Green’s Dictionary of Slang

forty adj.1

many; also used as a generic term in combs. below.

[UK]Shakespeare Coriolanus III i: On fair ground I could beat forty of them.
[UK]G. Herbert Letter 19 Jan. in Works (1856) 350: I have forty businesses in my hands: your Courtesy will pardon the haste of your humblest Servant .
[UK]Sporting Times 3 June 1/5: [They] had forty speculative talks together as to the profession or calling of their ‘regular’.
[SA]K. Cage Gayle 70/2: forty adj. many (He’s had forty facelifts!).

In compounds

forty-eleven (adj.) (also forty-leven)

(US black/W.I.) too many, infinite or non-specific in number.

[US]Owl (NY) 11 Sept. n.p.: For further information [...] forty-’leven Shin Bone Alley, up stairs.
[US]Gleaner (Manchester, NH) 9 Dec. n.p.: Now be it known for the ‘forty-eleventh’ time that we never do any such thing [i.e. name names].
[US]T. Haliburton Nature and Human Nature 8: I am not like the black preacher that had forty-eleven divisions.
[US]J.R. Lowell Biglow Papers 2nd series (1880) 14: Forty-’leven new kinds o’ sarse. [Ibid.] 74: Forty-’leven weeks o’ jawin’. [Ibid.] 106: Nor don’t want forty-’leven weeks o’ jawin’ an expoundin’ / To prove a nigger hez a right to save him, ef he’s drownin’.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 313: A forty-eleventh cousin, for instance, expresses an infinitesimal degree of relationship, one too small to be stated accurately.
[US]H. Green Maison De Shine 73: I got forty-’leven trunks down in the basemen now.
[US]Chicago Defender 17 June 1: [He will] go back to London and join the forty eleven colored actors who are now located and settled down in amalgamation row never to return to America.
[US]H. Ford in Dearborn Indep. Mag. 2 Jan. 7: Truth was he was tied up in Washington with forty-eleven committees.
[US] in Drew Middleton Struggle for Germany 34: I’m doing forty-eleven different things to get this burg running again.
[US] Josh White ‘Evil-hearted Me’ 🎵 Well, I don’t even care / If my baby leaves me flat / I got forty ’leven others / If it comes to that.
[US]H.F. Mosher A Stranger in the Kingdom 33: Elijah, we have been over this terrain forty-eleven times.
[US]in N.Y. Times 29 Oct. 24/3: I don’t see why my taxes should keep someone in jail for forty-eleven years.
[US]B.J. Myers August Webster and the Secret of Candy Rock Mountain 79: ‘Wow, there are forty-eleven frogs out here,’ screeched Leo in delight.
forty-faced (adj.) [? one has ‘forty’ faces, none of them trustworthy but note also dial. forty-legs, a millipede, where forty is generic for ‘many’]

shameless; thus combs. forty-faced liar, forty-faced flirt.

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[US]N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 145: He’ll mouse on me and he’ll mouse on you [...] He’s a forty-faced pigeon straight from Rat Row, quack from head to toe.
[US]A. Theroux Darconville’s Cat 315: You will do well to remember, however — and every other forty-faced Mason like you — that the Papacy is not the house of Orange-Nassau.
forty-jawed (adj.)

loquacious, talkative.

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[US]M.G. Hayden ‘Terms Of Disparagement’ in DN IV:iii 218: forty-jawed, excessive talker.

In phrases

forty-tongue-power (n.) (also forty-parson-power)

powerfully loquacity.

[UK]Sportsman 18 Sept. 2/1: Notes on News [...] For a forty-tongue power of unblushing Iying commend us to the Hebrew ‘knock ’em down’ gentlemen at one of those many mock auctions.
[UK]Sportsman 31 Jan. 2/1: Notes on News [...] Sydney Smith [...] once spoke of some bore knew as having a forty parson-power of conversation.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

forty acres (n.) [their supposed dimensions]

(US) extremely large feet.

[US] in DARE.
forty h.p. (adj.) [lit. 40 horse power, a high speed for the period]

(Aus.) substantial, very great.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 9 May 12/4: Why, the very fact that he had drunk, and was drunk yesterday, is a 40 h.p. argument in favour of drinking, and getting drunk again to-day, to-morrow, and the day after.
forty miler (n.)

1. in carnival use, a novice who has fig. never gone more than 40 miles from their home.

[US]W. Keyser ‘Carny Lingo’ in 🌐 Forty Miler — Newcomer to circus or carnival life, who (metaphorically speaking) never travels farther than 40 miles away from their home.

2. in carnival use, one who does not needd to travel so as to get all the work they need.

[US]W. Keyser ‘Carny Lingo’ in 🌐 [A] performer or jointee who gets all the work he needs without traveling far from home.
forty-pounder (n.) [the £40 cash bonus awarded to any policeman who secured a ‘Tyburn ticket’, i.e. captured a murderer]

a policeman.

[UK] (ref. to 1730s) H.D. Miles Dick Turpin in Partridge DU (1949) 264/2: The rascally forty-pounders [...] a cant name for [police] officers; who received that reward with each ‘Tyburn ticket.’.
forty-rod (lightning) (n.) [its strength; such whisky was jokingly said to be powerful enough to kill at a distance of 40 rods (about 17km/11 miles). Alternatively, its strength empowered the drinker to run at top speed for a similar distance, or the drinker is guaranteed to collapse if he attempts to walk much further than this; note lightning n. (2)]

cheap, strong whisky; cite 1918 refers to fortified, cheap red wine.

