Green’s Dictionary of Slang

shake n.1

1. in sexual senses.

(a) an act of sexual intercourse.

[US]‘Bob Sterling’ Town-Bull 15: ‘Well, my dear [...] would you like a few shakes of this [i.e. a penis]? [...] ‘Put it in me, I am drunk and my slit is ablaze. Quick, fuck me’.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 1040/2: from ca. 1860; ob.

(b) a prostitute or kept woman.

[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 40: The French shicksters fight coakum better than our shakes; they do not lush nor scrap, and can sweeten a swell better; they are not so barefaced in their prossing; though they know how to nail a cully and ball off a flat.
Man of Pleasure’s Illus. Pocket-book n.p.: MADAME JACOT, Albion Place, Walworth Road. This experienced old shake, having done the state some service, has sold out.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 57/1: There were many more whose names I need not mention, besides a host of ‘shakes’ (nymphs du pave) that lived in the neighborhood.
[UK]Sl. Dict.

2. a disreputable man.

[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 51: Sall was held in great tip among the kiddies and shakes, as well on account of her patter, as her pluck and beauty.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.

3. (US) constr. with the, malaria.

[US]J.F. Brobst letter in Brobst Well Mary, Civil War Letters 278: I have been taking opium for some time to prepare for the shake and I think [...] I will survive the shake with little or no effect on the brain.

4. as a form of entertainment.

(a) (US) a dance.

[US]M.H. Boulware Jive and Sl.

(b) (US black) a party at which the guests pay an admission fee to help pay the rent and pay for the refreshments.

[US]R. Blesh Shining Trumpets 303: The great South Side institution of ‘rent party’ (locally known as ‘skiffle’, ‘shake’, or ‘percolator’) [OED].
[US] (ref. to 1930s) S. Longstreet Real Jazz Old and New 126: Depression came [...] You could always get together and charge a few coins and have a shake [...] the money paid the rent.

(c) a party.

[US]G. Underwood ‘Razorback Sl.’ in AS L:1/2 65: There’s a shake at Jim’s house.

5. a moment, a second.

[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. IV 113: Well, jest wait a shake, an’ I’ll hexplain.
[UK]Kipling ‘Slaves of the Lamp — Part I’ in Complete Stalky & Co. (1987) 71: Hold on a shake. I’ve got to tie my bootlace.
[UK]‘G.B. Lancaster’ Sons O’ Men 263: ‘There’ll be a holy row in a shake,’ gasped Thornton.
[US] C.E. Mulford Hopalong Cassidy Returns 16: ‘Wait a shake,’ said the host.
[US]F. Nebel ‘Take It and Like It’ in Ruhm Hard-Boiled Detective (1977) 95: The car. I’ll be down in a shake.
[US]R. Prather Always Leave ’Em Dying 156: Wait a shake. Give me two minutes and I’ll stand you on your heads.
[US]J. Thompson Texas by the Tail (1994) 64: He called that he’d be there in a shake.

6. (US) constr. with the, an act of dismissal.

[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 22 Nov. 15/2: ‘Both hof you [ladies] give Pretty Jimmy the shake’.
Star Trib. (Minneapolis, MI) 30 Sept. 3/5: Colonel Bogey is dismissed [...] Glad I am he’s got the shake.

7. in US Und. uses [abbr. shakedown n. (4)].

(a) blackmail, extortion, often from homosexuals.

