Green’s Dictionary of Slang

straw n.

[abbr. SE straw blond(e)]

1. light blond hair.

[[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 62: Sporting a toe [...] among the pretty straw damsels and dashing chippers].
[US]H.L. Williams Black-Eyed Beauty 62: You see the Olympic has been doing huge with the English blonde, ‘from the Haymarket London,’ woman of straw.
[Aus]Advocate (Burnie, Tas.) 5 June 7/2: Look here, you big straw.
[US](con. 1949) G. Pelecanos Big Blowdown (1999) 184: ‘I wanna stay,’ said the blonde, tossing the orangeish mane of straw off her shoulder.

2. (US black) a hat, although not necessarily a straw hat [note 19C SE use, a straw hat].

[US]Ade People You Know 136: Hubby went up the street with his Straw dipped down in Front, same as the College Rakes wear them.
[UK]Eve. Dispatch 5 July 5/3: Turks Wear Straws [...] Turks [...] have discarded the fez for a British straw hat.
[US]‘Ed Lacy’ Men from the Boys (1967) 95: He saw a tall man, well dressed, in a coconut straw, leaving the house.
[US] ‘Duriella du Fontaine’ in D. Wepman et al. Life (1976) 45: Van had a straw, a Corona Corona in his jaw / A beige suit looking real quilty.

3. in drug uses [senses a and b from the shape, sense c from the colour].

(a) an opium pipe.

[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore.

(b) a marijuana cigarette or marijuana.

[US]ONDCP Street Terms 20: Straw — Marijuana cigarette.

(c) rolling papers.

[US]cited in R.J. Spears Sl. and Jargon of Drugs and Drink (1986).

4. see straw boss

In compounds

straw-top (n.)

a nickname for one who has light blonde hair.

[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘A Tempered Wind’ in Gentle Grafter (1915) 160: By and by Straw-top comes down again.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

straw boss (n.) (also straw) [orig. a threshing crew hierarchy in which the chief deals with the grain, the subordinates with the straw]

1. (US) a person who is second-in-command, assistant to the boss.

[US]W.H. Carwardine Pullman Strike 117: These employees [...] [having suffered] the continued oppression of the ‘straw bosses,’ [...] were in no condition to be trifled with by the Company [DA].
[US]J.W. Carr ‘Words from Northwest Arkansas’ in DN III:ii 159: straw boss, n. Assistant foreman. ‘The foreman’s away. You can speak with the straw boss.’.
[US]H.A. Franck Zone Policeman 88 225: There are no contractor’s Irish straw-bosses to keep them on the move.
[US] in J.M. Hunter Trail Drivers of Texas (1963) I 331: In a cattle outfit the owner is called the ‘big boss,’ [...] his first lieutenant is called the ‘straw boss’.
[US]O. Strange Law O’ The Lariat 28: I’m told yu been actin’ straw-boss since Stevens passed out.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 36: The prison hospital, where they had nice clean beds, good chow, and no straw bosses.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 198: A gathering of the minor politicians and straw bosses of Bohegan.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Mama Black Widow 230: The straw boss was winking at me.
[UK]D. Wells Night People 102: Some of the obstacles a straw may meet are jealousy, stubborness, revenge and too much ignorant oil.
[US]R. Price Blood Brothers 18: I give him two years he’ll be straw boss ’cause he is one smart bastard.
[US]D. Woodrell Muscle for the Wing 73: A large, flat-topped man, with [...] the general expression of a natural-born straw boss.

2. (US tramp) the foreman of a work crew.

[US]W. Edge Main Stem 51: We went to the foreman and asked him to fire us [...] But the ‘goddam, whippersnapper straw boss’, as Slim called him, would not give us our time.
[US]Z.N. Hurston Mules and Men (1995) 69: Grab your dinner-bucket and hit the grit. Don’t keep the straw-boss waiting.
[US]F.H. Hubbard Railroad Avenue 363: Straw Boss – Foreman of a small gang or acting as foreman.
[US]W. Brown Teen-Age Mafia 74: The straw boss made a point of looking at your hand, and then he passed you over.
[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 69: The strawbosses rode with the truck-drivers.
[US]E. Thompson Garden of Sand (1981) 187: It was the straw boss, though, who decided who worked and who did not.
[Can]O.D. Brooks Legs 13: I’d sit with him [...] listening to his tales about jungles, yard bulls, and straw bosses in camps where he’d worked.
straw hall (n.) [the straw laid down for bedding]

(Anglo-Irish) a debtor’s prison.

[Ire]‘A Real Paddy’ Real Life in Ireland 186: When the hour of nine hath stricken, / Up the nine stairs slow we crawl; / Crowds of Pads the alleys thicken, / That convey them to straw hall. [Ibid.] 215 : He is an odd fellow, and full of humour, frequently giving balls to the natives of Straw Hall.
straw hat (n.) [metonymy]

1. a Billingsgate fish-wife.

[UK]N. Ward London Spy VI 131: A parcel of Trugmoldies, Straw-Hats and Flat-Caps, selling Socks and Furmity [etc.].

2. (Aus., also straw-hatter) a dandy, a fashionable person; thus straw hat push, the social élite.

