Green’s Dictionary of Slang

soft adj.

1. stupid, dull, foolish; also in compar. phr. soft as shite.

[UK]J. Tatham Rump I i: bertlam: True he’s but of a softly Nature. lockwhite: A fine Commendation for a General, that should be rough as Warre it self, but he has a soft place in his head too, and that’s worse, how ever he’s a fit Subject for your purpose [...] fools are soon perswaded.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Soft Foolish.
[UK]Sporting Mag. May XX 119/1: Like a lubber so raw, and so soft, / Half a george handed out, at the change did not look.
[UK]‘A. Burton’ Adventures of Johnny Newcome II 67: He who oft Will lend, at Sea, is reckon’d soft.
[UK] ‘Shadrack, The Orangeman’ Universal Songster I 27: He cries out – dere’s a soft spoon – look at him.
[UK]Paul Pry 29 Jan. 3/1: On the whole, we consider the Handsome Man to be rayther soft, and we hope his better-half will closely watch his movements.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
[US]‘Artemus Ward’ Artemus Ward, His Book 196: We should indeed be weak in the knees, unsound in the heart, milk-white in the liver, and soft in the hed, if we stood quietly by and saw this glorus Govyment smashed to pieces.
[UK]Besant & Rice Son of a Vulcan I 192: It was a pleasure to gammon the Chaplain—he was that soft.
[NZ]N.Z. Observer (Auckland) 15 Jan. 1692: The latter was a rather ‘soft’ youth, and [...] the pair resolved to have some fun at his expense.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 24 Jan. 6/2: Launcelot’s screed is some of the ‘softest’ copy we have struck. We really advise the little man to ‘keep his hair on.’.
[UK]Lancs. Eve. Post 22 June 1/7: ‘Soft Tommy’, a well-known character.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Jones’s Alley’ in Roderick (1972) 40: Now, don’t be soft, Mrs Aspinall.
[UK]Sporting Times 5 May 1/5: ‘Try and find me something more suited to my head?’ ‘Er—d’ye mean a soft ’at, sir?’.
[UK]N. Douglas London Street Games 21: You go up to a soft boy and say ‘Let’s have a game of Deliver up those Golden Jewels and you shall be judge’.
[UK]P. Marks Plastic Age 68: Perhaps he was just soft and some of the fellows were n’t as crude as he thought they were.
[UK]J. Curtis Gilt Kid 94: Proper soft I call it to take unnecessary risks.
[Aus]D. Stivens Courtship of Uncle Henry 29: You’re getting soft. Don’t tell me you’re getting soft.
[UK]J. Arden Live Like Pigs Act III: I’ve done ever such a soft thing, I went out to work this morning and left my key behind.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 57: I was green all right and twice as soft.
[UK]N. Smith Gumshoe (1998) 34: That guy’s got more excuses for not wearing his teeth than soft Mick.
[UK]J. McClure Spike Island (1981) 355: A good-class fella doesn’t act soft like that — it’s a pleasure to deal with ’em.
[UK]V. Headley Yardie 78: She kindda saaf, but she looks after me good.
[UK]N. Griffiths Stump 61: Yerra fuckin soft twat.
[US]C. Eble (ed.) UNC-CH Campus Sl. Spring 2014 13: SOFT — weak, boring, unimpressive: ‘Kathy never goes out drinking with us. She always claims she needs to study or sleep. She’s so soft.’.

2. (US campus) partially or totally intoxicated by drink or drugs.

[US]B. Franklin ‘Drinkers Dict.’ in Pennsylvania Gazette 6 Jan. in AS XII:2 92: They come to be well understood to signify plainly that A MAN IS DRUNK. [...] Soft.
[US]C. McKay Banjo 9: They stopped there, drinking until twilight. Ginger and Dengel became so staggeringly soft that they decided to go back to the box car and sleep.

3. overly kind, easily imposed upon; insufficiently ruthless; vulnerable.

