Green’s Dictionary of Slang

con n.1


1. a confidant.

[UK]C.M. Westmacott Eng. Spy I 30: We were soon the most inseparable cons.

2. a conundrum.

[UK]Crim.-Con. Gaz. 26 Jan. 25/1: I Saw ‘Billy Black’ accosting a smart lady [...] and putting a new Con. to her.
[UK]Fraser’s Mag. XXIII. 59: Pun, riddles, cons, etc. are low.
[US]E. Wittmann ‘Clipped Words’ in DN IV:ii 127: con, from conundrum.

3. a contract.

[UK]Pall Mall Gazette 24 Aug. 2/1: About the ‘contract system’ [...] The men get some ‘con’, as they call it, or ‘plus’ pay, but for every penn’orth of ‘con’ the contractor gets two penn’orth of work out of them [OED].

4. a conformist.

[UK]Homilist IX xii: To what denomination the family belongs, whether they are Cons or Noncons .
[US]E. Wittmann ‘Clipped Words’ in DN IV:ii 127: con, from conformist.

5. a railroad conductor.

[UK]M. Roberts Western Avernus (1924) 186: If the ‘con’ had found us on the other side the dollar would have been paid and yet part of the ride lost.
[US]J. Flynt Tramping with Tramps 278: You know that sometimes the con [conductor] is a mean devil.
[US]J. London Road 50: I was awakened by the sliding open of the door. [...] A ‘con’ (conductor) was poking his head inside the door.
[US]L. Light Modern Hobo 47: The ‘con’ was taking tickets in the smoker.
[US] ‘Gila Monster Route’ in N. Anderson Hobo 194: He was ditched by the ‘shack’, and cruel fate, / The ‘con’ highballed, and the manifest freight, / Pulled out on the stem behind the mail, / And beat it east on a sanded rail.
[US]‘Dean Stiff’ Milk and Honey Route 27: As for the shacks and cons, or conductors, they are not all grafters demanding a dollar a division.

6. a confidence man.

[US]‘Number 1500’ Life In Sing Sing 246: Con. a convincing tale; fluent talker.
[US]I.L. Nascher Wretches of Povertyville 223: Even wise city folks are sometimes inveigled into buying articles which the ‘con’ (confidence man) has just picked up.
[US]C.S. Montanye ‘Perfect Crime’ in Penzler Pulp Fiction (2007) 351: You haven’t got enough imagination to be a flash-thief or a con.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 261: Cons — confidence men.
[US](con. 1921) G. Milburn ‘The Hobo Convention at Portland’ in Hobo’s Hornbook 29: ‘Con the Sneak,’ from Battle Creek.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]R. Sabbag Snowblind (1978) 84: He was a very casual fellow, a good con.
[UK](con. 1950s–60s) in G. Tremlett Little Legs 45: There were so many ‘cons’ in that game.
[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. [Internet] Con 3. A confidence trickster, ie a conman.
[UK]Guardian G2 5 Jan. 22: Sherlock Holmes [...] is a con.
[US]‘Dutch’ ? (Pronounced Que) [ebook] He let Shameeq think he was getting over. If the mark thinks he’s a con, then he ends up conning himself.

7. a confidence game or trick; by ext., deceitful talk.

[US]Ade Pink Marsh (1963) 134: She’s full of ’at ol’ con. She think she got me right now.
[US]C.R. Wooldridge Hands Up! 68: The ‘shell man’ [...] declared [...] that it was the cleverest case of ‘con’ on the part of detectives that he had ever seen worked.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 25: con [...] a lie; a misrepresentation.
[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 97: Howard, the guy that put the con in economics!
[US](con. 1905–25) E.H. Sutherland Professional Thief (1956) 10: A man complained that he had been beaten to the con (in a confidence game) for $1,200.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 15: The mark was taken on the strength of the ‘con’.
[US]Kerouac On The Road (1972) 176: She knew it was a con, and maybe one I’d learned from Dean.
[US]L. Bruce How to Talk Dirty 86: I would shuffle her off [...] and give her a quick con about overtime.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 21: The way Mama was gulping his con, he figured he could get rid of me later.
[US](con. 1960s) D. Goines Black Gangster (1991) 14: Kindness was the sweetest con of all.
[Aus]B. Humphries Traveller’s Tool 25: What a dirty con!
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 76: It’ll hurt me more than you, ran the old nursery con through his head.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 110: Bring them out onto the downtown sidewalks where the con would go down.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper 4 125: Viva the bloody republic. What a con.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 104: This isn’t a con, is it?
[Aus]D. Whish-Wilson Zero at the Bone [ebook] It was there in front of him, on the register sheets, the con that played itself out time and again. The classic penny dreadful, the standard pump and dump.

