Green’s Dictionary of Slang

fly v.

[fig. uses of SE fly]

1. (UK Und.) to lift, to raise; thus fly a window v., to open a (sash) window for the purpose of breaking into a house [note theatre jargon fly, to suspend scenery or lights from above the stage].

[UK]H. Brandon Dict. of the Flash or Cant Lang. 167/1: To fly a window – to lift a window.
[UK]J. Archbold Magistrate’s Assistant 447: To lift a window, to fly a window.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn) 142: FLY, to lift, toss or raise; [...] ‘to fly a window,’ i.e., to lift one for the purpose of stealing.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. [as cit. 1860].

2. of an idea, a plan, to work out, usu. in negative [the same metaphorical ‘flag’ as found in the SE phr. run it up the flagpole and we’ll see who salutes].

[UK] ‘’Arry on ’appiness’ in Punch 3 Jan. 4/1: The fact is this ’Appy New Year fake is ’oller, mate, hutterly ’oller, / ’Twon’t fly.
[US]C. McFadden Serial 101: I told him it wouldn’t fly.
[US](con. 1975–6) E. Little Steel Toes 103: Introduce me as your long-lost cousin or brother or whatever the fuck will fly.

3. (US drugs) to take or to be intoxicated by psychotropic drugs [one gets high adj.1 (3)].

[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 41/1: Flying higher than a kite, full of dope.
[US]D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 52: You see, Jackson, this roach has got me rising. In fact, I’m flying.
[US]W. Brown Teen-Age Mafia 39: He’d hardly been able to wait to [...] to stick the spike into his arm and start flying toward heaven.
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn (1966) 28: Georgette, flying in her world of junk.
[US]T. Thackrey Thief 172: He could get flying on just a single joint.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 393: Test pilot. I flew for him! [...] I let him test horse on me.
[UK]M. Manning Get Your Cock Out 18: Gerry [...] had washed down his share of the chemicals with a whole bottle of silver tequila and, man, was that fatboy flying!
[UK]K. Richards Life 207: A couple of flying acid-heads who’d been up for a couple of nights.
[US]C. Stella Rough Riders 111: Your wife is flying on heroin.

4. to be drunk [one gets high adj.1 (1)].

[US]N. Thornburg Cutter and Bone (2001) 72: Oh God, he’s flying tonight.
[UK]N. Barlay Curvy Lovebox 14: But by then I’m flyin’.

In phrases

SE, meaning to rush away, in slang uses

In compounds

fly-boy (n.)

see separate entry.

fly-pitch (n.) [i.e. they run off when a police officer approaches]

any form of street stall or other place where goods are sold in the open air; thus fly-pitcher, a street-seller.

[UK]Eve. News 9 July 11/2: There are the ‘fly pitches’, spots [...] where the cheap-jacks take their stand [...] Whenever you see a really big crowd collected [...] you can be sure that one or other of the familiar fly-pitchers of London is doing his stuff.
[UK](con. c.1900) A. Harding in Samuel East End Und. 35: A lot of them were what we call ‘fly pitchers’ – they didn’t have a regular stand but found a vacant place.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘May the Force be with You’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] Yes, I bet these developing nations are crying out for fly-pitchers!

In phrases

fly a line (v.) [SE line, a short letter or note]

to send a letter.

[UK]Darwin letter in Life and Letters (1887) I 351: Immediately that I hear I will fly you a line, , for the chance of your being able to come.
fly one’s mouth (v.)

see under mouth n.

SE, meaning to travel through the air, in slang uses

In compounds

flyball (n.) [? the image is of a ball that travels far and fast; or ? pun on baseball jargon flyball, a ball that can be caught ‘on the fly’]

1. (US tramp) a city detective.

[US]N. Klein ‘Hobo Lingo’ in AS I:12 651/1: Fly-ball – detective.
[US]G. Milburn ‘They Can’t Do That’ in Hobo’s Hornbook 233: And a fly-ball comes and drags you out / And fans you with a loaded bat.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 78: Fly Ball.–A detective, especially one who is a member of a city police force.

2. (US) a male homosexual.

[US]Trimble 5000 Adult Sex Words and Phrases.
[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular.
fly-over people (n.)

