Green’s Dictionary of Slang

clown n.

1. an irritating person; a troublemaker; a fool; as a term of address.

[Aus]Duke Tritton’s Letter n.p.: It is hard to believe that two years ago I was [...] pinching the squatter’s lambs when we were out of meat, jumping the rattler and acting all round like a pair of half witted clowns.
[UK]J. Buchan Greenmantle (1930) 326: I was thinking only that I felt mortally shy [...] I was sure that my companion was looking at me all the time and laughing at me for a clown.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 327: Jesus, there’s always some bloody clown or other kicking up a bloody murder about bloody nothing.
[US]J.T. Farrell ‘Helen, I Love You’ in Short Stories (1937) 11: If you weren’t such a clown, I’d break you with my little finger.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Trouble Is My Business’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 201: Clowns like that don’t kill.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 43: A shaft like that wasted on a clown like Drunkie John.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 14: First that clown Kefauver and then these jokers.
[US]H. Ellison ‘We Take Care of Our Dead’ in Deadly Streets (1983) 61: Shut up, clown, this is a private discussion.
[UK]P. Terson Apprentices (1970) I i: Who you calling a big clown.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 7: Some ugly clown be shakin’ maracas or a cowbell in front of a band.
[UK]S. Berkoff Decadence in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 16: Kick out the bastard / get rid of the clown.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Real Thing 11: How long has this Rossiter clown been out of the nick?
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 152: This clown was popped twice for statch rape.
[Aus]P. Temple Black Tide (2012) [ebook] This clown here, knows nothin about the Sainters.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 53: Some clown’s suggested that it may be an idea if she was earnin her own money.
‘Gut Feeling’ at 8 May [Internet] Night time security is a fat clown with a drink problem and an aged ex-cop with a bum knee.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 51: Those clowns probably have something to do with it, the fire.

2. (US Und.) a police officer.

[US] ‘Jargon of the Und.’ in DN V 442: Clown, A rural officer of the law.
[US]A.J. Barr Let Tomorrow Come 41: The sporty clown don’t like this an’ starts usin’ names I don’t like a damn bit.
[US]D. Clemmer Prison Community (1940) 331/1: clown, n. A village constable or policeman.
[UK] (ref. to 1920s) L. Duncan Over the Wall 143: The clowns in this burg believe in that ‘Cherchez la femme’ stuff.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 46/1: Clown. A constable or small town police officer.

3. (US black) a state of having fun, one’s frivolous, self-indulgent, partying side.

[US]L. Durst Jives of Dr. Hepcat (1989) 2: You got a list for squares, politely move my name from there: I am no parts lame and I am strictly not putting on a ‘clown’ but I do believe it is time for cupid to put our love down.

4. (US black) a fuss, complaining.

[US]L. Durst Jives of Dr. Hepcat (1989) 6: The scarf is low at the castle, my fronts are on the thin side, my stomps got eyes, the landlord is putting down a clown for his scratch.

5. see town clown under town n.2

In compounds

clownish (adj.)


Dobson’s Dry Bobs Cv: He was [...] so rusticke like, that he coluld not cover his clownish and wayward manners with the habite of civility.
[UK] ballad in Wardroper Love and Drollery (1969) 164: Let lobcock leave his wife at home / With lusty Jinkin, that clownish groom.
[UK] ‘The Merry Country Maid’s Answer’ in Ebsworth Roxburghe Ballads (1891) VII:2 341: For rather than I’le marry such a Clownish Jack, / I’le buy a witty fellow cloath[e]s to put on ’s back.
[UK] ‘The West-Country Dialogue’ in Ebsworth Roxburghe Ballads (1891) VII:2 260: But like some clownish Booby went, / With hat hanging o’er your face.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Clownish, rustical, unpolish’d, uncouth.