Green’s Dictionary of Slang

show n.

1. (orig. US) a matter, an event, an affair, e.g. good show, poor show, the whole show.

[UK]Newcastle Courant 20 Jan. 2/2: The Carolina packet [...] arrived here from London [is] making a good Show by the Help of her Passengers.
[UK]H.W. Foster Coquette 138: Well, Charles, the show is over, as we yankees say; and the girl is my own.
[UK]Bradford Obs. 25 Sept. 7/4: But should young wife / Gaze on the bloody show — / While cracking shot and gashing knife / Ply fiece and fast below?
[US]C. Abbey diary 2 June in Gosnell Before the Mast (1989) 43: When you get back make a ‘bloody show’ of these fellows.
[US]Holmes Co. Republican (OH) 15 May 1/6: ‘Boys [...] this is a mighty poor show’.
[UK] ‘’Arry on the Elections’ Punch 12 Dec. 277/2: Make him boss of the Show, and by Jingo, he’ll show the old Jokers some fun.
[UK] ‘’Arry in Switzerland’ Punch 5 Dec. in P. Marks (2006) 98: The Bullanger boom was a fizzle. They say he’s mopped out; I dunnow. / But it wouldn’t surprise me, my pippin, to see him yet bossing the show.
[UK]W. Pett Ridge Mord Em’ly 72: Settle it yourself [...] It’s your show.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 18 May 513: ‘Queer show, eh?’ said Reggie.
[US]N.Y. Eve. Journal 11 Dec. in Fleming Unforgettable Season (1981) 6: He is the whole Swiss cheese at this meeting [...] the whole show.
[UK]Wodehouse Gentleman of Leisure Ch. xi: When my Aunt Julia married Sir Thomas, the whole frightful show was pretty well in pawn.
[Aus]Truth (Perth) 1 Oct. 4/7: If he’s badly ‘narked’ at that, / You may know, / That the ‘bally koshermen / Queered the show’.
[UK]J. Buchan Thirty-Nine Steps (1930) 7: He is the one big brain in the whole show, and he happens to be an honest man.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Bulldog Drummond 50: Go to bed, little girl [...] this is my show.
[UK](con. 1916) F. Manning Her Privates We (1986) 3: You were in the last show, weren’t you.
Star Trib. (Minneapolis MN) 3 May 16/3: No conversation between loggers could go on very long without the use of the word ‘show’. A haywire show or a bum show is a place where logging is difficult.
[US](con. 1919) Dos Passos Nineteen Nineteen in USA (1966) 639: It’s not every day you get a chance to see a show like this.
[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 334: Big Mac was the boss and this was his show.
[UK]G. Fairlie Capt. Bulldog Drummond 245: He’d be up here faster than lightning, and I couldn’t keep him out of the show.
[US]S. Bellow Augie March (1996) 191: Anyway, it was Padilla’s show.
[UK]P. Larkin letter 2 Feb. in Thwaite Sel. Letters (1992) 299: A chap here has been picked up for passing a note in a male bog on York station – pretty poor show, what?
[Aus]J. Alard He who Shoots Last 49: Don’t gimme dat. Youse ain’t leavin’ me outa dis bloody show.
[UK](con. 1940s) I. Agnew Loner 133: We never have anything to read, which I reckon is a bloody poor show.
[UK]T. Blacker Fixx 198: It was a damned good show all round.
[UK]N. Barlay Curvy Lovebox 122: He’s star of the whole show. He’s top banana.
[UK]Guardian 14 July 18: No need for language, Peter. Poor show.

2. (UK Und.) a facial expression.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 18/2: In about half an hour he came back with a ‘show’ on his ‘mug’ that he thought all could be made right.

3. (Aus./US) a chance, an opportunity, e.g. give him a show, give him a chance.

