Green’s Dictionary of Slang

show v.

1. to exhibit oneself for money.

[UK]Daily News 2 Apr. 6/1: He got a living by ‘showing’ in the various public-houses in the neighbourhood at entertainments got up for his benefit.

2. of a woman, to be obviously pregnant.

[US]H. Simmons Corner Boy 1963: Evelyn was showing a little.
[US]Simon & Burns Corner (1998) 384: Tyreeka was showing two months ago; she’s been pregnant for close to six months.
[US]W.D. Myers ‘marisol and skeeter’ in What They Found 189: ‘I was three and a half months pregnant and I knew I was going to be showing’.

3. (US black) to present oneself, to reveal oneself; also constr. with adj, e.g. show humble, show wrong: to present oneself in a given manner.

[US]W.D. Myers Slam! 112: If he was expecting me to show humble he was wrong big time [ibid.] 187: [W]hen things broke down and one brother or sister showed wrong we came down so hard.
[US]W.D. Myers Monster 149: Bobo not likely to show. When he shows, he shows correct but sometime he act like a spaceman or something.
[US]W.D. Myers ‘Block Party–145th Street Style’ in 145th Street 143: [T]hat’s not the way she shows when things go right.
[US]W.D. Myers Autobiog. of My Dead Brother 17: The kid was showing hard, but nobody was down with it and you could tell [Ibid.] 164: I didn’t want to show lame all the time.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

showdown (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

show (someone) a (clean) pair of heels (v.) (also show a fair pair of heels) [note Taylor (1619): ‘A Sixth, with tongues glib, like the tails of eels / Hath shewed this land and me foul pairs of heels’]

1. (also show clean heels, show a clean pair of legs, show a light/nimble/round pair of heels, show one’s heels) to leave at speed, to flee.

[UK]Shakespeare Henry IV Pt 1 II iv: Darst thou be so valiant as to play the coward with thy indenture and show it a fair pair of heels and run from it?
[UK]Dekker & Webster Westward Hoe III i: All the women in Italy would shew their husbands a Million of light paire of heeles, and flie ouer into England.
[UK]Rowley A Match at Midnight I i: Shew her cozen a round paire of heeles.
[UK]C. Cotton Virgil Travestie (1765) Bk IV 98: [He] now was ready set on Wheels, / To shew a nimble pair of Heels.
[UK]Bailey (trans.) Erasmus’ Colloquies 471: If you can so nothing else, you must shew them a Pair of Heels, and run into the Army or a Riot.
W. Dunkin Parson’s Revels (2010) 68: Then for his Heels I must declare. / Achilles could not shew a Pair / [...] half so fair / For Speed, Sir.
[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 4: Unless you shew your heels, and so / Escape the rage of my great toe.
[UK]W.T. Moncrieff All at Coventry I i: I showed him a fair pair of heels – ran away – and here I am.
[Ire]‘A Real Paddy’ Real Life in Ireland 220: So saying, he shewed his heels, and ran down stairs.
Vidocq Memoirs (trans.) W. McGinn II 8: I shall get out of quod, and show them my heels, whilst you are still clinking the darbies.
[UK]Dickens Oliver Twist (1966) 254: It’s all up, Bill! [...] drop the kid and show ’em your heels.
[US]W.G. Simms Border Beagles (1855) 299: Show ’em clean heels.
[US] ‘Harry of Kentucky’ in Littell Clay Minstrel (1844) 161: Each striving which to Whigs can show / The cleanest pair of heels.
[US]Tennessean (Nashville, TN) 26 Nov. 2/3: Having got to the top of the hill, he showed them ‘a clean pair of heels,’ and soon put himself beyond [...] danger.
[UK]G.A. Sala Strange Adventures of Captain Dangerous 304: He e’en showed his Creditors a clean Pair of Heels, and took Shipping for Harwich.
[US]W.H. Thomes Slaver’s Adventures 54: She will have to show her heels most effectually to overhaul us.
[UK] ‘’Arry on the River’ in Punch 9 Aug. 57/1: Of course we bunked off in the scurry, and showed ’em a clean pair o’ legs.
[US]‘Mark Twain’ Life on the Mississippi (1914) 145: Stephen was bowling through the chute and showing the rival boat a two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar pair of heels.
[Scot]R.L. Stevenson Treasure Island 15: Out upon the road, Black Dog, in spite of his wound, showed a wonderful clean pair of heels.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Wheels’ in Punch 7 May 217/1: I’ve took to the bicycle, yus, — and can show a good many my ’eels.
[UK]Morn. Post (London) 1 Oct. 5/5: One wag suggests that in case the crowd becomes too thick or too menacing, it will be sifficient for the Prefect to let loose a bull for all [...] to show a clean pair of heels.
[UK] ‘’Arry and the [...] Lady Cyclists’ in Punch 15 June 285/3: We’ll soon ’ave some duchess, on wheels, / A-cuttin’ all records, and showing young Zimmy a clean pair of ’eels.
[UK]Sporting Times 22 Feb. 1/4: You’re running against a lot o’ crabs—a good horse like you! Now, just for the sake of old times, show your heels to these plurry crawfish, will you?
[Quad-City Times (Davenport, IA) 29 July 7/1: The graceful Belle Helene [a boat] chose to show us her light disdainful heels].
[US]‘Max Brand’ Seventh Man 112: I s’pose Molly showed a clean pair of heels to the whole lot of ’em.
Gloucs Echo 30 Oct. 1/6: [advt] If you want a Car with ‘Sports’ Performance [...] the Sunbeam ‘Dawn’ will show a clean pair of heels to most sports cars.
[Scot]Eve. Teleg. (Angus, Scot.) 23 July 2/5: His idea was to show the police a clean pair of heels.
[Aus]Age (Melbourne) 10 June 12/7: ‘He showed the opposition a clean pair of heels’.
[Aus]Age (Melbourne) 8 Oct. 2/5: He showed Pirie and me a clean pair of heels most of the way. It took everything I had to ‘pip’ him at the tape.
[UK](con. 1940s) J.G. Farrell Singapore Grip 338: I told you my mother was Russian princess, forced to show ‘clean heels’ during the Revolution.
[UK]S. Armitage ‘Finding Your Own Feet’ in Zoom 72: Showing / a clean pair of heels.

