Green’s Dictionary of Slang

palaver n.

[Port. palabra, speech, talk; used by Port. traders on the West Coast of Africa, where it was picked up by British sailors, incorporated into their jargon and thence to mainstream sl.]

1. (also palaverment, pallaver, pallaveration, perlaver) chat, talk, conversation; in formal situations, a meeting.

[UK]Smollett Reprisal II ix: I don’t take in your palaver, not I—and may hap, you don’t know my lingo.
[UK]Bridges Homer Travestie (1764) II 96: The old cock with froth and slaver, / began, as usual, his pallaver.
[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 33: They made [...] such a fine pallaveration.
[UK]D. Gunston (ed.) Jemmy Twitcher’s Jests 23: ‘Avast, brother, with your cheek-jaw and palaver!’.
Gentleman’s Mthly Intelligencer Aug. 409/2: Where could you go my kiddy, have I not messed you and bedded you — and therefore no more palabre, but shove off your boat.
[UK]Caledonian Mercury 28 May 2/4: Some delay in beginning [...] had been occasioned by a Palaver, or general meeting, of all the surrounding chewifs.
[UK]‘Peter Pindar’ ‘Tales of Hoy’ Works (1801) V 261: The true heart dances no hornpipes on the tongue – a p-x on palaver, say I.
[UK]Staffordshire Advertiser 9 Nov. 3/1: Tiggity Sego held a palaver, which Mr Park attended [...] de ates on both sides displayed much ingenuity.
[UK]G. Colman Yngr Heir at Law II i: He ended, with his respects, and a parcel of palaver, to you.
[UK]W. Maginn ‘The Wine-Bibber’s Glory’ in Blackwood’s Mag. Jan. n.p.: ’Tis a nice provocation, to wise conversation, Queer blarney, or harmless palaver.
[UK]Lytton Paul Clifford I 209: ‘Halt, – deliver, – must and shall, – can’t and shan’t, – do as I bid you, or go to the devil!’ That’s all Fighting Attie’s palaver.
[UK]Marryat Snarleyyow II 22: We shall know something about it to-night, for the corporal and I am to have a palaver.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Handley Cross (1854) 365: I’ll tell ye a story ’bout him hat may come into your palaverment, if you like.
[US]Anti-Slavery Bugle (New Lisbon, OH) 19 Feb. 4/5: You do not care for any thing but book-palaver and God-palaver.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 3 July 3/2: That ere palaver which the big-wigs has been a having in the Legisterial Assemblige’.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Facey Romford’s Hounds 364: After a good deal of similar palaverment, he concluded [etc.].
[US]J. O’Connor Wanderings of a Vagabond 268: S’pose the by’s kin tell a blood whin they sees’em widout all that palaver.
[UK]H. Smart Post to Finish II 169: I want to go over there and have a palaver with your father.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 3 Aug. 6/4: After a little palaver [he] said it was a pity either of them should lose such a heavy stake .
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 6 May. 1/1: The Government would be consulting its own dignity [...] if it put the shutters up without further palaver.
[UK]‘Pot’ & ‘Swears’ Scarlet City 66: I don’t want any palaver [...] I’ve no more to say on the subject.
[Aus]J. Furphy Such is Life 223: Why ain’t you in the barracks having one of your quiet palavers with Mrs Beaudesart?
[UK]D. Stewart Shadows of the Night in Illus. Police News 13 July 12/4: ‘A chat over a can of grog [...] will suit you better than a palaver in this house’.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper XL 4 217: Oi’ll go now an’ make up a fairy shtor-ry that’ll satisfy th’ owld chayfe about our long palaver-r.
[UK]T. Norman Penny Showman 5: After the usual palaver he went on thus, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a rather exciting performance’.
[US]J. Dixon Free To Love 75: Men who countered with polite palaver in place of blows – here was something he didn’t know.
[US]Mencken letter 1 Apr. in Riggio Dreiser-Mencken Letters II (1986) 693: It is a pity that we are so far apart that we can’t meet for an occasional palaver.
[US]D. Dressler Parole Chief 182: All this palaver consumed at least five minutes.
[US]N. Mailer Why Are We in Vietnam? (1970) 123: Hey, hey, is this the way they really talk? [...] all that pederastic palaver?
[US]D. Jenkins Semi-Tough 12: You may have seen his daily column, ‘Pinch’s Palaver’.
[US]J. Ridley Love Is a Racket 301: A chick Dino would be trading palaver and sipping highballs with.
[US]S. King Finders Keepers (2016) 205: Morris wouldn’t want to be the owner of the bike [...] once their little palaver is done.

