Green’s Dictionary of Slang

lobster n.1

1. from the colour [orig. f. the full suits of armour worn by the Roundheads in Cromwell’s New Model Army (spec. Hazelrigg’s cuirassiers); then f. the red coats worn by British soldiers of the period; in phr. the unboiled lobster is blue-black, thus resembling a clergyman’s black or policeman’s blue garb; the boiled lobster turns red, recalling the soldier’s scarlet uniform].

(a) (also lobs) a soldier, a marine (who also wears scarlet).

[UK] ‘The Rump Carbonado’d’ Rump Poems and Songs (1662) II 70: Sir William at Run-away-downs had a bout, / Which him and his Lobsters did totally rout, / And his Lady the Conqueror could not help him out.
[UK]T. Brown Saints in Uproar in Works (1760) I 73: The soldiers call them vagrants [...] The women [...] exclaim against lobsters and tatterdemallions.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Lobster a Red Coat Soldier.
[UK]N. Ward Compleat and Humorous Account of Remarkable Clubs (1756) 254: His father was a Captain, and his Mother a Parsons Daughter, and therefore [...] he was nearly related to both the Lobsters Colours.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Dyche & Pardon New General Eng. Dict. (5th edn).
[UK]Ordinary of Newgate Account 5 Oct. 🌐 Being in company with some Red-coats or Lobsters, as the cant-word is, [...] they slipt a shilling into his pocket.
[US]Mass. Gazette Extraordinary 21 June n.p.: Come you Rascals, you bloody Backs, you Lobster Scoundrels; fire if you dare, G-d damn you [R].
[Ind]Hicky’s Bengal Gaz. 18-25 Aug. n.p.: ******** says the coarsest stuff / Will serve the Lobsters well enough.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]C. Dibdin ‘The Beggar’ Collection of Songs II 134: As a lobster at Greenwich they shew’d me the door.
[UK] ‘Dick Dock’ Garland of New Songs (60) 5: When he a poor maim’d pensioner from Chelsea saw; [...] Cries how good master lobster did you lose your claw?
[UK]‘One of the Fancy’ Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress 5: And lobsters will lie such a drug upon hand / That our do-nothing Captains must all get japann’d.
Guards 83: [A] young lobster, who, by his youth and size, looked more like a lobster’s claw.
[Ire]Southern Reporter (Cork) 14 Apr. 4/1: Jack calls the red-coats ‘Lobester’ for a spree.
[UK] ‘Catalogue of Odd Fish’ Fleet-Street Collection 8: As soldiers the lobster all go.
[UK]Comic Almanack Apr. 172: I don’t think in the course of my whole military experience I ever fought anything, except an old woman, who had the impudence to hallo out, ‘Heads up, lobster!’.
[UK]Leeds Times 22 June 6/2: The red lobs are out, — an there’s to be a reg’lar flare-up!
[UK]J.B. Buckstone Green Bushes I i: geo.: You must lead the soldiers to the very door of my brother’s house. [...] mur.: Well and where am I to meet the lobsters?
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 20 June 3/2: A soldier of the 99th was charged by George Calvin, a resident in Goulburn-street, with having illegally entered his premises [...] Calvin attempted to catch the lobster, who retreated crab-fashion till he had reached the window.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 26 Jan. 2/5: [of a marine] A lobster, belonging to the Juno [...] appeared as complainant at the Police Court on Thursday,.
[UK]Dickens ‘Slang’ in Household Words 24 Sept. 75/2: A soldier [is] a swaddy, a lobster, a red herring.
[UK]E. de la Bédollière Londres et les Anglais 316/1: lobster, [...] un soldat.
[UK]Sportsman (London) ‘Notes on News’ 17 Dec. 2/1: The attendant ‘lobster’ will not object to the greater privacy in carrying on his courtship.
[UK]W.C. Russell Sailors’ Lang. xiii: ‘Lobster’ is another of his terms for the military man.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 16 Aug. 24/4: Look ’ere – missie, yer did – th’ kin’est thin’ – pos’ble – in joggin’ – that lobster’s elbow – an’ makin’ him flip his gun.
P. Warung in Truth (Sydney) 4 July 3/2: ‘Pris’ners’ jarks of that sort, Major Achison, don’t run the words on to one another. When I was in the service men in the ranks when up to cowardly devilry of the kind, used to do so. It’s a ‘lobster’s’ trick, Major Achison, and - you know it!’.
[UK]A. Binstead Houndsditch Day by Day 22: I do not employ the word ‘lobster’ in its slang sense as applying to our dauntless, red-coated household cavalry.
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 3 Sept. 5/3: The commanding officer of the Marines is known as ‘ing Lobster’.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 10 Aug. 6/5: Mason trapped the ‘lobster’ into a foul.
[US]E. Wittmann ‘Clipped Words’ in DN IV:ii 120: lobs, from lobster. A soldier.
[UK](con. WWI) Fraser & Gibbons Soldier and Sailor Words 145: Lobster, A: A Soldier. A Redcoat. A nickname as old as Queen Anne’s time for infantry, and for cavalry [...] going back to the Civil War — 1642.