(US) inhabitants of those states of the US over which one passes in an aeroplane flying from coast to coast; ‘middle America’.

A. Crouch in Regeneration RQ 6.2 Summer [Internet] Why add further fuel to the urban arrogance which in its secular versions consigns most of the United States to the category of ‘flyover people.’.
LewRockwell.com [Internet] But what if a substantial segment of ‘fly-over people’ became heated enough to abandon their apathy and form a mutiny against this tyrannical captain: the cultural elites?

In phrases

fly-by-night

see separate entries.

fly by the seat of one’s pants (v.) (also drive by the seat of one’s pants, fly with one’s ass)

1. to fly an aircraft using natural ability and daring rather than instruments and technology; thus fig. to gamble with one’s life, to take extravagant risks.

[UK]Listener 20 Nov. 835/3: That’s no help to the man who’s driving by the seat of his pants, as we used to say in the R.A.F. police .
[US]J. Langone Life at the Bottom 201: You really have to fly with your ass, says Garcia.
[US]S. King Christine 218: I’ve been trying to restore the car more the way he had it than the way Detroit meant it to be. So I’ve just been flying by the seat of my pants.
Rottenberg & Shuman Rhythm of Business 15: You don’t have to fly solo or fly by the seat of your pants. A lot of help is available from people, from books, and from courses.
Cox & Hoover Leadership When the Heat’s On 116: I’ve done it in supersonic fighters and I’m here to say that it’s no smarter to fly by the seat of your pants at 60000 feet than it is behind your desk.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

D.C. Sawyer Getting It Right 56: The Fly-by-the-Seat-of-Your-Pants decision makers are equally inclined to sabotage their companies’ futures by ignoring information.
M. Edelman Borden Baffled Parent’s Guide to Sibling Rivalry 4: Because [...] raising kids is often a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience.
flying light (adj.) [Irwin, American Tramp and Underworld Slang (1931): ‘From the railroads, where a “light engine” is one travelling over the line without a train, and so able to move swiftly and without needless delay’]

(US tramp) hungry; unencumbered by a pack or similar possessions.

[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 78: Flying Light.–Hungry; without food; travelling without any excess impediment such as a ‘bindle.’.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 799: flying light – Hungry; without food; traveling without any excess impediment.
flying porter (n.)

a cheat who approaches the victim of robbery, tells him that he can regain the stolen goods for him and demands a payment for fetching them.

[UK]G. Parker View of Society II 164: Flying Porter is a fellow dressed like a Porter; a pen and ink and sheet of paper set him up. He watches the ale-houses which sell purl early in the morning, where he looks over the yesterday’s Daily Advertiser, and drinks a penny-worth. He looks for some robbery that has been committed.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: Flying Porters. Cheats who obtain Money by pretending to persons who have been lately robbed, that they may come from persons who can give them some information respecting the goods stolen from them, and demand payment as porters.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd, 3rd edn) n.p.: Flying Porters. Cheats who obtain money by pretending to persons who have been lately robbed, that they may come from a place or party where, and from whom, they may receive information respecting the goods stolen from them, and demand payment as porters.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1788].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
flying stationer (n.) [SE stationer, a bookseller]