Burlington Hawk-Eeye (IA) 23 Aug. 2/6: They will, of course, give him a fair show.
Mississippi Free Trader (Natchez, MS) 14 July 2/7: Every democrat was willing to give him a fair show, and none were disposed to prejudice his chance.
[US]Calif. Police Gazette 17 Apr. 1/4: All we’ve got to do now is keep shady, and if we stick to each other like men we’ll find a show some day to make the riffle.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 30/2: It was rather ‘hot’ and did not give much show of a chance for present ‘graft’.
[UK]F. Whymper Travel and Adventure in Alaska 309: Many of the common expressions are taken from mining operations and experiences. [...] ‘Show,’ or ‘color,’ from the indications of gold in gravel or sand, are words used in various shapes. ‘I have not a show,’ means I have no chance.
[US]B. Harte Luck of Roaring Camp (1873) 96: But come, what do you say to a little game? Give us a show to double this hundred.
[US]J. O’Connor Wanderings of a Vagabond 275: He shook his clenched fist at our windows, and muttered between his clenched teeth, ‘If I’d a had a fair show, them’uns couldn’t a whipt one side o’ me’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 10 Jan. 20/1: [W]e have determined to give the ancient heroes a show, and […] put them on a fair-footing with the more fortunate spirits who managed to hang on to the thread of life until the poetical ghoul of the Nooze was kittened.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 120: We were to be defended, and a lawyer fetched all the way from Sydney [...] so when the judge came up we should have a show for it.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Stiffner and Jim’ in Roderick (1972) 125: For God’s sake give me a show.
[US]Sun (NY) 5 Mar. 25/1: That insidious town [...] always counted me among the also-rans before I had a show to find out where I was at.
[UK]Sketch (London) 22 Feb. 18: ‘If they gits yer “dial” in the Rogues’ Gallery yer don’ stand no show at all’.
[UK]J. Conrad Lord Jim 65: You silly fool! Do you think you’ll get the ghost of a show when all that lot of brutes is in the water? Why, they will batter your head for you from these boats.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Dec. 31/2: [S]he chased it all round the yard with the axe, but she didn’t have no show; it was alligator first, rest nowhere.
[US]C.L. Cullen More Ex-Tank Tales 145: You haven’t got a ghost of a show to win the 100-yard sprint.
[US]H. Hapgood Types From City Streets 36: A bloke ain’t got no show wid a gal if he ain’t good–lookin’.
[Aus]Osteralia ‘The Skiters’ Apr. n.p.: We’re goin to sock the blighters / If we ’arf a show.
[US] ‘Gila Monster Route’, in N. Anderson Hobo 195: A poor, old, seedy, half-starved bo / On a hostile pike without a show.
[UK]J. Buchan Three Hostages in Buchan (1930) 859: People who have led his kind of life have their ordinary self so well managed [...] that the subconscious rarely gets a show.
[NZ]F. Sargeson ‘The Making of a New Zealander’ in A Man And His Wife (1944) 10: The dog went for me but he never had a show.
[NZ]B. Crump Hang On a Minute, Mate (1963) 141: Don’t s’pose you could manage to cash a fifty for us, mate? asked Sam hopelessly. Not a show, mate.
[NZ] McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl.

4. a home.

[UK]Hants Teleg. 29 Sept. 11/6: He calls [...] his lodgings his ‘show’.
[UK]Marvel 17 Nov. 470: It’s the chap who’s been dossing at my show for a week past.
[UK]Magnet 13 June 15: That’s Solly Abram’s show.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘Lady Friends’ Sporting Times 13 Mar. 1/2: He managed to get clear away, not only with the ‘dough’ / But with all the choicest portables of value in the show.
[UK]F. Anthony ‘Vilet Again’ in Me And Gus (1977) 49: I generally have a tin of golden syrup at my show, if any visitor drops in.
[US](con. 1910–20s) D. Mackenzie Hell’s Kitchen 120: Show ... a place, a house.
[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 102/1: show house.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].

5. (orig. milit.) a fight, usu. in milit. context: a battle, a military engagement, a war.

