Green’s Dictionary of Slang

lemon n.

1. of people and things, in the sense of the sourness and/or unpalatability of the fruit.

(a) a person of a sour disposition.

[UK]P.S. Davis Young Parson 222: Mrs. Trimble had a great deal to say, and no little acrimony in her way of saying it. Indeed, she was what the knowing ones denominated ‘a lemon’ .

(b) (also citron, lime) anything or anyone undesirable, esp. used of a woman.

[US]A. Greene Glance at N.Y. I v: Go in, lemons!
[US]‘Q.K. Philander Doesticks’ [M.N. Thomson] Doesticks, What He Says 124: Everything looked so grandly gingerbreadly that I hesitated about going in. Little boy in the corner (barefooted, with a letter in the post office) told us to ‘go in’ and called us ‘lemons’.
[US]H. Green Maison De Shine 69: She’s a lemon!
[US]F. Dumont Darkey Dialect Discourses 25: You may get something or you may get a blank – or in modern slang, a bushel of lemons.
E.B. Morris Senior 12: Collins. Good-looking? Spencer She’s a lemon!
[US]Ade ‘The New Fable of the Wandering Boy’ in Ade’s Fables 120: The Town of his Nativity did not occupy many Pages in the statistical Census Reports. In fact, all the travelling Troupers [...] referred to it as a Lime, which is the same as a Lemon, only smaller.
[US]M.G. Hayden ‘Terms Of Disparagement’ in DN IV:iii 199: lime, slightly harsher term of disparagement than ‘lemon.’ ‘She’s a regular lime’.
[US]O.O. McIntyre New York Day by Day 24 July [synd. col.] I certainly pick the citrons. Here I’ve been wasting my time lunching with him and the poor sap tells me today he’s on the wrong side of the market.
[US]J. Weidman I Can Get It For You Wholesale 125: You were so busy with that big lemon of yours, that Babushkin.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 124/1: Lemon. [...] 3. Anyone or anything that is unsatisfactory or worthless; a traitor; a faker; an inept crook; a poor prospect for thieves; a prosecution witness who cannot be intimidated or bribed; an unprofitable criminal venture or racket.
[US]M. Braly Shake Him Till He Rattles (1964) 46: She’s been dropping that lemon all day. [Ibid.] 144: Why should I sweat the broad? She’s built and her face is good, but she’s a lemon.
[US]S. King Roadwork in Bachman Books (1995) 435: The job you’ve got is a short-term plum, a long-term lemon.
[US]J. Ciardi Good Words 173: The Ford Edsel was almost certainly the worst lemon in the history of Detroit.
[Aus]R.G. Barratt ‘So Why Doesn’t Jack the Lad Get a Real Job?’ in What Do You Reckon (1997) [ebook] [L]emons from the bank in ill-fitting suits wanting to repossess your home.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Goodoo Goodoo 133: Les shook his head [...] Christ! What a fuckin’ lemon.
[UK]N. ‘Razor’ Smith Raiders 56: Everyone looked at him like he was a right lemon.

(c) a disappointment, anything worthless or fraudulent, esp. a poor quality drug purchase.

[US]H. Green Mr. Jackson 3: ‘It looks like a lemon.’ ‘He doubts the authenticity of certain statements emanating from the promoters of the district,’ Mr Jackson explained.
[US]F. Packard Adventures of Jimmie Dale (1918) I i: You got the money and I pulled a lemon.
[US]Black Mask Aug. III 52: I began to be afraid Berry had picked a lemon.
[US]B. Schulberg What Makes Sammy Run? (1992) 246: If your last few pictures are lemons, you’re in hot water.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Golden Spike 199: They resorted to selling ‘lemons,’ the drug so heavily mixed with milk sugar that it carried no kick.
[US]‘John Eagle’ Hoodlums (2021) 47: [of the worthless paper rolled inside a high-denomination note] ‘This is no California bankroll. Two tens around a lemon’.
[US]N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 60: He didn’t want to lose a rookie, but he didn’t want to hook a lemon.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Boys from Binjiwunyawunya 183: What a lemon of a book [...] I can’t see myself reading any more.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Between the Devlin 27: Norton’s one hundred and fifty thousand dollar investment had turned out to be a [...] lemon.
[UK]Guardian G2 10 Aug. 22: If life hands you a lemon, start making lemonade.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Leaving Bondi (2013) [ebook] People might actually pay to go and see this lemon [i.e. a movie].

