Green’s Dictionary of Slang

beef n.2

[beef v.1 ]

1. (US tramp) an act of betrayal to the authorities.

[US]J. Flynt Tramping with Tramps 388: Wait till I catch that gun Mike. It’ll be his last beef if I ever find him.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 25/1: Beef, n. [...] 2. A confession of guilt implicating others.

2. (US) a complaint, a problem; thus what’s one’s/the beef?, what’s one’s/the problem?; make a beef, to complain, to make a fuss.

[US]Ade Fables in Sl. (1902) 80: Next Morning he made a Horrible Beef because he couldn’t get Loaf Sugar for his Coffee.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 59: He puts up a beef about the elbows shakin’ him down ag’in an’ cleanin’ him out.
[US]Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA) 17 Oct. 7/7: Registering a beef — Making a complaint.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Dream Street Rose’ Runyon on Broadway (1954) 46: Charley has a right to a few beefs.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Nevada Gas’ Spanish Blood (1946) 166: What’s the beef?
‘Marienne’ ‘Solid Meddlin’’ in People’s Voice (NY) 11 Apr. 30/1: Prize beef was the hubby who said wifey made gravy he couldn’t cut with a butcher knife.
[US]N. Algren ‘Watch Out for Daddy’ in Entrapment (2009) 126: When he got a really legit beef on me [...] he just laughs.
[US]T. Runyon In For Life 182: I put up a beef as loud as it was phony.
[US]J. Havoc Early Havoc 17: He had ‘oiled’ the local authorities, so there had been no sanitation beefs, no beefs about too many people in one building [...] no beefs at all.
[US]G.V. Higgins Friends of Eddie Coyle 147: Has he got any beef with you?
[US](con. 1960s) D. Goines Black Gangster (1991) 74: This happens to be a first-degree beef.
[US]H. Gould Fort Apache, The Bronx 54: I hate people who can’t handle their own beefs.
[US]T. Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities 448: Don’t blame it on us [...] your beef is with Weiss.
[US]Pileggi & Scorsese Goodfellas [film script] 56: The one they made a beef on.
[US]BlazinParadise ‘Blazing Squad Language’ 🌐 Beef – A problem.
[UK]Camden New Journal (London) 20 Mar. 11: I have no beef about being recalled.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 17: He’s got a personal beef with you.
[UK]Stormzy ‘Shut Up’ 🎵 He wants beef with me? Make that two / Anyone else wanna make that move?
[US]T. Robinson Rough Trade [ebook] ‘It does [matter] if Byron’s beef is righteous’.
[Aus]G. Disher Consolation 83: [N]o one had a beef with the Ayliffes.
[US]T. Pluck Boy from County Hell 44: A killer with a money beef.

3. (US campus) a mistake; thus make a beef, to err, to blunder.

[US]W.C. Gore Student Sl. in Cohen (1997) 4: beef [...] 2. n. An error; an awkward blunder.
[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 22: beef, n. A mistake.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Goldfish’ in Red Wind (1946) 187: Made a beef, shamus. Didn’t frisk your skinny pal.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.

4. a criminal charge; often as bum beef

[US]D. Runyon ‘Breach of Promise’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 15: He is one of the surest-footed lawyers in this town, and beats more tough beefs for different citizens than seems possible.
[US]B. Dai Opium Addiction in Chicago 196: Beef. Any sort of charge, as in ‘They gave me the beef for it’.
[US]J. Evans Halo in Blood (1988) 211: It scared him because that old San Diego beef against Fleming had been a frame.
[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 130: It’s rough now [...] since that bad beef over Lefty Wyatt.
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 156: It runs after hours when there is no big beef.
[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 9: You’ve already beat this yard long enough to wear out two murder beefs and a bag of robberies.
[Aus]J. Alard He Who Shoots Last 22: ‘Wot’s da beef on Kenny?’ ‘It’s a murder rap’.
[US]G.V. Higgins Cogan’s Trade (1975) 166: He’s got this beef down in Maryland. He thinks he’s gonna do a bit for it and he’s scared of the bit.
[US]G.V. Higgins Patriot Game (1985) 87: Okay, what’s the beef, huh? I can take it.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 13: I’m gonna get you violated on a kiddie raper beef.
[UK]Guardian G2 17 Nov. 12: He soon returned to [...] San Quentin – this time for seven years in 1962 on a ‘forgery beef’.
[US]G. Pelecanos Night Gardener 203: He had completed his prison term on a trafficking beef.
[US]T. Pluck ‘Moody Joe Shaw’ in Life During Wartime (2018) 262: ‘Just a nickel marijuana beef’.
[US]D. Winslow ‘The San Diego Zoo’ in Broken 128: Two felony beefs.

5. (US Und.) a crime under investigation.

[US]E. Booth Stealing Through Life 149: Say! most of the beefs from the residence section give a description that tallies with you to a T.
[UK]W.R. Burnett Nobody Lives for Ever 11: ‘Will there be a beef? ‘No beef. It was easy. Nice dame. She wanted me to go home with her’.
[US]H. Gould Fort Apache, The Bronx 260: It was a beef, of course, a bad one. It was that dead kid.

