Green’s Dictionary of Slang

line n.1

SE in slang uses

In phrases

go down the line (v.)

to make an effort, to commit onself.

[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 83/2: Go down the line for. See Go to bat.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 302: I go down the line for them and [they] still treat me like a bum.
have a line on (v.) [racing jargon the line, the daily details of the horses running and the odds on them]

to understand, to know what is happening; to know about.

[US]Van Loan ‘The Spotted Sheep’ in Taking the Count 100: I’ve got a line on the very man we want.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Death on Pine Street’ in Nightmare Town (2001) 193: I have a line on a woman [...] Want to come along and talk to her with me?
[US]M.C. McPhee ‘College Sl.’ in AS III:2 131: If an individual (a ‘date’) is entertaining or interesting such terms as: ‘knows her oil,’ ‘is full of vinegar,’ ‘has a line,’ will be used in praise.
[UK]Rover 13 Jan. 31: I’ve got a line on these racketeers at last.
J.H. Cummings Fatal Pay-off 55: I think I’ve got a good line on where Reali was Tuesday night.
[US]S. Bellow Augie March (1996) 80: He had a line on Lollie from the beginning.
[US]E. Grogan Ringolevio 200: They didn’t have a line on Kenny but they knew Matt.
[US]G.V. Higgins Rat on Fire (1982) 77: We’ve got a pretty good line on these guys.
[US]C. Hiaasen Tourist Season (1987) 36: Remember I told you I had a line on those goofy clothes? Well, I got a sale clerk at a joint down the street who says she sold them to a skinny little Cuban guy.
[US]J. Stahl Plainclothes Naked (2002) 36: If the lazy son of a bitch didn’t have a line on diet pills, she’d have fired him at Christmas.
G. Doyle Whitemare 126: I think we have a line on him. He’s Chinese and he gets his calls at a Cuban-Chinese restaurant on 8th Avenue.
in line (adj.)

not breaking any rules, law-abiding.

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 172: Both the CIO and the AFL have ‘bugs’ on his telephone wires to see that he stays in line.
[US]B. Hecht Gaily, Gaily 19: We visited the death cell daily, in order to keep the doomed man in line.
keep the line (v.) [hunting jargon keep one’s own line, to ride straight]

to behave properly.

[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 277: If you promise to ‘keep the line’ [...] you shall be admitted into the preserve.
[UK]Egan Bk of Sports 3: George being a family man, and fully aware of the necessity of ‘keeping the line’.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
line of the old author (n.) (also leaf of the old author) [? the old author being God]

a drink, esp. of brandy.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Line of the old Author a Dram of Brandy.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]B.M. Carew Life and Adventures.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]A. Mayhew Paved with Gold 256: She’s a rum ’un, and as fond of ‘a line of the old author’ (brandy) or a drop of the ‘South Sea Mountain’ (gin) as any ‘doxy’ (woman) in Stafford.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues 254/1: drink [...] leaf of the old author.
on the line

see separate entry.

out of line (adj.) [SE line, a style of activity, a discipline]

(orig. US) breaking rules, unacceptable, out of the ordinary.

[US]V.W. Saul ‘Vocab. of Bums’ in AS IV:5 343: Out-o’-line — To become unmanageable; to fail in the rôle one is expected to play.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Romance in the Roaring Forties’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 32: He is polite to her and never gets out of line in her company.
[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 303: You’ll see [...] Get out of line and you’ll see.
[US]J. Thompson Savage Night (1991) 58: I don’t have to move very far out of line to be in trouble.
[US]P. Highsmith Two Faces of January (1988) 97: A woman liked to feel that a man cared [...] that a man would beat the hell out of her if she got out of line.
[US]Pileggi & Scorsese Goodfellas [film script] 53: You got out of line, you got whacked.
[UK]J. Cameron Vinnie Got Blown Away 70: Beat your woman first time she steps out of line.
[UK]M. Collins Keepers of Truth 102: I said, ‘I was out of line.’.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 170: If they caught you out of line, man, they’d fuck you up.
over the line

1. drunk.

[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 169: - And is that a fact? Decent quiet man he is. I often saw him in here and I never once saw him, you know, over the line.

2. to excess.

[Aus]Kia Ora Coo-ee 15 Apr. 5/1: All might have been well if the fellows had only used moderation, but one day they fairly went over the line.

In exclamations

hold the line! [telephone imagery]

wait a minute!

[UK]Wodehouse Right Ho, Jeeves 1: Hold the line a minute. I’ve gone off the rails.
[UK]‘Leslie Charteris’ Enter the Saint 85: You think you’re going to find out [...] whether I’ve arranged for a squeal to the police [...] Hold the line while I laugh!