8. a convict; thus ex-con n.; occas. attrib.

[UK]‘The Jargon of Thieves’ in Derry Jrnl 8 Sept. 6/5: A prisoner is a ‘con’.
[US]J. Hawthorne Confessions of Convict 10: Prisoners are known as ‘con’, which is short for convict, and the whole body of prisoners is designated ‘condom’ – short for convictdom.
[US]H. Hapgood Autobiog. of a Thief 135: If he is in charge of an idle gang of ‘cons’ he is apt to enter into conversation with them.
[UK]D. Lowrie My Life in Prison 103: The guard stationed at the gate tried to stop him, as did his ‘con’ assistant. [Ibid.] 124: They couldn’t keep an ex-con in th’ hotel.
[US]J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 147: Mementos of battles with wild-eyed cons. [Ibid.] 267: Over a period of ten years twenty-five cons had tried to beat the joint.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Red Wind’ in Red Wind (1946) 28: An old con like me don’t make good prints.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 35: Get the hell over there and help those cons pile up them bricks.
[UK]F. Norman Guntz 221: I know a few people who devote a great deal of their time [...] talking to the cons.
[US]E. Bunker Animal Factory 13: The old con was reading the newspaper by the light coming through the bars.
[UK]G. Burn Happy Like Murderers 385: He was an old con. He knew how to be patient.
[UK]Guardian G2 23 Feb. 23: Hard cons slammed up in a New Orleans jail.
[UK] (ref. to 1971) F. Dennis ‘Old Bailey’ Homeless in my Heart 179: A con from the National Front / Snarls ‘Sod it!’, his eyes like slits.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 77: The two guys are handcuffed together, one a con, one a screw.
[US]H. Ellison Introduction in Pulling a Train’ [ebook] ‘Pulling a train’ [...] came from a period when men treated women like ‘broads’ or ‘gashes’. I’vew heard hobos and cons and street thugs in packs used it since the 1940s.

9. a deceptive speech.

[US]C.L. Cullen More Ex-Tank Tales 239: The proprietor [...] gave me $2 and this con: ‘Business has been bad [etc.]’.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 47/2: Con. [...] 3. A plausible lie; a hypocritical remark.

10. (US) consumption (tuberculosis).

[US]C. Connors Bowery Life [ebook] Poor Kitty Mock Shue is layed flat on her back, an’ down an’ out wid de gallopin’ con, an’ de doctor sez she ain’t got much time.

11. a conviction.

[UK]N. Lucas Autobiog. of a Thief 231: Got any cons? [...] bin lagged afore?
[UK]G. Ingram Cockney Cavalcade 277: It means a long lagging for me – with my previous ‘cons’ behind me.
[UK]B. Hill Boss of Britain’s Underworld 16: My father had five or six cons for belting coppers.
[UK]F. Norman Bang To Rights 152: I already had two con’s and had only been out of the nick a few weeks.
[UK]G.F. Newman Sir, You Bastard 42: We’ve got to check [...] you’ve got no cons.

12. confidence.

[US]D. Maurer Big Con 147: A mark will generally do what you tell him to do [...] once you have his con.

13. consignment.

[UK]J. Spades ‘Know Dat’ [lyrics] I've got brick on con, and I ain't gon pay that nigga.

In compounds

con-artist (n.)

see separate entry.

con boss (n.) (also boss con) [boss n.2 (1)]

(US prison) an influential convict who runs a gang within a prison.