[UK]B.H. Malkin (trans.) Adventures of Gil Blas (1822) I 42: You are young, and seem a little soft; you would have a fine kettle of fish of it in the busy world.
[UK]Dickens Pickwick Papers (1999) 220: You’re a soft customer, you are.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. V 80: You’ll soon be like all the rest – for all your preaching and soft talk now!
[UK]H. Kingsley Recollections of G. Hamlyn (1891) 83: So I send this present by his groom, Sam; a good young chap, which I have known since he was so high, and like well, only that he is soft, which is not to his disadvantage.
[US]J.F. Brobst letter in Brobst Well Mary, Civil War Letters 45: I have written her some mighty soft letters [...] lovesick ones.
[Ire]C.J. Kickham Knocknagow 373: Mat is a soft soart of a fellow.
[UK]H. Nisbet Bushranger’s Sweetheart 119: As long as the governor don’t break down, or turn soft.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘The Harbinger’ in Voice of the City (1915) 56: I hadn’t any idea the old girl was soft any more under the foolish rib.
[US]G. Bronson-Howard Enemy to Society 149: Pretty soft for you, George, who never took a chance in your life, to be mixed up with a regular king of crooks.
[US]C. McKay Home to Harlem 272: Lawdy in heaben! A li’l’ foreign booze gwine turn you all soft?
[US]R. Chandler ‘Guns At Cyrano’s’ in Red Wind (1946) 202: Good old Ted. He leaks dough. He’s soft. Just ask Ted.
[Aus]K. Tennant Battlers 24: There are only two kinds of sergeants in the mid-west: the ‘soft’ variety, who will listen to a man’s tale of woe and let him stay in a town more than a fortnight, and the ‘tough’ variety, whose chief joy is to ‘hunt’ bagmen, swagmen, sundowners, hoboes, or whatever their local appellation may be.
[UK]G. Kersh Fowlers End (2001) 4: It’s not their fault. It’s the capitalistic system—too soft with the bastards.
[Aus](con. 1944) L. Glassop Rats in New Guinea 18: Too much of the lounge lizard, Rudolph Valentino type. Soft, no virility.
[WI]S. Naipaul Fireflies 82: You does be too soft with them. I go do him good and proper.
[US](con. 1960s) D. Goines Black Gangster (1991) 148: You big baby, he told himself, you’re just too soft.
[UK]T. Wilkinson Down and Out 94: Your man looks soft, but he’s hard, bloody hard.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 271: He’d told her harsh was better than soft.
[US]T. Udo Vatican Bloodbath 34: Saft on papacy, the cunt is. Fuckin’ traiter tae the Protestant cause.

4. easy, comfortable, requiring no effort.

implied in soft thing n. (2)
[US](con. c.1840) ‘Mark Twain’ Huckleberry Finn 362: He let on to be Sid, and made things as soft as he could for me.
[US]F. Hutcheson Barkeep Stories 40: [He] has been tellin’ ev’ybody ever since how soft eatin’s was den, an how. he gains t’irty pounds on de trip.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 3 Aug. 692: Whatever you do, take things easily [...] for it’s as soft a game as you’ll have this season!
[US]F. Hutchison Philosophy of Johnny the Gent 13: ‘[D]on’t let anybody tell you it’s soft cuttin’ out the grog after you’ve had your hide half full for a couple o’ weeks’.
[US]T.A. Dorgan ‘Daffydills’ in El Paso Herald (TX) 8 Sept. 8: Gee I cant help getting soft jobs.
[NZ]‘Anzac’ On the Anzac Trail 103: But our chaps could never understand why an active man of military age and training should remain permanently on a soft town job [...] instead of going on active service.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper XL 1 22: I thought we’d got a soft job on.
[US]Van Vechten Nigger Heaven 196: Pretty soft for Howard, he remarked bitterly. Pretty soft.
[US]A.J. Liebling ‘The Jollity Building’ in Just Enough Liebling (2004) 257: The promoters, the fellows who are always trying to earn, in the local idiom, a soft dollar.
[US] in E. Cray Erotic Muse (1992) 403: He went up to London and straightaway strode / To army headquarters on Horseferry Road / To see all the blodgers who dodge all the straff / By getting soft jobs on the headquarters staff.
[US]W. Winchell ‘On Broadway’ 12 Apr. [synd. col.] One of the world’s softest rackets is being an Axis propagandist in Tokyo.
[US](con. 1944) N. Mailer Naked and Dead 368: I had a pretty soft time there.
[US]‘Blackie’ Audett Rap Sheet 22: I’d lost my soft job with the colonel.
[UK]R. Rendell Best Man To Die (1981) 131: She was going to have it soft.
[US]E. Bunker Animal Factory 78: They’d offered him a soft deal if he cooperated and were enraged when he’d refused.
[UK]R. Dahl Revolting Rhymes n.p.: And made to sound all soft and sappy / Just to keep the children happy.
[UK]J. Cameron Vinnie Got Blown Away 111: I looked up other sources of income like I say. Softest I ever had was up west down Leicester Square.