2. wearisome, idle or insincere talk.

[UK]Smollett Roderick Random (1979) 232: Dam-me! (said the outlaw) none of your palaver; but let me see what money you have got!
[UK]Foote Mayor of Garrat in Works (1799) I 173: Come, come, let’s have none of your palaver here.
[UK]G. Stevens ‘The Jolly Soul’ Songs Comic and Satyrical 63: As to pulpit palaver, why, that’s all a flam.
[UK]Morris et al. ‘O’Whack’s Song in Notoriety’ in Festival of Anacreon (1810) 55: You may talk of a brogue, and of Ireland [...] Of bulls and of howls and palaver.
[UK]W. Godwin Caleb Williams (1966) 212: Damn me, tip us none of your palaver; we have heard that story of a poor traveller any time these five years.
[UK] ‘All On Board’ Jovial Songster 32: Why d’ye see ’tis palaver, my girl, nothing more.
[WI]M. Lewis 6 Jan. in Journal of a West India Proprietor (1834) 77: Possibly this was all palaver [...] but at least he seemed to be sincere.
[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 323: Flashy Nance [...] had gammoned more seamen out of their vills and power than the ingenuity or palaver of twenty of the most knowing of the frail sisterhood.
[UK]D. Jerrold Men of Character I 270: Lay hold – and no palaver.
[Ire]S. Lover Handy Andy 201: Now, no more of your palaver, Misther Connor.
[UK]C. Reade It Is Never Too Late to Mend 1 184: There! there! – your palaver! [Ibid.] 289: Sounds like palaver.
[UK]A. Mayhew Paved with Gold 22: Then she got listening to the Frenchman’s palavering when she ought to have been minding her leaning.
[UK]G.R. Sims Dagonet Ballads 2: There, stow your perlaver a minit.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 5 Nov. 8/4: He [...] was just in time to see his lady love’s hair rise up slowly and stand on end as the gorgon-like female brushed past her and made straight for the fatal volume of holy palaver [...].
[UK]A. Day Mysterious Beggar 214: I mean th’ holy Joes: th’ cushion smiters. Them as holds a palaver uv a Sunday in th’ cackle tubs in th’ big churches.
[US]Capital Jrnl (Salem, OR) 10 Aug. 2/2: Political Palaver. What the Blowhards in Congress are Doing.
[US]S.F. Call 19 July 19/2: These Britons indulge in what Americans call ‘palaver’.
[Aus]J. Furphy Such is Life 10: After five minutes’ more palaver, M’Nab agreed to an even swap.
[US]N.Y. Tribune 25 Oct. 5/3: ‘Go way wid your palaver,’ laughed Judy.
[Ire]Joyce ‘The Dead’ Dubliners (1956) 176: The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 164: All this palaver and softie talk.
[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 174: We would clap all the soft soap palaver of the Mr. O’Hanlon of the moment.
[US]J. Mitchell ‘Professor Sea Gull’ Joe Gould’s Secret (1996) 13: The Oral History is a great hodgepodge of [...] gab, palaver, hogwash, flapdoodle, and malarkey.
[US]C. Hamilton Men of the Und. x: The palaver with which he defends his perverted values.
[US]L. Rosten Dear ‘Herm’ 149: This [...] had nothing to do with ‘egghead’ palaver about Freedom for Civilians.
[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 4: Let-me-read-this-here-palaver-into-the-Congressional-Record.
[UK]G. Burn Happy Like Murderers 253: Talking palaver while apparently talking the truth.
[US]J. Stahl I, Fatty 143: Show me a man who denies ever serving up that bit of palaver, and I’ll show you a liar.
[UK](con. 1980s) I. Welsh Skagboys 425: The palaver ripped through the centre’s wafer-think walls.

