Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cross n.1

[abbr. SE double-cross]

1. constr. with the, anything deceitful or dishonest.

[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 234: cross: illegal or dishonest practices in general are called the cross, in opposition to the square [...] Any article which has been irregularly obtained, is said to have been got upon the cross, and is emphatically termed a cross article.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 60: The cross — cheatery and robbery.
N.Y. Morn. Express 21 Jan. 7/1: [He] said that he had always been a ‘quare’ man until this morning, when he got drunk and took to the cross.
[US]G. Thompson Jack Harold 60: I went upon the cross and began to rob and steal.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 27: Cross, a general term amongst thieves expressive of their plundering profession.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. [as cit. 1859].
[UK]Newcastle Courant 16 Sept. 6/5: Beelzebub was an old woman whose faithfulness to the ‘cross’ had earned for her the distinction of [etc.].

2. (also crossing) a trick, a deception; also attrib.

[UK] ‘Tom the Drover’ No. 30 Papers of Francis Place (1819) n.p.: I’m a lad that can Fib with the queerest, pick a cross with a pal for a mouse.
[UK](con. 1737–9) W.H. Ainsworth Rookwood (1857) 258: But in the mean time, so it vos, / Both kids agreed to play a cross.
Sentinel (Sydney) 9 Apr. 1/1/5: [T]he word crossing here being evidently used in the slang sense of the turf for a juggle or fraud.
Shipping & Mercantile Gaz. 13 July 4/4: The knowing ones from the first foretold that it would be what in slang phrase is denominated ‘a cross.’— [...] there was reason to believe that the prisoner had been the dupe of others.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[US]W. Irwin Confessions of a Con Man 41: Only the old-time ‘cross’, though with fine, new variations.
[UK]E. Pugh City of the World 169: Of all the cross starts that a gonoph can go in for, the smashing and sniding start is the most risky and worst paying.
[US]Johnny Eager [film script] I guess the cross is really on [W&F].
[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 296: ‘A cross,’ Mendy said to Ohls. ‘I heard you the first time.’ ‘You ordered three muscles,’ Ohls said. ‘What you got was three deputies from Nevada.’.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 24: I guess she was crying with joy because the cross had come off so beautifully.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Airtight Willie and Me 34: I ain’t gonna let you throw my bottom ’ho [...] in no cross with that crazy Nigger.
[US](con. 1982–6) T. Williams Cocaine Kids (1990) 73: ‘He’s always setting me up for a cross,’ Kitty complained.
[UK]K. Sampson Outlaws (ms.) 143: They’re double into this because it’s a cross.

3. in sports, e.g. boxing, the deliberate losing of a fight, a race etc, on payment of a bribe.

[UK]Caledonian Mercury 31 Oct. 4/3: The umpire [...] ‘could not swear it was a cross, but he was quite satisfied that there was wrong conduct somewhere’.
[UK] in Egan Bk of Sports 188: Manhood! — imbue / Our pugilists, with courage true [...] But, if they take the tempter’s fee, And plan a cross, / Fling them aside like worthless dross!
[UK]R.S. Surtees Young Tom Hall (1926) 10: Being in the secret of the then great coming cross between Sledgehammer, the blacksmith, and Granitenob, the miner.
[UK](con. 1839) Fights for the Championship 149: The honest Deaf ’un has all at once turned rogue; he has been bought and fought a cross.
[UK]R. Nicholson Rogue’s Progress (1966) 108: He fought Harry Jones, the‘Sailor Boy’, and made a cross of it.
[UK]Derby Day 39: As sure as the sun shines, Askapart’ll lick ’em; if so be [...] as there ain’t no cross.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 2 Nov. 6/2: One thing, they’ll never have to accuse our Murphy of a cross; he must win or be killed.
[US]R. Sale ‘House of Kaa’ in Penzler Pulp Fiction (2007) 75: This may be a cross [...] Better check him.
[US]J. Tully Bruiser 168: When Shane answered the gong for the seventh, Tim whispered to Blinky, ‘It’s a cross’.

4. (UK Und.) the underworld.

[UK]Lytton Paul Clifford I 203: There is an excellent fellow near here, who [...] is a firm ally and generous patron of the lads of the cross.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 6/1: Very few honest people entered this house, as it was a well known resort of the Leeds ‘cross’.

5. (UK Und.) an unfortunate experience.

