Green’s Dictionary of Slang

straighten v.1

1. (Aus.) to defeat, to overcome; to beat up.

[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 70: You ride straight, and don’t get up to any monkey tricks, or, by George, I’ll straighten you, so as you’ll know better next time.
[Aus]J. Furphy Such is Life 231: I’ll straighten you some of these times.
[US]E. Hunter ‘See Him Die’ in Jungle Kids (1967) 111: ‘They got him,’ said Aiello again. ‘You need straightening, you jerk,’ I said.

2. (UK Und., also straighten out) to bribe, usu. to bribe a police officer [i.e. to make straight adj.1 (10)].

[UK]Thieves Slang ms list from District Police Training Centre, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwicks 11: Straighten (a case): To indice a prsecutor to drop case.
[UK]J. Curtis There Ain’t No Justice 204: Every single one of your fights has bin fixed, see? Either the other bloke took the dive, or if that was a bit raw or if we thought we couldn’t straighten the other bloke, well we’ve straightened the ref.
[UK]V. Davis Gentlemen of the Broad Arrows 213: You haven’t got the price to ‘straighten’ a screw.
[UK]J. Gosling Ghost Squad 43: Usually they had the nightwatchman ‘straightened’ — which means bribed.
[UK]J. Sparks Burglar to the Nobility 143: The Chief Magistrate [...] gave me a wink. I thought ‘Aye-aye, I’ve got the old geezer straightened’.
[UK]P. Fordham Inside the Und. 23: The well-known euphemism of ‘straightening’ which means, of course, making crooked.
[UK]T. Blacker Fixx 128: Local planning officers being straightened with briefcases packed with used fivers.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 28: Jimmy’s one of the few guys in London who could straighten the very top old bill.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 25: An enterprising gent like Sonny would have people straightened out all over.

3. to sort a person out, to make them aware, to initiate them; thus straightening n.

[US]Z.N. Hurston Mules and Men (1995) 129: ‘He’s de King of de Beasts, but he ain’t no King of de World, now Sack,’ Dad Boykin spoke up. ‘He thought he was King till John give him a straightenin’.’.
[US]C. Himes ‘Let Me at the Enemy’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 38: I had to get them people straight an’ get ’em straightened fast.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ ‘Cool Cat’ in Tell Them Nothing (1956) 84: He’s one guy I like [...] but that don’t mean I got to forget to straighten him.
[US]‘Lord Buckley’ Hiparama of the Classics 10: If they can’t get you straight, they know a Cat, that knows a Cat, that’ll Straighten you!
[US]D. Jenkins Semi-Tough 144: ‘Well, it makes you a man,’ I said. Shake said, ‘That’s right, boy. Give ‘em a few heart-breakers along the way. Straighten ‘em up’.

4. (also straighten up) to settle an account or debt.

[US]Pittsburgh Courier (PA) 16 July 11/1: Joe [has] alwatys been a prince of a fellow, goes to the cupboard [...] to ‘straighten’ the kids kicking up the boards [...] only to find it bare.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 216: I’m short a deuce of blips but I’ll straighten you later.
[US] ‘Good-Doing Wheeler’ in D. Wepman et al. Life (1976) 78: When I make that big sting, I’ll straighten you first thing.
[US]R.D. Pharr S.R.O. (1998) 217: ‘I figgered [...] I’d be able to straighten him out for the four [dollars]’.
[US]N. Pileggi Wiseguy (2001) 99: We’d usually straighten up in a garment-center restaurant called Bobby’s.
[UK]J. Cameron Vinnie Got Blown Away 99: You got your honour to straighten Nicky.

5. to look after, to sort out a situation.

[US]‘Lord Buckley’ Hiparama of the Classics 8: They straightened the nanny goats.
[US] ‘Return of Honky-Tonk Bud’ in D. Wepman et al. Life (1976) 69: I must confess I’ll straighten this mess.
[US]V.E. Smith Jones Men 24: You help me out, I’ll straighten you.

6. see straighten out v. (1)

In phrases

straighten up (v.) (also straighten up one’s act) [i.e. to make oneself straight adj.1 (3)]

1. to render a third party sober.

T.J. Henry Claude Garton 263: ‘I’ve had rare trouble to straighten up Cæsario in emergencies — vinegar, ammonia, cold affusions, and so on’.

2. to take up, or encourage to take up, an honest, respectable life.

[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 24 Oct. 1/1: ‘If it [i.e. a newspaper] keeps on lashing it will straighten some of the conrk ’uns up and give fair play a chance’.
[US]A.H. Lewis Boss 159: There’s to be no more corruption; no more blackmail [...] Our first duty is to jump in an’ straighten up th’ village.
[US]D. Dodge Bullets For The Bridegroom (1953) 18: Pop, you old fool, straighten up.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 96: I want you to straighten up.
[US]E. Bunker Animal Factory 119: Did you ever think about straightening up.
[US]R.R. Moore ‘Dolemite’ 🎵 His unc’ said, ‘Dolemite, / I want you to straighten up and treat your brother right.’.
[US]L. Pettiway Workin’ It 116: Ain’t nowhere I’m going but jail. But that’s where I’m going if I don’t straighten up my act.
[US](con. 1991-94) W. Boyle City of Margins 18: ‘You learned something tonight [...] What not to do. How not to be. Straighten up before it’s too late’.

3. to cheer up.

[Aus]J. Furphy Such is Life 143: It ain’t equal to Pain-killer for straightenin’ a person up.
[US]W.D. Myers Autobiog. of My Dead Brother 81: They [upper-class adults hosting a party] were still giving us the fish eye [...] Then C.J. came in on the piano and you could see them straighten up.

4. see sense 4 above.

straighten up and fly right (v.) [orig. used in folktale, recorded by Joel Chandler Harris in Short Stories Told After Dark (1889)]

(orig. US black) to behave oneself, to mend one’s ways and live a sensible, respectable life.

[US]Cole & Mills ‘Straighten Up and Fly Right’ 🎵 Straighten up and fly right / Cool down, papa, don't you blow your top.
[US]H. Whittington Forgive Me, Killer (2000) 13: If your job means anything to you, Mike, you better straighten up and fly right.
[US]C. Himes Crazy Kill 8: straighten up and fly right.
[UK]N. Cohn Yes We have No 177: The more he tries to straighten up and fly right, the more he’s shot down in flames.
S. Holmes Dirty Game 144: And he had promised to straighten up and fly right, once he got out, if she promised to stay loyal to him.