3. fussiness, a fuss; thus what a palaver, what a fuss.

[Aus]Sydney Herald 18 June 4/2: [V]hen ve vas lagged, crikie, what a palaver the ould one in the big wig did hold forth.
[UK]M.E. Braddon Trail of the Serpent 360: Is it movin’ boxes you’re makin’ this ’ere palaver about?
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 17 Nov. 105: What are you making such a palaver about?
[UK]W. Pett Ridge Madame Prince 149: Now it’s for you to say, my love, without any palaver [...] whether you are prepared to put up with that.
[UK]H.E. Bates A Breath of French Air (1985) 130: ‘Perhaps it would have been better if you’d got married after all,’ he said. ‘Well, I suppose we still could [...] But it’s a bit of a palaver.’.
[UK](con. c.1918) D. Holman-Hunt My Grandmothers and I (1987) 4: A lot of palaver it was too, with writing and postal orders.
[UK]D. Davin Breathing Spaces 89: What was she making all that palaver about?
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘Happy Returns’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] Should have seen the palaver it caused. Everyone had to get off the bus!
[US]R. Shell Iced 235: She’s putting me through all this palaver shit.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 20 May 16: A couple of relatively palaver-free salads.
[UK]K. Richards Life 400: All the palaver, the bust, the noise.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 365: All this palaver over a poxy thirty million.

4. (also palaverment) business, concern, goings-on; thus none of your palaver, no business of yours.

[UK]Gem 6 Apr. 7: Henry, ye black limb, dem grub palaver done?
[US]S.F. Call 25 July 6/2: King Sow came over to take charge of the town until all its palavers were settled.
[UK]‘J.W.L.’ Slave Stories 37: He’s getting into the ways of the native – too much sleep palaver.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Bulldog Drummond 118: It’s my palaver this, you fellows.
[UK]‘Leslie Charteris’ Enter the Saint 92: I’m afraid Uncle Elias was rather shocked by the whole palaver.
[UK]E. Glyn Flirt & Flapper 18: Flapper: Did we invent all that palaver [i.e. marriage vows] or was it handed to us to spout before we could go off with a boy and stay in a hotel without being arrested?
[UK] in T. Harrisson Mass-Observation War Factory: Report 2: I was in there for an hour, all that palaverment with the registrations.
[UK]P. Hamilton West Pier (1986) 226: I needn’t have gone into all that palaver at all.
[UK]C. Dexter Service of all the Dead (1980) 238: Any why, oh, why, all this peculiar palaver in the church?
[UK]I. Welsh Filth 88: It’s fair goat the magistrates oan the warpath, aw that palaver.
[Ire]P. Howard PS, I Scored the Bridesmaids 72: I know what’s eating Sorcha. It’s all this bullying palaver.

5. (Scot.) a fussy, ostentatious person; usu. as old palaver.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 850/2: C.19-20.

6. (UK black) an argument, a fight.

[UK](con. 1981) A. Wheatle East of Acre Lane 122: Niff plaver an’ contention [...] two sound men get ratchet sketch.

In compounds

palaver-house (n.)

any form of social centre.

diary of an Efik Slave-Trading Chief in C.D. Forde Efik Traders of Old Calabar (1968) 95: Duk call all wee to com for his plaver house to hear Ephrim Egbo [...] and Dick Ephrim and he say he will not marry [...] and wee hav Ephrim Duk women com and Break Duke god Bason about he Will not marry Ephrim after 7 clock.
[UK] in H. Crow Memoirs 141: ‘What is the matter, Crow, that you big man for you gran Palaver-house make all dat noise for we country and we trade? [...] ‘What wo wo palaver you make!’.
[UK]T. Hughes Tom Brown’s School-Days (1896) 44: Young swells who [...] frequent palaver houses and West-end Clubs.