5. usu. constr. with on, attracted to, in love with.

[Aus]Hamilton Spectator (Vic.) 7 Jan. 2/1: Instead of falling in love [a young man] gets ‘soft’ or ‘sweet’ or ’spooney’.
[Aus]J. Furphy Buln-Buln and the Brolga (1948) Ch. i: [Internet] You’re welcome to get soft on a girl, and make an idol of her and an ass of yourself – and what does she care?
[US]W. Brown Teen-Age Mafia 82: He must be losing his marbles, going soft on a twist like this.

6. (US campus) weak, timid, not able to defend oneself.

[US]Flynt & Walton Powers That Prey 188: I ain’t turnin’ soft an’ kickin’ ’bout goin’ to the chair: not me!
[UK]J. Curtis There Ain’t No Justice 36: What’s a bloke want to be a fighter for, if he can’t take a bit of punishment? Soft.
[US]W.P. McGivern Big Heat 157: You tell me some rough characters are going to walk in and knock off a four-year-old kid, and that I’m too soft to stand up to ’em.

7. (W.I. Rasta, also soff) unable to cope, impoverished.

[UK]R. Hewitt White Talk Black Talk 129: Soff – weak, ineffective.
‘Patois Dict.’ www.dancehallareaz.com [Internet].

8. (W.I. Rasta) not well done, amateurish.

‘Patois Dict.’ www.dancehallareaz.com [Internet].

9. (W.I. Rasta) effeminate, homosexual; thus softman n.

[UK]R. Antoni Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales 77: They wanted to know what do we mean to say the Syrian was an old buller? Well Mrs Carmichael smiled and she said Mary, and I [...] said jump-over-the-fence, and Mrs Carmichael said softman, and I said borrow-the-Bishop’s crosier.

In compounds

soft ha’porth (n.) (also daft ha’porth)

a weakling, a simpleton.

F. Tilsley Champion Road 274: ‘Go on, you soft ha’porth!’ ‘You needn’t think you’re going to get a new dress,’ said Nellie.
B. Naughton My Flesh, My Blood (1973) 41: Yes – you great soft ha’porth – if you’d had enough guts you’d have stood up to him before this.
Dly Mirror (London) 9 Dec. 11/3: ‘The troops used to ascream at us, “Gerrof you daft ha’porth”’.
M. Wiggin Faces at the Window 102: I changed instantly from the mildest, most easy-going soft ha’porth on the domestic scene into a spitting, scratching and clawing jungle creature.
M. Hardwick Duchess of Duke Street 86: ‘I was afraid to come in.’ ‘You daft ha’porth,’ Louisa said.
[UK]Liverpool Echo 1 Mar. 5/1: ‘e can walk, you daft ha’porth’.
K. Fenton Lions and Liquorice 276: Oh get away with you, you soft ha’porth, you’ve made me spill my drink.
[UK]Guardian 16 Feb. 18: Put on your anorak, Frank, you daft ha’porth.
softhead (n.)

a fool, a stupid person.