[[US]‘Q.K. Philander Doesticks’ Witches of N.Y. 224: Liquor [...] warranted to kill at forty rods].
[[UK]Star (L.A.) 23 Apr. 4: Minnie rifle, Knock-’em stiff and flaming red-eye—Such as kills ’em at the counter, Forty rods or any distance].
W.H. Russell Diary II 11: Their cries for water were incessant to allay the internal fires caused by ‘40 rod’ and ‘60 rod,’ as whiskey is called, which is supposed to kill people at those distances [DA].
[[US]B. Harte Luck of Roaring Camp (1873) 72: Earlier in the day some local satirist had erected a temporary tombstone at Sandy’s head, bearing the inscription, ‘Effects of McCorkle’s whiskey, – kills at forty rods’].
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 13 Dec. 11/2: The lowest depth of destitution among tramps is [...] the inability to buy a glass of beer or ‘forty-rod’ whiskey.
[US](con. c.1840) ‘Mark Twain’ Huckleberry Finn 43: In the night some time he got powerful thirsty and [...] traded his new coat for a jug of forty-rod.
[UK]A. Day Mysterious Beggar 253: After pouring out a liberal sample of its ‘forty-rod’ capability, he slowly ‘absorbed’ the same.
[Aus]W.A. Sun. Times (Perth) 16 Jan. 7/1: ‘What’s your poison, gents?’ [...] ‘Forty-rod’.
[US]Monroe & Northup ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:iii 140: forty-rod, adj. Applied to strong whiskey, as ‘forty-rod whiskey’.
[US]Sun (NY) 5 Mar. 4/6: He is [...] full of forty-rod booze.
[NZ]‘Anzac’ On the Anzac Trail 77: [W]hisky that takes the lining of your throat down with it [...] a soothing liquid that licks ‘forty-rod,’ ‘chained lightning,’ or ‘Cape smoke’ to the back of creation.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 3 Mar. 30/2: Not to mention other things, such as the prevalence of greasy aliens and forty-rod ‘pinky’ .
[US]P. & T. Casey Gay-cat 100: Wot brand o’ forty-rod does youse most fill up on, Crybaby?
[US]Ade Old-Time Saloon 31: He was supposed to have an array of grape beverages behind the bar to prove that he dealt in lady-like table wines as well as in forty-rod T.N.T. guaranteed to blow the hat off.
[US](con. 1910s) J. Thompson Heed the Thunder (1994) 113: Ritten strained a hiccough through his chest-length beard, fumigating the hall with the aroma of forty-rod.
[US]C.J. Lovell ‘The Background of Mark Twain’s Vocab.’ in AS XXII:2 91: forty-rod whisky. Cheap and strong whisky. [1869] This use was foreshadowed by a number of facetious terms of like import.
[US](con. mid-19C) S. Longstreet Wilder Shore 74: A jug of forty rod sure rousted Old Scratch out of a man.
(con. 1919) Howard Hickson’s Histories 🌐 Out here in the wild and wooly West [...] alcohol sellers went underground. You could still get forty rod, gut warmer, and scamper juice, it just took a little more time and lot more money.
forty-shilling word (n.)

(W.I.) an obscene word, for the use of which one can be fined 40 shillings or £2.

[WI]cited in Cassidy & LePage Dict. Jam. Eng. (1980).
[WI]Jamaica Jrnl 39/1: Legend of Bun Down, bad word merchant, goes he is arrested, brought before her majesty's court for using decent language, indecently. Bun Down is fined for one forty shilling word.

In phrases

forty ways from the jack (adv.) (also fifty ways from the jack, forty ways, two ways from the jack)

(US, orig. gambling) in every way possible.

[US]E. Walter Easiest Way in T.H. Dickinson Chief Contemp. Dramatists (1921) 192/2: It’s hell forty ways from the Jack. It's tough for me.
[US]D. Runyon ‘The Informal Execution of Soupbone Pew’ in From First to Last (1954) 69: ‘He was there forty ways with a sap and gat, and he’d shoot as quick as he’d slug.’.
[US]Ade ‘The New Fable of the Lonesome Camp’ in Ade’s Fables 276: This has got the Middle West skinned forty ways from the Jack.
[US]Atlanta Constitution 29 Aug. 42/4: As a detective he had old Nick Carter beaten ‘forty ways to the jack’.
[US]H.C. Witwer Kid Scanlon 273: Take it from me, that bird is there forty ways.
[US]Black Mask Aug. III 83: I can beat that forty ways.
[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 195: He, Menendez could have done it two ways from the jack by lifting one finger, and done it much better.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Rock 99: She bitches him out forty different ways.
[US](con. 1970) J.M. Del Vecchio 13th Valley (1983) 447: We gowin get our asses kicked seven ways ta hell.
forty weeks favour (adv.) [SE forty weeks, the approx. period of gestation + favour, something given as a mark of favour, e.g. a gift to a lover such as a handkerchief]

the state of pregnancy, often in the context of an illegitimate child.

[UK]Pennyless Parliament of Thread-bare Poets 53: Let Maidens take Heed how they fall on their Backs, lest they catch a forty Weeks favour.
[UK]Cobbes Prophecies C3v: Iif ye keepe your beds Till ye loose your maiden heads, take heed of a forty weeks paiment.