Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Queer Street n.

[queer adj. (1) + SE street]

any difficult situation; usu. in phr. below.

[UK]Lex. Balatronicum n.p.: Queer Street. Wrong. Improper. Contrary to one’s wish. It is queer street, a cant phrase, to signify that it is wrong or different to our wish.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc.
[UK]Egan Finish to the Adventures of Tom and Jerry (1889) 103: Bob Logic, Queer Street, Ragged Corner, near the good Ould One!
[UK]Fast Man 3:1 n.p.: We imagine you would find yourself most infernally in queer street, if you met a furious drove of oxen in any street in London.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
[UK]H. Kingsley Ravenshoe III 178: Charles saw that they were getting into ‘Queer Street’.
[UK]Dickens Our Mutual Friend (1994) 423: Queer Street is full of lodgers just at present!
[US]W.W. Fowler Ten Years In Wall Street 79: Mysterious men, cormorants of ‘Queer Street,’ who seemed to extract a rich sustenance out of the viewless air.
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Little Mr. Bouncer 141: I seem to be in Queer Street. Is this old bald-pate some species of attorney?
[US]Monroe & Northup ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:iii 146: Queer St., n. In report of prize fight, ‘to live on Queer St.,’ = to be queered.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 12 June 2/8: This play went on to the tenth, when Dougherty had McFadden well on Queer-street.
[US]Goodwin’s Wkly (Salt Lake City) 19 May 13/1: That a share [...] should drop from $70 to $28 [...] is one of the things that make Brokers’ Row look like Queer Street.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 26 Dec. 13/3: This places the principle of Arbitration in the central edifice of Queer-street, the main thoroughfare in the town of Muddle.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Mufti 235: Sir James — her father, you know — was in a very queer street.
[UK]A. Christie Three Act Tragedy (1964) 139: But if you ask me – the firm’s not far off Queer Street.
[US]B. Schulberg Harder They Fall (1971) 18: All they got is a one-way ticket to Queer Street.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘A Losing Streak’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] How come for the last fortnight we’ve been off Queer Street and suddenly all them notes materialise?

In phrases

in Queer Street [Queer Street begins as a fig. ‘place’ where the only ‘dwellers’ are problems and difficulties; the financial aspect, now dominant, was added in mid-19C]

in trouble, esp. financial.

[UK]‘An Amateur’ Real Life in London I 186: Limping Billy was also evidently in queer-street.
[UK]Lytton Paul Clifford I 68: If so be as how you goes for to think as how I shall go for to supply your wicious necessities, you will find yourself planted in Queer Street.
[UK] ‘Cat’s-Meat Nell’ Cockchafer 5: I look’d for I felt so stupid, do you see, / To know vhere I vas, in wain. / To a butcher says I, ‘I’m in Queer-street.’ Says he, / ‘Why, you calf, this here is Cow-lane’.
[UK]Era (London) 17 Sept. 5/2: A lot of ’em were in queer-street, and couldn’t see the way out.
[UK]Dickens ‘Slang’ Household Words 24 Sept. 75/2: To say that a man is without money, or in poverty, some persons remark that he is down on his luck, hard up, stumped up, in Queer Street.
[UK](con. 1837) Fights for the Championship 360: Again was the Jew in ‘Queer Street’ and [...] Barney appeared to have finished his labours for the day.
[UK]M. Lemon Golden Fetters III 35: I’ve had too much roughing myself not to feel for another in Queer street.
[UK]J. Greenwood Wilds of London (1881) 25: Snuffed it, and left the missus and the kids [...] in Queer Street.
[UK]A. Griffiths Fast and Loose III 258: ‘Who is in Queer Street?’ asked Horace Wingspur, coming in; ‘I shall be if the governor don’t stump up soon.’.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Marriage’ Punch 29 Sept. 156/1: ‘Seven mouths and six weeks out of work, mate! In Queer Street, and cleared of the quids!’.
[UK]Hartlepool Mail 24 Mar. 4/1: [headline] Donald in Queer Street.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 2 June 4/8: When a foreign nobleman finds himself in Queer-street, I believe he delicately observes to his chaste chums [...] I must slip over to America and get a wealthy woman.
[UK]Aberdeen People’s Jrnl 19 Apr. 3/4: [in emotional trouble] Marmaduke mutters to himself — ‘Not in Queer Street after all, by Jove!’.
[US]P. White West End 16: Well, the lady in question has got in ‘Queer Street,’ and it’s doubtful whether we can save her.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 3 Dec. 40/3: Sorry I can’t stump up the quid you so kindly lent me for my cab fare to St. Kilda, but, as you know, I never part if I can help it. After all, it serves you right for going on a lay you ain’t used to. Take my tip, you and Maunder stick to bilking bungs and other fatheads, else you’ll find yourself in Queer-street some fine day. Love to Jerry. Lord, how he did run when he twigged my persuader.
[US]Eve. Bulletin (Honolulu) 20 Nov. 8/4: A right under the jaw had Bill in queer street for a moment.
[UK] Galsworthy White Monkey 52: I fully expect those commitments will put us in Queer Street next year.
[Aus]A.W. Upfield House of Cain 121: We’ll be in Queer Street all the same if he punctures our water-drums.
[UK]D.L. Sayers Busman’s Honeymoon (1974) 271: You go on imaginin’ things, you’ll land yourself in Queer Street one o’ these days.
[UK]J. Orton Entertaining Mr Sloane Act II: You’ll find yourself in queer street.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 198: Queer street, in trouble, usually financial trouble; possibly from Carey Street, the bankruptcy court location.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak 118: Queer street, to be in – in finanacial difficulties.
[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 53: In any walk of life, if things get bad enough one can land in Queer Street, that is, in trouble, especially financial, and in certain American usages it seems extended to any awkward, embarrassing situation.
[US]J. Ellroy ‘Balls to the Wall’ Destination: Morgue! (2004) 24: They’re [i.e. two boxers] insensate. They’re on Queer Street. They’re the standing dead.
[US](con. 1954) ‘Jack Tunney’ Tomato Can Comeback [ebook] He’s [i.e. a concussed boxer] on queer street [...] He might get killed in there!