony Broadbent London
Tony Broadbent London

A Glossary of Underworld Slang

Apples and pears: stairs
Bang to rights: caught red-handed
Beak: magistrate
Bent: crooked
Berk: idiot, or worse (Berkeley Hunt)
Blow: blowing a safe open with explosives
Blitz: The 'Blitz.' period of Nazi bombing of London in WWII
Blower: telephone
Bones: form of skeleton key
Brass: a prostitute, or money
Butchers: to look (butcher's hook)
Cane: a jemmy ('petercane')
Case: to survey, or check out premises prior to burglary.
Century: one hundred; #100
China: close friend; mate (an old china plate)
Chiv: a knife or razor for cutting and slashing, not for stabbing
Claret: blood
Climb/er: usually refers to the act of cat-burgling; or a cat-burglar
Cobblers: a lot of nonsense (cobbler's awls = balls)
Copper: a policeman
Cosh: a club made of lead, or iron, or wood, or hardened leather
Crack: to open a safe
Creep: entering a dwelling by night, quietly, and without noise
Creeper: cat burglar
Dabs: fingerprints
Daisy roots: boots
Dip: refers to a pickpocket
Doddle: anything easy to achieve
Dog and bone: a telephone
Drum: someone's house or flat
Fence: receiver of and/or trader in, stolen property
Fiver: five pounds sterling; #5
Flim: five pounds sterling; #5
Grass: an informer / to inform
Guv'nor: gang boss or senior policeman
Half-a-bar/-sheet: ten shillings
Jargoons: artificial stones
Jam jar: motor car
Larruping: beating about the bush, talking too much
Linens: newspapers (linen drapers)
Loiding: 'loid /celluloid; opening a door catch with a piece of flat celluloid plastic
Manor: the territory of a particular policeman or criminal
Minder: bodyguard, trouble-shooter
Monkey: five hundred pounds sterling; #500
Nancy: homosexual
Nark: an informer
Nerk: an idiot, a yob, a 'Berk'
Nosh: food
Oncers: one pound notes
Old Bill: the police (William Peel; founder of London's police)
Peterman: safebreaker
Plates of meat: feet
Ponce: pimp
Pony: twenty-five quid; #25
Quid: one pound sterling; #1
Rabbit: talk (rabbit and pork)
Rosy Lee: tea
Screwsman: burglar or safe-breaker
Skels: form of skeleton key
Smoke: London ('The Smoke')
Snout: informer; or tobacco
Spieler: gambling club
Strength: information; facts
Strides: a pair of trousers
Stripe: to cut someone's face
Stumm: to stay silent
Swallow: to accept a situation without protest
Tart: prostitute
Tealeaf: thief
Team: a gang of people that regularly work together
Tearaway: small-time criminal, known to be reckless and violent
Tod: on own; alone (Tod Sloane)
Tom: jewellery; also prostitute
Tomfoolery: jewellery
Ton: a hundred
Top: to kill
Tosser: a weak or dubious character
Tooled up: equipped with weapons
Turned over: any premises raided by the police
Turtle doves: gloves
Trouble and strife: wife
Tweedle: theft of jewellery by substituting artificial stones for real stones
Twirl: key, skeleton key
Villain: a crook of some standing
Wilkie Bards: playing cards
Workman: a person employed in a drinking club or spieler


Tony Broadbent