Green’s Dictionary of Slang

poison n.

1. (also rat poison) an ironic term for drink in general.

[UK]J. Suckling Brennoralt II i: mar.: Come, your liquor and your stanzas... Vil.: Since it must be, Give me the poison then [F&H].
[Bishop of Cork Discourse of Drinking Healths 11: When they name a Health to any one cry, May this be my Poison [...] if I do not Think as I Speak].
[UK]O. Goldsmith ‘The Adventures of a Strolling Player’ in Coll. Works (1966) III 137: Come, the times are dry, and may this be my poison if I ever spent two more pious, stupid months in all my life.
[US]Red Jacket in Freemason’s Mag. II 388: We gave them corn and meat; they gave us poison in return. [note:] Alluding it is supposed ardent spirits [DA].
[UK]T.C. Croker Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (1862) 284: Well, then may whiskey be my poison.
[UK]Egan Finish to the Adventures of Tom and Jerry (1889) 43: Look now on yon bibbers – how wildly they laugh, / And exult o’er the poison they fearlesssly quaff.
[US]G.G. Foster N.Y. by Gas-Light (1990) 146: The gruff and phthisicky bar-keeper who dealt out the damnable poison at three cents a glass.
[US]J.D. McCabe Secrets of the Great City 372: The poorer classes [...] get the poison from low shops, called bucket houses.
[US]J. Miller First Fam’lies in the Sierras 137: He had failed to negotiate with the cinnamon-headed vendor of poison.
[US]St Louis Globe-Democrat 19 Jan. n.p.: They nominate ‘bottled electricity,’ ‘lemonade with a stick in it,’ ‘jig-water,’ ‘budge,’ ‘bilge-water,’ ‘bug-juice,’ ‘rat-poison,’ ‘fusel-oil,’ ‘red-eye,’ ‘liquid ointment,’ ‘cut nails,’ ‘hard head,’ ‘benzine,’ ‘nitro-glycerine,’ ‘oil,’ ‘tea,’ ‘eye-water,’ ‘chain- lightning.’ [...] they all want the same article, alcohol, more or less diluted.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 2 May 10/3: You must go into a bin called a ‘sixpenny-bar,’ and choke until the red-knuckled handmaid has supplied you with your ‘poison.’.
[UK]E.J. Milliken ’Arry Ballads 50: Wot’s yer poison, old pal?
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 29 Apr. 1/8: Constable X13 ‘got his poison on the nod’.
[US]Witchita Dly Eagle (KS) 12 Sept. 4/4: There is a new name for the whiskey [...] ‘coyote milk’ [...] It has been known as ‘pizen,’ ‘sheep-dip,’ ‘squirrel whiskey,’ ‘white mule’ and ‘groundhog juice’.
[UK]Sporting Times 22 Feb. 1/5: He’d had a birthday, or something, and mixed his poisons wickedly.
[US]N.Y. Times 12 Feb. 10/1: ‘Red’ Shaughnessy gulped down another ‘slug’ of what the Doctor’s [i.e. a saloonkeeper] patients call ‘rat poison’ and spat copiously.
[Ire]Joyce ‘Counterparts’ Dubliners (1956) 91: Just as they were naming their poisons who should come in but Higgins!
[UK]‘Sapper’ Jim Maitland (1953) 60: There’s a dollar for the whisky. And if you don’t like the price you can take your poison away and throw it down the sink.
[UK]W. Watson Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day (2000) 70: Perhaps you’ll mix your own [...] Everyone to their own poison, I always say.
[US]E. O’Neill Iceman Cometh Act I: Bring on the rat poison! (Rocky grins and goes behind the bar to get drinks).
[US]J. Archibald ‘Dog Collared’ in Popular Detective Oct. [Internet] A head waiter [...] asked them what kind of poison they would have.
[US]R. Chandler Little Sister 196: You pick your poison.
[UK]F. Norman Fings II i: Give us a swig of that poison, Paddy.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Mama Black Widow 14: I remembered your poison: gin and soda.
[Aus]D. Maitland Breaking Out 4: I wouldn’t have been smashed out of my skull [...] if you hadn’t conned me into drinking that bloody poison.
[UK]G. Young Slow Boats to China (1983) 214: What’s your poison? Pink gin? Jolly good.
[UK]I. Welsh ‘A Smart Cunt’ in Acid House 217: The pint of poison which lay untouched in front of him.
[UK]M. Collins Keepers of Truth 120: Sam [...] meted out our poison.
[US] N. Flexner Disassembled Man [ebook] I drank my poison and watched the show .