2. to be bankrupt [? sent to debtor’s prison].

[UK]J. Ray Proverbs (2nd edn) 89: A Bankrupt. [...] He hath shown them a fair pair of heels. He is marched off.
show an Abyssinian medal (v.) [the Abyssinian War 1893–6]

of a man, to have a fly-button undone, to have one’s penis sticking inadvertently through one’s flies.

[US]Maledicta IV:2 (Winter) 194: He is alleged to have been seen in a ‘tay house’ (teahouse) showing an Abyssinian medal, i.e. with his flies undone.
show and prove (v.)

(US black) to demonstrate.

Queen Latifah ‘Nuff of the Ruff Stuff’ 🎵 on Nature of a Sista [album] Now nuff of the ruff stuff, that’s what I do, and I do it well / The proof is in the puddin, I show and prove, not show and tell.
Tufts Daily 23 Oct. 🌐 ‘Show N Prove,’ claimed Broken Science, ‘will show and prove to the public that I am nice on the mic.’.
show and tell (n.) [play on juv. show-and-tell periods at school]

(US) an elaborate exhibit intended to impress, persuade or inform; thus in fig. uses.

[US]E.H. Hunt Undercover 189: Liddy told me he had been given a show-and-tell appointment with the Attorney General.
Queen Latifah ‘Nuff of the Ruff Stuff’ 🎵 on Nature of a Sista [album] Now nuff of the ruff stuff, that’s what I do, and I do it well / The proof is in the puddin, I show and prove, not show and tell.
‘This Just In...’ Barnstable Patriot (US) 10 Oct. 🌐 The Barnstable Senior Center hosts the Barnstable Newcomers Club meeting Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m., when world travelers John and Regina McCarthy will do a show-and-tell on Elderhosteling in New Zealand.
show a point to (v.) (also show a trick to, show someone a point)

(Aus./N.Z.) to swindle, to act dishonourably towards.

[Aus]W.T. Goodge ‘The Guile of Dad M’Ginnis’ in Bulletin 3 Dec. 32: He became the admiration of the camp along the creek / ’Cause he showed a point to Kangaroobie Riley!
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 16 Aug. 31/1: [T]he boss took the smarty on out of pique. The ‘fly’ man ended by showing the employer a point. In fact, the latter might have known that a man who would work such a trick would go ‘cronk’ first opportunity.
[Aus]W.H. Downing Digger Dialects 44: show a point — deceive; use deceitfully.
[Aus](con. WWI) A.G. Pretty Gloss. Sl. [...] in the A.I.F. 1921–1924 (rev. t/s) n.p.: show a point. Deceive, use deceitfully.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 188: show a point to To swindle or deceive. Late C19. Now more likely to be show a trick to.
showing up (n.)

