Green’s Dictionary of Slang

touch n.1

1. a trick, a dodge.

[UK]J. Heywood Pardoner and Friar Biii: And yf thou playe me suche another touche / Ish knocke thee on the costarde.

2. an act of sexual intercourse, thus take a touch, to have intercourse.

[UK]‘Mercurius Philalethes’ Select City Quaeries 15: […] to take a Touch now and then with a Citizens wife.
[UK]Head Eng. Rogue I 381: Is that a Brothel, or an House of State [...] This was a stately house, and yet was such; In stately houses Ladies take a touch.

3. any item that will persuade purchasers to buy, albeit within certain price limits; thus a sixpence touch, a guinea touch.

[UK]E. Phillipp Diary 22 Sept. n.p.: At night went to the ball at the Angel, a guinea-touch [F&H].
[UK]Swift preface note ‘To the Bookseller’ in Works (1801) n.p.: Print my preface in such form as, in the bookseller’s phrase, will make a sixpenny touch .
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. 260: TOUCH, a slang expression in common use in phrases which express the extent to which a person is interested or affected as ‘a fourpenny touch,’ i.e., costing that amount.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 573: There was a dosshouse in Marlborough Street, Mrs Maloney’s, but it was only a tanner touch and full of undesirables.

4. (also touch-off) an act of theft, esp. pickpocketing.

[UK]D. Haggart Autobiog. 105: Towards evening I got a touch at a cove’s suck.
[US]National Police Gazette (U.S.) 18 July 390/1: Ingenious Touch [...] Phillsburg [...] felt for his money, and [...] found in its place another pocket-book filled with newspaper instead of money [OED].
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 11 Sept. 3/2: She heard May say to her husband that they had done ‘touch’.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 48/2: The most splendid ‘touch’ of the campaign was already in our grasp.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 43: Whatever made ’em think of such a big touch as that?
[UK]A. Morrison Tales of Mean Streets (1983) 153: Why did other gonophs get lucky touches for half a century of quids at a time.
[US]H. Hapgood Types from City Streets 315: I’m living on a couple of good touches I made last spring.
[US]J. Lait ‘Charlie the Wolf’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 37: ‘You hear it rings sometimes a bell?’ ‘Yeh — I made it. Sounded like a touch-off.’.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 36: I made a big touch in New York, one night.
[US](con. 1905–25) E.H. Sutherland Professional Thief (1956) 13: The mob had made a touch of a Spanish shawl, worth three or four hundred dollars.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 262: It’s the sweetest touch in the harbour.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 34: The girls had picked one particular store because everyone considered it a hard touch.
[UK]G.F. Newman You Flash Bastard 119: Wasn’t a bad little touch. Radio, cassette and a briefcase. Thought maybe I’d get a couple of quid for the briefcase.
[UK] in D. Campbell That Was Business, This Is Personal 15: We had a right touch, about a couple of hundred quid apiece.

5. (UK Und.) an arrest.

[UK] ‘The Slap-Up Cracksman’ in Swell!!! or, Slap-Up Chaunter 42: The traps are snoozed – so we can swig / Without fear of touch or pig.

6. (also the touch, touchdown) the act of cadging a loan, usu. small; thus the loan.

[UK]M.P. Andrews Better Late than Never 41: What, are you come to the Doctor to be curs’d with a touch.
[US]Ade Artie (1963) 29: Next day they had to make a hot touch for a short coin so as to get the price of a couple o’ sinkers and a good old ‘draw one’.
[US]Ade Forty Modern Fables 26: Later on he got into many a Touch.
[UK]F. Dunham diary 17 July Long Carry (1970) 192: Writing appealing letters to sympathetic females at home or as we termed it ‘doing the lonely soldier touch.’.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 159: All the Overture Stuff about the Spring Planting and the Health of the Family did not camouf Ebeneezer. He could feel a Touch coming.
[US]Judge (NY) 91 July-Dec. 31: Touchdown - A loan.
[US]D. Runyon ‘All Horse Players Die Broke’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 711: He wins so much dough that he even pays off a few old touches.
[UK]W.R. Burnett Nobody Lives Forever (1944) 3: Doc saw him shying off from a touch and it amused him.
[UK]F. Norman Fings I i: He is very generous and is always good for a touch [...] and always lets everyone have things on the slate from his tea bar.
[US]M. Spillane Return of the Hood 57: She was [...] a sucker for a touch from every stray cat with a hard luck story.
[UK]N. Beagley Up and Down Under 79: I really and truly expected a ‘touch’ for a couple of bob.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak 141: Touch – money successfully and slightly dishonestly obtained by a gamble or by borrowing.

