Green’s Dictionary of Slang

caper n.2

[SE caper, a frisky movement]

1. (also caperanie, caperings) a dodge, a trick.

[[UK]Marston Malcontent IV iv: Cross-capers! Tricks!].
[[UK]M. Pix Beau Defeated II iii: I wear a Sword, and follow me ye Caper-cutter if ye dare].
[UK](con. 1737–9) W.H. Ainsworth Rookwood (1857) 177: And my father, as I’ve heard say [...] Was a merchant of capers gay / Who cut his last fling with great applause.
[UK]New Sprees of London 3: I tell you what, such a cove as you should speal to the big town and let experience put you fly to the caperanies.
[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 59: Them ’ere human society coves has dodged that caper nicely for sich as the likes of you.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 381/2: I mixed with the old hands and they put me up to a few capers.
[UK]C. Hindley Life and Adventures of a Cheap Jack 220: Of course this little ‘caper’ would only ‘wash’ once.
[UK] ‘’Arry in Switzerland’ Punch 5 Dec. in P. Marks (2006) 97: That merry Swiss Boy got so jealous, along o’ some capers o’ mine.
[US]A.H. Lewis Wolfville 52: But Peets says it’s the reg’lar caper, an’ you can gamble Peets knows.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 31 Oct. 1/1: There was nothing ‘pure and simple’ about the caper.
[UK]A. Binstead Mop Fair 118: Remember, headachey sickness an’ all that caper!
[US]Ade Knocking the Neighbors 50: Every time I pulled a Caper the stern-faced Mater would be at Elbow, saying: ‘Nix on the Acrobatics or you’ll lose your Number’.
[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 74: That was a snide little caper we cut back there.
[UK]J. Curtis They Drive by Night 27: Don’t half get up to some capers with the boys.
[UK]Western Morn. News 25 Oct. 2/5: [He] described the procedure as ‘a proper caper’.
[US]R. Prather Always Leave ’Em Dying 114: It’s just a large-scale con game. And if they pull the caper off tomorrow, the Guardians won’t have any trouble explaining why.
[Aus](con. 1940s) ‘David Forrest’ Last Blue Sea 87: Don’t come the caper with me, Corporal!
[Aus]F.J. Hardy Yarns of Billy Borker 109: I’ll invite you home to my place. That’s the caper, isn’t it?
[US]‘Red’ Rudensky Gonif 11: This was a caper I couldn’t make alone.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘Tea for Three’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] We was mates, went everywhere together, got up to some right capers.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett White Shoes 3: The caper with the old block of flats had gone over smoother than a bunch of carnations on Mothers’ Day.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 19: It was my first successful money caper.

2. a situation, an event.

[Ire] ‘Jack Rag’ Dublin Comic Songster 5: Some boys they twigged the caper, and pelted him with snow.
[UK]Kendal Mercury 17 Apr. 6/1: Ve thinks that a fellar vill get on as vell vith the genteel dodge as the shifty caper (angry mood).
[UK] ‘’Arry to the Front!’ in Punch 9 Mar. 100/2: This patriot caper is proper!
[UK]A. Morrison Tales of Mean Streets (1983) 137: Now come the Rights o’ Labour caper.
[UK]Sheffield Dly Teleg. 31 Dec. 8/6: Windy Capers in Sheffield. Tree falls Through a House Roof.
[UK]J. Curtis They Drive by Night 26: They put the blokes inside on making sailors’ hammocks, ships’ fenders, haversacks for soldiers and all that caper, and the more they knock off the happier they are.
[UK]Western Times 18 Apr. 3/3: ’twill be worth a trifle only to zee Nath appear to the wiss-drive. He reckons all such capers is wickedness.
[US]W. Brown Teen-Age Mafia 122: He’d never run into a caper like this.
[UK]J.R. Ackerley We Think The World Of You (1971) 34: She might skip off, and I don’t see myself chasing after her. I’m too fat for such capers.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 24: He’s got legal aid to take the whole fuckin caper to small claims court.

3. (mainly US) an occupation, a job.

[UK]J. Greenwood Little Ragamuffin 121: ‘Are you goin’ a-tottin’, Smiffield?’ ‘No.’ [...] ‘Then what caper are you up to?’.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 30 Nov. 31/1: He delivers the stores to the cook, who remarks, ‘I’m about full-up of this blooming caper, I’m goin’ to leave.’ .
[Aus]Gippsland Times (Vic.) 1 Oct. 5/3: I cud write noos for a paper, / I cud sell cloes fer a draper / In fact, at enny caper / I wouldn’t be astray.
[UK]C. Harris Death of a Barrow Boy 70: You sticking to this caper?
[NZ]B. Crump Hang On a Minute, Mate (1963) 61: There’s nothing much to learn in the fishing caper, Jack.
[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 142: Writing a learned article, that sort of caper.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids (1989) 16: I don’t know about this bouncin’ caper.