(d) a defective car or vehicle; thus the lemon law, a law that provides redress for buyers of substandard or defective cars.

[UK]Oakland Trib. 11 Mar. O7/1: In one city the used car department, separate from the salesrooms of a prominent dealer, disposed of a used car for S300 and the manager of that department congratulated himself upon having rid himself of a ‘lemon’ finally.
[US]C.R. Bond 23 Feb. in A Flying Tiger’s Diary (1984) 108: That one [a plane] was washed out. Also, No. 13 is a lemon.
[US]Mad mag. Mar. 25: The finest [car] made today – taking into account the inherent limitations of mass-production. In other words, you could get a lemon!
[US]R. Serling ‘The Whole Truth’ in New Stories from the Twilight Zone 15: It’s a bad car. It’s a lemon.
[US]W. Burk Thief 31: The car turned out to be the lemon of all time.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 14: Bad cars are lemons.
[US]B. Hamper Rivethead (1992) 129: If these trucks somehow turned out to be puke-colored lemons, there was going to be one vast necktie party.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 222: I had a first-class wardrobe and a Jaguar sports car, although it was evident to me that it was a lemon and the used car lot had clipped me.
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 152: In the car industry a faulty car (kndwn as a lemon to most of us, or by far worse terms) used to be called a monday or friday car because it had in all likelihood been built on either of those days when there were so many off on sickies that there was too small a workforce to ensure quality control.
E. Hagelstein ‘Our Lady of Mercy’ in ThugLit Mar. [ebook] Danny had just helped me replace the brakes on my Korean lemon.

(e) (US drugs, also lemonade) weak, second-rate or fake narcotics, esp. poor or fake heroin.

[US]H. Simmons Corner Boy 170: The world was as mixed up as a hophead trying to wean off on lemonade.
[US]Rigney & Smith Real Bohemia xx: If the quality is high [...] the drug is ‘boss,’ ‘tough,’ ‘dynamite’; if poor, it is called ‘lemonade’.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970) 47: blank [...] A container filled with a non-narcotic powder, such as talcum powder, baking soda, or cleanser, and sold to the addict as heroin. Also called lemonade.
[US]R.D. Pharr S.R.O. (1998) 67: A lemon is a packet of milk sugar or some other substance that looks like heroin, Lemons are palmed off on the unwary.
[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972) 119: lemonade n. [...] Poor-quality heroin.
[US](con. 1970s) J. Pistone Donnie Brasco (2006) 306: ‘If you want five hundred thousand, I got ’ludes.’ ‘What they call those “lemons”?’ ‘It depends. They’re all homemade now. Usually your lemon has Valium in it.’.

(f) (Aus./N.Z./S.Afr.) a lesbian.

B. Davies Shards of Glass 135: Anna cannot refuse femininity in the way she does (in speech and dress) as well as the dominant storyline on love and marriage without continually having to assert that she is not a ‘lemon’ (lesbian) .
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 116: There are far fewer terms in Lingo for lesbians. These include les, lezzo, dike and reportedly in use among youths and lesbians lemon.
[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 106/2: lemon n. a lesbian.
[SA]K. Cage Gayle.
Hobbs & Wrights (eds) The SAGE Handbook of Fieldwork 195: The researcher heard other students calling her a bisexual, a ‘hetero’, and a lemon (lesbian).

2. a victim, a fool; also attrib. [? pun on sucker n.1 (3b)].

[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 54: Many ‘lemon pelters’ come out to see Timmie.
[US]A. Baer Putting ’Em Over 17 May [synd. col.] We’re either lemons or nuts, because we are always between the nut-cracker and the lemon squeezer.
[US]N. Putnam West Broadway 195: A cowboy has to be a awful lemon not to attract a woman.
[US]P. Stevenson Gospel According to St Luke’s 36: Some fellas [...] didn’t mind being lemons [...] They got a kick out of the dirty cracks and Katzenjammer antics that made them lemons.
[UK]J. Curtis There Ain’t No Justice 227: I’m such a lemon. I’m ever so scared.
[UK]J. Orton Diaries (1986) 30 July 265: We were waiting outside the house like lemons.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘Christmas Crackers’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] I’ve made meself look a right lemon.
[UK]D. Fallowell One Hot Summer in St Petersburg 272: I wasn’t prepared to sit in a corner like a lemon.
[UK]Guardian Weekend 22 Jan. 3: It hurts to be stuck here like a lemon without them.