[US]F. Harris ‘Eatin’ Crow’ in Elder Conklin and Other Stories (1895) 154: Samson wouldn’t have a show with a man quick on the draw who meant bizness.
[UK]Kipling ‘The Widow’s Party’ Barrack-Room Ballads (1893) 199: What was the end of all the show, Johnnie, Johnnie? Ask my Colonel, for I don’t know.
[UK]J. Buchan Greenmantle (1930) 135: I’m not in this show for honour and glory.
[US]T. Wolfe Look Homeward, Angel (1930) 344: In three days more we’ll be out of the bloody show and back home on leave.
[US]W. O’Connor Jockeys, Crooks and Kings 126: But when the United States went into the show [...] he accepted a commission.
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 6 June [synd. col.] Bogart Rogers [...] forwards these bits of aviation slang: [...] A battle is a show.
[UK]J. Maclaren-Ross Of Love And Hunger 48: If it’s only the war [...] My brother had a damn fine time in the last show. Went out to Egypt [...] Just one long binge-up.
intro to ‘The L.O.B. Song’ in Banglestien’s Bar n.p.: They will be available [...] in the event that a unit runs into a very rough show.
[UK]A. Sillitoe Sat. Night and Sun. Morning 41: If it came to a show he knew he could hold his own with anybody.
[UK]G. Melly Rum, Bum and Concertina (1978) 147: The Captain [...] went booming on about destroyers during ‘the first show’.

6. (Aus.) a lit. or fig. business.

[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 26 Apr. 2/2: ‘Tomorrow will take care of itself right enough but I’m d—d if it’ll keep those blessed bailiffs out of my show ’.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘The Push’ in Moods of Ginger Mick 40: An’ Jupp, ’oo owns a copper show, an’ arsts us out to dine.
[UK]B.E.F. Times 8 Sept. (2006) 226/1: I ran a little show / Hawkin’ rags and bones at Wigan.

7. (UK Und.) any form of crime.

[UK]S. Scott Human Side of Crook and Convict Life 79: I’d like ter do a ‘show’ wen I gits out — free or four thou’ — an’ I’d settle it all on ’er, strike me pink.
[UK]C.G. Gordon Crooks of the Und. 241: ‘Doing a show’ is merely another term for committing a burglary.

8. a place targeted for burglary.

[UK] ‘English Und. Sl.’ in Variety 8 Apr. n.p.: Show—Place to burgle.

9. see holy show n.

In phrases

give the show away (v.) (also give away the show, give someone’s show away)

to betray a secret, to reveal one’s or another’s plans.

[UK]Era (London) 7 Dec. 17/3: I’m not the man to give away the show, you bet.
[UK]Worcs Chron. 4 July 5/6: Some of the latter, ‘Truth’ points out, are already beginning to give away the show.
H.B. Delannoy £19,000 229: I gave the name of Brown to your boy because I didn't want to give the show away.
[UK]Marvel 12 Nov. 7: I can tell by their attitude whether your young friend gives the show away.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 16 July 22/1: A silly person dubbed him [i.e. a cockerel] once / The Herald of the Day; / Day is my name, and in the morn / He gives my show away.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 617: In fact, without giving the show away, he himself once upon a time if he cared to, could easily have . . .
[UK]Eve. Teleg. (Angus, Scot.) 23 Nov. 3/3: Married women who have taken the advantage while their husbands have been in steady employment are afraid some of their neighbours will give the show away.
[UK]Western Morn. News (Devon) 2 May 2/1: Mr bevan has said quite enough to give the show away.
no show (also no show and fisho)

(US/Aus.) no hope of success.

[US]J.H. Beadle Western Wilds 185: ‘You tell an infernal lie,’ bawled the preacher, and they clinched. Well, of course a thin Boston bran-bread chap had no show agin one o’ our corn-fed men.
[NZ]N.Z. Observer and Free Lance (Auckland) 20 Mar. 23/1: No show in that direction, old boy.
[UK]Punch January 10 33/2: But how was I to know there’d be no show for guava jelly made from sea-weed – pure sea-weed without any adulteration, mind you?
[NZ]R.M. Muir Word for Word 235: No show and fisho, I’d say.
[NZ]B. Crump Hang On a Minute, Mate (1963) 129: It’s got no show with anyone who’s flogged cars for Harvey Wilson for six years.
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 93: NO SHOW, being without hope of success.
[Aus]J.J. DeCeglie Drawing Dead [ebook] A no show. Wasn’t the first time [...] won’t be the last.
run the show (v.)

to take charge, to direct operations or activities.

