Green’s Dictionary of Slang

dummy n.1

[SE dumb; note Egan, Life in London (1821): ‘A cant phrase for a stupid fellow; a man who has not a word to say for himself. The family of the dummies is very numerous’]

1. (also dumbie, dumby) a dumb (i.e. mute) person.

D. Fergusson Scot. Proverbs (1785) 10: (Jam.) Dummie canna lie.
[UK]Boyd Last Battell of Soule (1629) 1049: (Jam.) All men are lyers, but Dummie cannot lye.
[UK]J. Ray Proverbs 268: Dummie (a dumb man) cannot lie.
[UK]S. Colvil Whiggs Supplication Pt II 22: And in the end these furious Cryers Stood silent [...] like to Dumbies making Signs.
[UK]G. Colman Yngr ‘Low Ambition’ Poetical Vagaries 12: Though he had’nt been too hoarse to speak, He was too ugly, even, for a dumby.
[UK]Pierce Egan’s Life in London 20 Feb. 28/2: The wines of Charles Wright were highly relished, and several dummies became eloquent without the aid of teachers of elocution, by the ‘gaily circling glass’.
[UK]Egan Finish to the Adventures of Tom and Jerry (1889) 133: The Duchesses become dummies, and the Countesses do pout.
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker III 135: Says the old Governor, – Mine hears, (which means my dummies, or fellers that hear but don’t speak).
[Ind]Bellew Memoirs of a Griffin I 272: I, being a stranger, was inefficient and dummy.
[US]Bartlett Dict. Americanisms.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 17 Mar. 3/3: The two of the force reinforced by a night watchman, ran as hard as two corpses trussed in blue and a dumby could.
[Scot]Dundee Courier 18 Aug. 7/4: Then I put on the dummy dodge, made signs, and wrote on a piece of paper that I was deaf and dumb.
[US](con. c.1840) ‘Mark Twain’ Huckleberry Finn 251: So him and the new dummy started off; and the king he laughs.
M.E.W. Freeman New England Nun 172: There, she took that little dumbie out of the poor-house [DA].
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 28 Mar. 11/2: It Is of no use for the referee calling out ‘Time!’ while Dummy is in the ring, as deafness is numbered among his afflictions.
[US]F. Hutchison Philosophy of Johnny the Gent 81: ‘[T]here’s a bug prize fighter around Clancy’s that's deaf an' dumb. [...] They call him “Dummy McGuire”’.
[WI] ‘Dummy’ in W. Jekyll Jam. Song and Story 84: There was a man couldn’ talk, called Dummy.
[US]Cincinnati Enquirer (OH) 12 May 12/1: ‘’E [...] writes down wich ’e’s deef an’ dumb [...] Thim darn dummies make ut hard pickins fer a guy, don’t they?’.
[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 66: What do you do if you bump into a natural dummy when you’re
[US]H. Ellison ‘We Take Care of Our Dead’ in Deadly Streets (1983) 51: He was the dummy of the gang, the guy everyone trusted because he couldn’t talk.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 47: The creep was called ‘Fog Horn’ [...] before his trouble made him a dummy.
[US](con. 1962) E. Bunker Stark 14: Dummy, a mute who everyone had avoided in the joint.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[Aus]H. Nisbet ‘Bail Up!’ 151: He had learnt the dummy alphabet, and so could talk to his sweetheart with his fingers.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Far from the Big, Bright Aisle’ 9 July [synd. col.] This being a citizen of a dummy island ain’t no skinooch.
[US]V.F. Nelson Prison Days and Nights 33: They don’t seem to be able to tell a good guy from a dummy head.

3. a fool, an idiot.