‘Whipping-Tom’ A Knave’s Last Will and Testament III 37: I Give to the aforesaid ’Squire Softhead, as an acknowledgement of my Friendship to him [...] a Silken Halter with an easy Knot.
Belfast Commercial Chron. 12 Apr. 3/2: Dominque, (a deserter, possessed of a soft head).
[UK]Oxford Jrnl 24 May 2/3: Mr Shadowly Softhead [...] his admirer and imitator, a foolish young man of fashion.
J.W. Spaulding in Weekly Oregonian 23 Dec. n.p.: Old Mrs Peabody was allers a dreadful high-falutin critter, with stuck-up notions and old P. wos a soft head.
[UK]Dickens Great Expectations (1992) 159: Spooney! [...] Soft Head!
[UK]Sheffield Indep. 21 June 2/6: The Softhead Family [...] My Uncle Johnny and my Aunt Martha (Mrs Softhead) are gone to the seaside.
[UK]Gloucs. Citizen 26 Jan. 4/4: Billy Bumpkin, Sammy Softhead [...] figure among the cast of mortals.
[UK]Leeds Times (Yorks.) 19 Oct. 7/6: Soft Answer to a Soft Head.
[UK]Eve. Teleg. 31 Mar. 7/2: Little Ethel — ‘My sister Maude loves you very dearly, Mr Softhead’.
[UK]Sunderland Dly Echo 10 Feb. 4/1: Softhead, I thought you told me you ghad a scheme to elope with old Moneybag’s daughter last night?
[UK]Marvel 7 Aug. 6: I wonder at a pretty girl like Clara allowing such a soft-head to kiss her!
soft-headed (adj.) (also softhead)

foolish, stupid.

[UK]R. L’Estrange Supplement of Fables (1692) CCCCLI 424: Some Soft-headed, Conscientious Fop might have Swallow’d it.
[US]R. Waln Hermit in America on Visit to Phila. 188: There is generally some ‘soft-headed’ character ready to deliver the prologue to the play.
[UK] ‘Prologue’ Bentley’s Misc. Jan. 3: Have not you advertised yourselves as wits, and can you escape from the soft-headed impeachment?
[US]J.M. Field Drama in Pokerville 40: A phiz-battered, soft-headed, gizzard-tickled old die-away.
[Ire] ‘The Fine Ould Irish Gintleman’ in Irish Songster 27: When sich mighty fine stuff as that is goin about, says he, you don’t think I’d be such a soft-headed fool as to be dead.
[UK]Era (London) 15 Jan. 9/2: Betwixt these two ranks are some strong-minded women and soft-headed men.
[US]G.P. Burnham Memoirs of the US Secret Service 417: Many of the soft-headed or weak-minded young men.
[UK]R.L. Stevenson Treasure Island 240: What soft-headed lubber had a Bible?
Plain Speaker (Hazelton PA) 17 Feb. 2/1: The soft-head Democrat [...] went out of his way last evening to offer an insul to every Democrat.
[UK]E. Pugh Man of Straw 102: I always was a bit soft-hearted – call it ‘soft-headed,’ if you like.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘Barter’ Sporting Times 1 Feb. 1/3: Although a thousand quid might well tempt any married party / To hand over to another her worse half, / Where’s the addle-pated female, so soft-headed and soft-hearty / As to make so rash an offer, e’en in chaff?
[UK]Marvel 7 Aug. 9: He is soft-headed.
[US]Z.N. Hurston Bone of Contention (1995) 973: Well, anyhow we dont lie an’ steal an’ git run outa town lak de softhead Meth’dis niggahs.
[US]A.I. Bezzerides Long Haul 62: Jesus, for a tough guy, you’re sure soft-headed.
[Aus]R. Park Poor Man’s Orange 104: ‘Tell you what, Bumper,’ he said, beginning to feel dazed again, in a soft-headed, happy way.
[US]E. Thompson Garden of Sand (1981) 403: He did it at least once a day. Would that make him soft-headed?
soft snap (n.)

something easy.