4. the proper course of action; esp. ext. as the proper caper, the right thing to do.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 5 Nov. 14/1: It is now a generally recognised fact that it is not the proper caper for a N.S.W. judge to let his butcher’s bill run on for more than eighteen months.
[UK]Gem 21 Oct. 19: I think it would be the proper caper for a crowd of our chaps to walk in.
[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ You Should Worry cap. 6: The proper and up-to-date caper in connection with taking snap-shots these days is to buy a developing outfit.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Broadway Financier’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 209: It is not the proper caper to be writing a banker such a letter.
[NZ]G. Slatter Gun in My Hand 186: That’s the caper, Fred.

5. a large-scale crime, usu. involving a great deal of elaborate planning and aimed at very large sums of money, expensive pieces of jewellery etc; the supposed lack of violence in such enterprises lent them a somewhat ‘jokey’ air.

[US]D. Hammett ‘The Gutting of Couffignal’ Story Omnibus (1966) 30: The princess can give you a fat cut of the profits in a busted caper.
[UK] (ref. to 1920s) L. Duncan Over the Wall 36: Whitey [...] had boasted incessantly that the caper would net us at least about four grand.
[UK]J. Maclaren-Ross ‘The Dark Diceman’ in Bitten by the Tarantula (2005) 202: Gangsters enter and offer him the chance of coming in on a caper.
[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 317: When this caper’s over [...] I’m through with that hunky so-and-so.
[US]‘Blackie’ Audett Rap Sheet 29: Blackie’s in on the caper.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Syndicate (1998) 54: You expect me to believe that pansy was the brains in a half million dollar caper.
[US]‘Red’ Rudensky Gonif 6: The St. Louis jewelry caper was a major operation.
[US]N. Pileggi Wiseguy (2001) 184: A show-biz caper in which there hadn’t been a shot fired.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 10 Sept. 5: The jaunty 1969 crime caper about the cockney casanova of crime who pulls off a bullion heist in Turin.

6. a crime, irrespective of scale.

[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 96: This caper I’m tellin’ you about was a third-class ‘P.O.’ outside of Butte, Montana.
[US]D. Lamson We Who Are About to Die 194: If Mike would stage this caper [...] then the kid would break it up.
[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 143: He’d done a full, hard stretch [...] rather than implicate anyone else in the caper.
[US]W. Burroughs Naked Lunch 162: The criminal manqué nerves himself to crack a pay toilet [...] ‘A caper,’ he says, ‘I’ll pull this capon I mean caper.’.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 64: While doing his year for our caper he had copped a lonely hearts broad through the mails.
[UK]P. Theroux Family Arsenal 204: That was a brilliant caper – it really had the art world up in arms, right?
[UK]S. Berkoff West in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 112: My total confidence in this night’s caper.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 21: The caper fits yall’s M.O. like a rubber.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. Culture 21 May 12: Guy Ritchie’s 1998 crime caper.
[US]R. Price Lush Life 30: Like he’s my automatic mastermind on a caper .
[US]‘Dutch’ ? (Pronounced Que) [ebook] Gutta got the math on scrams that did that VA beach caper.

7. a scheme.

[Aus]Mirror (Perth) 6 Nov. 12/1: The husband had declined to play nark, although he had been oiled about the other cove’s capers.
[US]T. Runyon In For Life 205: He had helped me set up the caper [i.e. an escape].
[US]R. Prather Scrambled Yeggs 41: Of all the crackpot capers [...] this takes the cake.
[Aus]D. Ireland Glass Canoe (1982) 63: Sibley’s next caper was to go round asking questions.
[US]Simon & Burns Corner (1998) 11: Soon they are laughing together about the caper that got them here.

8. an affair.

[US]Mad mag. Nov.–Dec. 15: Next time one of the gang brags about a caper with the opposite sex, take it with a grain of salt.

9. (N.Z.) a thing, an object.

[NZ]R. Helmer Stag Party 108: Just tryin’ out the phone. She’s a beaut caper, eh?

SE in slang uses

In compounds

caper juice (n.) [a sufficiency or an excess causes one to ‘cut capers’]


[US]Portland Transcript 29 Feb. (F.) n.p.: Say, fellers, let’s take a leetle mo’ uv the caper juice [DA].
caper merchant (n.) [merchant n.]

a dancing master.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Caper merchant. a dancing master, or hop merchant; marchand des capriolles. French term.
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[US]‘Jack Downing’ Andrew Jackson 92: [He] compelled every mountybank, and elbow-shaker, frezier, bully-trap, and janizary, lolly-poop, sea-crab, caper merchant. Badger, Dandy-pratt, and Fidlam-ben [...] tu muster in his army.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]Crim.-Con. Gaz. 1 Dec. 119/3: We would advise him to get rid of the ‘Caper Merchant,’ ‘Hookey nose’ [...] and a few more.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[Aus]M. Clarke Term of His Natural Life (1897) 52: Dear old caper merchant! Hear him talk!