[Aus]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 238: dummy [...] a silly half-witted person.
[UK]Egan Life in London in Bk of Sports (1832) 6: bill put-’em-along, who was every thing but a dummy.
[Aus]Sydney Gaz. 30 Oct. 4/2: That saucy minx, Fan Flirt, whose skits about the ‘dummies’ of the Colony be only sheer envy because she hasn’t the dumps.
[UK]Egan Bk of Sports 263: [note] In no situation of life to appear like a dummy, and be insensible to the surrounding scene.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[UK]M. Reid Scalp-Hunters II 137: I would think less o’ these other dummies not seein’ at a glimp how we kin do it.
[US] ‘High Low Jacky’ in My Young Wife and I Songster 33: I play the ‘deuce’ with ‘dummies,’ there I have such winning ways.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 144: The first part of the compound, the adjective dumm, is often used as dummy, not only to represent the absent partner at cards, but also any stupid, silent person.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 25 Apr. 9/3: Among the crowd of performers, who stands out most prominently? We think the acrobats, but our ‘kids’ think differently [...] It is the ‘dummy’ that keeps our ‘darlings’ in a perpetual simmer. He is described on the bills as an ‘idiot,’ but the description doesn’t cover the case.
[UK]J.K. Jerome Three Men in a Boat 131: Why couldn’t you wind it up properly, you silly dummy?
[US]Ade Fables in Sl. (1902) 28: The Dummy at Right needed an Automobile, and the New Man couldn’t jump out of a Boat and hit the Water.
[US]Ade Forty Modern Fables 49: She hit him Twice with her Fan and began to think he was not such a Dummy after all.
[UK]Gem 23 Jan. 12: ‘Dummy, then,’ said Mr. Finn grimly. ‘Silly idiot! Dude!’.
[UK]Magnet 10 Sept. 18: If that dummy croaks in my hearing, I’ll go for him.
[US]H.C. Witwer Smile A Minute 40: Of course, I ain’t exactly a dummy at that, Joe; I know a few odd words of the French.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 66: The damn dummy said the guys that did the job were Poles.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Trouble Is My Business’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 190: Lay off, dummy.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 132: I married the biggest dummy ever walked in shoeleather.
[US]M. Spillane One Lonely Night 31: How simple can people get? Did they take everybody for dummies like themselves?
[US]J. Kirkwood There Must Be a Pony! 67: Sweet Jesus, what could you do with a dummy like that?
[US]V.E. Smith Jones Men 151: He’s not a user, and he’s no dummy either.
[UK]Sun. Times Mag. 12 Oct. 25: Nobby grew up like any other Manchester kid: a ‘dummy’ at school.
[US]T. Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities 248: You’re a couple of real dummies.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Between the Devlin 10: ‘[T]here’s no way this new pack of dummies can fix up the mess this State is in’.
[US]L. Pettiway Workin’ It 209: You’re not a dummy [...] You’re smart and real intelligent.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Goodoo Goodoo 259: You’ve been conned, dummy.
[US]A.N. LeBlanc Random Family 247: There are a lot of dummies up here [...] In the city, they ain’t playing that.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 16: It’ll go a long way to keeping the dummies run that film around for the wiseguys honest.
[US]New Yorker 11-18 July 🌐 So, yes, there are bigots in the Trump movement, and wackos, and dummies.
[US]S.A. Crosby Blacktop Wasteland 54: ‘Me and the other five dummies who couldn’t graduate with the rest of the class’.

4. a dumb animal.

[UK]Morn. Chron. (London) 6 June 1/5: [US source] Though he [i.e. a dog] was only a dumby, all were sad enough at thoughts o’ parting.

5. (UK und.) specific use of SE: a bundle supposedly representing a babe-in-arms, used by beggars to elicit money.

[Ind]Home News for India 17 Apr. 19/1: He [...] thought [...] it was what was known in the street-beggar’s slang as a ‘dummy’—that is, a bundle made up like a child, for the purpose of exciting compassion—a sham-baby.

6. a deaf mute, or a tramp or beggar who pretends to be deaf and dumb.

[UK]Sl. Dict.
[US]‘A-No. 1’ Mother of the Hoboes 43: The Rating Of The Tramps. 5. Dummy: pretended to be deaf and dumb.
[US]N. Anderson Hobo 102: Peggy is a one-legged man. Stumpy is a legless man. Wingy is a man with one or both arms off. Blinky is a man with one or both eyes defected. A Dummy is a man who is dumb or deaf and dumb.
[US]‘Boxcar Bertha’ Sister of the Road (1975) 301: Beggars [...] may be further sub-divided into groups: a. Blinkey (blind) b. Deafey (deaf) c. Dummy (dumb) d. D & D (deaf and dumb).
[US]Hecht & Fowler Great Magoo 59: Next to him is dummy dolan, an undersized, pock-marked bus boy of forty, unable to hear or speak [...] dummy has the dice.
[US]C. McCullers Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1986) 53: Singer looked very carefully at his lips when he spoke – he had noticed that before. But a dummy!
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 182: Dummy, a Deaf and dumb person.
[US]S. King Stand (1990) 1224: I figured the dummy must be with him [...] and this deaf-and-dumb pulls a gun on me!

7. (Aus.) a cable-car [such cars consisted of two vehicles: a ‘dummy,’ holding the driving mechanism, and a passenger car].

[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 25 May 3/3: At the corner of Pitt street they mounted a cable dummy with great dash and flutter [...] Then dummy-driver clanged the bell and the car whisked away.

8. (US Und.) a detective.