7. (US Und.) the money gained illegally, e.g. that which is ‘stolen’ by a confidence trickster’s scheme; also in fig. use.

[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 252: I t’ink he’ll stand a swell touch.
[US]Sun (NY) 27 July 40/1: ‘Looks like the boys have made another good touch,’ said Wise Jimmy.
[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 168: A thousand dollars was considered a good ‘touch.’.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Pearls Are a Nuisance’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 128: They are out for a quick touch.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 26: The size of the touches (the gross amount taken from the victim) has increased beyond the fondest dreams of old-timers.
[US]‘Toney Betts’ Across the Board 138: Shot oppa you mouth-a. You wanna getta toucha-a from all-a deesa bumba.
[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 20: I had a right touch teaching at a languages school.
[US]J. Thompson ‘Sunrise at Midnight’ in Fireworks (1988) 167: I never tried for another touch, and I ain’t going to neither!
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak 141: Touch – money successfully and slightly dishonestly obtained by a gamble.
[UK]Fraser & Meadows TwentyFourSeven [film script] (1998) 82: Why don’t we photograph him in bed in his wildlife snake pants? Then we can bribe him, a touch.
[UK]N. ‘Razor’ Smith Raiders 6: When you’ve had a nice touch from a jug you always keep it in mind to rob again.

8. (US Und.) the climax of a confidence trick, when the victim hands over their money.

[US]W. Irwin Confessions of a Con Man 124: And he wasn’t one of those ‘twenty-minute men’ who can’t hold a sucker after the touch.

9. one from whom one obtains a loan or a monetary gift.

implied in easy touch
[UK]B. Hare Urban Grimshaw 286: In our vocabulary, this meant a victim, a dupe, a greenhorn, a touch [...] not a kill.

10. the victim of a confidence trick.

[UK]S. Horler London’s Und. 134: They’d think nothing of travelling through six countries with a really good ‘touch’ — i.e. victim.

11. a piece of good fortune; e.g. an acquittal.

[UK]J. Curtis They Drive by Night 74: Lucky touch if he got a job on a ship.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak 121: Right touch – a lucky and unexpected acquittal.
[UK]J. Hoskison Inside 22: It was a right touch, thought I was looking at a five.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 76: This is a touch, it was well worth going out tonight after all.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 282: [He] knows he’s had a touch, telling his mates the mug was only getting a blowjob while I chored his fuckin coat.

12. a woman who can be easily picked up.

[[UK]T. Brown Amusements Serious and Comical in Works (1744) III 30: Any gentleman that is dispos’d for a touch of the times, may take his choice for the price of a penny].
[Aus]T.A.G. Hungerford Riverslake 41: The Pole didn’t say nothing about the Bastard’s old woman being a touch. Vodavitch made it up, just to get him hurled.
[UK]M. Pugh Chancer 23: I always wanted to be in Who’s Who so that I could list all the ten-bob Soho touches I knew.

13. (N.Z.) one’s turn to buy a round of drinks; in cit. 1895 the round itself.

[Aus]J. Kirby Old Times in Bush 150: Look here, master, these chaps is all ‘fly blown,’ and we would like to give them a ‘touch’ before we go; will you advance ten shillings?
[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 114/2: touch somebody’s turn to buy a round of drinks.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].

In compounds

touch artist (n.)

(US) a beggar, one who is always asking for a loan.

[US]W. Winchell ‘On Broadway’ 2 Oct. [synd. col.] 25 years of [...] giving the brush-off to touch artists and salesmen.
[US]B. Schulberg Harder They Fall (1971) 123: Crumbs [...] touch artists and no-goods, but still my guys.
[SA]L.F. Freed Crime in S. Afr. 106: A ‘mooch’, a ‘dingaloo’, or a ‘touch artist’ is a beggar or crook.
[NZ]B. Crump Odd Spot of Bother 122: Of all the barflies, shout-dodgers, compo-kings, touch-artists, takes, spruikers, bludgers, spongers, and other hopeful hangers-on.
q. in R. Cremer Lugosi 128: The secret to success for every ‘touch’ artist [...] is to find a successful person’s Achilles’ heel and then work it over until you get the money .
touch game (n.)

(US Und.) synon. for Murphy (Game), the n. (1) in which a client, lured into a room by a prostitute, is beaten and robbed.

[US]N.Y. Daily Trib. 27 July 1/5: The Touch Game Again. [...] She is well known to the police officers as an adept at the touch game.
touch house (n.)