[UK]Cornhill Mag. 72 246: We are gaun to elec’ a commy-tee and run the show.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘An Ungrateful “Missis”’ Sporting Times 25 Aug. 1/4: I’ve been out of a crib / For a matter of six years or so; / In fact, since we’ve been married, I’m telling no fib, / I’ve been out of work, that’s why the show / Has been run by the missis with her bit of brass.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 13 Dec. 17/3: Ellen she ses it’s gettin’ on to dark, an’ she sort o’ shies off me. Thet gits my back up – ‘I’m runnin’ this ’ere show,’ ses I; ‘ther boss is in town, an’ I’m off.’.
[UK]Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness 49: A neglected gap was all the gate it had, and the first glance at the place was enough to let you see the flabby devil was running that show.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 12 Dec. 33/2: The highly-sanctified Christian still is running the show on that lovely isle; / While the Pagan hustles and sweats for nil, he smiles on him with a glad kind smile.
[US]M.E. Smith Adventures of a Boomer Op. 41: Who’s running this show?
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘A Woman’s Way’ in Chisholm (1951) 88: ’Ow will they mix together I dunno. / It all depends on ’ow I run the show.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 188: Who’s running the show?
[UK]B.S. Johnson All Bull 85: Nine times out of ten it is the sergeant who runs the show.
[US](con. 1969–70) D. Bodey F.N.G. (1988) 68: The big guys run the show and the ones that run it most are the ones [...] way back in the Rear.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 329: Wheezer was running the show, here.
sling the show (v.)

(Aus.) to leave a place; to abandon a situation.

[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘Before the War’ in Digger Smith 15: First off, young Jim [...] / Narks the ole man a treat, an’ slings the show.
stand a show (v.)

(Aus./US) have a chance.

T.B. Aldrich Story of a Bad Boy (2004) 96: The longshoremen gobbled up all the work, an’ a outsider like me didn’t stand a show.
[UK]M. Roberts Western Avernus (1924) 220: My house is full up now. You might stand a show at the Arizona Hotel.
[Aus]J. Furphy Such is Life 91: Wouldn’t you stand a better show for work on the other side of the river?
[US]Black Cat 14/1: I didn’t stand a show. He’s a big guy — twice as big as me an’ strong’s a horse.
A. Duff Once Were Warriors 10: A bookless society didn’t stand a show in this modern world, not a damn show.

In exclamations

over goes the show!

an excl. of dismay when faced by a sudden disaster.

[UK]Marvel 22 Dec. 643: Hallo! Over goes the show!

SE in slang uses

In compounds

showbiz

see separate entries.

showboat

see separate entries.

showdog (n.)

see separate entry.

showhouse (n.)

see separate entry.

show pony (n.) [SE show pony, one that looks good in shows but may be less useful in practical life]

(Aus.) one who cares more for appearance than performance.

[Aus](con. 1941) R. Beilby Gunner 160: He was a good bloke, a bit of a show pony but he was always willing.
[Aus]B. Moore Lex. of Cadet Lang. 342: usage: ‘Robbo thinks he’s a superwad but he’s really just a show pony — no staying power.’.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read How to Shoot Friends 39: I’d rather be backed up by one hated arsehole who can stick fat than a hundred popular showponies who can’t keep their mouths shut.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper 4 210: I’ve always been a bit of a show pony with a flair for the dramatic.
show stopper (n.)

1. (camp gay) a particularly attractive young man.

[US]Maledicta IV:2 (Winter) 229: Dish can also mean a show-stopper attractive man (the concept of eat = fellate).

2. a very attractive woman.

[UK]T. Blacker Fixx 170: I was [...] escorting Catherine (now, there was a showstopper).
[US]‘Touré’ Portable Promised Land (ms.) 156: We Words (My Favorite Things) [...] Showstopper. Hotstepper. Crumbsnatcher. Rumpshaker.
showtime

see separate entries.