[US]C.G. Givens ‘Chatter of Guns’ in Sat. Eve. Post 13 Apr.; list extracted in AS VI:2 (1930) 132: dummy, n. Detective.
[US]J.M. Cain Postman Always Rings Twice (1985) 131: He’s my gumshoe man now. She thought she was talking to a dick, but she really was talking to a dummy.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

9. (UK Und.) one who poses (or is unwittingly exploited) as the law-abiding owner of an establishment, e.g. a nightclub, to shield the criminal who is the actual owner.

[UK]‘Leslie Charteris’ Enter the Saint 29: He had discovered quite early in life that there was a comfortable living to be made in the profession of ‘dummy.’.
[Aus]Wkly Times (Melbourne) 7 May 21/5: Referring to his wife, Mortimer said, ‘I used her only as a dummy. She would not stand for anything like this’.
[US]M. Puzo Godfather 309: I know the score, you’re just one of the dummies, Vegas is full of them.

10. (also dummie) a retarded person.

[US]C.R. Shaw Jack-Roller 59: Everybody thought there was something wrong with me. They had my head examined to see if I was a ‘dummie’.
[Aus]T.A.G. Hungerford Riverslake 27: ‘The Dummy,’ Murdoch replied shortly [...] ‘For God’s sake, Dummy, shut up that flaming row in a man’s ear!’.
[US]J. Thompson Pop. 1280 in Four Novels (1983) 393: A woman still might have a dummy pour it on her than a normal fella.
[US]J. Wambaugh Choirboys (1976) 137: The old cocksucker probably wanted to go back to Camarillo in the first place just to molest the little dummies.
[US]R. Campbell Sweet La-La Land (1999) 138: I asked you to take the dummy for a pee.
[UK]J. King White Trash 65: Nobody did it better than a dummy.

11. (US crime) a supposed ‘sucker’ who is used to lure real victims into a confidence game.

[US]S. Walker Mrs Astor’s Horse 115: Another highly effective trick, particularly at large parties, is done with a beautiful blonde girl dummy and a bed as props.

12. (N.Z. Und.) a sentence of solitary confinement; the solitary confinement/punishment cell in a prison (the inmate is forced to be silent).

[NZ]I. Hamilton Till Human Voices Wake Us 57: He’d think nothing of snooping into the cell of a man doing dummy. [Ibid.] 126: It always ended up in a spell of dummy for abuse.
[NZ]I. Hamilton Till Human Voices Wake Us 62: Nearly all the books they keep for the dummy are unreadable.
[NZ]G. Newbold Big Huey 248: dummy (n) Detention unit.
[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 41/1: dummy punishment cell in prison.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].

In compounds

dummy dodge (n.)

(US tramp) posing as a deaf mute to elicit alms.

[US]Morn. Tulsa Dly World (OK) 13 June 19/1: Dummy dodge — To pretend you are deaf and dumb for begging purposes.
dummy dust (n.) [a drug that appeals to or creates a dummy (i.e. sense 2 above) + dust n. (5e)]

(drugs) phencyclidine.

[US]H. Feldman et al. Angel Dust 124: The large number of street names it has been accorded over the years: [...] dummy dust. [Ibid.] 168: ‘dummy dust’ has [...] the worst street reputation because of the small quantities needed to produce stunning reactions that render the user dumbfounded.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Apr.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 8: Dummy dust — PCP.
punch dummy (n.) (also pop-off dummy)

(US prison) in a gang’s hierarchy, the minor enforcer for the gang’s leadership.

[US]Rayman & Blau Riker’s 239: This one boy got punched off the phone. He was using it when he shouldn’t have been. That was by somebody else, a punch dummy, a pop-off dummy [(authors’ note sort of a lesser enforcer for the ‘team’].

In phrases

catch a dummy (v.)

(US prison) to refuse to talk.

[US]C. Shafer ‘Catheads [...] and Cho-Cho Sticks’ in Abernethy Bounty of Texas (1990) 200: ‘Catch a dummy!’ v. – refuse to talk.
dummy out (v.)

(drugs) to lose awareness and coordination through drug use.

[US]H. Feldman et al. Angel Dust 206: The freaks most frequently reported stumbling or motor impairness, disassociation, ‘dummying out,’ or loss of normal cognitive faculties [...] as major features of the high.
go on the dummy (v.)

(US) to stop talking, to be quiet.

[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 169: I’m not feeling worth a damn, so go on the dummy.
spring a dummy (v.)

(UK police/und.) to pose as a simpleton.

[UK]P. Hoskins No Hiding Place! 190/2: He sprung a Dummy. He pretedned to be simple.