[UK]Liverpool Mercury 14 Jan. 38/2: I was very fortunate, only at cross at Brigg statute fair. At a public-house they said I was trying to pick the landlady’s pocket, and some farm labourers [...] knocked me down, and kicked me like a foot-ball.

6. an informer.

[UK]A. Conan Doyle His Last Bow in Baring-Gould (1968) II 798: ‘Do you dare to suggest that I have given away my own agents!’ ‘I don’t stand for that, Mister, but there’s a stool pigeon or a cross somewhere, and it’s up to you to find out where it is.’.

7. constr. with a/the, a double-cross.

[US](con. 1950s) D. Goines Whoreson 177: I knew the cross had gone down.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 151: Dont fuck with sissies, they’ll put you in a cross every time.

In compounds

cross-trade (n.)

(Aus. Und.) criminality.

[Aus]Australian (Sydney) 13 Feb. 3/4: Being such an expert thief, that he would be able to live like a gentleman when he reached Botany [Bay], by his dexterity in the cross-trade.

In phrases

cop on the cross (v.)

(UK Und.) to discover that someone is cheating, usu. by using cunning or deception oneself.

[UK] press cutting in J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 91/2: A good way of copping her on the cross is to pretend to go off into the country for a day or two, and come down on her in the middle of the night.
go the cross (v.)

to work as a criminal.

[US]Lives of the Felons 45: I take such chances when I go the ‘cross’.
[UK]Manchester Courier 19 May 3: I went on the cross and got four years. After I had finished that bit, I went and lived with a moll I knew.
in a cross

(US black) in trouble, at a disadvantage; usu. in the phr. put in a cross, to put into a difficult situation.

[US] ‘Mexicana Rose’ in D. Wepman et al. Life (1976) 40: I go for you, Sam, I think you’re the boss, / But don’t think you can ever put me in a cross.
[US] ‘The Fall’ in D. Wepman et al. Life (1976) 85: So down I fell to the depths of hell, / For I’d put myself in the cross.
on the cross

1. surreptitiously, illegally.

[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang.
[UK]Salisbury & Winchester Jrnl 15 June 2/5: This here defendant is vat va calls in our perfession ‘a shy cock,’ cause you sees as how he vorks on the ‘cross’ .
[UK]Era 28 Mar. 10/1: For years Ginger got his living on the ‘cross’.
[Aus][A. Harris] (con. 1820s) Settlers & Convicts 337: The dogs [...] had just got hold of the entrails of a sheep the men had been killing ‘on the cross,’ so that they did not hear me till I came close up to the hut.
[UK]Lancaster Gaz. (Lancs) 28 June 3/5: Although cross coves often beg daily bread [...] they get what they can on the cross (by theft).
[Ire]C.J. Lever Davenport Dunn 162: Every fellow [...] can tell you how he was squared, for it’s all on the ‘cross’ with them, Grog., just as in the ring.
[Aus]Age (Melbourne) 1 Oct. 5/2: A magistrate, Mr Smith added, was obliged to be conversant with slang. It was only the other day that he had to put a policeman right, when he said ‘on the square,’ and meant ‘on the cross’ .
[UK] ‘Six Years in the Prisons of England’ in Temple Bar Mag. Jan. 217: A very considerable number of convicts left the prison with the intention of ‘hawking’ from place to place, and doing a little bit on the ‘cross’.
[UK]Derbyshire Courier 7 Nov. 8/1: Cant language [...] Thieving — on the cross.
[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.
[UK]A. Griffiths Chronicles of Newgate 470: A consignment of cheap ‘righteous’ watches, or such as had been honestly obtained, and not ‘on the cross’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 5 Oct. 26/2: That big men who deal in thousands at Cup-time should trouble about such a thing at all only shows that some people would sooner flatter their own smartness by getting 5s. ‘on the cross’ than £1 squarely.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Dec. 26/3: Boxing is the only profession in which the better the performer the harder it is for him to make money – if he is colored. [...] Sam Langford, according to the U.S. papers, spends most of his time fighting ‘on the cross’ as a means of evading insolvency.

2. working as a professional criminal.

