Green’s Dictionary of Slang

patter v.

[SE patter, to mumble one’s prayers at speed and without note of their meaning; ult. the Paternoster, ‘Our Father’]

1. to talk rapidly, fluently or glibly, to chatter, to prattle.

[UK]How the Ploughman learned his Paternoster in Halliwell Dict. Archaic and Provincial Words (1881) II 608/1: Ever he patred on theyr names faste; Than he had them in ordre at the laste .
[UK]Skelton Colyn Cloute (1550) Ai: He prates and he patters, He clytters and he clatters.
[UK]J. Heywood A Merry Play in Farmer Dramatic Writings (1905) 83: Of what thing now dost thou clatter, / John John? or whereof dost thou patter?
[UK]J. Heywood Proverbs I Ch. xi: And streight as she sawe me, she swelde lyke a tode. / Pattryng the divels Pater noster to her selfe.
Godly Queene Hester in Grosart (1870) 22: By his crafti pattering, hath turned law into flattering .
[UK]Misogonus in Farmer (1906) II iv: I’ll patter’t as well as I can.
[UK]Nashe Death and Buriall of Martin Mar-Prelate in Works I (1883–4) 173: See how like the old Ape this young Monkey pattereth.
[UK]The tongue combatants 5: Thew continual pattering of your lips.
[UK]G. Parker View of Society II 105: As soon as the steward has withdawn, the ’Squire begins to patter the widow on the greatness of his estate.
[UK]C. Dibdin ‘The Waggoner’ Collection of Songs II 182: Your natty sparks and flashy dames / How I do love to queer, / I runs my rigs, / And patters, and gigs, / And plays a hundred comical games.
[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang.
[UK]D. Jerrold Black-Ey’d Susan III ii: If, when that’s overhauled, I’m not found a trim seaman, why it’s only throwing salt to the fishes to patter here.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. I 37: Nothin’ much worth pattering about.
[UK]Kendal Mercury 3 Apr. 6/2: He’s [i.e. a dog] not much to patter about.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn).
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 12 Oct. n.p.: Had they appeared [...] as Billingsgate ‘hawkers’ and patterned romanry [sic] Davis and Leary might have escaped.
[UK]Liverpool Mercury 2 Dec. 3/2: To ‘patter’ is a slang term, meaning to speak.
[Aus]M. Clarke Term of His Natural Life (1897) 268: He wears coloured clothes, and smokes, and doesn’t patter scripture.
[UK]Hartlepool Mail 15 Oct. 4/5: Always was a rum ’un to patter. Flash as you like, and artful.
[UK]‘Walter’ My Secret Life (1966) VIII 1662: A French woman accosted me. — She would give me such pleasure she promised, pattering on.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Harry’ Punch 24 Aug. 90/2: If you can’t rattle and patter, and ’old up your end like a man [...].
[UK]J. Buchan Thirty-Nine Steps (1930) 61: He [...] pattered about his duchesses till the snobbery of the creature turned me sick.

2. (UK Und.) to stop talking; to abandon an action; to stand still.

[UK]J. Poulter Discoveries (1774) 42: Petter [sic] in Cant, stands for a great many Things, as hold your Tongue, let it alone, or stand still, or the like.

3. (UK Und.) to sing on the streets.

[UK]J. Poulter Discoveries (1774) 42: I strum and patter; I play on the Dulsmore and sing.
[UK]Whole Art of Thieving [as cit. 1753].

4. (UK Und.) to talk in a manner designed to confuse a potential victim of a confidence trick.

[UK]G. Parker View of Society II 56: Then my genius begins to patter you.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Pattering. [...] talk or palaver in order to amuse one intended to be cheated.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]J. Caminada Twenty-Five Years of Detective Life I 14: The ‘high-flier,’ or begging-letter imposter would be ‘pattering ’ to the ‘shallow cove’.

5. to put on trial.

[UK]H.T. Potter New Dict. Cant (1795) n.p.: patter’d tried in a court of justice for felony.
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[UK]Duncombe New and Improved Flash Dict.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 64: ‘The wire was pattered for drawing a skin from a bloke’s poke, [...] and the beak slung him for five stretchers and a moon,’ the pickpocket was tried for stealing a purse from the man’s pocket, [...] and the judge sentenced him for five year [sic] and a month.

6. to talk the cant of thieves, beggars etc; to talk slang; often as patter flash

[Aus]P. Cunningham New South Wales II 59: I once saw a little urchin not exceeding ten years patter it in evidence to the bench.
[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Heart of London III i: You patter, Fitz. – you are a top-slanger.
[UK]T. Hood ‘Tylney Hall’ in Works (1862) III 191: Don’t patter slang.
[UK]Flash Mirror 20: Miss Cafooselem [...] engages [...] to instruct any young lady to patter slang in such an out-and-out come over me manner, to chaff any Dustman or Chummy, and put the kibosh on him in less than five minutes.
[UK]C. Hindley Life and Times of James Catnach 133: Rank and beauty learned to patter the slang.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Arrius’ in Punch 26 Dec. 303/1: The ’Igher Hedgercation means ’savvy’; / you size up the world, patter slang.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Nov. 38/1: ‘Is he much of an actor?’ / ‘Not much. Pretty fair in Shakspeare. But, Gad, sir! he can’t patter or do a clog dance for sour apples.’.