3. the shape.

(a) (US) the nose.

[US]N.E. Police Gaz. (Boston, MA) 18 Aug. 8/1: Bo knocks Dr Brandreth in the shade in making pills, for he has a superior size ‘lemon’ [...] Go in, Bo; may your nasal organ never be less.

(b) the head.

[UK]Wodehouse Inimitable Jeeves 7: The old lemon being slightly clouded.
[UK]Wodehouse Mating Season 14: Catsmeat shook the lemon sombrely.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 124/1: Lemon. [...] 2. The human head.
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit 108: I shook the lemon.

(c) (US) the female breasts.

[Aus]Stephens & O’Brien Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] 41: CHARLIES: a woman’s breasts: variants – dibs, lemons, dairies, bubs.
[US]Sonny Boy Williamson (1) ‘Until My Love Come Down’ 🎵 Come on let me squeeze your lemons baby, I mean anyhow / Now I say please let me be your lemon squeezer.
[UK](con. late 1940s) V. Foot Sixteen Shillings And Tuppence Ha’penny 69: Yer’ll get yer lemons soon enuff.

4. (US black) a light-skinned black person.

[US]C. McKay Home to Harlem 60: Years of gin sociables and unsatisfactory lemons.
[US] ‘Jiver’s Bible’ in D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive.
[US]P. Oliver Blues Fell this Morning 80: To differentiate between their many shades of colour [...] ‘brightskin,’ ‘high yaller’, ‘lemon’.
[US]Eble Sl. and Sociability 81: Metaphors include forks ‘fingers’ lemon ‘light-skinned black woman’ and piano ‘section of spare ribs’.

5. in the sense of something/someone that can be ‘squeezed’.

(a) (US Und.) an informer [such a person can be ‘squeezed’ by an interrogator].

[US]G. Milburn ‘Convicts’ Jargon’ in AS VI:6 439: lemon, n. One who testifies for the prosecution.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: Lemon, one who turns state’s evidence.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

(b) (US black) the genitals; always in phr. squeeze (some)one’s lemon

6. see lem n.2

7. see lemon game

8. see lemon (and lime) n.

9. see lemon (curd) n.

10. see lemon (drop) n.

11. see lemon (squash) n.

12. see lemon (flavour) n.

In derivatives

lemoner (n.)

(Irish) a disappointment, something depressing.

[Ire]B. Farrell Canaries n.p.: A good one, isn’t it? His wife left him to go to Paris with a woman. That must’ve been a right lemoner, what? [BS].

In compounds

Lemon Avenue (n.) (also Lemon Land) [their lips are eternally pursed with disapproval, as if they had just sucked a lemon]

(Aus.) the fig. name for the ‘spiritual home’ of censorious or socially repressive people.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 13 Oct. 19/4: Send the bottle round the table, raise your glasses in your hand; / A toast I give to guide you and remind – / E’er we hail the water-waggon, and depart for Lemon Land, / Drink a farewell to The Days We Leave Behind.
[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl. (2nd edn).
lemon-eater (n.) (also lemon-sucker) [the English are seen as sour]

(US) an English person.

[US]Maledicta II:1+2 (Summer/Winter) 162: Lemon-eaters, Lemon-suckers Same origin and meaning as Limey.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 229: lemon eater or -sucker, an Englishman.
lemon game (n.) (also lemon) [game n. (6)]

(US Und.) a way of cheating at pool, whereby a victim is enticed into the game and allowed to win. Once they are sufficiently confident to bet heavily, their opponent has a ‘run of luck’ and takes all their money; also attrib.

