Green’s Dictionary of Slang

clean v.

1. (US und.) to rob (of everything).

[US]J.R. Lowell Biglow Papers (1880) 113: Two pickpockets [...] / Turn all his pockets wrong side out an’ quick ez lightnin’ clean ’em.
[US]F. Hutchison Philosophy of Johnny the Gent 31: ‘[D]idn’t you get a chance to clean any Christmas drunks this year? ’.
[NZ]N.Z. Truth 27 Feb. 6/6: For did not he introduce two of the most fascinating tartlets into Central Club, and did not those two smart ‘gals’ clean members of every loose coin.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 24: clean [...] To take... all one possesses of a given commodity; to deplete one’s assets. Example: ‘He headed in wrong with that bunch and got cleaned.’.
[US]Black Mask Aug. III 60: Somebody has cleaned old Adams and now he comes bellyaching.
[US]V.G. Burns Female Convict (1960) 43: I’d getta job as a maid in a swell home, then clean the joint and make my get-away.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 44/2: Clean, v. To rob of everything of value; to leave penniless.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 794: clean – To rob.

2. to beat, to overcome; thus cleaning, a thrashing.

[US]F. Dumont Benedick’s Songster 49: I can beat old Uncle Snow, the best way he can go, I will clean the whole caboodle [DA].
[US]‘Mark Twain’ Innocents at Home 334: He went for ’em! And he cleaned ’em, too!
[US]Van Loan ‘The Bush League Demon’ Big League (2004) 41: Tough mug. Don’t start anything with him or he’ll clean you.
[US]R. Lardner ‘Horseshoes’ Coll. Short Stories (1941) 250: The Ath-a-letics would of cleaned ’em in four games but for Parker.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 468: Joe had cleaned him in a game of straight pool.
[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 313: Got cleaned in a poker game.
[US](con. 1940s) E. Thompson Tattoo (1977) 47: When he had cleaned the two gentlemen, he unscrewed his cue.
[US]G. Pelecanos Way Home (2009) 281: Lawremce threw a right. It caught Chris square on the jaw [...] ‘I’m about to clean you proper now’.

3. to tell off severely.

[UK]G.W. Target Teachers (1962) 21: Your Mum wouldn’t half have cleaned her.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 223/1: late C.19–20.

4. (orig. gambling) to take all of an opponent’s money.

[US]H. Blossom Checkers 37: I’ve been playing ‘the bank,’ and they’ve cleaned me flat.
[UK]H. Macfall Wooings of Jezebel Pettyfer 315: De gen’el man wid four spots cleans de table!
[US]Ade Forty Modern Fables 158: Adams had been Cleaned properly.
[US]Van Loan ‘By a Hair’ in Old Man Curry 70: I sat there like a flathead and let them clean me.
[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 33: I soon came to know the poker players, crap shooters and dice sharks who brought their victims into the back room to ‘clean’.
[US] ‘Stampede’ in T. Goodstone Pulps (1970) 86/1: Glenn Vernam an’ Joe Archibald got together an’ cleaned me purty.
[US]H. McCoy Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye in Four Novels (1983) 124: They didn’t clean me. I didn’t know it was a shakedown.
[US]E. De Roo Young Wolves 52: Somebody cleaned the till. No witnesses.
[US](con. 1940s) E. Thompson Tattoo (1977) 59: You cleanin this sausage?
[US]H. Selby Jr Song of the Silent Snow (1988) 11: Phil got on a hot roll and was cleanin everybody.

5. (US Und.) for a pickpocket to rid him- or herself of the stolen object as soon as it has been secured.

[US](con. 1905–25) E.H. Sutherland Professional Thief (1956) 46: The fourth operation is cleaning. When a hook has secured a pocketbook, he generally cleans himself of it to another member of the mob as soon as possible.
[US]D. Dressler Parole Chief 246: The next step is ‘cleaning’. [...] ‘I pass the wallet on right away to one of my stalls.’.