6. (US black) a statement, conversation, line of talk.

[US]Pittsburgh Courier (PA) 24 May 11/2: Beef — Make an announcement, talk . . . Marian Anderson [...] will have an important beef before the year is out.
[US]D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 16: Well, here’s her beef; she says, Pops, I just fell in from the Big Wind.

7. an altercation.

[US]N. Davis ‘You’ll Die Laughing’ in Penzler Pulp Fiction (2007) 247: She was drunk and you got in a beef with her and slapped her with a knife.
[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 35: I can’t go myself this time, I had a beef with him.
[US]L. Bruce How to Talk Dirty 82: My father and I had a beef, and we left.
[US]N. McCall Makes Me Wanna Holler (1995) 128: I got into a beef with my main man, Bimbo.
[US]Hip-Hop Connection Dec. 10: In what was related to be a beef over money, Anderson (24)...reportedly rolled up on Michael Stone (41) and his nephew Jerry Stone (24).
[UK]Guardian Media 2 Aug. 7: The source of their ‘beef’ – as rappers would call it – goes back to another white, middle-aged man.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Wind & Monkey (2013) [ebook] He seemed to be having a mild beef with the woman behind the counter.
[US]W. Shaw Westsiders 251: Jayo’s beefs with the police these days are less serious than they were.
[UK]L. Theroux Call of the Weird (2006) 200: Beefs in the hip-hop community are just the same as corporate beefs. Coke beefing with Pepsi.
[US]‘Grandmaster Flash’ Adventures 32: ‘Maybe I had to step it up. Start my own beef’.
[UK]G. Knight Hood Rat 115: Pilgrim runs a risk having allies in the Tottenham Boys, given the long-standing beef with Hackney.
[US]‘Dutch’ ? (Pronounced Que) [ebook] Street beefs were sparking wars.
[UK]Guardian G2 3 July 6/1: His beef with 50 Cent and dissing Rita Ora.
[UK]G. Krauze What They Was 60: I finally got my burner, my strap, my mash [...] I can do the beef ting on my own .

8. (US Und.) a discussion; chatter.

[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 25/1: Beef, n. [...] 3. Gossip; small talk.
[US]N. Pileggi Wiseguy (2001) 119: Next thing I know there’s a beef. We had a sit-down with the guy’s partner.

9. (US Und.) an arrest.

[US]B. Jackson Thief’s Primer 55: beef: [...] arrest.

10. (US Und.) a criminal act.

[US]B. Jackson Thief’s Primer 67: We went off on this beef, on this job, made three or four places and got to running.

11. (US) a (usu. hotel or restaurant) bill.

[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]G.V. Higgins Digger’s Game (1981) 19: Get up five hundred and save the beef on the Blue Cross.

12. (US prison) a jail sentence.

[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 18: You can hack it. You’ve worn out beefs before.
[US]K. Burkhart Women in Prison 443: Beef (n) Sentence or time.
[US]J. Hannaham Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit 15: Two decades and change into her beef, Carlotta Mercedes braced herself for [...] the New York State Board of Parole.

13. (US prison) a disciplinary charge.

[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 185: They should have given you a medal instead of a beef.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 18: Beef A beef is a crime or charge of a crime. He received a beef for having that stolen radio in his cell.
[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July 🌐 Beef: A disciplinary charge, as to ‘catch a beef’.
[US]J. Lethem Fortress of Solitude 426: A general attitude of take your bid and do it, no unnecesary beefs.

14. (US campus) facts, information.

[US]Eble Campus Sl. Sept. 1: beef – information, background: ‘What’s the beef on that guy?

15. (UK black) general aggression, atmosphere of violence.

[US]BlazinParadise ‘Blazing Squad Language’ 🌐 Beef – A [...] fight.
[UK]Dizzee Rascal in Vice Mag. at 🌐 seeing the same old cats, same old dealers, same old beef, same old shootings, that goes to your head get me? [...] By 2002 there was a lot of beef. A lot of people died. It was war.
[UK]Observer Cash 3 Oct. 10: He also had some narrow escapes when ‘beef wars’ between rival gangs erupted on the street.
[US]D. Winslow ‘Paradise’ in Broken 253: ‘You like beef, boy?’ Ben doesn’t know much Hawaiian slang, yet he’s pretty sure this guy [...] is asking him if he wants to fight.

In compounds

beef baby (n.)

(US black) a child fathered by a gangster who is living temporarily with a girlfriend or mistress while hiding from the authorities.

[US]G. Pelecanos Soul Circus 138: Durham [...] saw his son, Laron, a beef baby he had fathered four years ago, once or twice a year.
[US]G. Pelecanos Drama City 77: Lee had fathered a couple of children, what they called beef babies, [...] when he’d gone to the mattresses, Corleone-style.
[US]G. Pelecanos Hell to Pay [ebook] ‘He was one of my beef babies [...] I must have fathered three babies like that’.