[UK]D. Lowrie My Life in Prison 94: Miller [...] had aroused the deadly enmity of the ‘con boss’ of his section.
[US]J. Spenser Limey 266: Many of the guards worked in conjunction with the big ‘con bosses,’ serving convicts themselves, who had divided San Quentin up into gang territories.
[US] (ref. to 1920s) G. Duffy Warden’s Wife 141: There were tremendous problems [...] which [...] made con bosses necessary. [...] carefully selected prisoners could handle the men on work projects just as well as civilian guards.
[US]C. Shafer ‘Catheads [...] and Cho-Cho Sticks’ in Abernethy Bounty of Texas (1990) 199: boss con, n. – a lifer who runs almost free in the pen.
S. Hunter Dirty White Boys 1: He wasn’t a boss con’s fuckboy, either, or a punk or a bitch or a mary or a snitch.
BlackBostonOnline [Internet] When the Iceman starts out his stretch by rudely dissing the popular Monroe, the wily old con boss (Peter Falk) gets the idea of a secret grudge match between the pair.
con game (n.) [game n. (6)]

(orig. US) a piece of confidence trickery.

[US]Ade Artie (1963) 77: I’d jump in, grow some side-whiskers and put up as tall a con game as that old stiff.
[US]J. London Road 144: His advice was good, and I followed it, prepared, however, if it was a ‘con game’ the shack had given me, to take the blind as the overland pulled out.
[US]F.P. Spencer Dregs in Mayorga (1919) 445: We pick pockets, play any con games that we can.
[US]H. Yenne ‘Prison Lingo’ in AS II:6 282: Con game — Anything against the law.
[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 41: You can only trim a sucker in any con-game when he thinks he’s beating you.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 298: But himself, who had played the spiritual con game, there was no such redemption.
[US]R. Prather Always Leave ’Em Dying 114: It’s just a large-scale con game.
[US]C. Himes Rage in Harlem (1969) 67: It’s a hell of a place to make a pitch on a con game.
[US]D. Claerbaut Black Jargon in White America 61: con game n. 1. the process of trying to influence a person by using trickery or deception, often through conversation. See also game, program. 2. the process of attempting to obtain goods and services by trying to swindle an apparently gullible person.
[UK](con. 1950s–60s) in G. Tremlett Little Legs 3: He was into [...] spivving, scrap metal, all the con games.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 277: ‘What’s wrong with selling cars?’ ‘Too much temptation . . . too many con games played on the public.’.
[US]N. Tosches Where Dead Voices Gather (ms.) 265: His long-lived and successful con game of packaging second-rate science fiction as literature of the ages.
[US]Burns & Price ‘Corner Boys’ Wire ser. 4 ep. 8 [TV script] What you saw out there? It’s a con-game. A band-aid on cancer.
con job (n.)

see separate entry.

con-man (n.)

see separate entry.

con-merchant (n.) [merchant n.]

(US) a confidence trickster.

[US]L.E. Lawes Twenty Thousand Years in Sing Sing 172: He had been a forger, a ‘con’ merchant of bygone days.
[US]T.I. Rubin In the Life 38: Like telling palm futures and horoscopes. Gee, what crap! Real con merchants.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘Wanted’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] You’re a right con merchant you are.
[US]R. Campbell In La-La Land We Trust (1999) 24: Warsaw didn’t have to be friendly to anybody he suspected was a con merchant.
con-mob (n.)

(US Und.) a team of confidence tricksters.

[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 76: It is a happy hunting ground for thieves because of the immense crowds on the streets, and with them mix the prowlers, pickpockets and con-mobs.
[UK]V. Davis Gentlemen of the Broad Arrows 170: London is getting too hot for the con-mob.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 49: Some con mobs will send a tailer along home with the mark.
[UK](con. 1920s) J. Sparks Burglar to the Nobility 8: You look like a crossing-sweeper [...] no chance of mistaking any of your lot for a Con Mob.
con talk (n.)

(US) insincerity, lies.