6. (US Und.) to empty a stolen wallet or purse.

[US]J. McCree ‘Types’ Variety Stage Eng. Plays [Internet] I have a copped a poke and screened it / ’Till I cleaned it then I’ve jeaned it.
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 218: We emptied the johns and pushed everyone but the bartender into the back and cleaned them like Rinso of anything that was worth money.

In phrases

clean out (v.)

see separate entry.

clean someone’s clock (v.) [fig. use of SE; ? link to US railroad jargon clean the clock, to apply the airbrakes and thus bring the train to a sudden stop. The ‘clock’ in question is the air gauge, which on halting, immediately registers zero and is thus ‘clean’] (orig. US)

1. to beat up severely; to destroy.

Trenton (NJ) Eve. Times 28 July 11: It took the Thistles just one inning to clean the clocks of the Times boys.
[US]Cook County (MN) Herald 6 May 1: [Tomatoes versus citrus fruits] But the science boys now say that the vitamins in the tomato can clean the clock of any of the others so highly recommended and not half tried.
[US]Reno (LV) Eve. Gazette 18 Sept. 12: ‘Who knows?’ Lobert said yesterday, eager for the Brooklyn game. ‘Maybe we’ll clean their clocks.’.
[US](con. WWII) B. Cochrell Barren Beaches of Hell 225: ‘Don’t give me that guff. You’re not a corporal any more.’ ‘I don’t have to be a corporal to clean your clock.’.
[US]‘Richard Hooker’ M*A*S*H (2004) 96: If you give us any kind of a bad time, me and Trapper John are going to clean your clock.
[US]M. Baker Nam (1982) 127: I [...] jumped into Hanoi with an airborne division and just cleaned their clock for them.
[UK]N. Cohn Yes We have No 186: Babette kicks ass. One wrong look and [...] Babette will clean your clock.
[US]F.X. Toole Pound for Pound 119: A white top that he’d worn when he cleaned Chicky’s clock.
[US]‘Jack Tunney’ Cutman [ebook] The cap’n would have cleaned our clocks if we’d tried to interfere.
[US]D. Winslow The Force [ebook] If the cameras weren’t there, the uniforms might charge them, clean their clocks, shut their fucking mouths.

2. to take all someone’s money, esp. during gambling.

[US]C. Hiaasen Skin Tight 63: I took him for every goddam dime. Cleaned his clock.
[US]C. Hiaasen Native Tongue 284: We played poker [...] Cleaned his fucking clock.
clean someone’s greens (v.) [? assonance]

(US) to beat up severely, to attack, lit., or fig.

[UK]C. Gaines Stay Hungry 262: But when I get out I’m gon come around to see you. And I’m might gonna clean your greens.
Anniston Star (AL) 28 Nov. 1B/6: Right left or middle of the road [in politics] seems inbred so they will all be ready to clean your greens.
clean someone’s plow (v.)

(US) lit. or fig., to thrash, to beat severely; thus clean someone’s plow off, to reach the limit of one’s patience.

[US]DN V 37: plow, to clean one’s v.phr. To give one a whipping.
Times (Shreveport, LA) 13 Oct. 11/2: ‘Since he threw so much mud with his political half-shovel, I propose to “clean his plow”’.
[US]Burlington Hawkeye-Gaz. (IA) 20 Nov. 7/7: ‘Let me have one of those Illinois fighters who thinks he can battle and I’ll clean his plow for him’.
[US]Pampa Dly News (TX) 7 Jan. 4/4: ‘You go up there and tell that blankety-blank , long-legged, block-headed son of a so-and-so that [...] I’ll come up there and clean his plow’.
[US]Randolph & Wilson Down in the Holler 235: If that feller says one faultin’ word to me, I’ll clean his plow!
[US]Abilene Reporter-News (TX) 2 May 8/1: Lewis sounds like a republican. I leave it to the democrats to clean his plow.
[US]Terre Haute Trib. (IN) 10 Sept. 11/1: Lewis [...] likened a reporter to the prohgency of a ‘stud horse and a she jackass’ and threatened to ‘clean his plow’.
Courier-Post (Camden, NJ) 10 Jan. 6/2: Perhaps it is time that the United States clean his [i.e. Col. Gaddafi] plow for him.
[US]Montgomery Advertiser (AL) 4 July 11/3: ‘He can’t beat me. Once again I’ll clean his plow’.
clean up

see separate entries.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

clean house (v.)