Houdini Right Way to Do Wrong 55: Such is the principle of the bunco game, and it is worked under many guises [...] our pool-room bunco is known as ‘selling the lemon,’ as bets are made on the yellow ball--but always with the idea of making the victim believe he is going to get something for nothing.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 55: Lemon, [...] a confidence game in which skill at pool is the bait, though its successful negotiation is based upon the dishonesty or avarice of the victim.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 410: Lemon game – swindle scheme, generally a pool game.
[US]C. Himes ‘Prison Mass’ in Coll. Stories 163: One could get umpteen years for clipping one bus. [...] The next time it would be something in the confidence rackets—the ‘slide game’ or maybe just some plain ‘lemon pool’.
[US]D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 15: Putting down some lemon pool action with the smooth roundies.
[UK]J. Colebrook Cross of Lassitude 101: The termites of the life [...] who carry out the ‘lemon,’ the ‘tap,’ the ‘wire’.
[US](con. 1930s) Courtwright & Des Jarlais Addicts Who Survived 167: I got married in 1939. I used to go to a lay-down joint – that’s where I met my first husband. He was a con man, a lemon hustler.
lemon-head (n.)

(US) a fool.

[US]J. Archibald ‘When a Body Meets a Body’ in Popular Detective Sept. 🌐 ‘It means I will, lemon-head,’ Gertie sniffed.
[US]J. Archibald ‘State Penmanship’ Popular Detective Jan. 🌐 ‘Look, lemonhead!’ Satchelfoot Kelly snapped, ‘I’m takin’ none of that from you.’.
lemon-squeezer (n.)

1. (US) a subway car.

[US]Edwardsville Intelligencer (IL) 14 Sept. 4/4: The Flappers’ Dictionary [...] Lemon-squeezer: Subway car.

2. (Aus./N.Z.) a hat with a peaked crown and broad, flat brim worn by Aus. and N.Z. soldiers; also attrib .

[NZ]D. Davin For the Rest of Our Lives 27: The Battalion’s other V.C. [...] sheepish under his lemon-squeezer hat.
[NZ]G. Slatter Gun in My Hand 48: The young soldier with the neatly-pressed uniform and the level brim on his lemon-squeezer.
[NZ]B. Crump ‘One of Us’ in Best of Barry Crump (1974) 132: Toddy’s old man and himself as privates in lemon-squeezer hats, talking all the time about World War I.
[Aus](con. 1941) R. Beilby Gunner 126: One of them whipped off his ‘lemon-squeezer’ hat and set it on the cretin’s head.
[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 69/1: lemon-squeezer peaked Kiwi infantry hat, still worn in ceremonial parades.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].
lemon-sucker (n.) [? SE sucker or his stereotypically pursed lips]

1. (US) an effeminate man.

[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 83: There’s a swell bunch of Lizzie boys and lemon-suckers and pie-faces.
[Ire]R. Doyle Woman Who Walked Into Doors 136: The priest. I can’t remember his name. A real lemon-sucker.

2. see lemon-eater

lemon twist (n.) [the sweet]

(Aus. Und.) when one gang employs a known police informer to give information about its rivals to the police.

[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper From The Inside 153: There is a secret tactic often used in the criminal world which says it all about the betrayal and hypocrisy which is part of the underworld. It is called the Lemon Twist, and nobody in the straight world knows how it works. A drug gang wishes to to maintain its standing in the eyes of the criminal world, yet remain out of jail. They pick a known police informer, some physically weak wimp who is easily frightened. They call him in and explain to him that he now works for them – after a nice little beating, of course. They then find out from him which police he is working for. They provide him with a weekly sling of money and supply him with a regular line of drugs. He is happy under the protection of the gang. He is given good information on the drug dealings of other gangs and crews. Every bit of information the informer gives to the police is handed to him by his controlling crew. All the information is geared to help the police catch members of other gangs and upset their drug and gambling businesses.

In phrases

cut lemons (v.) [ cut v.3 / SE; ? lemons are ‘sharp’]

(US) to impress, to appear important; usu. in negative, e.g. that didn’t cut any lemons.

[US]Ade More Fables in Sl. (1960) 158: A Man who does not cut very many Lemons around his own House.
[US]Ade People You Know 122: What he said cut very few Lemons with the Side-Partner.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 69: The fact that Prominent Merchants were playing them close every Night [...] did not [...] cut any Lemons with Mr. Foster.
go in for lemons (v.)

US to take an opportunity for gain; to obtain something for oneself.

[US]Manchester Spy (NH) 4 Oct. n.p.: Carlton refused to [stop visiting a girl]. Varnum was angry, for he probably wished to ‘go in for lemons’ himself.
hand someone the lemon (v.) (also give someone...)

(US) to disdain, to dismiss; thus get the lemon, to be dismissed or ignored.