7. to speechify as a cheapjack does in extolling wares, or a conjurer while performing tricks.

[UK]Egan Finish to the Adventures of Tom and Jerry (1889) 119: Jane and Jerry joined the motley group, after the above eloquent specimen of patter-ing it, as it is termed at Bartlemy Fairadministrator.
[UK]Fast Man 2:1 n.p.: [Y]ou should hear me patter; I soon get a crowd round me, and then the browns come pouring in.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 210/2: I was rather backward at touting at first, but [...] could patter like anything before the day was over.
[UK]C. Hindley Life and Adventures of a Cheap Jack 118: Jack – was about twelve years old when I took him away from home to travel, and he learned to patter in about six months.
[UK]A. Brazil Madcap of the School 86: ‘Tell your fortunes, my pretty ladies?’ pattered one of the Romanys.

8. to sell broadsides, ballads etc. in the streets.

[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 233/1: Any marvel was ‘pattered,’ according to the patterer’s taste and judgment. [Ibid.] IV 323/2: I made a sufficient livelihood by pattering in the streets.

9. (UK Und.) to talk, to speak.

[UK]Thackeray Punch’s Prize Novelists: The Stars and Stripes in Burlesques (1903) 227: I can patter Canadian French with the hunters.
[UK]T. Hughes Tom Brown’s School-Days (1896) 5: You all patter French more or less, and perhaps German.
[UK] ‘’Arry in Switzerland’ Punch 5 Dec. in P. Marks (2006) 97: Couldn’t patter her lingo — wus luck! — but I could do the lardy, and smile.
[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 204: He grabbed the jailer by the arm and began pattering away in Chinook.

10. (Aus. Und.) to beg.

[UK]Worcester Herald 26 Dec. 4/3: Patter, to beg.
[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. 10/2: Lame Jack is pattering. He pads Pitt and George streets and the Parks, and touches coves on the blob. He blew on Sam who frisked a lobb and the same day came it on Joe for fencing the prad got on the cross.

11. (Aus.) to inform.

[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 28 July 2/7: Praps you think the gurls could patter? / But they daresn’t do it, sir; / They would get the sack, & lose there / Graft.

12. to tell tales.

[UK]R.A. Norton Through Beatnik Eyeballs 17: Them other sneaky kids would patter on me all the time if I touched them in return for goading me all day.

13. (Scot., also patter up) to talk so as to encourage criminality; to chat up.

[UK](con. mid-1960s) J. Patrick Glasgow Gang Observed 88: At the approved school, Tim admitted that ‘patterin’ up of eleven-, twelve-, and thirteen-year-olds went on. Having been flattered and enticed to steal, these youngsters would then break into shops. [Ibid.] 234: Pa’er up – to chat up, pay court to a young girl.

In phrases

patter flash (v.)

1. (UK Und.) to talk fluently.

[UK]H. Smith Gale Middleton 1 160: I’ve heard you do it [i.e. sing] yourself, ay, and patter a good flash too.

2. to talk fast and meaninglessly.

[Aus]Melbourne Punch ‘City Police Court’ 3 Oct. 234/1: Prisoner.– Your worship, if I were, I hope I may be – The Mayor.– Come, none of your patter flash, my nibs Nantee palaver.

3. to talk in cant.

[UK]G. Parker Life’s Painter 140: While some their patter flash’d / In gallows fun and joking.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum n.p.: To patter flash; to speak flash, or the language used by thieves. How the blowen lushes jackey, and patters flash; how the wench drinks gin and talks flash.
[UK]T. Moore ‘Ya-Hip, My Hearties!’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 88: I soon learned to patter flash.
[UK]Egan Anecdotes of the Turf, the Chase etc. 180: She [...] could patter flash rather eloquently.
Vidocq Memoirs IV 169: F. Lag. ‘Stuff, stuff! You know the mot well.— (To Coco Lacour) — She’s one that can patter flash as well as you or I.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. I 39: Patter flash, my lucky, you’re as, used to it as I am.
[UK] ‘Leary Man’ in ‘Ducange Anglicus’ Vulgar Tongue (1857) 42: Your fogle you must flashly tie, / Each word must patter flashery, / And hit cove’s head to smashery, / To be a Leary Man.
[UK]Wrexham Advertiser 14 May 7/6: For legal lambs who’d ‘crack a crib,’ / Or levy, serve a writ, / Or ‘patter flash’ with accent glib.
[UK]Western Dly Press 6 Dec. 3/3: The Secrets of the Mumping Profession. [...] They have a slang language of their own, not altogether unlike the ‘patter flash’ of the thieves.
[UK]C. Hindley Life and Adventures of a Cheap Jack 231: Can you rocker Romanie / Can you patter flash.
Family’s Defender Mag. 340: One effect of the uniting of the youngsters from different sections of the city is the unanimity with which all ‘patter flash’ or speak in the hoodlum vernacular.
[UK]Dover Exp. 17 Aug. 6/3: ‘Down the Dials’ and in St Giles [...] they patter as flash as anyone.