2. in senses of someone or something harmful.

(a) an unpleasant person, best to be avoided; also used semi-affectionately.

[US]‘Artemus Ward’ Artemus Ward, His Book 95: I fell in with sum noble red men of the forest (N. B. This is rote Sarcasticul. Injins is Pizin, whar ever found).
[US]Van Loan ‘Playing Even with Obadiah’ in Old Man Curry 60: I’d feel a lot more comfortable if Curry wasn’t in the race. That old boy is poison.
[US]R. Lardner ‘Women’ in Coll. Short Stories (1941) 150: ‘They’re all the same, and all poison!’ ‘What’s poison?’ asked Jake. ‘Women!’ said Healy.
[US]S.J. Perelman in Marschall That Old Gang o’ Mine (1984) 2: ‘Does this parrot swear, my good man?’ prattled a female poison in a pet-shop.
[US]N. Davis ‘Don’t Give Your Right Name’ in Goulart (1967) 9: That dame is pure poison.
[US]H. Simmons Corner Boy 138: You’re poison, Pres.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 108: I’m poison, Gail — don’t get mixed up with me.
[US]R. Klein Jailhouse Jargon and Street Sl. [unpub. ms.].
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 107: [She was] admitting what Keva already knew about Helmet. That he was poison.
[SA]K. Cage Gayle 88/2: poison queen n. gay man who trades malicious and vicious gossip.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 62: Her mother had called Louis poison and was probably right.

(b) something that one should avoid, i.e. something suspicious.

[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 123: To-morrow you can order a new suit. That one is poison.
[US] ‘Lou Gehrig Goes West’ [comic strip] in B. Adelman Tijuana Bibles (1997) 118: So I’m losing my grip! Box office poison, eh!
[US]C.S. Montanye ‘Publicity for the Corpse’ in Thrilling Detective Dec. [Internet] All we want is her autograph [...] Any poison in that?
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 161/1: Poison. 1. Any thing, place, or circumstance that is extremely undesirable [...] 2. Any thing, place, or circumstance fraught with danger.

(c) (US drugs) a doctor who refuses to prescribe narcotics.

[US]D. Maurer ‘Lang. of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 2 in Lang. Und. (1981) 107/2: poison. A physician who will not sell narcotics to an addict.
[US]Anslinger & Tompkins Traffic In Narcotics 313: poison. A doctor who will not sell drugs to an addict.

3. in drug uses.

(a) cocaine.

[US]Du Bose Heyward Porgy (1945) 62: ‘It’s the man who sold her the poison we want.’ [...] ’Who sold you that dope?’.
[UK]N. Lucas Autobiog. of a Thief 73: A woman whom she called ‘The Poison Queen,’ under whose baleful influence she herself had become addicted to the terrible dope habit.

(b) (drugs) heroin, esp. in its pure state.

[US]Maurer & Vogel Narcotics and Narcotic Addiction.
[US]C. Brown Manchild in the Promised Land (1969) 201: The slang was always changing for heroin. They called it duji or shit or stuff or poison.
[US]D. Goines Street Players 95: He’s supposed to have the best poison in town.
[UK]P. Baker Blood Posse 163: Leave the hard drugs [...] The poison stays here.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 17: Poison — Heroin.

(c) (S.Afr.) marijuana.

[SA]B. Simon ‘Outers’ Born in the RSA (1997) 75: He’s got this farm [...] and Pietie’s got this plan [to] grow zol, the best . . . rooibard, poisons, Malawi gold, Thai.

(d) fentanyl.

[US]ONDCP Street Terms 17: Poison — [...] fentanyl.

In derivatives

poisonery (n.)

(Aus.) a public house.

[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 3 Sept. 1/5: A three-ha’penny poisonery is to be opened for the benefit of temporarily embarrassed Laborists.

In compounds

poison counter (n.)

(US) a bar counter.

[US]Wenatchee Dly World (WA) 30 Sept. 4/2: Herbert learned that the first Rule [...] was to move rapidly up to the Poison Counter.
poison shop (n.) (Aus.)

1. a (down-market) public house, orig. used by temperance reformers.

