Green’s Dictionary of Slang

can v.

1. to stop doing something; esp. in imper., e.g. can that noise! [fig. ‘place it in a can’].

[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 187: ‘Can that line o’ comedy,’ shouted Miss Gray.
[US]G. Bronson-Howard Enemy to Society 237: Can all this business, marry your little lady, and settle down.
[US]N. Putnam West Broadway 103: ‘I did think of it, but I canned the thought’.
[UK](con. WW1) P. MacDonald Patrol 85: ‘So can it, Israel! ’F yer must spout, do it in yer tit-fer’.
[US]W. Edge Main Stem 83: Aw, can your fairy story, Jack.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 565: ‘Can that wise stuff before you get your puss slapped!’ Studs barked.
[US]C.B. Davis Rebellion of Leo McGuire (1953) 240: Then it was lights out and we had to can the chatter.
[US]C. Himes Real Cool Killers (1969) 67: Can that talk.
[US]P. Crump Burn, Killer, Burn! 68: Oh, can that crap, you’re breaking my heart.
[US](con. 1917–18) H. Berry Make the Kaiser Dance 54: ‘Oh come on, Jim,’ I answered, ‘can that crap, you know it’s bad luck.’.
[UK]A. Sayle Train to Hell 67: You can just can this ‘together’ shit, Jack!
[Aus]G. Disher Paydirt [ebook] ‘Can it, Tobin,’ Snyder said.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. Rev. 24 Oct. 25: I’m sure he’ll go down a storm. As long as he cans his constipation gag.
D. Shaw ‘Dead Beard’ at 🌐 Monica is getting impatient as she fiddles with the camera so I can the natter and give Dionne a lot more of what’s coming her way.
[US]E. Weiner Big Boat to Bye-Bye 173: ‘Can the rebop, fuckwad’.
[US]F. Bill Donnybrook [ebook] ‘Can the lip, bitch’.
[Scot]A. Parks February’s Son 54: ‘Stevie, I—’ ‘Can it. You’re forgiven’.
[US](con. 1962) J. Ellroy Enchanters 112: Okay — she’s dead. Can the boo-hoo.

2. (orig. US) to reject, to abandon, to discard, to dismiss from a job, to throw out, to ignore [toss out on one’s can n.1 (1b)].

[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 44: Better dig up that little girl you used to work with, and can this thing you got.
[US]R. Lardner ‘Harmony’ in Coll. Short Stories (1941) 196: He thought surely the kid would of been canned durin’ the winter. [Ibid.] ‘Champion’ 117: His mother canned him out o’ the house for bein’ no good.
[US]R.J. Fry Salvation of Jemmy Sl. I i: If I get fired here, I’m sure enough goin’ to get canned there!
[US]R. Chandler ‘The King in Yellow’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 56: ‘Can you think of anything else I should like to say to you?’ ‘Yeah. I’m canned,’ Steve said mirthlessly. ‘Very correct.’.
[US]J.K. Butler ‘Saint in Silver’ in Goulart (1967) 60: He’d canned me once for [...] a black eye.
[US]W.P. McGivern Big Heat 159: They might can a cop for butting into it, but not an Inspector.
[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 82: He was afraid of getting canned.
[US](con. 1960s) R. Price Wanderers 74: If he let one more faulty skate go past him again he’d be canned.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 43: ‘How come you quit the police force?’ ‘They were about to can me.’.
[US]B. Hamper Rivethead (1992) 3: Each time the suds would devour his sense of duty, he’d get canned or simply quit.
[US]J. Stahl Plainclothes Naked (2002) 125: The one who nearly got me canned with her little exposé.
[Scot]T. Black Gutted 86: Jonny gets canned, you get more time to find Fulton’s killer .
[US]C. Hiaasen Nature Girl 20: I got canned.
[Scot]L. McIlvanney All the Colours 17: ‘It’s not your arse he’ll be canning’.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 188: Now you can have me canned, you want.
[Scot]A. Parks Bloody January 104: ‘Dunlop, the Super, Personnel. Every one of them wanted you canned’.
[UK]M. Herron Joe Country [ebook] ‘[T]hat won’t help him if I call him upstairs now and can him’.
[US]C.D. Rosales Word Is Bone [ebook] She’d begun rolling her cage down in the eighth, then the seventh, finally the sixth, before I got canned.
[US](con. 1991-94) W. Boyle City of Margins 195: ‘Don’t miss school again, huh? Last thing you need is to get canned’.