[US]J. O’Connor Broadway Racketeers 181: When you build up a job for a regular shake the mouthpiece wants to clip you for ninety per cent of the score.
[US](con. 1905–25) E.H. Sutherland Professional Thief (1956) 78: The shake or shakedown consists in securing money by extortion from a person who is violating a law or who thinks he is violating a law. The operator generally impersonates a law-enforcement officer or an agent of one of the supergovernmental bodies [...] The two principal forms of the shake are the muzzle (also known as the mug or mouse and involving homosexuality by the victim) and the income tax.
[US]D. Runyon Runyon à la Carte 86: It is a shake, all right.
[US]Q. Reynolds Police Headquarters (1956) 169: He specialized in ‘shakes’ [...] by aligning himself with hotel clerks in the Times Square area. The clerks knew pretty well which couples who occupied the rooms upstairs were unmatched.
[US]H. Gould Fort Apache, The Bronx 32: A cop could get rich and famous up here. A little shake, and you come up with a coupla hundred or more for looking the other way.
[US]J. Ellroy ‘Jungletown Jihad’ in Destination: Morgue! (2004) 352: He beats both beefs. They’re fruit shakes. He’s a shakedown shill.

(b) an arrest; a search by the police or prison guards.

[US]‘Boxcar Bertha’ Sister of the Road (1975) 95: Periodically the officers of the jail searched the prison. This was known as the ‘shake’.
[US]W. Burroughs letter 16 April in Harris (1993) 48: I am subject to a shake anytime and 72 hours in a Precinct.
[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 67: I’m going out clean in case I get a shake.
[US]M. Braly False Starts 299: Keeping his copy safe through repeated and frequent cell shakes.
[US]J. Wambaugh Glitter Dome (1982) 215: We ain’t got no shakes yet today.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 107: He wouldn’t risk carrying it in his car – the odds on a shake were too strong.

8. in drug uses [note dial. shake, the residue of grain after harvesting].

(a) marijuana, esp. the residue of a bag of cannabis after the smokeable buds are removed.

[US]Dennis & Barry Marijuana Catalogue.
[US]Abel Marihuana Dict.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 19: Shake — Marijuana.

(b) diluted cocaine.

[US](con. 1982–6) T. Williams Cocaine Kids (1990) 35: Kitty says Max has changed his mind about how much ‘shake’ should be in a kilo. Shake is the term for a mixture of cocaine powder with adulterant: most suppliers will allow up to 120 grams of shake to a kilo.
[US](con. 1986) G. Pelecanos Sweet Forever 76: ‘Nice shake,’ said Stefanos.

9. (US campus) constr. with the, an undesirable person.

[US]P. Munro Sl. U.

10. see fair shake n.

Pertaining to extortion

In compounds

shake man (n.)

(US Und.) an extortionist.

[US](con. 1905–25) E.H. Sutherland Professional Thief (1956) 21: It is ridiculous to imagine an amateur deciding to become a pickpocket, con man, pennyweighter (jewelry thief), or shake man (extortioner) without professional guidance.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 190/1: Shake-man. A specialist in extorting ‘protection money’ from shady people by threats of violence or of exposure; an extortionist who impersonates a police officer.
[US]W. Burroughs Naked Lunch (1968) 20: The Vigilante, the best Shake Man in the industry.
shake mob (n.)

(US Und.) a gang of extortionists.

[US](con. 1905–25) E.H. Sutherland Professional Thief (1956) 22: When he beat the murder rap, he was filled in by a shake mob.

In phrases

on the shake

1. of police, raiding, making arrests.

[US]A.J. Liebling Back Where I Came From (1990) 87: Detectives [...] are like Feds, always on the shake.

2. involved in extortion, usu. for a living.

[US]D. Runyon ‘Undertaker Song’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 333: Joey is on the shake almost since infancy.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 190/1: Shake, the. The extortion racket in general. [...] Shake, on the. Engaged in, or by means of, any form of shakedown.
[US]A.J. Liebling Honest Rainmaker (1991) The Campbellites, and the River Brethren and the Methodists and the Greek Orthodox. They were all on the shake.
put the shake on (v.)

(US Und.) to blackmail, to extort.

[US]C. Coe Hooch! 4: They’re buildin’ up enough of a case so they can put the shake on the brewers.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Cemetery Bait’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 521: He generally pitches to foolish old married Judy’s [...] and then puts the shake on them.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 171/1: Put the shake on. 1. To subject to extortion or blackmail.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 92: Doggin’ Constantly verbally harassing someone […] (Archaic: put the chill on, put the shake on).