a street seller of cheap ballads, criminal ‘confessions’ and similar popular material.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (3rd edn) n.p.: Flying Stationers. Ballad-singers and hawkers of penny histories.
[UK]Lancaster Gaz. 22 Oct. 4/3: A hawker, or flying stationer, [...] was shouting with all his might and main, ‘Here is the whole trial and sentence of the Crown and Prisoners’.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]John O’Groat Jrnl 8 Mar. 3/3: A table of the proposed fees or customs to be levied from parties resorting to the market [...] Ballad Singer, or Flying Stationer, 6d.
[UK]York Herald 13 Mar. 3/2: Michael Morgan, an Irishman, a ‘flying stationer’ [...] brought up on a very serious charge of stabbing.
[UK]Dundee Courier 12 Apr. 2/6: Mr Harney was lately a ‘flying stationer,’ and is now a violent mouthpiece of rabid democracy.
[UK]Fife Herald 1 June 5/5: The history of Wallace or Douglas, or Ballads [...] purchases from the sltying stationer.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 214/2: That order or species of the pattering genus known as ‘running patterers,’ or ‘flying stationers’ from the fact of their being continually on the move while describing the attractions of the ‘papers’ they have to sell.
[UK]Stirling Obs. 15 Nov. 8/6: O’Neill, a tramp or flying stationer [...] was sentenced to pay a fine of 10s.
[UK]C. Hindley Life and Times of James Catnach 104: Those was the days [...] for the flying stationers and standing patterers, sir.
[UK]Henley & Stevenson Deacon Brodie I tab.III i: He is disguised as a ‘flying stationer,’ with a patch over his eye.
[UK]Athenaeum 31 July 139: Scores of tracts were issued in the Newgate region, from Giltspur Street to Blowbladder Street, whence numbers of flying stationers drew their supplies long before either of the Catnachs were born [F&H].
Flakirk Herald 14 Jan. 5/4: A ‘flying stationer’ [...] began to hawk a paper containing an account of the events at Tower Hill.
[UK]Cheltenham Chron. 30 Nov. 1/1: Catnach of the Seven Dials [was] the printer of sheets that were hawked and sold by ‘flying stationers’.
[UK] ‘Old Broadside Ballads’ in C. Lovat Fraser Chap Book Sept. 4: The itinerant Chapmen, ‘flying stationers’ or pedlars, who included Broadside ballads among their stock of ribbons, laces etc.
[UK](con. 1835–40) P. Herring Bold Bendigo 10: Such eccentricity of dress was well fitted to the trade of a flying stationer, or peddler of chapbooks and news sheets.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 41/1: Flying stationers, newsboys whose shouting disturbs residents of the district.
fly low (v.)

(US) to economize.

[US]Ade ‘The Fable of Another Brave Effort’ in True Bills 57: He suspected that it would be a very foxy Move to begin to economize, but he [...] couldn’t bear the Thought of having it said that he was Piking and flying low.
fly Mexican airlines (v.) [the easy access to marijuana in Mexico + flying ‘high’]

(drugs) to smoke marijuana.

[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 210: to smoke marijuana [...] fly Mexican Airlines.
[US]Maledicta IX 58: Mexican airlines, to fly v phr [R] Smoke marijuana; from the fact that much marijuana smoked in the U.S. is grown in Mexico.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 9: Fly Mexican airlines — To smoke marijuana.
fly the flag (v.)

see separate entries.

fly the red flag (v.)

to be menstruating.

[US]AS I 24: The function of menstruation is described by dozens of evasive terms, [including] ‘flying the red flag’.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US] ‘Misc.’ AS XXIX:4 298: Reference to the Color Red [...] fly the bean flag or the red flag.
[US]Baker et al. CUSS.
[UK] ‘The Red Flag’ in Bold (1979) 193: But then he saw to his despair / She had the red flag flying there.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak 121: The red flag is up – menstruation.
[US]J. Randall ‘A Visit from Aunt Rose’ in Verbatim XXV:1 Winter 25: Codes that refer to blood include the red flag is up (sometimes shortened to just the flag is up or the flag is flying; also sometimes flying Baker, since Baker is the Navy code for B, and the B flag is red).
[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 266: You can come over, but I’m flying the red flag.
fly up (v.)

(US) to lose one’s temper, to lose control.

[US]S. Smith Major Downing (1834) 94: The Advertiser flies up, and says, you no business to be a republikin, you’re a Jacksonite.
J.C. Harris Mingo 203: I skeer’d ter tell you, Mars. George; kaze you mought fly up en git mad.
J.C. Harris Sister Jane 171: An then she flew up like wimmen will.
J.C. Lincoln Cy Whittaker’s Place 56: You needn’t fly up like a settin’ hen.
[UK]W. Holtby Anderby Wold (1981) 199: And Mike, ’e flies up all at once like ’e do at times.
H.S. Arnow Hunter’s Horn 71: An Pop, he’d jist fly up an tell her to mind her own business.
[US]WELS n.p.: (When a person becomes over-excited, and loses control) [...] Fly up.
[US]in DARE.