[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 60: To ‘live upon the cross’ is to exist by dishonest means.
[UK]W.A. Miles Poverty, Mendicity and Crime; Report 113: He has been twice in prison; eight months ‘on the cross,’ that is, thieving.
[UK]Edinburgh Rev. July 485: ‘Cross Coves,’ though they beg their bread, can tell a long story about being out of employ [...] yet get what they call on the cross (by theft) . . . one of their chief modes of getting things on the cross, is by shoplifting (called grabbing) . . . another method is to star the glaze (i.e. break or cut the window).
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. IV 95: I’m going to live on the square after this, Frank [...] I shall never go on the cross again!
[UK]A. Mayhew Paved with Gold 70: It’s a bad game, you know as well as I do, and I won’t stand by and see a mere kid like this here put in the way of being lagged or scragged (transported or hanged) as he is sure to be at last if he goes on the cross like us.
[UK]J. Greenwood Seven Curses of London 91: Take a case, now, of a man who is in for getting his living ‘on the cross,’ and who has got a ‘kid’ or two, and their mother, at home.
[US]Galaxy (N.Y.) Mar. 19?3: He made the acquaintance of these outlaws, and, calling upon them at their home, represented himself as on the ‘cross,’ and proposed a job in which he should be a partner in the profits in consideration of the assistance he would give in carrying it out.
[Aus]S. James Vagabond Papers (3rd series) 136: I hadn’t got sixpence left and had to go on the cross again.
[UK]J. Greenwood Tag, Rag & Co. 32: If the ruffians and rascals who get a living ‘on the cross’, as they say on the river, were hand and glove with the same sort who ply their trade ashore.
[UK]J. Caminada Twenty-Five Years of Detective Life I 16: ‘Cabbage Ann’ and ‘One Armed Kitty’ were keepers of establishments, the fame of which was known to the vast majority of persons ‘on the cross’.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 5 May 5/6: I am an Old Lag, and have been more or less ‘on the cross’ all my life.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ In Bad Company 219: Take a fools advice. It don’t pay to ‘go on the cross’ – never did.
[Aus] ‘The Murrumbidgee Shearer’ in ‘Banjo’ Paterson Old Bush Songs 94: Oh, yes, my jolly dandies, I’ve done it on the cross [...] The traps have often chased me more times than can be told.
[NZ]N.Z. Truth 4 Aug. 5/3: He’s on to every trick of those who live upon the cross.
[UK]E. Raymond Marsh 126: Some of us may get our money on the cross, but we don’t bleed it out of them poor janes.

3. dishonest.

[UK]C. Selby London By Night I ii: Don’t disturb yourselves, my dear boys, we’re on the square – not on the cross.
[UK]H. Kingsley Recollections of G. Hamlyn (1891) 24: I don’t want any meetings on the cross up at my place in the village.The whole house ain’t mine, and we don’t know who may be listening.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 90/1: I knew well on stating that no ‘square’ man would have anything to do with it, so I had to look around for some one who was on ‘the cross’.
[Aus]Bulletin Reciter 1880–1901 40: He would steal, or beg, or borrow; he was always on the cross.
pull a cross on (v.)

to double-cross.

[US]J. Thompson Getaway in Four Novels (1983) 7: Doc was too smart to tangle with Rudy Torrento; he’d know that no one pulled a cross on Rudy.
S. Shagan Formula 233: He had been too long in the game to pull a cross on this bunch. Only an amateur or a goddamn fool would try to swindle the cartel.
put the cross on (v.)

1. to double-cross, to cheat.

[UK]‘Thormanby’ Famous Racing Men 80: He could distinguish the words [...] ‘put the cross on – ’.
[UK]A. Binstead Pitcher in Paradise 130: The last workman that tried to put the cross on me, I —.
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson ‘The Downfall of Mulligan’s’ Three Elephant Power 62: the signal was passed round to ’put the cross on’.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 169/2: Put the cross on. 1. To betray; cheat.

2. to mark for death [a cross placed, lit. or fig., against the victim’s name].

[US]L. Pound ‘American Euphemisms for Dying’ in AS XI:3 199: Put the cross on.
[US]Howsley Argot: Dict. of Und. Sl.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 169/2: Put the cross on. [...] 2. To order the murder of. 3. To point out one to be murdered; to lure an intended victim to his death.
shake the cross (v.)

to give up thieving.

[US]letter in ‘Mark Twain’ Life on the Mississippi (1996) 511: [as spelt] You told me if i would shake the cross (quit stealing) & live on the square for 3 months, it would be the best job i ever done.