Slang glossary 1962

From a cult novel by old Etonian Robin Cook who later changed his name to Derek Raymond to avoid being confused with schlock novelist Robin 'Coma' Cook. As Raymond his books became very dark and gory but persisted with varieties of slang for which his first book The Crust on Its Uppers (1962) was known. A rich source book of slang, some unique, some well worn and some highly ephemeral. Here is a small selection:

Angst = trouble

Archbishop = Archbishop Laud = fraud

Baize, the = Bayswater Road

Binns= spectacles (dark binns- dark glasses)

Blag= a bluff, a tall story (Fr. 'blague?) Also as verb

Bubble=bubble-and-squeek= Greek (thus Archbubble= ArchGreek or Greek-in-chief)

Cat's-meat gaff= hospital

Charver= to have sex with

Deviator= a crook (devious= crooked; deviation= a crime)

Drum= a room or flat

Duke= duke of Kent= rent

Exes= expenses

44X= extreme, i. e. '44X angst' = big trouble

Gaff= living quarters

Ice-cream= ice-cream freezer= geezerB
John= a john bull= a pull= an arrest

Kettle=  wristwatch

Lamp, to= to look

Linen= linen-draper= newspaper

Manor= the area where one lives and is known

Marching money= small change to get from A to B

Moisher, to= to wander

Moody, to= to persuade someone you hold cards you in fact don't; to bluff, hence a conman's 'story', 'blag' or 'chat' or any 'devious' proposition is described as 'moody' (also as noun and adjective)

Morrie= reverse of Slag

Nishte= nothing

River ooze= booze (more often simply 'the river'

Shickered = broke

Slag= young third-rate grafters, male or female, unwashed, useless

Snap= ampoules of amyl nitrate sewn into cotton-wool pads. They are broken with a sharp sound under the nose and inhaled, whence 'snap'

Tomfoolery= jewellery

Topped= lit. have one's top cut off; hence, to be killed or executed

Trout, be all about= to be on the qui vive

Twirl= a key

Vera= vera lynn= gin

X (pronounced 'ex)= cross, annoyed

[In general criminals cut off the final word of rhyming slang phrases, the object being to confuse casual listeners as to their true meaning. Some words can be intensified e.g. lots of trouble = double X angst. The word 'Morrie' is now seldom heard and was possibly invented by Cook - it signified a good guy, loyal, 'one of us.'

Wikipedia has a lengthy piece on Cook and quotes this passage from the novel:

"Then we sat in silence, watching the scenery whirring past us in the improving light. I was lighting us both a cigarette when he turned to me and said: ‘Sorry if I got cross, morrie.’
‘That’s all right,’ I said.
‘Bit on edge, I suppose.’
It was all very kosher and British.
‘Not surprising,’ I said. ‘It’s been an angstful sort of night.’"]

One thought on “Slang glossary 1962

  1. Unknown

    Cook's slang is always interesting, especially in 'Crust' where he's responsible for the first recorded use to date of around 50 terms out of the 270-odd he includes. (The hard-boiled 'Factory' novels, written as 'Derek Raymond') also have their share.) The most interesting term being 'morrie'. As noted he only defines it as 'the reverse of slag', and applies it positively to his hero and his friends. The etymology remains unknown; and it seems to have been the author's coinage. It is unrecorded elsewhere, although he does use it – as a term of address – in a 1992 piece included in Ian Sinclair's compendium 'London: City of Disappearances' (2006)though that too is set in the late '50s.


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