Green’s Dictionary of Slang

real thing, the n.

also the real stuff, the real article

1. of people, circumstances or objects, the genuine article.

[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 184: Yet be the real thing or nothing.
[US]D. Crockett in Meine Crockett Almanacks (1955) 76: Wash the whole down with a quart of buttermilk, and you will shortly have a touch of the real thing.
[UK]Sherborne Mercury 3 June 4/6: Now, these sort of interrogators are in Cimmerian darkness as to the real thing.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 213/1: I can generally tell a gentleman’s or lady’s voice, if they’re the real thing.
[UK]Essex Standard 13 Apr. 2/2: The people of Ireland have long had the awful realities of Popery in their midst [...] the real thing, and no pretence whatever.
[UK]Broad Arrow Jack 8: And everybody will know then that he is the real stuff.
[UK]Leicester Chron. 27 Mar. 10/2: She tries to place the cross [...] into the dying patient’s hand, notwithstanding her protest against it as not being ‘the real thing’.
[UK]G.A. Sala in Living London (1883) June 229: Looking perhaps a little too much like the real article.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Colonial Reformer I 231: Ernest, my boy, doesn’t he look and speak like the real thing?
[US]Ade Artie (1963) 81: I tumbled that she was the real stuff the first time I ever see her.
[US]‘Billy Burgundy’ Toothsome Tales Told in Sl. 71: He convinced her that he was the real article.
[US]A. Adams Log Of A Cowboy 237: Now Bob, there, thinks that old hound of his is the real stuff.
[UK]C. Holme Lonely Plough (1931) 150: He’s the real thing, all through.
[UK]E. Poole Harbor (2005) 54: At first I honestly tried to ‘pole,’ to find whether, after all, I couldn’t break through the hard dry crust of books and lectures down into what I called ‘the real stuff’.
[UK]Wodehouse Leave it to Psmith (1993) 371: It read to him like the Real Thing.
[US]S. Lewis Arrowsmith 460: I never expected a rube like young Mart to marry the real bon-ton article.
[UK]Northern Whig 17 Mar. 5/5: From the opening chorus, when the Real Stuff girls appear [...] nothing more needs to be said than that they certainly are the real stuff.
[US]Van Vechten Nigger Heaven 86: He thought you were the article.
[US]C. McKay Home to Harlem 23: I made mine ovah there [... she was] the real stuff, buddy.
[US]Andy Kirk [song title] Until the Real Thing Comes Along.
[US]D. Parker ‘Just a Little One’ in Parker (1943) 67: That’s because they’re made of real stuff.
[UK]R. Llewellyn None But the Lonely Heart 175: It’s the real stuff, be all accounts.
[UK]J. Cary Horse’s Mouth (1948) 138: Have you got a good Morland? A genuine one. I mean the real thing.
[UK]I, Mobster 67: There ain’t nothin’ cheap about her. The real stuff.
[Aus]D. Niland Big Smoke 123: I reckon it must be like the real thing sitting up there where you are.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 31 Jan. in Proud Highway (1997) 436: I have dug into Franz Fanon and I think he is a dead ringer for the real thing.
[US](con. 1930s) R. Wright Lawd Today 101: He’s got the real stuff!
[UK](con. 1940s) O. Manning Battle Lost and Won 323: Pamela and I always knew we would marry. It’s the real thing.
[US]C. White Life and Times of Little Richard 130: I wanted the natural real thing. The real people wanted the real thing.
[US]G. Sikes 8 Ball Chicks (1998) 30: She is the real thing, the most real you will ever get.
[UK]Guardian Guide 4–10 Sept. 28: The Shadows before they went commercial – the real stuff.
[UK]Observer Screen 20 Feb. 7: A lot of those guys are the real thing.

2. (Irish) the finest whisky, often with a suggestion that it has been obtained illicitly; fine brandy.

[UK]R.F. Walond Paddiana I 97: I’ll fill the keg with the first runnings – the raal stuff.
[US]H.B. Stowe Uncle Tom’s Cabin 54: Get us hot water, and sugar, and cigars, and plenty of the real stuff.
[Aus]Mercury (Hubart) 23 Apr. 2/5: [from the Stranraer Free Press] whiskey, the real thing, mountain dew, .
[UK]H. Caine Deemster I 86: It’s the narves, boy, the narves, and a drop of the real stuff is worth a Jew’s eye for studdying a man after a night of it.
[Ire]L. Doyle Ballygullion 179: ‘Supposin’,’ sez he, ‘some av these men tuk the master up the hills a bit, an’ give him a wee keg av the rale stuff.’.
[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 90: This is the real stuff, smuggled from Canada.
[Ire]L. Mackay My Oul’ Town 14: Barney kept the best whisky in town. It was clear as water, no adulteration, min’ ye. No! it was the rale stuff.
[UK]Dundee Eve. Teleg. 17 June 7/5: ‘Was it the Red Biddy you were drinking?’ ‘Oh, no [...] it was the real stuff, beer and whisky’.
[Aus]P. White Tree of Man (1956) 78: ‘Listen,’ said the cove, ‘we got a drop of the real thing underneath the seat.’.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 22 Jan. 20: The Beeb can’t afford the real stuff!

3. (US drugs) heroin.

[US](con. 1948) G. Mandel Flee the Angry Strangers 422: I take dope. Not just marijuana ... I take the real stuff.
Chilliwack Progress (BC) 28 Jan. 19/1: A drug user might say, ‘This is real stuff’.

4. marijuana.

[Ire]J. Morrow Confessions of Proinsias O’Toole 30: My own theory is that someone had doctored his Golden Virginia with the real stuff and sent him on a trip.