[[Aus]Geelong Advertiser (Vic.) 7 Aug. 4/4: He (Mr Booley) asserted that every public-house was a poison shop. (Loud cheers.) — If our streets, or the very stones in our streets, could cry out they would cry out murder against these poison shops].
[[Aus]Bathurst Free Press (NSW) 30 Apr. 2/1: [of railway refreshment rooms] Mr. Wilms affirmed that the refreshment-rooms are conducted in a most disgraceful manner, and broadly he described them as poison shops of the very worst kind].
Eve. Mews (Sydney) 15 Aug. 3/5: The main thing to be desired, viz., the causing of the present numerous low pot-house dens of infamy and poison shops to give place to a limited number of good hotels.
[Aus]Nat. Advocate (Bathurst, NSW) 28 Nov. 2/3: [He] was hauled out of the House, doubtless to receive cooling comfort from the hands of a charming lady at his favorite poison shop.
[Aus]Western Mail (Perth) 23 Oct. 18/2: They would be able to elect those who were to say whether there should be more or less poison shops in their midst.
[Aus]Dly Mercury (Mackay, Qld) 19 Nov. 15/4: It is one thing to grant a license, but it will be another thing to convince the young [...] to take advantage of the hew poison shop.
[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl.

2. a brothel.

[Aus]N. Pulliam I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 231/2: cake shop (jacksie, poison shop) – a brothel.
poison shover (n.)

(US) a barman.

[US]Dly Yellowstone Jrnl (Miles City, MO) 18 Nov. 2/2: A bartender [...] was seized with the infection and [...] both rancher and ‘poison shover’ were in the condition called fighting drunk.

In phrases

name your poison (phr.) (also nominate your poison, pick...)

(orig. US) an invitation to a fellow drinker to make a choice of drink at a party or in a bar (cf. give it a name under name n.).

[US]Emporia News (KS) 7 May 1/6: The latest fashion in Washington [...] ‘Please nominate your poison, gentlemen’.
[US]Carson Valley News 2 June 2/2: Nominate your poison, gents; it’s my treat [DA].
Greenock Advertiser 1 Oct. 4/1: The rancher slapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he would ‘irrigate,’ [...] ‘moisten your larynx,’ [...] ‘nominate your posion’.
[Aus]Kerang Times & Swan Hill Gaz. (Vic.) 3 June 4/1: Comrades, linger here a little [...] name your poison, take it kindly.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Aug. 24/1: It is said that having made his bow, and executed the backward movement without disaster, Charlie, in his excitement and gratitude, seized his noble conductor’s hand, and asked him to ‘nominate his poison,’ but, for my part, I place no reliance upon such ostensibly jocular statements, which, no doubt, originate from envious and malicious outsiders.
[UK]Leeds Times 30 Apr. 2/3: ‘And now,’ added the Kentuckian / ‘Kindly name your poison’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 13 Dec. 17/2: ‘I never thort ter see yer as bad as this; but, give it a name, we has plenty soft tack fer them as likes it.’ I feel mean an’ narked like, but I keeps the brake down agin liquor an’ takes limejooce corjal, an’ arskes M’Taggart to name ’is poison.
[UK]Morn. Post (London) 18 Feb. 2/3: American invitations to drink [...] ‘Nominate your pizon’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Nov. 47/1: Ole Bill looked disappointed like when we our poisons named; / For not to drink when others drink is cause to be ashamed!
[Ire]Joyce ‘Counterparts’ Dubliners (1956) 91: Just as they were naming their poisons who should come in but Higgins!
[UK]Wodehouse Right Ho, Jeeves 222: And to drink? Name the poison.
[US]S. Philips Big Spring 80: ‘Name Your Pizen’ [is] what the barkeeps used to say to the men that lined up in front of the bar.
[US]T. Runyon In For Life 131: The Warden invited me to belly up to a full-fledged bar and told me to name my poison.
[US]E. Little Another Day in Paradise 236: He waves at the wet bar and says, ‘Pick your poison.’.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Mystery Bay Blues 21: Would you like a cup of coffee? [...] Or a cool one. Name your poison.
put in the poison (v.)

to slander, to malign a person’s character, esp. in court.

[UK]C.G. Gordon Crooks of the Und. 180: I strongly suspect my friend Jollyfold of having ‘put the poison in’ for me whilst I had been cleaning his Tams.
what’s your poison?

see separate entry.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

poison-pate (n.) [SE red being a symbolically ‘dangerous’ colour + pate]

a redhead; thus poison-pated adj., red-haired.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Poyson-pate red Hair’d.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (3rd edn) n.p.: Poison-pated: red-haired.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1796].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.