Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bee n.1

[the image is of ‘stinging’, in sense 2 with pain, in senses 1 and 3 as a jolt of inspiration; but note SE phr. bee in one’s bonnet]

1. (US) ambition.

[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 15: Ted’s new bee is he’d like to be a movie actor.

2. drug addiction.

[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 60: A bee is what [a junkie] calls his habit; it’s always stinging him to get a fix.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970).

3. (US black) an idea.

[US]cited in C. Major Juba to Jive (1994).

In phrases

put the bee on (v.) [play on sting v. (2) but note initial letter of bite n.1 ]

1. (US, also bee, put the B on, ...the bumblebee on) to extort, to blackmail, to pressurize, esp. for a loan.

[US]F. Hutchison Philosophy of Johnny the Gent 25: That guy wouldn't no more nick the hickory wit’ the price of a round of brew, unless he was absolutely certain he could place the bumblebee on the bloke he was buyin’ the drink for.
[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 129: I want to put the bee on you for two bucks.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 84: He tried to put the B. on me for the third touch this week.
[US]H.C. Witwer Smile A Minute 75: Don’t go and croak on me while I’m gone, because then this guy will put the bee on me for about ten francs for bringin’ him over.
[US]K. Nicholson Barker I i: So that’s why yer sore at the Colonel. You put th’ bee on him an’ he turned you down.
[US]A.J. Barr Let Tomorrow Come 40: I go in a dump an’ put the B on the boss.
[US]C. Himes ‘Prison Mass’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 156: If he couldn’t put the bee on Brightlights for the twenty-five bucks he was going to find out just how ex that pug really was.
[US]W. Motley Knock on Any Door 322: ‘I gotta put the bee on you for the night. Christ! – I can’t sleep out in this!’ Nick said, ‘Sure thing, Kid!’ and pulled what money he had out of his pocket.
[US]S. Bellow Augie March (1996) 269: You don’t have to tell me why you don’t put the bee on your brother.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 790: bee – To beg or borrow.
[US]T. Thackrey Thief 191: Let’s not crap around with each other. If I was going to put the bee on you, I’d have done it last night.

2. (US, also put the B on) to swindle, to hoax, to victimize.

[US]H. Green Mr. Jackson 129: ’Frisco kin put the bee on all of ’em [...] I wonder if them elbows are still at it.
[US]H.C. Witwer Kid Scanlon 304: ‘Somebody put the bee on us!’ howls Honest Dan, wringin’ his hands.
[US]D. Lamson We Who Are About to Die 206: If you try to put the bee on guys like that [i.e. con-men], the bee will turn round and bite you, an’ serve you right.
[US]J. Archibald ‘No PLace Like Homicide’ in Popular Detective Apr. [Internet] If you’re working your way through college, don’t try to put the bee on me.
[US]J.M. Cain Mildred Pierce (1985) 382: You put the bee on him and say that’s what he’s been up to all along.
[US]W. Burroughs Naked Lunch (1968) 161: Clip clap joint where fraudulent girls put the B on you.

3. (US) to denigrate, to criticise.

[US]H. Green Vaudevillians in Omaha Dly Bee (NE) 19 Dec. 9/5: I defy any of ’em to put the bee on my cookin’ .

4. to sue.

[US]E. Hoffman Price ‘Murder Salvage’ in Spicy Detective Apr. [Internet] She might put the bee on you for sending threats through the U. S. Mail.

5. of a woman, to pursue a man with the intention of marriage.

P. Wylie Night Unto Night 335: Anyhow, she put the bee on me and I finally gave in.

6. to tax.

[US]J. Archibald ‘No Place Like Homicide’ in Popular Detective Apr. [Internet] The Gs were after a firm down on Pearl Street for evading the bee that Uncle Sam puts on citizens.

7. (US) to quash, to bring to an end, to ruin [initial letter of ‘bag’ in SE put the bag on, to halt, to interfere with, to bring to a standstill].

[US]K. McGaffey Sorrows of a Show Girl Ch. xiv: It is something fierce the way these reformers are trying to put the bee on our pleasures.
[UK]Wodehouse Carry on, Jeeves 159: The old boy most fortunately got the idea that I was off my rocker and put the bee on the proceedings.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Finger Man’ in Pearls Are a Nuisance (1964) 98: Hell! You’re the guy that put the bee on that hot rod.
[US]Pittsburgh Courier (PA) 27 Jan. 7/1: That certain fay writer [...] was the guy who put the old ‘bee’ on the long-delayed Negro book [...] from the Federal Writers Project.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

bee’s dick (n.) [dick n.1 (5)]

(Aus./N.Z.) a tiny or insignificant amount.

[Aus]Sydney Morn. Herald 21 May n.p.: ‘If I was a second out it would have been easier to accept but I was only a bee’s dick out’.
[Aus]Age (Melbourne) 14 July n.p.: ‘We were a bee’s dick away from finishing their [i.e. Melbourne’s] season, but we didn’t have enough mongrel to put them away’ .
[NZ] McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl.
bee-stings (n.) [supposedly comparable size]

(orig. US) small female breasts; also as adj.

[US]Trimble 5000 Adult Sex Words and Phrases.
[Aus] in B. Hornadge Aus. Slanguage.
[US](con. c.1970) G. Hasford Phantom Blooper 45: Skinny gooks [...] and fireteams of teenaged whores who flashed bee-sting tits at us.
Las Vegas for Visitors at govegas.about.com [Internet] This place [i.e. Cheetahs Topless Club] has every imaginable funbag, from bee stings to feeding bottles to structurally engineered whamdanglers.

In phrases