Pertaining to drugs

In compounds

In phrases

cold shake (v.)

(US drugs) to prepare a drug for injection by shaking a capsule in cold water so as to dissolve the pill and mix the two together (the usual method is to heat the drug/water solution); thus also as n.

[US]H. Selby Jr Requiem for a Dream (1987) 171: We cop for some paregoric and we’re cookin it down and cold shakin it.
[US]Cincinnati Enquirer (OH) 29 Nov. 49/1: Ground up together and shaken in a vial [...] ‘cold shake,’ injected into the bloodstream [...] produces a rush.
[US]J. Stahl Permanent Midnight 152: The deal is, you don’t cook these little fuckers [i.e. Dilaudids] You shake ’em. That’s why they call it a cold shake, get it?

Other uses

In derivatives

In phrases

half-a-shake (n.)

a moment, a very short time, also as interj. to request that a third party waits a brief time (see cite 1933).

[UK]London Eve. Standard 12 Nov. 4/4: Yankee Courtship [...] The bow of my cravat was squat up in half a shake.
[UK]Bell’s Wkly Messenger 27 Sept. 1/1: A shillelah in my fist, that would knock a cavalry sword to smithereens in half a shake.
Concordia Empire (KS) 5 Dec. 6: I felt the grip of his revolver [...] I would have had it away from him in half a shake, but [etc].
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 10 May 4/7: The second bride in half a shake / Seeing he seemed a person good / Agreed that she the chance would take.
[NZ]H. Thompson ‘Another Station Ballad’ in Ballads About Business and Back-Block Life 43: I’ll show you where they’re wrong in half a shake.
[UK]N. Scanlan Tides of Youth 119: Half a shake—any more beer?
[US]Mt Carmel Item (PA) 13 July 2/5: In half a shake he is [...] working his head off.
[NZ] informant in DNZE (1998).
[US]J.E. Macdonnell Jim Brady 59: I won’t be half a shake.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 96: half a shake Request for someone to wait a moment. Early C20.
two shakes (n.) (also brace of shakes, couple of shakes, ten shakes, three shakes) [abbr. of two shakes of a lamb’s tail phr.; SE brace, pair; but note also sense 5 above]

a very short time; usu. with in..., meaning quickly, immediately.