[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 36: Him gettin’ handed a lemon in that English act, puts us up.
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 98: The nutty one had handed me the lemon.
[UK]F. Anthony ‘Winter Feeding the Herd’ in Me And Gus (1977) 82: Every time he gets the lemon he tries to put up a bluff.
[Aus]R.G. Barratt ‘The Republic Starts to Flag’ in What Do You Reckon (1997) [ebook] I’ve got a bit to lose here if we give old Betty Boo and her kinsfolk the lemon.
have lemon lips (v.)

(S.Afr. gay) to be in a bad mood, very angry.

[SA]K. Cage Gayle.
sell lemons (v.)

to sell second-rate or fake drugs.

[US]N. Heard Howard Street 109: He sure as hell would find out from Cowboy what was going on. Selling lemons wasn’t cool at all.
shoot the lemon (v.)

(US prison) to chatter, to gossip.

[US]H. Simon ‘Prison Dict.’ in AS VIII:3 (1933) 31/2: SHOOT THE LEMON. Chat. Chew the rag.
squeeze of the lemon (n.)

a try, an attempt.

[UK]‘Old Calabar’ Won in a Canter I 36: He had so much to do, so much to attend to; after a bit he would have another squeeze at tbe lemon, but really he must attend to his affairs first.
squeeze (some)one’s lemon (v.) (also squeeze a lemon, squeeze the lemon)

1. (orig. US black) to have sexual intercourse [esp. in blues use, as a sexual euph.: ‘Squeeze my lemon, till the juice runs down my leg’].

[[UK]Sporting Mag. Mar. VII 342/1: Then since with so much care she’s tried / Her punchbowl to supply, / Long may she quaff the pleasing draft, / And squeeze the lemon dry].
[US]Bo Carter ‘Let Me Roll Your Lemon’ 🎵 Baby please let me roll your lemon / And squeeze it the whole night long.
[US]Robert Johnson ‘Travelling Riverside Blues’ 🎵 You can squeeze my lemon ’til the juice run down my leg [...] But I’m goin’ back to Friars Point, if I be rockin’ to my head.
[US]Sonny Boy Williamson (1) ‘Until My Love Come Down’ 🎵 Come on let me squeeze your lemons baby, I mean anyhow / Now I say please let me be your lemon squeezer.
[Ire]J. O’Connor Secret World of the Irish Male (1995) 114: I could hear my chubby friend singing softly the Led Zeppelin song ‘Won’t Ya Squeeze My Lemon Baby Till The Juice Runs Down My Leg’.

2. in fig. use, to live life to the full.

[UK]J. Cary Horse’s Mouth (1948) 93: Come, Sara, you’ve had a good innings – you’ve squeezed the lemon. Three husbands and five children – not counting the stand-ins, the Freds and the Dickies.

3. of a man or woman, to urinate.

Larson Barnyard Folklore 84: Urinate...spring a leak, drain your tank, squeeze your lemon, shake your sprinkler, water your stud-horse, pick daisies (or flowers) [HDAS].
[NZ]G. Slatter Pagan Game (1969) 159: Must squeeze the lemon, said Eric, lurching to his feet.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 198: squeeze a lemon Female urination. ANZ.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

lemon drop (n.)

1. (US teen) a contraceptive pill.

[US]Current Sl. V:3 9: Lemon drop, n. A birth control pill [...] Lemon drop kid, n. A girl who takes birth control pills.

2. (US drugs) a methamphetamine tablet.

[US]ONDCP Street Terms 14: Lemon drop — Methamphetamine with a dull yellow tint.

In phrases

suck lemons (v.)

(US) to act sourly, to complain, to sulk; thus to go suck a lemon / tell someone to suck lemons, to deride, to dismiss.

[US]Ade More Fables in Sl. (1960) 170: When she was at home she would suck Lemons and complain about Draughts.
Vancouver Sun (BC) 5 Oct. 9/1: A piece of vitriolic anti-Quebec writing [...] entitled —‘Hey Quebec, Go Suck a Lemon’.
[US]Tampa Trib. (FL) 15 Dec. G-2/10: Should i tell my friend to suck lemons or is he right? [...] Sorry, Doc. Your friend’s right.
[UK]M. Walters The Echo 354: You look like you’re sucking lemons every time the subject comes up.