1. (UK Und.) that which reveals one’s presence to the authorities.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 19/2: I’m blest if she ain’t going to ‘pratt’ right beside us, and that will give us a h—l of a ‘showing-up’.

2. a shameful predicament.

[UK](con. 1910) C.G. Gordon Crooks of the Und. 222: Nice showing up you’d get wiv yer fam’ly, and us only been married half a stretch.
[UK](con. 1920s) McArthur & Long No Mean City 57: A dozen other people [...] had joined the group, all of them eager to see the fun or the fight, or the ‘showing up,’ or whatever should come of it all.
show one’s ass (v.)

(US) to appear foolish; to show off, to make an exhibition of oneself.

[US]L. McMurtry Horseman, Pass By 134: ‘Did you hear about Hud’s deal?’ I asked. [...] ‘I heard about ten versions of it,’ he said. ‘Looks like somebody showed their ass, but I don’t know who’.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 219: Whyn’t you cool it [...] Ain’t you showed your ass enough?
[US]Ebonics Primer at 🌐 showing one’s ass Definition: a person that is showin off Example: Hey nigga quit showin yo azz or i will bust a cap in ya azz, mothafucka!
show one’s cards (v.) (also show one’s/the hand) [poker imagery; the hole-card is that held face-down on the table]

(orig. US) to reveal oneself, usu. to a greater extent than desired.

[US]Buffalo Dly Republic (NY) 11 Feb. 2/4: Mr Marsh determined to show his cards [and] ordered his bills to be immediately posted.
[Ire]Dublin Eve. Mail 31 Aug. 3: Practical men met him in a practical way; he showed them his cards; he was asked ‘Will you take all risk?’ Yes.
[UK]Inverness Courier 11 July 6/5: As to the meeting we had with Mr Gladstone [...] he showed his cards frankly.
[UK]Sheffield Dly Teleg. 22 Apr. 2/3: The First Minister was angry, and was wrong; but he then showed his cards .
North Devon Jrnl 7 May 5/1: The object he sought to obtain [...] might be lost sometimes if he showed his cards to an opponent.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 23 Aug. 17/1: Ye gods! the astute ‘Johnny’ Deeble is going to show his hand for ‘nix’ to the general public!
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 23/1: Show the hand (Peoples’). To reveal unintentionally. From cardplaying, where showing the hand is sure to lose the game.
[UK]Wodehouse Psmith Journalist (1993) 215: We must have got them scared, or they wouldn’t have shown their hand that way.
[US]F. Packard White Moll 221: I’m showing my hand for the first time.
[UK]J.B. Booth London Town 84: He rarely showed his hand, either at cards, or at the more serious game of life.
[US](con. 1910s) J.T. Farrell Young Lonigan in Studs Lonigan (1936) 97: He wasn’t going to show his cards to anybody again.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 666: If she could stand to let it go on, and he called up, he would just show all his cards.
[Aus](con. 1830s–60s) ‘Miles Franklin’ All That Swagger 169: Molly and Athol were at the hotel until old Macallister should show his hand.
[UK]R. Westerby Wide Boys Never Work (1938) 93: And then Bill showed his hand a little.
[US]J. Thompson Savage Night (1991) 68: That was the week that Kendall really began to show his hand.
Marshall News Messenger (TX) 21 Dec. 1/4: The proposal would mean Reagan ‘has to show his cards’ when applying for future aid.
[US]Chicago Trib. 8 Mar. 3/5: It was time for Starr to wrap up his investigation and ‘show his cards’.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 54: It’s only now you’ve chosen to show your hand.
[US]Times & Democrat (Orangeburg, SC) 4 Sept. 13/1: [headline] Nerves of Steele. Coach won’t show his cards early this year.
show one’s color (v.) [ironic reversal of SE show one’s colours, to declare one’s own standpoint, to act proudly despite any opposition]

(US black) to act in a stereotyped way, to behave in the way whites expect blacks to behave.

[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 27: The expressions act the nigger and show your color [...] generally mean to be foolish or silly, to call attention to yourself.
show one’s gums (v.)

(US) to smile, esp. in a self-satisfied manner.

[US]P. Conroy Great Santini (1977) 300: A broad smile on his face. ‘Gentlemen. Gentlemen. Gentlemen,’ he said in greeting. ‘What are you showing your gums about, Art the Fart?’ Jim Don asked.
show one’s hobnails (v.)

to be drunk.