[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 18 Nov. 6/2: [This] does not, however, deter them from betting ‘fast and furious’ when they believe they are in possession of what they term a ‘soft snap’.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 20 Mar. 8/2: One of the curses of Melbourne is the old bugs who hang on to all the boss directorships going [...] There should be an age limit to those soft snaps.
[US]H. Hapgood Types From City Streets 316: Moll-buzzers like me had a soft snap of it, for women kept their leathers in a big open pocket in the back of their dresses.
[UK]Wodehouse Carry on, Jeeves 28: A great many fellows think that having a rich uncle is a pretty soft snap.
soft stuff (n.)

1. (US Und.) paper money, notes [var. on soft money n. (1)].

[US]Cincinnati Enquirer (OH) 21 Jan. 10/2: Baur swore that he bought $320 worth of [counterfeit] soft stuff (paper money) from me.
[US]Anaconda Standard (MO) 23 Sept. 5/3: Every bloke in de country has six plunks in gold [...] and enough in the soft stuff.
[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 172: The ‘box’ was open and I saw a stack of ‘soft stuff’ (paper money).

2. (orig, US) ‘soft’, i.e. non-alcoholic or weak drinks.

Times (Philadelphia, PA) 7 July 4/2: Soda Water Topers / Regular Customers of the Fountains — / ‘Soft Stuff’ Hurting the Saloons.
Philadelphia Inqurer (PA) 16 May 5/1: ‘People who drink soft stuff won’t drink liquor’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 10 Nov. 12/3: Manager Musgrove [...] has a magnificent reputation for donations of beer and sandwiches and ‘soft stuff’ among the sore-throat chorus-singers at tedious times of late rehearsal.
[US]Boston Globe (MA) 23 May 16/3: [headline] ‘Soft Stuff ’ Only to Drink [...] at the Harvard Union.
News Herald (ranklin, PA) 7 Sept. 7/1: Looking for places to eat [...] and soft stuff to drink.
Arizona Reoublic (Phoenix, AZ) 31 Dec. 3/7: [advert] At the the Rose Tree [...] there is ham and beef and cheeses. And some good ‘soft stuff’ to drink.
[Aus]‘William Hatfield’ Ginger Murdoch 259: I only want a pint or two of soft stuff, a beer or two.
Port Angeles Eve. News (WA) 31 Mar. 3/5: That’s soft stuff he drinks when he’s out [...] lining up support.

3. (drugs) ‘soft’ drugs, e.g. cannabis, amphetamines rather than narcotics [stuff n. (5)].

[US]J. Rechy City of Night 232: Junk is pushed here — usually soft stuff: marijuana, pills — but you can also score for hard.
soft teat (n.)

(US) an easy job.

[US](con. 1950s) McAleer & Dickson Unit Pride (1981) 239: What a nice soft teat he’s got [...] Flyin’ us poor bastards back and forth. No fightin’.
soft tommy (n.)

(UK tramp) a gullible person.

[UK]Hants Advertiser 20 Jan. 6/2: Any tramper arriving in town can be supplied with a list [...] of the best squares and streets as well as such of the inhabitants as are known to be ‘soft tommys’ — always for a consideration.
Ormskirk Advertiser 11 Mar. 2/7: Nothing can be more [...] contemptuous than the estimate which the beggar forms of the giver, to whom they apply the sobriquet of ‘soft Tommy’.

In phrases

in soft

(US) enjoying a comfortable situation.

[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 48: What are you crying about you boob — If I ever got in that soft I’d laugh myself to death.
soft in the head (adj.) (also soft in the brain, cocoanut, …nut, …upper story)

stupid, poss. insane.