[UK] ‘Professional Dinner Parties’ in Orange Boven Songster 2: Here Waiter! Coming in a brace of shakes, gentlemen.
[UK]W.N. Glascock Land Sharks and Sea Gulls II 137: We shall be in, in a brace of shakes.
[UK]R. Barham ‘The Babes in the Wood’ in Ingoldsby Legends (1842) 191: I’ll be back in a couple of shakes.
[Ire]S. Lover Handy Andy 37: I’ll be up at the inn, after you, in a brace of shakes.
[Aus]G.C. Mundy Our Antipodes I 384: They can ‘polish off’ a customer in ‘a brace of shakes’ – as the saying is.
[UK]Huddersfield Chron. (Yorks.) 28 June 3/5: I’ll be back in a couple of shakes.
[UK]M. Lemon Golden Fetters I 50: I’ll be ready in a brace of shakes.
[UK]Bristol Mercury 17 Nov. 6/1: I think I can prove ‘in a couple of shakes’ [...] How there came to the village such numbers of snakes.
[UK]R.L. Stevenson Treasure Island 66: I’d have [...] broached him to in a brace of old shakes, I would. [Ibid.] 106: Well, if I speak back, pikes will be going in two shakes.
[UK]C. Deveureux Venus in India I 38: In a brace of shakes, I was as naked as she!
[UK]Kipling ‘The Moral Reformers’ in Complete Stalky & Co. (1987) 128: ‘What the deuce d’you mean by this?’ ‘You’ll see in two shakes,’ said McTurk.
[UK]Marvel XV:377 Jan. 6: Now dress yourself in a brace of shakes. You haven’t a second to lose.
[US]J. London Smoke Bellew Pt 7 [Internet] ‘Bully for us!’ came the voice from above, down and across the bulge of ice. ‘Now we’ll get out of here in two shakes.’.
[UK]B.E.F. Times 1 Dec. (2006) 129/1: In two of the proverbial shakes he was beside me in the trench.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 378: In a brace of shakes all scamper pellmell within door for the smoking shower, the men making shelter for their straws with a clout or kerchief.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Female of the Species (1961) 129: I’d spot in two shakes how much you know about the sea.
[US]‘Max Brand’ Rustlers of Beacon Creek (1935) 242: I’ll be back in ten shakes.
[UK]Film Fun 8 Sept. 24: I’ll be with you in a brace of shakes.
[US]F. Nebel ‘Take It and Like It’ in Ruhm Hard-Boiled Detective (1977) 95: I’ll shoot down in two shakes and pick up the full dope.
[UK]M. Harrison Reported Safe Arrival 73: Tell Penny I’ll be along in a brace of shakes.
[Aus]L. Glassop Lucky Palmer 5: Won’t be gone more than two shakes.
[UK]G. Kersh Fowlers End (2001) 256: In two shakes I’d ’ave a town hall, an urban district council; the councillors under my thumb; and me as mayor.
[US]O. Hawkins Ghetto Sketches 239: Okay . . . be back in three shakes!
[UK]T. McClenaghan Submariners II i: I’ll be back in a brace of shakes.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘Yesterday Never Comes’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] We’ll be back in a couple of shakes.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 245: Keep her happy and I’ll be up there in two shakes.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

do fries go with that shake? (also want fries with that shake?) [burger bar imagery]

(US black) a phr. called out by a man to a passing attractive woman (whose buttocks move as she walks).

[US]G. Clinton [title] Do Fries Go With That Shake?
[US]‘Joe Bob Briggs’ Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In 1 Apr. [Internet] Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Gary Hrbek, as The Toddster, for coming on to women on the dance floor with the line ‘Hey, baby, do fries go with that shake?’.
[US]‘Touré’ Portable Promised Land (ms.) 155: We Words (My Favorite Things) [...] Wham bam, glass breaker I am jam. Want fries wit that shake?
even shake (n.) (also good shake) [the shaking of dice; fair shake n.]

an equal chance.

Arkansas Times 22 Mar. [Internet] They are expected to put them aside and accord an even shake even to those of a different political stripe or those represented by a lawyer who supported another for the judgeship.
fair shake (n.)

see separate entry.

give someone the shake (v.) (also give someone a shake) [abbr. SE handshake]

(US) to reject someone, to dismiss or get rid of someone, to leave or run off; often as ...cold shake, ...dead shake; thus get the shake, to be rejected.