(b) (also blue lobster) a policeman.

[UK]Satirist (London) 7 Oct. 322/3: HOT BEEF AND THE NEW POLICE. [...] This very naturally attracted the attention of the vigilant guardian of the public peace, and he stretched his eyes with the all-searching powers of a ‘lobster’ through the immensity of space.
[UK] ‘The Shickster To Her Dab Had Gone’ in Flash Chaunter 14: The Lobsters they do prowl about, / As soon as it is day.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 6 Sept. 4/2: No lobsters blue nor beak, I trust, will on our sport be pouncing.
[UK]Paul Pry (London 15 Aug. n.p.: When a Bobby approached, he roguishly told Emma [...] that he should like some lobster sauce for supper; and the indignant peeler emphatically told him to go on quiet.
[UK]Chester Chron. 20 Mar. 6/4: Mr Mills did not fetch his terrier to drag the ‘ninth part of a man’ from his hiding place, but a ‘lobster,’ otherwise a policeman.
[UK](con. 1835) G.A. Sala Things I Have Seen II 109: I can most distinctly remember [...] the metamorphosis of a policeman into a lobster. The ‘force’ were not very popular in 1835.
[US]Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA) 10 Mar. 55/1: ‘You must think the Boss is as balmy in the belfry as you blue lobsters’.
[Aus]Truth (Perth) 25 June 8/8: I advised him tell the lobsters / Right straight out, upon his lapse.

2. the slow movements of the crustacean, but note lob n.2 (2)

(a) (US) a slow-witted, awkward or gullible person; a general term of abuse; esp. of a socially inept or foolish person.

[UK]London-Bawd (1705) 3: Of a Countrey-Gentleman she makes a Cods-head; and of a rich Citizens Son a Gudgeon; a Swordman in Scarlet, she takes for a Lobster.
[US] S. Crane ‘Landlady’s Daughter’ in Stallman (1966) 9: You, Thorpey, me boy, could make a lobster out of Holmes.
[US]W.J. Kountz Billy Baxter’s Letters 59: She is going to marry some lobster out in St. Louis, and I’ll bet he is a pup.
[US]A.H. Lewis ‘Politics’ Sandburrs 94: I flashes me lamps [...] an’ sort o’ stacks up d’ blokes, for to pick out d’ fly guys from d’ lobsters, see!
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 257: Sing to ’em, you lobster!
[US]C. M’Govern By Bolo and Krag 91: Fooled you lobsters, then, allright.
[US]Van Loan ‘Excess Baggage’ Score by Innings (2004) 398: The big lobster gimme the sign as a plain as the nose on your face.
[Aus]B. Cronin Timber Wolves 306: They’s a two-coloured, button-grass spawn of a creek lobster sitting inside over there, jess like he owned the place.
[US]Winston Simplified Dict. cited in AS XXIV:2 156/1: lobster: Slang, a cheap, mean, or clumsy fellow.
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson Shearer’s Colt 180: That lobster. I’ll shut ’im up.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 147: lobster [...] a person with little intelligence.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 242: You can’t ruin the reputation of a man like Judge Greet just on this big lobster’s say-so.

(b) an older man who gives a younger woman presents and/or money in return for sexual favours.

L. Matthewman Crankisms 97: A camel may not be able to pass through the eye of a needle, but that does not deter many a lobster from trying to do so. [With illustration of a blindfolded fool chasing a butterfly-winged woman.].
Foolish Almanak Jan. 3v : Seven Wonders of the World [...] Why chorus girls and lobsters always go together. [Ibid.] Oct. 1v : Sons of great men oft remind us That no matter what our fame, Offspring that we leave behind us May be lobsters, just the same.
[US]G. Legman Rationale of the Dirty Joke (1972) I 100: The rich sugar-daddy or ‘Dirty Old Man’ (the ‘lobster’ of the 1890s).

(c) a second-rate racehorse.

[US]H. Blossom Checkers 33: Domino lst! [...] I knew from the start that he was a ‘lobster.’.
[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 223: By the time the bunch went to the post our horse would be backed ’way up for a lobster.
[US]Van Loan ‘Egyptian Corn’ in Old Man Curry 223: You great big hammer-headed lobster [...] Sometimes I think I ought to sell you to a soap factory.

3. the penis.

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.

4. (US black) a rich person [the role of lobsters as luxury food].

[US]R. Klein Jailhouse Jargon and Street Sl. [unpub. ms.].

In compounds

lobster-back (n.)

a British soldier.

[UK]‘Bill Truck’ Man o’ War’s Man (1843) 39: The hatchway’s so completely choak-a-block with lobster-backs.
[US]S. Longstreet Flesh Peddlers (1964) 45: Coming into COK was like entering the priesthood or that old-time English Army of lobsterback-and-gold.
[US]P. Beatty White Boy Shuffle 10: Hey blokes. Isn’t that lobster-backed scoundrel the Brit scalawag who cheated the barber.
lobster-box (n.)

1. a transport ship.

[UK]M. Scott Tom Cringle’s Log (1862) 62: We landed in the lobster-box as Jack loves to designate a transport.