[[UK]J. Ray Proverbs 193: To have a soft place in ones head].
Bristol Mirror 19 May 4/1: To a lady Accusing the Author with having a Soft Head / You tell dear girl, that my head / Is as soft as infantile pap; / And brains, if I had any / Have been running, long since — into sap.
[US]‘Jonathan Slick’ High Life in N.Y. I 175: You must be soft in the upper story if you don’t see that the first giffy.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 11 Jul. 24/1: We decided to judge no more by pellets. We would examine the full charge of his mitrailleuse. We would ascertain whether it was we or some others who were soft in the brain.
Dundee People’s Jrnl 19 Mar. 5/2: Jamie D—, who is said to be a little soft in the upper storey.
[UK]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 25 Nov. 3/3: Innumerable and curious euphemisms for ‘mad’ [...] ‘balmy in the crumpet’, [...] ‘a tile loose,’ ‘soft in the cocoa-nut,’ ‘off his rocker,’ ‘off his nut,’ ‘off his chump’ [and] ‘a little bit off the top’.
[US]W.M. Raine Bucky O’Connor (1910) 74: I’m surely plumb locoed, or else gone soft in the haid.
Bedfordd Record 24 Mar. 4/5: Anypone with a soft place in the upper storey might easily take it in.
[UK]Northern Whig 14 Mar. 11/3: ‘Noodle’ didn’t mean that he was what the boys called ‘soft in the upper storey’.
[US] (ref. to late 19C) N. Kimball Amer. Madam (1981) 31: I was never mushy or soft in the head about things.
[US]W. Smith Bessie Cotter 207: Some day I may get soft enough in the head to pick up some loafing gutter-snipe for a pea-eye.
[Aus]Worker (Brisbane) 7 Sept.. 14/3: A woman who had growed to dislike her man [...] went soft-like in the head.
[US]I. Shulman Amboy Dukes 27: Crazy [...] was a little soft in the head.
[UK]I. Fleming Diamonds Are Forever (1958) 76: They gave him the cure in San Q, but it’s left him a bit soft in the head.
[UK]T. Keyes All Night Stand 157: And if you ask me, he was a bit soft in the head.
[US](con. 1949) J.G. Dunne True Confessions (1979) 159: They get forgetful when they’re soft in the head.
[US](con. c.1970) G. Hasford Phantom Blooper 139: The Nguyen brothers bow to the ancestral altar, and to the elder Phuong, who bows and grins and seems a little soft in the head.
[UK]Guardian Editor 5 Nov. 5: The News of the World expressed concern that Vinnie Jones ‘has gone soft in the nut’.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

soft ass

see separate entries.

softball (adj.)

see separate entry.

soft clothes (adj.)

(US) wearing civilian clothes, plain-clothes; thus soft-clothesman, a plain-clothes detective.

[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 8: A hundred patrolmen, wagon men and soft-clothes aces have come and gone.
[US]N. Algren Little Lester’ in Entrapment (2009) 95: Hovering behind the soft-clothesman, a newspaper man [...] edged to the bars and gave Lester a cigarette.
L. O’Connor Reporter in Sweet Chicago 261: It had taken me a long time to cultivate the trust of any of the soft-clothes guys who worked out of the dreary South State Street building.
(n.)

(Aus.) a weakling, lit. one who is impotent.

[US]People (Sydney) 5 July 18/1: Devised by an ex-Grenadier Guard to sort the men from the soft cocks, the kick-arse event has been running for the past 12 years.
[Aus]L. Redhead Cherry Pie [ebook] ‘Don, the owner, had got wind and rang to call me a soft cock for not doing anything about it’.
softcore (adj.) [on model of SE softcore pornography, titillating but not legally ‘obscene’]

(orig. US) mild, not extreme.

[[Can]Maclean’s (Toronto) July 58: It is soft-core pornography which represents the true degradation of sex].
[UK]N. Griffiths Grits 343: Cocaine [is] a wimpy, soft-core drug.
soft gut (n.)

(US) something unexceptional.

[US]‘A-No. 1’ Snare of the Road 101: Blimey, fellow, this ain’t nothing to what we expects right after Christmas, and them blizzards is only soft gut compared with the fierce weather that blows along about end of February.
soft horn/-horned

see separate entries.

soft-mash (n.) (also soft-shoes) [SE mash, to crush]

(W.I.) a pair of rubber-soled, canvas sneakers.