Semi-Wkly Clarion (Jackson, MS) 1 Aug. 3/3: So that good-looking [...] Colonel [...] has got a dead shake from his old-time wife, who will apply for a divorce.
Quad-City Times (Davenport, IA) 25 Oct. 2/2: ‘Emily, i think you want to give me the cold shake. Heaven knows how I love you’.
[US]‘Mark Twain’ Life on the Mississippi (1914) 33: But none of them herded with Dick Allbright. They all give him the cold shake.
[US] ‘Lady Kate, the Dashing Female Detective’ in Roberts et al. Old Sleuth’s Freaky Female Detectives (1990) 14/2: Kate made up her mind to ‘lay in’ with Randolph Cummings, and take his full measure. She made several attempts to get acquainted with him, but got the ‘dead shake’ every time.
[US]S.F. Call 10 Sept. 1/3: ‘The cold shoulder is a mild term. I got the cold cruel shake’.
[US]World (NY) 22 Dec. 9/7: ‘I’d give de fellers de dead cold shake. Dat’s so’.
[US]J. London ‘’Frisco Kid’s Story’ in High School Aegis X 15 Feb. 2–3: He gives de push de shake, and does de swift sneak.
[US]Ade Artie (1963) 73: I’m afraid the old folks’ll think we’re givin’ ’em the shake.
[US]Times-Democrat (New Orleans, LA) 14 Mar. 25/6: Me steady [...] give me de dead shake.
[UK]A. Binstead Gal’s Gossip 121: Did not the gay and alcoholic relic of old Bourbonism persuade her to give Old Man Pompadour the shake.
[US]L.W. Payne Jr ‘Word-List From East Alabama’ in DN III:v 368: shake, n. Act of getting rid of, the slip. ‘We gave him the shake before dinner.’.
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 84/2: Cold Shake (of the hand) (Amer.). A new form of cold shoulder, or dismissal. ‘Leave you,’ he cried – ‘do you give me the cold shake?’ ‘No, no,’ she said, ‘only for a minute.’ He watched – it was her false back hair. She fixed it and returned radiant.
[US]S. Ford Torchy 44: Well, Skiddy, old man, here we are! [...] Thought you’d given us the shake for good, eh?
[US]D. Runyon ‘Lillian’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 284: Although I give her [...] all my affection, she will probably give me the shake.
[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 342: As soon as she gives me the shake she gets hooked up again.
[US] ‘Andy Gump’ [comic strip] in B. Adelman Tijuana Bibles (1997) 20: I finally give the old gal th’ shake.
[US]H. Miller Roofs of Paris (1983) 216: When I’ve given Carl the shake.
give something the shake (v.)

to abandon, to give up.

[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘A Tempered Wind’ in Gentle Grafter (1915) 172: Now I can go into a square, honest business and give all them queer jobs the shake.
great shakes (n.) (also great shucks, much shucks, shakes, shucks, some shakes)

something very good or admirable; usu. in negative no great shakes, not any great shakes etc.

[UK]W. Perry London Guide 12: No great shakes; I’ll bet a pound of my own money.
[UK] ‘Sparring Exhibitions’ in Fancy I XVII 409: Harry Sutton and Gyblett’s benefit, at our Fives Court, on the 5th of February turned out no shakes.
[UK]R. Ryan Everybody’s Husband I i: He’s no great shakes.
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker I 122: Oatmeal is no great shakes at best.
[US]J.C. Neal Peter Ploddy and Other Oddities 137: But you cracked Tompkins up, didn’t you, and Tompkins pretends to be great shakes, don’t he?
[US]F.M. Whitcher Widow Bedott Papers (1883) 11: None o’ the Pendergrasses ain’t no great shakes.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor II 472/1: I’m blest if I can tell which is the best crossing in London; but mine ain’t no great shakes, for I don’t take three shillings a-week.
[US]Eve. Teleg. (Phila.) 16 Aug. 6/4: The wine ain’t no great shakes.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 631: To be no great shakes, is a favorite phrase with Americans, borrowed from their English cousins, among whom it has risen high enough to be admitted even into Lord Byron’s letters.
[US]J.F. Macardle Moko Marionettes 7: Dis yere Mary-Ann Netts, whoeber she is! No great shakes, I bet!
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 223: We didn’t set up to be any great shakes ourselves.
[UK]Binstead & Wells Pink ’Un and Pelican 24: He was no great shakes as a scholar, but he understood racing and human nature.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 17 Mar. 32/2: We never did great shakes with her, although she once raced well.
[US]S.F. Call 22 Jan. 5/4: Johnson’s no great shakes on grass.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Human Touch 39: I guess I’ll never be no great shakes.
[US](con. 1917) J. Stevens Mattock 221: He had seemed to be agreeable and had never done anything insubordinating that he could be bawled out for, but he certainly wasn’t any shucks of a soldier.
[Aus]K.S. Prichard Coonardoo 271: I’m no great shakes, God knows, [...] But I want you like hell.
[US]Texas Monthly Jan. 26: Jesse James might be a great guy up in Missouri, but Rube Burrow was ‘some shakes’ down in Texas, yes, sir! [DA].
[US]D. Lamson We Who Are About to Die 189: My buddy’s folks ain’t no great shucks around town.
[US](con. 1910s) J. Thompson Heed the Thunder (1994) 218: He was just saying he didn’t think you were any great shakes as a county attorney.
[UK]K. Amis letter 22 Dec. in Leader (2000) 268: Not that being a parent requires being any great shakes.
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 233: Harry Truman was regarded as not much shucks.
[UK]I. Fleming Dr. No (1960) 34: Hit no great shakes, cap’n.
[NZ]N. Hilliard Maori Girl 239: You take my old woman, Elsie, now. Nobody can say she’s any great shakes to look at.
Pittsburgh Post-Gaz. (PA) 25 June 46/5: It’s no secret that young Mazurek is quite some shakes of a baseball player.
[NZ]G. Slatter Pagan Game (1969) 126: As for goalkicking they’re no great shakes.
[UK]P. Fordham Inside the Und. 32: The sporting world which, while no great shakes in itself, is also a stepping stone.
[UK]P. Bailey An Eng. Madam 147: I was no great shakes as a seamstress.
[UK]I. Welsh Trainspotting 128: Ah cannae really fight likes, but ah don’t really think these dudes are great shakes either.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 8 Oct. 12: Now Pretty Woman was no great shakes.
M. Wood As I Say 1: In fact; no great shakes at all. Quite dozy they used to say.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 205: It wasn’t like she was any great shakes in bed anyway.
shake of the bag (n.) (also last shake of the bag, shakings of the bag, shake-poke, shaky-poke) [the image of shaking the very last crumbs from a bag + bag n.1 ] (Irish)