[US]Ade Artie (1963) 7: Puttin’ up the large, juicy con talk.
[US]W. Irwin Love Sonnets of a Hoodlum V 19: Brick Murphy butted in between, Rushing my funny song-and-dance to jail, My syncopated con-talk no avail.
[US]W. Irwin Confessions of a Con Man 39: The line of con-talk which I acquired in my later experience.
[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 207: The delay, the smooth con talk, the abrupt about-faces.
conwise (adj.) [-wise sfx (1)] (US prison)

1. well-adjusted to prison life, capable of sustaining one’s existence in prison; of officers, experienced.

[UK]D. Lowrie My Life in Prison 143: He had been a prison officer nearly all his life, and was what is known as ‘con wise’.
[US]D. Lamson We Who Are About to Die 230: Fish [...] have had no chance to become con-wise.
[US]T. Runyon In For Life 70: They said he was ‘con wise’ though, and I believe it.
[US](con. c.1910) G. Duffy Warden’s Wife 50: My father [...] in the parlance of the Yard [...] was con-wise. He had the knack of sizing up men.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 32: When a person has been incarcerated for several years, he learns the nuances of prison life: how to get things accomplished, get a good job, etc. Once he acquires this knowledge, he is said to be con wise.

2. manipulative of the system.

[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 32: Con wise is defined differently by prison administrators. To them, a person who is con wise is one who manipulates the system to his own advantage.
con work (n.)

(US) insincerity, lies.

T. Dreiser A Book about Myself 69: Cut the gentle con work, Theodore.

In phrases

big con (n.)

(orig. US Und.) any major confidence trick, the keynote of which is that the victim is persuaded to send for (usu. large sums of) money, rather than merely defrauding them of what they may have in their possession.

[US]D. Maurer Big Con 288: big con. Any big-time confidence game in which a mark is put on the send for his money, as contrasted to the short con where the touch is limited to the amount the mark has with him. There are three recognized big-con games: the wire, the pay-off and the rag. However, competent confidence men often put the send into short-con games, especially the smack and the tip, with very good results. Touches on the big con range from $10,000 up.
[US]D. Dressler Parole Chief 218: A very few, so-called big con, games that do operate on the principle that you can’t cheat an honest man.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970) 45: big con long con.
on the con

working as a confidence trickster.

[US]N. Algren Never Come Morning (1988) 148: I’ll break it to you. You’re strictly on the con.
[US]N. Algren Neon Wilderness (1986) 131: I don’t want to catch you on the con in here.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 47/2: Con, on the. Engaged in, or by means of any con-game.
play con (v.)

to trick, to hoax, to practice confidence trickery.

[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 84: Never [...] try to play con on me.
[US](con. 1950s) D. Goines Whoreson 99: I went downtown and started playing con with a deadly intent.
play the con (v.) (also play con)

(orig. US Und.) to pretend, to attempt to swindle or deceive.

[US]D. Maurer Big Con 4: Gaining the victim’s confidence. (Playing the con for him.).
[US]K. Brasselle Cannibals 220: Play the con with him, but don’t help.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Airtight Willie and Me 10: Willie, needing a partner to play the con, had given me a [...] six weeks crash course.
[Can](con. 1920s) O.D. Brooks Legs 144: There’s no need to play the con.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 110: Although I’d had them all explained to me, and even performed for me, I had never played con.
slow con (n.)

a fraudulent scheme or confidence trick in which the victim is nurtured slowly and carefully towards their downfall.

[US]D. Pearce Cool Hand Luke (1967) 26: Come on. What is this? The Slow Con?
soft con (n.)

flattery, persuasion, any form of deceit based on soft words.

[US](con. 1960s) D. Goines Black Gangster (1991) 166: I don’t need that soft con, Ruby.
solid con (n.) [solid adj. (3) ]

(US Und.) a trustworthy fellow criminal or prison inmate.

[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 34: Solid Con also Stand-Up Convict A trustworthy and well respected inmate. The prison code of ethics places a solid con near the top of the prison population.
sweet con (n.)

(US) a form of begging in which the beggar uses persuasion and promises rather than threats.

[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 63 : I could not stand any more of this sweet con. To cut him short I handed him one cap.