[US]Nation (Bridgetown) 2 May 1: Despite having brown shoes some children deliberately [...] wore to school soft shoes.
[WI]Allsopp Dict. Carib. Eng. Usage 517/2: soft-mash [...] ‘a pair of sneakers’.
soft money (n.)

see separate entry.

soft pedal (v.) (also keep one’s feet on the soft pedal, put on the soft pedal, put the soft pedal on, work the soft pedal, soft-peddle) [piano imagery]

to play down, to diminish, to keep a low profile, to act in a restrained manner; thus soft-pedalling n and attrib.

[US]Ade Fables in Sl. (1902) 124: He didn’t [...] work the Soft Pedal when he had a chance to apply a Crimp to some Widow who had seen Better Days.
[US]A.H. Lewis Boss 15: A night in the jug will put the soft pedal on that mouth of yours.
[US]N.Y. Tribune 18 Sept. 6/2: Say, they’d started up a couple of conversations on their own hook [...] soft-pedal dialogues.
[US]Van Loan ‘The Bone Doctor’ in Score by Innings (2004) 361: I told him what I thought about Jones [...] and I didn’t put the soft pedal on, either.
[US]O.R. Cohen Midnight 15: ‘Soft-pedal the blarney,’ grinned Carroll.
[US]O.O. McIntyre New York Day by Day 22 Jan. [synd. col.] In contrast to the musical show’s flair for nudity, burlesque puts on the soft pedal.
[Aus]K.S. Prichard Haxby’s Circus 86: Charley soft-pedals Bruiser out of all the shindies.
[US]J.T. Farrell Gas-House McGinty 337: Just keep your feet on the soft pedal. No noise! [...] Put the damper on. Jesus, I don’t want the neighbors thinkin’ I’m pigpen Irish.
Scotsman 29 July 14/6: The German Press is now to some extent ‘soft pedalling’ the outstanding dispute between the Reich and Poland.
Scotsman 19 Mar. 6/1: [headline] Criticism of ‘Soft Pedal’ Broadcasts to Germany.
[UK]N. Nye Breed of the Chaparral (1949) 13: If there’s trouble loose here soft-pedalling won’t stop it.
[Aus]G. Hamilton Summer Glare 171: Both Tommy’s uncle and aunt were soft-pedalling the truth.
[UK](con. 1940s) G. Morrill Dark Sea Running 11: Soft-pedal literatoor, poetry, and that crap.
[UK]Birmingham Dly Post 28 Sept. 28/7: It was time that the policy of ‘soft pedalling’ on Civil Defence [...] was changed.
[US]B. Malamud Tenants (1972) 61: Should I do it – say what I think, or less? – soft-pedal maybe.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) H. Huncke ‘Johnnie I’ in Eve. Sun Turned Crimson (1998) 117: You guys should soft peddle a little — you don’t know who is riding the Erie.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 300: Those same two detectives [...] overheard you urging Ellis Loew to soft-pedal the Hudgens investigation.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 16 July 7: It would have been easy to try to soft pedal the loudly expressed views of women.
soft-roed (adj.) [SE soft roe, the sperm of a male fish]

kind-hearted; weak.

[UK]Taunton Courier 3 Apr. 5/2: ‘Soft roed’ is hardly the description for these men. They are gulls from voracity —from their voracity to snatch at any morsels of popular or vulgar applause.
[UK]Derby Dly Teleg. 15 Oct. 4/4: ‘Hard hearted? Not a cent’s worth [...] he’s an uncommon dear little soft-roed bloater’.
[UK]G.M. Fenn Sappers and Miners 38: Nice pair o’ soft-roed ’uns you two are! Why, you aren’t got no more muscle than a pair o’ jelly-fishes.
soft sawder/-sawderer

see separate entries.

soft-shoe (adj.)

surreptitious, duplicitous; thus get the old soft-shoe v., to be treated duplicitously.