the youngest child in a family.

[US]Congressional Globe 25 Aug. 380: When a small boy, I went to school in a Scotch-Irish neighborhood, and learnt many words and phrases [...] shake-poke [When a meal-bag] is nearly empty, it is turned upside down and shaken; and the meal that comes out last is called the shake-poke ... The last child [of a family], like the last meal, is called a shake-poke.
[US]Detroit Free Press (MI) 1 Feb. 2/3: Little Dickey is what Tom Benton called a shaky poke [...] when after a large family of children, the last [...] was known as a shake-poke.
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era.
[Ire](con. 1880–90s) S. O’Casey I Knock at the Door 45: This had been the shake of the bag, and she knew that she would never have another child.
[US]H.W. Thompson Body, Boots & Britches 491: Sometimes the youngest child is an improvement upon the older ones, in which case we say that ‘the shakings of the bag is the finest meal’.
[Ire]C. Brown Down All the Days (1990) 88: ‘The shakings of the bag,’ said father with a heavy sigh of jovial resignation.
[US]Maledicta IV:2 Winter 196: The scrotum that contains the nuts is rarely mentioned. Ball bag and bag are uncommon terms in themselves, though the last survives in the phrase last shake of the bag, meaning ‘one’s youngest child’.
[Ire]P. Boland Tales from a City Farmyard 21: My mother was in her forties when I arrived, the only child from the second marriage, and ‘the shakings of the bag,’ as I was often described.
square the shake (v.)

(US Und.) to pay a bribe.

[US]R. Mulvey ‘Pitchman’s Cant’ in AS XVII:1 Pt 2 Apr. 93/1: square the shake. The shake is the money demanded by the policeman, sheriff, or local magistrate from the pitchman; when the pitchman has paid him a satisfactory sum, and thereby escaped the threat of conviction or jail sentence, he has ‘squared the shake.’.
unfair shake (n.) [reverse of fair shake n.]

bad luck.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette 20 Jan. [Internet] I think the show was given an unfair shake. There’s worse crap on the air now that passes as hit TV.