In phrases

bum beef (n.) [bum adj. (6)]

1. a criminal charge that is considered unfair (in criminal eyes).

[US]Amer. Mercury Mar. n.p.: ‘I’m ditched for fifteen flat – an’ on a bum beef.’ A bum beef, in the patois of the profession, means that the gentleman was innocent.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 41: bum beef.–An unjust accusation. A prisoner who says, ‘I was jugged on a bum beef,’ is merely declaring ‘I was imprisoned after an unjust accusation and undeserved arrest, for I am innocent.’.
[US]D. Lamson We Who Are About to Die 140: Some of ’em got beefs just as bum as your beef.
[US]D. Runyon Runyon à la Carte 23: He [...] gives me to understand that it is a bum beef as far as he is concerned and that he only takes the fall for others.
[US]N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 259: I listened and pleaded guilty to two of them bum beefs.
[US](con. 1916) G. Duffy Warden’s Wife 83: He’s as guilty as I am [...] But he figures if he hollers bum beef loud enough, some people are going to believe he’s riding a phony.
[US]F. Elli Riot (1967) 5: I’m going’ to the Hole on a bum beef.
[US]F. Hilaire Thanatos 22: I’m not crying ‘bum beef’ or anything like that.
[US]P. Earley Hot House 208: ‘Shit, you don’t have no evidence against me,’ Scott declared. ‘This is a bum beef. You can’t prove anything’.

2. (US prison) a disciplinary punishment considered unfair by the prisoner.

[US]F. Elli Riot (1967) 5: I’m goin’ to the Hole on a bum beef.
chew the beef (v.) (also chew raw beef)

(US Und.) to complain.

[US]Eve. Star (Washington, DC) 11 July 31/1: I ain’t forever aching to tie bowknots in the lion’s tail and then holler, ‘Chew-raw-beef’.
[US]Eve. Star (Washington, DC) 24 June 48/2: [cartoon caption] ‘Here’s where I git even wid dis bunch. ’T‘ie the knots good and hard and we’ll make ’em chaw raw beef’.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
chill a beef (v.) [chill v.2 (7)]

to deal with a problem.

[US]D. Runyon ‘Lilian’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 285: There is plenty of trouble [...] in chilling the blond doll’s beef over Lillian snagging her Peke.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Cemetery Bait’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 524: It may be a good idea for you to take it on the Jesse Owens until the beef is chilled.
[US]D. Runyon Runyon à la Carte 13: It takes Ambrose several minutes to chill these beefs.
cool the beef (v.) [cool v.2 (1)]

to deal with a problem or a complaint.

[US]A. Goldman Lenny Bruce 9: There was that one bad scene in [...] the Crescendo; but Lenny cooled that beef.
[US]J. Ellroy Silent Terror 68: I was the one who got your sex beef cooled.
put up a beef (v.)

to make a fuss.

[US]N. Johnson intro to S. Walker Mrs Astor’s Horse viii: Screwballs and misbehaviorism are, to him, acts of God, about which there would be little point in putting up a beef.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 171/2: Put up a beef [...] Put up a holler. 1. To shout for police; to complain; to protest [...] Put up a squawk. See Put up a holler.
square the beef (v.) [square v. (1)]

to deal with a problem, typically to escape a criminal charge by paying a bribe.

[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 111: Red squared the ‘beef’ for a couple of hundred dollars.
street beef (n.) [street, the n. (2) ]

1. (US Und.) crimes committed inside prison by a serving prisoner who is tried in a normal court rather than facing internal prison discipline; such crimes include murder, escape, sex- or drug-related offences; also as v.

[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 23: Inmates sometimes commit crimes that warrant new ‘street’ charges requiring trial procedures in the state court system. These new charges are referred to as street beefs. An inmate may be street beefed for various crimes, some of which are murder, drug possession, sexual assault and escape.

2. (US und.) a minor crime, e.g. a mugging, a car theft, a ‘domestic’, that rarely merits police involvement.

Jacobs & Wright Street Justice 30: [C]laiming that the police wefe afriad to intervene in so-called street beefs. They ‘can’t really squash no street beefs, for real’.
take beef (v.)

(US black) to get into arguments, to face criticism.

Mystina Fruit of Fighters Ch.3 🌐 I fight for my country, you science experiment shit! I won’t take beef from someone who was created in a lab to clone the best fighter in Southtown!
where’s the beef? [slogan for Wendy’s hamburgers in 1984 + play on SE beef]

(US) what’s the real point, importance, inner meaning, content etc? 19 Dec. 🌐 Most of all, I want to see a Bush-Kucinich debate because if the Dems actually nominate a vegan to run for the White House, nobody could blame Bush for asking: Where’s the beef?

In exclamations

beef, duck an’ lam!

(US prison) a warning: a complaint has been filed, it is time to hide and escape.

[US](con. 1950-1960) R.A. Freeman Dict. Inmate Sl. (Walla Walla, WA) 7: Beef-duck-’n-lam – you got a rumble, so get going and fast.