[UK]Gent.’s Mag. 559: Besides these modes of expressing drunkenness by what a man is, what he has, and what he has had, the following express it by what he does— [...] Shows his Hob-nails; this is a provincial phrase for being so drunk as not to be able to stand, so that the nails at the bottom of the shoe are seen.
show one’s shapes (v.)

1. to turn around, to march off.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Show your Shapes, turn about, march off, be gone.
[UK]J. Gay Wife of Bath I i: Show your shapes and walk gracefully.
[UK]New Canting Dict. n.p.: [...] said (often) to an ill-made Man. Show your Shapes; Turn about, march off, be gone.

2. to take off one’s clothes, esp. preparatory to a judicial flogging.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[[US]Matsell Vocabulum 79: shapes Naked].
show out (v.)

see separate entries.

show shapes (v.)

to play pranks, to act in a flighty manner.

[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker III 33: Nothin’ a’most would tempt me to let Sister Sall show shapes arter that fashion for money.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
show (someone) the ropes (v.) [naut. imagery]

to show someone how to do a task, to explain something such as the details of a task or operation to someone.

[Scot]Glasgow Herald 25 Dec. 4/7: Look after him, Jacobs, my lad [...] show him the ropes.
[UK]J. Horrocks letter in My Dear Parents 5 Nov. 44: Of course you will show me the ropes, won’t you sargeant.
[US]Carlisle Wkly Herald (PA) 18 Feb. 1/6: Jack consented to make one or two trips with him to show him the ropes.
[UK]Manchester Eve. News 7 Oct. 4/3: We must pal on to some old miner — eh? Get him to show us the ropes.
[UK]E.W. Hornung A Thief in the Night (1992) 281: I’ll come just to show you the ropes, and I won’t take a penny-weight of the swag.
[Scot]‘Ian Hay’ First Hundred Thousand (1918) 187: The old hands took our boys to their bosoms at once, and showed them the ropes.
[US]J. Gray ‘The Nudist Gym Death Riddle’ in Vice Squad Detective 🌐 I’ll be back in no time to show you the ropes.
[US]‘Boxcar Bertha’ Sister of the Road (1975) 33: I’m your guide and I’ll show you the ropes.
[UK]G. Kersh Night and the City 90: You stick with me. I’ll show you the ropes.
[UK]G. Kersh They Die with Their Boots Clean 64: I am ’ere to show you the ropes.
[US](con. 1910s) J. Thompson Heed the Thunder (1994) 150: He’d show him the ropes, as Jeff had hoped he would do, and they would be friends again.
[UK]A. Buckeridge Jennings Goes To School 14: We shall have to show you the ropes, shan’t we?
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 164: Darden, an experienced vice cop, and a new detective he was showing the ropes to.
[US]M. Puzo Godfather 139: His father had shown him the ropes.
[US]R. Price Blood Brothers 118: They assigned us one-on-one to lifters who’ve been there a while, so they could show us the ropes.
[US]L. Heinemann Close Quarters (1987) 127: Trobridge [...] dragged Walthers and two other rookies off to a daylight dismounted patrol, ‘jus’ ta show ’em the ropes’.
[WI]M. Thelwell Harder They Come 141: I a go show you de ropes.
[US]R. Campbell Alice in La-La Land (1999) 99: A hooker of some reputation who [...] made her living by doing triples and showing younger, fresher talent the ropes.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 27: Dick showed him the ropes.
[Ire]J. Murphy A Picture of Paradise in McGuinness Dazzling Dark (1996) Act I: I could show you the ropes ... start you off.
[UK](con. 1950s) J. Byrne Slab Boys [film script] 12: Bit of a balls-up in the Bobbin Shed ... Let me get somebody to show you the ropes.
[UK]N. Cohn Yes We Have No 348: She showed him the ropes.
[UK]N. Barlay Crumple Zone 190: It was me wha’ marked the gaff for him [...] Ah showed him the ropes innit.
[US](con. 1990s) in J. Miller One of the Guys 70: ‘[She] showed me the ropes, kicked some lit to me and some knowledge. And then, after that, she made me a queen’.
[US]Detroit Free Press (MI) 17 June A6/3: Tory Rocca said his dad used to stop by to show him the ropes.
Monitor (McAllen, TX) 26 June 147/7: The team’s ace took Martinez under his wing to show him the ropes.
show the lions (and tombs) (v.) (also lionise, lionize) [in the original context of London, the lions refer to the Tower of London, the tombs to Westminster Abbey]