3. (US) to put in prison; to lock up [can n.1 (4c)].

[US]J. Lait ‘Omaha Slim’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 122: I was docked an’ canned.
[US]W.Y. Stephenson At the Front in a Flivver 27 Mar. 🌐 We were all ‘canned’ [i.e. deprived of leave] for the day because so many were late for roll-call (8.30) [...] instead of being permitted the usual afternoon passes, we were all told that we’d have to remain in until 7.30.
[US]Amer. Mercury Jan. 65/2: I got canned for selling wob papers [DA].
[US]M. Gilbert Environment in Hatch & Hamalian Lost Plays of Harlem Renaissance (1996) II ii: I guess you know Rosa Lee’s canned.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 130: The ‘hot seat’ is the lesser punishment than being ‘canned in a golf suit’ (wearing convict dress).
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 194: Why did Harry get canned by the D.A.?
[US]H. Ellison ‘Made in Heaven’ in Deadly Streets (1983) 183: Soon as Corks moved out or was canned, Torchy was in line for prez.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]J. Langone Life at the Bottom 192: We canned him for three days.
[UK]M. Amis London Fields 181: Thelonius is a joke criminal anyway, riding a farcical lucky streak. What if it all goes wrong, which it will? Keith canned.
[US]L. Stavsky et al. A2Z 17/2: can – 1. v. [...] It’s messed up when they can your man.
X 25 Jan. 🌐 Russian nationalist Ivor Gherkin canned for four years.

4. (US) to have anal sex with; note cit. 1949 is listed as a noun but refers to the past participle [can n.1 (1b)].

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 49: canned [N] A sodomite; one having sexual connection by the anus.

5. (US black/drugs) to package heroin for sale [SE can or ? link to can n.1 (5)].

[US] ‘Sl. of Watts’ in Current Sl. III:2.

In phrases

can it (v.) (orig. US)

1. to stop, esp. to stop talking; usu. in excl. can it!, shut up!

[US]S. Ford Trying Out Torchy 15: ‘Ah, can it!’ says I. ‘Humorous stuff like that’s too good to waste on me’.
[US]E. O’Neill Hairy Ape VI: Aw, can it. He’s a regular guy.
[US](con. 1918) J. Stevens Mattock 247: ‘Can it!’ ordered Sergeant Shevlin, grabbing for Funke’s arm.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Blackmailers Don’t Shoot’ in Red Wind (1946) 88: Can it. You’re not funny.
[UK]N. Marsh Death in Ecstasy 31: Can it, Pringle.
[US]F. Brown Fabulous Clipjoint (1949) 65: ‘Can it,’ I said.
[US]M. Spillane One Lonely Night 127: That’s not funny, pal. Can it!
[US]E. Hunter ‘Vicious Circle’ in Jungle Kids (1967) 30: ‘Oh, can it and sell it,’ I told her.
[US](con. 1950) E. Frankel Band of Brothers 103: Can it! Stow it! Blow it!
[US]M. Spillane Return of the Hood 59: Can it, Lisa.
[US]E. Thompson Garden of Sand (1981) 330: He wanted to tug her skirt and tell her to can it.
[US](con. 1969–70) D. Bodey F.N.G. (1988) 172: ‘Pops, you’re a good grunt. It’s gonna be different without you.’ ‘Can it, man.’.
[US](con. 1949) G. Pelecanos Big Blowdown (1999) 151: Can it.
[US](con. 1964–8) J. Ellroy Cold Six Thousand 204: Can it, all right? I’ve had dead women up to here.

2. to reject or give up.

[US](con. 1910s) J.T. Farrell Young Lonigan in Studs Lonigan (1936) 96: He [...] didn’t mind doing that, but canned it, because the ladders were for young squirts.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 186: If you’re figurin’ on eatin’ me you can can that shit.
[US]Current Sl. VI 2: Can it, v. To quit or cancel something.