(US Und.) any tavern or similar establishment where victims are robbed, beaten and even killed; they may also be subjected to the Murphy (Game), the n. (1)

[US]N.Y. Herald 9 Mar. 11/4: Wm McCullough . . . was tried for highway robbery, in robbing a colored man named Gifford Johnson, on the 7th of February last, at a ‘touch house’ in Cross street.
[US]N.Y. Herald 11 Jan. 2/4: Nearly all of the ‘touch houses,’ as they are technically called, are situated in this ward, and midnight robbery, through the operations of their inmates, nightly occur.
touch-off (n.)

see sense 3 above.

In phrases

chew up old touches (v.)

(US) to reminisce.

[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 396: We were chewing up old touches with a retired Chicago dick.
cut up (old) touches (v.) [lit. and fig. uses of cut up v.2 (3) ] (US Und.)

(also cut up, cut up old dough) to reminisce over old successes, villainies etc.

[US]Maines & Grant Wise-crack Dict. 7/1: Cut up old dough Talk over old times.
[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 30: Cutting up the latest scandal from the local barber shop.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Blood Pressure’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 84: Rusty Charley and Knife O’Halloran [...] are cutting up old touches of the time when they run with the Hudson Dusters together.
[US]J. Spenser Limey 218: I was one of a group of convicts there yarning about past experiences and people we had known – ‘cutting up touches’ as they say.
[US]J. Mitchell McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon (2001) 125: He and Dutch would get together and cut up touches.
[US]A.J. Liebling Honest Rainmaker (1991) 119: We had many old touches to cut up together.
[US]K. Brasselle Cannibals 249: Let’s sit down and cut up some touches.
[US]R. Campbell In La-La Land We Trust (1999) 33: Not time to guzzle a couple of beers, cut up any touches, tell each other any lies or dirty stories.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.
cut up the touch (v.)

(US Und.) to share out the spoils of criminal acts.

[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 28/2: Cut up the touch, division of the spoils or plunder.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 54/2: Cut up a touch. [...] 2. To divide the loot from a specific crime.
easy touch (n.)

1. money, whether loaned or extorted, that is easily obtained.

[US]Amer. Mag. Oct. 98/2: That story about a blackmailer showing up at three o'clock in the afternoon, making an easy touch for five grand, and then sticking around till midnight is just silly.

2. one who can be easily solicited for money or favours.

[US]W. Winchell ‘On Broadway’ 23 Nov. [synd. col.] ‘Sherm I need five C’s’ . . . ‘Sure,’ said Sherman, shelling off the five hundred. . . . Her rich friend couldn’t believe such an easy touch existed.
[UK]T. Blacker Fixx 223: I was not the easy touch I had been when I was single.
Heenan & Bennis Co-Leaders: The Power of Great Partnerships 75: Even in death Merrill remained an easy touch. Philanthropy was a passion with him.
GW. Haslam Workin’ Man Blues 123: Cooley was also known as an easy touch, a man who had made big bucks, [...] and who was always generous.

3. (UK Und.) a robbery that can be carried out without difficulty.

[UK]P. Fordham Inside the Und. 34: ‘Jim’ makes great play about what turned out to be an ‘easy touch.’.

4. a situation which is easily exploitable.

[UK]Scotland on Sun. Mag. 7 Nov. 7: It was seen as an easy touch, where you could buy acres of land and draughty houses for the price of a garage in Chelsea.
make a touch (v.) (orig. US)

1. to borrow money, esp. when the donor is less than enthusiastic.

[US]H. Blossom Checkers 46: I’d put up a song to my Uncle Giles, and try to make a little ‘touch.’.
[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ Down the Line 24: I [...] made a swift touch for the price of a couple of rides home.
[US]G. Bronson-Howard Enemy to Society 330: Think of me [...] givin’ kings and emperors the haughty eye when they want to make a touch.
[US]J. Lait ‘Canada Kid’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 172: I ain’t de kind what goes aroun’ makin’ cheap touches offa penny-swipers like you. But I tell you I gotta have a twenny.
[US]N. Klein ‘Hobo Lingo’ in AS I:12 652: Make a touch — asking for money.
[US]H. Miller Tropic of Cancer (1963) 136: Van Norden generally manages to have at least fifty francs in his pocket, a circumstance which does not prevent him fom making a touch whenever he encounters a prospect.
[US]H. Miller Tropic of Capricorn (1964) 106: It would be safer to leave Curley downstairs while I made the touch.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 152: make a touch To lift a purse; to beg on the street.

2. to pickpocket.

[US]H. Hapgood Autobiog. of a Thief 32: I signalled to Zack that I would make the ‘touch.’.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 134/2: Make a touch. 1. To succeed in the execution of a profitable crime.

3. to make a winning bet.

[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 14: Guess that system of mine was wrong. I must make a touch somehow.
on the touch


[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 167: I was never on the touch at any stage of the game, snow or hail.
[Ire]‘Myles na gCopaleen’ Best of Myles (1968) 292: That man makes a fiver a day on the touch and drinks every penny of it.
put the touch on (v.)

to (attempt to) borrow or extort money.