to point out or visit the sights.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: To shew the lions and tombs, to point out the particular curiosities of any place, an allusion to Westminster Abbey, and the Tower, where the tombs and lions are shewn; to act the Ciceroni.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Times 7 Oct. 3/2: What will be said then, to such slang and slipslop as the following — that the Ambassador and his suit were ‘the lions of the Court’ [...] in the same sense as the vulgar expression of showing the lions?
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]W.N. Glascock Naval Sketchbk I 3: Let one of the steadiest midshipmen shew the young gentleman the lions.
Liverpool Mail 7 Jan. 6/6: [headline] Showing the Lions.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. 172: lionise to conduct a stranger round the principal objects of attraction in a place; to act as cicerone.
[UK]Sporting Gaz. (London) 4 June 12/3: On Monday morning be thoroughly ‘lionised’ the Tower, finding time afterwards for visits to several of of our leading fashionables.
[UK]Globe (London) 9 July 1/4: There is little satisfaction in showing the lions to a person who is either unable tor unwilling to see anything astonishing in them.
show the (white) feather (v.) (also show the white rag) [a white feather in a game-bird’s tail is a mark of inferior breeding; note earlier find a white feather in one’s tail, mount the white feather]

to surrender or act in a cowardly manner.

[UK]T. Moore ‘Epistle from Tom Cribb to Big Ben’ in Morn. Chron. 3: To show the white feather is many men’s doom.
[UK]Jack Randall’s Diary 4: And with him came Jack Randall tight, The fibbing, touting, scuttling Blade, Who never yet hath shewn in fight The snow-white Feather’s damning shade.
[UK]Newry Examiner 20 Dec. 2/1: Will the Archdeacon and his allies [...] show the white feather? Twenty to one, that they will.
[UK]Comic Almanack Feb. 306: Precluding the possibility of anyone, at any time, showing a white feather.
[Scot]Chambers Journal 341/2: Blessed if he didn’t show the white rag that time! an’ I thought myself as he’d done something bad.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 18 Mar. 1/4: Ben showed the ‘feather’ by shrinking from his adversary.
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1982) II 158: Oh, blow it, Gig-lamps [...] you’ll never go to do the mean, and show the white feather, will you?
[UK]Cheshire Obs. 4 Aug. 7/3: By inserting the above [...] your readers will be able to judge who really did show the ‘white feather’.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
Sheffield Dly Teleg, 1 May 4/4: ‘Mary Ann’ has been compelled to show the ‘white feather’.
[US]G. Devol Forty Years a Gambler 47: Well, I could not show the white feather, so I called for a basket of wine and invited them all to join me.
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson ‘The Open Steeplechase’ in Man from Snowy River (1902) 72: But they both were game as pebbles — neither one would show the feather.
[US]J. London ‘Dutch Courage’ Complete Short Stories (1993) I 457: No Lafee ever showed the white feather yet.
[NZ]Bruce Herald (Otago, NZ) 18 July 7: Some men were twitting a son [...] about his father’s exhibition of the white feather.
[US]A. Adams ‘Drifting North’ in Cattle Brands 🌐 It is a common anomaly in life that the bad man [...] shows the white feather when he meets his fate.
[UK]Dover Express (Kent) 21 July 7/2: Nobody likes to show the white feather and give in.
[UK]Marvel 17 July 4: When he found that he had met his master, he began to show the white feather.
[Ire]L. Doyle Dear Ducks 251: But there’s no use showin’ the white feather.
[Aus]K.S. Prichard Haxby’s Circus 190: It was bad luck to have struck rain for Max’s first night; but he would not show a white feather for all the rain in the world.
[US]O. Strange Law O’ The Lariat 107: Yu ain’t goin’ to show the white feather, are yu, Pent?
[UK]Western Dly Press (Bristol) 17 Dec. 8/5: To ’show the white feather’ is a term which comes to us from the old days of cock-fighting.
[UK]Arbroath Herald 29 May 8/3: In justice to their bravery [...] we must state that [...] they did not show the white feather until deserted by their officers.
[Scot]Aberdeen Eve. Exp. 22 Dec. 12/1: Gustav did not show the white feather and held on gamely.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 414: white feather, to show the. To act in a cowardly manner.
show (up) (v.)

see separate entries.

show up

see separate entry.