1. (US) to sort things out once and for all, to punish, to beat; to eject malefactors.

[US]Steuben Repub. (Angola, IN) 23 Jan. 6/3: ‘Wasn’t that Governor McManus who sat up in the high chair and said that after to-day he was going to clean house?’.
[US]Sun (NY) 23 Sept. 1/7: They say the Chinese are dirty and should be swept out [...] But if America is going to clean house, where should she begin? With the Poles, with the Russian, the Italian, or where?’.
[US]Ade More Fables in Sl. (1960) 183: He cleared the Dividing Fence without touching his Hands and began to Clean House.
[US]C.E. Mulford Bar-20 Days 176: When I get well I’m going down to Harlan’s an’ clean house proper.
Galveston Dly News (TX) 4 Nov. 4/6: Kennerly [said] that he was going to ‘clean house’ as an aftermath of the [...] investigation of his office.
Palladium-Item (Richmond, IN) 16 Apr. 6/1: If you are going to clean house, make a good and through job of it is his theory [...] We hope the sentaor keeps blasting away at the higher-ups that get their ideas from Moscow .
[US]W. Hopson ‘The Ice Man Came’ in Thrilling Detective Winter [Internet] So you watch your step or we’ll clean house.
[US]Linton Dly Citizen (IN) 14 Dec. 8/2: The Bloomfield Cardinals say they’re going to ‘clean house’ by beating us.
[US]Orlando Sentinel (FL) 21 Nov. 20/2: Blackwood took aim on Irsay, suggesting that the Colts ‘start at the top’ if they’re going to cleaan house.
Phila. Enquirer (PA) 1 Sept. 7-F/5: Reports persist that Turner is going to clean house in the organization and that Mullen probably will be one of the casualities.
[US]Simon & Burns Corner (1998) 262: Pops never cleans house or hurries anyone out.
Tallahassee Democrat (FL) 8 Feb. 5/1: [He] vowed [...] to push investigations into [...] political crimes and to sweep out corrupt officials. ‘When I sit on the gubernatorial chair, I’m going to clean house’.
[US] M. McBride Frank Sinatra in a Blender [ebook] ‘First, this guy, Norman Russo, he’s [...] murdered? [...] Ron nodded. ‘And now this security guard ends up dead the next day?’ ‘Exactly,’ Ron joined in. ‘Somebody’s cleaning house, tying up loose ends’.
Buzzfeed 19 July [Internet] ‘He came in, cleaned house, and turned New York into a dominant market. He played hardball’.

2. (US) to leave (fast).

[US]‘Lou Rand’ Gay Detective (2003) 101: Hey, boss, let’s clean house.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 182: You’d better clean house fast.

3. (US campus) to vomit.

[UK]M. Belmonte Compter Science and Why (1993) [Internet] I was struck with [...] the plethora of words and phrases meaning ‘vomit’ and/or ‘to vomit’ [...] At most American colleges and universities, a weekend cannot pass without seeing multitudes [...] clean house.

4. (US) to have sexual intercourse.

[US]‘Jennifer Blowdryer’ Modern English 72: clean house (v): Get laid.
clean one’s rifle (v.)

to masturbate.

[US]quinnelk T. Rex’s Guide to Life [Internet] Okay, since people don’t want to actually say the m-word and the chicken and monkey phrases have been used to death on MTV, I thought it would be my duty to provide you with a bevy of other useful terminology that may be helpful in this area: [...] cleaning your rifle.
clean someone’s pipe (v.)

see under pipe n.1