[US]J.H. O’Hara Pal Joey 77: You mean to say she did not put the touch on you.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[UK]‘Charles Raven’ Und. Nights 44: Perce was skint when Peter tried to put the touch on him.
[US]L. Hansberry Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window in Three Negro Plays (1969) I ii: I plan to put the old touch on her when she comes back.
[US]Rebennack & Rummel Under A Hoodoo Moon 178: Ray and Walter had cooked up some scam to put the touch on Mick Jagger.
[US]J. Ridley Love Is a Racket 371: You’re nothing but a street whore who got herself made up just so she could put the touch on him.
[US]E. Weiner Big Boat to Bye-Bye 152: ‘I work for clients whom your husband was putting the touch on’.
soft touch (n.) [soft adj. (3)]

1. one who is easily beaten.

[US]H.C. Witwer Yes Man’s Land 196: The fans would figure me for a soft touch for him.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Hold ’Em, Yale!’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 155: These Harvards are by no means soft touches in a scrabble such as this.
[US]B. Schulberg Harder They Fall (1971) 116: Bring somebody out from the East, a nice soft touch.
[US]M. Puzo Godfather 135: Sollozzo has you figured for the soft touch in the Family because you let McCluskey hit you without fighting back.
[UK]Indep. 1 Feb. 9: They must have thought I would be a soft touch. But I’m still fit.

2. an easy job or sinecure; thus an easily achieved robbery or similar crime.

[US]C. Coe Me – Gangster 220: ‘Take it easy, Flop,’ Carrots grunted. ‘This is the softest touch we’ve had.’.
[US]D. Lamson We Who Are About to Die 192: He gets a send-in on a soft touch up north [...] an’ he chases up there to look it over.
[US]D. Runyon Runyon à la Carte 113: It is by no means a soft touch to be a war correspondent.
[US]‘Blackie’ Audett Rap Sheet 135: A bank job that looked like a soft touch.
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 228: Danny found a nightclub downtown that he thought would be a soft touch.
[US]G.V. Higgins Digger’s Game (1981) 50: It’s no soft touch [...] things the way they are.

3. one who can easily be solicited for money, or goods or favours; thus as v., to solicit something from someone.

[US]H.C. Witwer Yes Man’s Land 11: He was no soft touch for the ladies by no means!
[US]Howsley Argot: Dict. of Und. Sl.
[US]L. Hoban ‘Time to Kill’ Crack Detective Jan. [Internet] Boy, what a soft touch this was, boy, oh boy!
[US]R. Prather Scrambled Yeggs 146: That made him a soft touch when Joe Brooks – or Joey Maddern – started his little squeeze play.
[US]R. Sabbag Snowblind (1978) 204: Charlie Kendricks was always getting robbed, suckered or soft-touched by people.
[US]S. King Running Man in Bachman Books (1995) 552: Charlie Grady is a soft touch.
[UK]H.R.F. Keating Soft Detective 259: But Professor Unwala was not the soft touch you thought he’d be.
[UK]Indep. 23 Feb. 3: Some are a ’soft touch’, too easily hoodwinked into providing more drugs than the addict strictly needs.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 310: Pay them once and they’ll come back for more. They know they have a soft touch, they won’t forget it.

4. a sympathetic person, one who is easily persuaded.

[UK]Observer Life 24 Oct. 102: I’m a bit of a soft touch where children are concerned.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

touch-tripe (n.)

the penis.

[UK]Motteux (trans.) Gargantua and Pantagruel (1927) II Bk V 572: Harry Cotiral the chemist, an old toast, who had got a swinging ass’s touch-tripe (penis) fastened to his waist.

In phrases

touch of ’em (n.) [euph.]

(Aus.) delirium tremens.

[Aus]H. Lawson ‘The Hero of Redclay’ in Roderick (1972) 302: He’s boozin’ again [...] He’s got a touch of ’em.
touch of the holy bone (n.) [ironic ref. to the supposed power of holy ‘relics’, but note bone n.1 (1a)]

(orig. Irish, then US) sexual intercourse.

[US]in DARE.
touch of the seconds (n.) [abbr. SE second thoughts]

last minute hesitation.

[UK]‘Nicholas Blake’ Whisper in the Gloom (1959) 187: ‘What I say, I don’t like it.’ ‘You got a touch of the seconds?’.
[UK] ‘Metropolitan Police Sl.’ in P. Laurie Scotland Yard (1972) 327: seconds, a touch of the: used of a policeman who has been seen twice by someone he’s following; also of, say, a witness who has had second thoughts about his evidence.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.