[US]Ade Girl Proposition 58: Homer stood around on one Foot for a while, waiting for an Opening, and then he did a soft-shoe Sneak and swore that he would Forget her.
[US]B. Schulberg Harder They Fall (1971) 63: Nick Latka, post-graduate hoodlum, soft-shoe racketeer and country gentleman.
[US]G. Swarthout Where the Boys Are 139: No! [...] Not again! No one will ever spring that old soft-shoe on me again!
[US]G. Swarthout Skeletons 156: I talked to him before, and got the old soft-shoe.
[UK]M. Collins Keepers of Truth 268: He was pulling this Fifties lingo bullshit with me, this soft-shoe approach.
soft soap

see separate entries.

soft spot (n.)

1. a feeling of kindness, sympathy.

[US]J.J. Hooper Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs (1851) 12: He possesses, in an eminent degree, that tact which enables man to detect the soft spots in his fellow.
[US]McClure’s Mag. Dec. 152: [Platt’s] delight in music still remains the soft spot which he turns to humanity [DA].
[UK]Nottingham Eve. Post 7 Nov. 1/4: There is no soft spot in the Unired States [...] The cry goes up [...] to smash Germany.
[US]E. Dahlberg Bottom Dogs 225: Of all the kids, Jeremy had a soft spot for Sarah.
[UK]D.L. Sayers Busman’s Honeymoon (1974) 74: I ’ave, as you might say, a soft spot for chimneys, ’avin’ been brought up in ’em, like.
[UK]C. Day Lewis Otterbury Incident 93: I suppose I’ve got a soft spot for Beauty in Distress.
[US]J. Jones From Here to Eternity (1998) 781: I’ve always had a soft spot for crazy sons of bitches.
[UK]D. Nobbs Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976) 266: Linda had always had a soft spot for Jimmy.
[UK](con. 1950s–60s) in G. Tremlett Little Legs 69: She always had a soft spot for me.
[UK]A.Sillitoe Birthday 64: Dave had always had a soft spot for Margaret.

2. anything, esp. a job, considered easy and enjoyable, undemanding.

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[US]J. Lait ‘Charlie the Wolf’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 30: He had to cut away from his associates, who were always finding ‘soft spots’ and inviting him in on burglaries.
[US]C. Coe Me – Gangster 272: I was handed a soft spot in the library.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: Soft spot, an easy place to rob.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Goldfish’ in Red Wind (1946) 169: I ain’t no soft spot for chiselers to lie on.
[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 290: This is a soft spot. They’ve never had a knock-over in Tropico Springs.

3. a weakness.

[UK]Sporting Times 26 May 1/1: Why hurt people’s feelings when the most pachydermatous among us have our soft spots?
[US]R. Chandler Big Sleep 90: I figure maybe she has a couple of soft spots she doesn’t want the old man to know about.
Scotsman 9 Aug. 4/1: The general attack with the object of finding out a ‘soft spot’ in the Russian front.
[US]R. Prather Always Leave ’Em Dying 115: The only critical part would be the resurrection itself. That was the soft spot.
soft song man (n.)

(S.Afr./US Und.) a confidence trickster.

[US]C.G. Givens ‘Chatter of Guns’ in Sat. Eve. Post 13 Apr.; list extracted in AS VI:2 (1930) 133: peewee soft song man, n. phr. Petty confidence worker.
S.F. Examiner (CA) 27 June 13/1: Soft-Song Man —Confidence man.
[SA]L.F. Freed Crime in S. Afr. 107: A ‘bunco’ or ‘grifter’, ‘con man’, or ‘soft song man’ is a confidence trickster.
soft thing (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

keep one’s feet on the soft pedal/put on the soft pedal/put the soft pedal on/work the soft pedal (v.)

see soft pedal

soft-cock (adj.)

(Aus.) weak, lacking drive.

[Aus]P. Temple Broken Shore (2007) [ebook] Bobby Walshe’s made them go soft-cock on this. First it’s bail, next they drop the charges.