2. a military barracks.

[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn).
[UK]Story of a Lancashire Thief 11: He’d speak of a barracks as a lobster-box, and of that part of it for subalterns as the rookery.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 46: Lobster Box, a soldier’s barracks.

3. (US Und.) a cell in a police station.

[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: Lobster-box, a detention room in a police station.
lobster shift (n.) (also lobster-trick) [the slow pace of the crustacean; i.e. such a shift, usu. between 2:00a.m. and 9:00a.m. is rarely busy]

(US) a late-night work shift; also attrib.

[US]Wash. Herald (DC) 19 June 8/5: Those assigned to the ‘lobster shift’ in the proof room are [etc.].
[US]Tomahawk (White Earth, MN) 9 Mar. 3/4: The newspaper lobster-shift man, whose work takes him to the almost deserted skyscraper district of lower Manhattan at three or four o’clock in the morning.
[US] ‘Newspaper Nomenclature’ AS II:5 242: ‘Sunrise watch’ and ‘lobster trick’ are among the names applied [...] to the force which occupies the office in the very early morning [...] before the last regular morning edition has gone to press and before the staff of the afternoon edition has begun work.
[US]W. Winchell 11 Jan. [synd. col.] Editorial Room slanguage [...] ‘The Lobster Shift’ is the midngiht-to-dawn stretch.
[US]A.J. Liebling Telephone Booth Indian (2004) 139: Their press agent employed a lobster shift of assistants who went to work after midnight and [worked till dawn].
[US]Chicago Trib. 21 May 27/6: A pair of dark glasses [...] to allow strengthening of ‘lobster-shift eyeballs’.
[US]E. Wilson Earl Wilson’s N.Y. 199: I was a ‘lobster trick’ rewriteman on the New York Post, sleepily reporting for work at 2, 3 or 4 a.m.
[US]R. Price Blood Brothers 55: ‘Where’s your dad?’ ‘He’s got the lobster shift.’.
[US](con. 1949) J.G. Dunne True Confessions (1979) 313: He worked through the night watch and into the lobster trick.
[US]J. Ciardi Good Words 330: Lobster shift [...] A third work-shift on a big-city newspaper, commonly from 2.00-9.00 a.m.
[US]A. Vachss Hard Candy (1990) 24: It was one in the morning before they brought me downtown [...] The Lobster Shift.
[US]D. Heilbroner Rough Justice 63: Named after lobstermen, who go to work in the early-morning hours, lobster is the midnight-to-eight-AM shift.
[US]‘Harry Brandt’ Whites 2: There were gung ho detectives out there, even on the lobster shift, but Billy was not one of them.

In phrases

boil one’s lobster (v.)

for a clergyman to become a soldier.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: To boil one’s lobster, for a churchman to become a soldier: lobsters, which are of a bluish black, being made red by boiling.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]‘One of the Fancy’ Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress 5: To boil one’s lobster means for a churchman to turn soldier.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue [as cit. 1785].
red lobster (n.) [many were ex-soldiers]

the Metropolitan Police.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 967/2: ca. 1830–60.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

lobster-palace society (n.) [lobster-palace, one of the elegant, expensive new restaurants that emerged in New York City at this time, which specialized in lobsters and attracted the rich and famous; ; the phr. was coined by the critic Julian Street in Everbody’s Mag. 22 (1910)]

(US) the world of wealth if not of social position.

[[US]Cosmopolitan 41 398/2: The crowd of dinner- digesting men and women who are longing to get to the lobster-palace for supper].
[US]Everybody’s Mag. 22 647: Getting the rope at a Lobster Palace is much like ‘getting the hook’ on amateur night at a music hall. It makes a person feel unutterably cheap, and ‘cheap’ is a word that gives Lobster Palace Society the horrors. Spend money! That is the cry.
[US]Seattle Star (WA) 27 Apr. 4/1: Under the appetizing title of ‘Lobster Palace Society’ Julian Street [...] satirizes that portion of New York’s population which forgathers nightly in the vicinity of Times Square.
[US]Salt Lake Trib. (UT) 9 Aug. 5/1: Several large circus parties were given, followed by midnight suppers in lobster society palaces.
[[US]O.O. McIntyre Day By Day in New York 4 Mar. [synd. col.] Men and women who formerly dined in the lobster belt now go up the side streets to the Italian, Hungarian and French places].
[US](con. 1910s) Green & Laurie Show Biz from Vaude to Video 10: At the Palace, in musical comedy or one of the lobster palaces.
[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 70: Down in the brightly lit canyon of Broadway the most elegant and gay restaurants were called lobster palaces.
lobstertails (n.) [? resemblance, based on colour or shape] (US black)

1. (also lobstertoes) a case of venereal disease.

[US]R. Abrahams Deep Down In The Jungle 116: He went to a place called ‘Dew-drop Inn.’/ He asked the broads to give him cock for a lousy fin. / She took Shine upstairs and she gave him a fuck, and all this pats. / He came out with the syphs, the crabs, lobstertoes, and a hell of a case of the claps.

2. a case of body lice or ‘crabs’.

[US]C. Major Juba to Jive.