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’.
[Ind]P.C. Wren Dew & Mildew 349: ‘What's to be done. Perk?’ asked Sturling. ‘This is your show, I'm afraid’.
[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.
[NZ](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.

[US]Burlington Hawk-Eye (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’.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 2 Feb. 3/1: In New York, being a scholar and a gentleman, he hasn’t got the ghost of a show.
[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.
[UK]Mirror of Life 10 Feb. 2/3: [T]he passionate devotion of a man who hasn’t the ghost of 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]N. Putnam West Broadway 35: ‘Nobody ever tried to keep me down [...] nor deprive me of a living or a fair 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.
[UK]Thieves Slang ms list from District Police Training Centre, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwicks 10: Show: House or place.
[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’.
[Aus](con. 1943) G.S. Manson Coorparoo Blues [ebook] He’d seen enough mud in the last show [i.e. WW1] , so that King ’n’Country stuff rang a bit hollow now.
[UK]J. Meades Empty Wigs (t/s) 146: His dada had a head full of shrapnel from the previous show and was a few volumes short of a library.

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 ’.
N. Gould Straight Goer (1915) 34: ‘There’s nothing stuck up about him [...] I thought perhaps he’d want to boss the show, but he doesn’t’.
[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.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 19 Feb. 15/2: One Maorilander [...] ran a show [...] out of which he took over two tons of gold.

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 compounds

show pony (n.)

(Aus.) a braggart, a show-off.

[Aus]B. Matthews Intractable [ebook] ‘He’s talking shit, Warwick. The kid wouldn’t have the balls. He’s just a show pony’.

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 . . .
[Scot]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)

1. (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.
[Aus]Coburg Leader (Vic.) 23 Nov. 4/2: C. W. has no show with L. L. while Packie is about.
[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.

2. used attrib. of a job, one for which one takes payment but actually neither attends nor works at.

[Aus]A. Nette Orphan Road 98: ‘[H]e still has one or two business interests, a few no-show jobs in the roofer’s union’.
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.
[NZ]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


see separate entries.


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.

[US]D. Jenkins Life Its Ownself 52: She might be a pile-driving, bone-crunching showstopper, but Barb’s review would reduce her to [a] lame, gnarled, disease-ridden, nuisance-peddling intellectual dwarf .
[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.

see separate entries.