Green’s Dictionary of Slang

joey n.1

[uses of proper names]

1. a circus clown [abbr. proper name Joseph Grimaldi, the British clown (1779–1837)].

[UK] ‘Betty Brill’ in Vocal Mag. 118: Pike off says she, / You don’t catch me, / For Joey I’m no gudgeon.
[US]Ade ‘The New Fable of the Private Agitator’ in Ade’s Fables 4: I want to grow up to be a Joey in a Circus.
[US]P. White ‘A Circus List’ in AS I:5 282: Joey—A clown.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 110: Joey. A circus clown.
[US]J. Mitchell McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon (2001) 93: O’Boyle is a veteran Joey, or clown.
T. Cullen Man Who Was Norris (2014) 249: Possibly because she could not take Gerald seriously, Vi insisted upon calling him ‘Joey", a London colloquialism for a clown deriving from Joseph Grimaldi.

2. as a coin.

(a) a fourpenny piece, a groat [radical politician Joseph Hume MP (1777–1855), who encouraged the introduction of the coin. The term was coined by the London cabbies, who lost money by the coin’s invention, when the joey replaced the sixpence as the usual payment for shorter journeys].

[UK]Coventry Herald 11 Oct. 2/3: Now six long uns and ten short uns is four and a ‘joey’ and twelve dots is a ‘bob’ more, vich makes together five and fourpence.
Hawkins Hist. Silver Coinage of England n.p.: These pieces are said to have owed their existence to the pressing instance of Mr. Hume, from whence they, for some time, bore the nickname of joeys [F&H].
[UK]R.S. Surtees Handley Cross (1854) 90: In comes I, looks in my hand — hang me, if it wer’n’t a Joey!
[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 71: They is a feeling school of swells vot goes there, and as green as the upper tog of a cowcumber, and doesn’t tumble a bit to our dodge, but downs with their tanners and joeys like smoke.
[UK]H. Hayman Pawnbroker’s Daughter 215: Come, go a joey bit on the spoon, and a tizzy on the ladle.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 249/2: The swells give a ‘joey’ where they used to give a ‘tanner’.
[UK]H. Kingsley Hillyars and Burtons (1870) 232: A young man as has owed me a joey ever since the last blessed Greenwich fair.
[UK]Sl. Dict. 204: Joey a fourpenny piece. The term is derived (like bobby from Sir Robert Peel) from Joseph Hume, the late respected M.P.
[Aus]Morn. Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld) 18 July 2/6: For fourpenny pieces we find the name of ‘bit,’ ‘castle-rag,’ ‘flag. [...] ‘joey,’ and ‘quarterer saltee’.
[UK]S. Watson Wops the Waif 7/1: He given us the price of a pint-and-a-half, that’s a Joey.
[UK]Reynolds’s Newspaper 13 Oct. 2/2: The East-end women are now commencing an agitation for [...] their ‘joey’ — i.e., fourpence per hour.
[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 40: Joey, a four-penny piece.
[UK]Tamworth Herald 5 Aug. 3/5: Fourpence (a coin that has disappeared) [...] is a pot [...] or a joey.

(b) (US) four.

[US]Matsell Vocabulum.

(c) a threepenny bit.

[UK]‘George Orwell’ Keep The Aspidistra Flying (1962) 7: Fivepence halfpenny – twopence halfpenny and a Joey. He paused, took out the miserable little threepenny-bit.
[UK]L. Ortzen Down Donkey Row 12: Joey – Threepence.
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 13 Sept. 3/4: Surmising on ‘threepenny joey’ [...] Mr Meldrum’s grandmother still refers to them as ‘threepenny dodgers’.
[UK] (ref. to 1930s) R. Barnes Coronation Cups and Jam Jars 69: It’s a Joey a bucket.

3. in Aus. uses .

(a) in the goldfields, an outsider.

[Aus]E. Wardley Confessions of Wavering Worthy 171: We were hailed as Joeys, and asked if we wanted a feather-bed, or a ‘sophy’.
[Aus]Worker (Sydney) 9 Feb. 3/2: He had had but three weeks’ exprience of colonial life. In digging parlance he was a ‘joey’ [AND].

(b) a police officer; in WWI a military policeman.

[Aus](con. WWI) A.G. Pretty Gloss. of Sl. [...] in the A.I.F. 1921–1924 (rev. t/s) n.p.: joey. A Military Policeman (Also ‘Pretty Joey’).
[Aus]D. Cusack Caddie 140: Kneeling down behind the bar counter we could pour ourselves a glass of ginger-ale [...] A whistled Joey from a barmaid was the danger signal.
[Aus]B. Scott Complete Bk Aus. Folk Lore 64: If you do join the Joeys, I hope you’ll be shot. I’d shoot the hull blessed lot of ’em if I had my way.

4. (also deacon) a general derog. implying physical inadequacy and used on the pattern of spastic adj. [proper name Joey Deacon, disabled person who featured on popular children’s TV programme Blue Peter in the 1980s; but note also joey n.6 (2)].

[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 10: I hated being talked to like I was some kinda Joey.
OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. 🌐 deacon n. derog. An excessively stupid or unpleasant person. f. joey deacon, elderly man suffering from cerebral palsy regularly featured on television 1980–85.
[UK]B. Hare Urban Grimshaw vii: Joey Person who does all the Joey work: going to the shops, making cups of tea, cooking, washing up, etc. Also, a Joey can be your own personal indentured slave or fag, either because they like the role, they are afraid of you, or they are too stupid to realise that you are taking them for a fool.