[Aus]Stephens & O’Brien Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] 37: In fact, the quasi-rough or ‘respectable larrikin’ youths, who are the main army of ‘barrackers’ at sports and street corners, are often spoken and written of as the ‘straw-hat push.’.
[UK]W.S. Walker In the Blood 103: There is nobody else but the ‘straw-hat push’ and their girls.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 22 Oct. 4/8: I don’t know why yous gets your body in a not about the straw hat push. They’ve got, quit as much rite to prat their frames in if they like.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 15 Apr. 9/4: Aspiring flappers and would-be straw-hatters [...] are a type I used to bump whilst in the police [AND].
[Aus]H. Redcliffe Yellow Cygnet 20: ‘There ain’t much of the “straw ’at”’- a slang phrase for dandy – ‘about that nipper.’ [AND].
strawhead (n.)

(US) a derog. term for an immigrant, lit. one with straw in their hair, i.e. a peasant.

[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 72: G’wan back to the old country, you strawhead!
straw house (n.)

(US) a home for destitute seamen.

[US](con. 1875) F.T. Bullen Cruise of the ‘Cachalot’ 283: Of course a man may go to the ‘straw house,’ or, as it is grandiloquently termed, the ‘destitute seaman’s asylum,’ where for a season he will be fed [...] and sheltered from the weather.
straw-yard (n.)

a night-shelter or casual ward, occupied by the impoverished street-dwellers.

[UK]Morn. Chron. (London) 22 Jan. 5/6: There’s far more good people in the straw-yards than the casuals — the dodgers is less frequent there, considering the numbers.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 404/1: I’ve got tickets for the ‘straw-yards,’ or the ‘leather-houses,’ as some call them.

In phrases

draw straws (v.) (also pick straws) [pvb one eye draws straw, t’other serves the thatcher; Grose (1796) has the single straw]

to show signs of sleep; esp. as one’s eyes draw straw(s).

[UK]Swift Polite Conversation 94: Indeed my Eyes draw Straws (She’s almost asleep).
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd, 3rd edn) n.p.: His eyes draw straw; his eyes are almost shut, or he is almost asleep: one eye draws straw, and t’other serves the thatcher.
[UK]‘Peter Pindar’ ‘Orson and Ellen’ Canto V in Works V (1812) 78: Their eyelids did not once pick straws, / And wink and sink away; / No, no, they were as brisk as bees.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1788].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
in (the) straw (also in the strummel) [18C SE straw as the stuffing of a bed, but note the defunct practice of laying straw in the street outside the house of a woman in labour in order to quieten the passing traffic; 20C+ use mainly Aus.]

1. pregnant, in labour, giving birth.

[UK]R. Brome Jovial Crew Act II: Now she is in the straw, it seems [...] The Bratling’s born; the Doxey’s in the Strummel, Laid by an Autum Mort of their own Crew, That served for Mid-wife.
[UK]Hogan-Moganides 41: In what Condition in the Straw, And through her Labour not so lusty To tug at Bottle, being thirsty, Cryes out ho, Gossips [...] reach me here some Brandy.
[UK]N. Ward The Rambling Rakes 3: I was as Squeamish as Newly Marrried Woman, and lap’d more Mutton-Broth, than a Coutry Dame in the Straw does Oatmeal-Caudle.
[UK]‘Phoebe Crackenthorpe’ Female Tatler (1992) (29) 71: The virtuous Imoinda being now down in the straw with her fourth and last child without any father for it.
Cunicularii in 18C Erotica V n.p.: The Lady in the Straw.
[UK]Spy on Mother Midnight 17: We all sat down [...] and entered a merry Conversation to keep the Woman in straw from Rest.
Rambler’s Mag. Jan. 39/2: The protruberance of one of the vis-a-vis Westons is of late so much encreated as to effect the springs of the carriage [...] it is feared that they will not be able to hold it up rill the demi-mistress of the equipage is in the straw.
[US]J. Burgoyne Heiress I i: mrs blandish: This [letter] You take care to send to all the lying-in ladies? prompt: At their doors, Madam, before the first load of straw [...] (Reading his memorandum, as he goes out.) Ladies in the straw – Ministers, etc. – Old Maids, Cats, Sparrows, never had a better list.
[Ire]J. O’Keeffe Life’s Vagaries 49: The bishop’s lady was the good woman in the straw.
[WI]M. Lewis 8 Jan. in Journal of a West India Proprietor (1834) 82: Two women are in the straw already.
[UK] ‘Hackney Coachman’ in C. Hindley James Catnach (1878) 198: ’Twere crammed full of ladies, who were all in the straw.
[UK]‘Mutton’ in Out-and-Outer in Spedding & Watt (eds) Bawdy Songbooks (2011) IV 127: According to law, got into the straw, / And brought her spouse a son and heir.
[UK]T. Hood ‘Miss Kilmansegg and Her Precious Leg’ in Poems (1846) I 113: Although, by the vulgar popular saw, / All mothers are said to be ‘in the straw,’ / Some children are born in clover.
[UK]H. Kingsley Recollections of G. Hamlyn (1891) 305: Having had his wife in the straw every thirteen months regularly for the last fifteen years, he prepared to assist.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 229: Married ladies are said to be ‘in the straw’ at their accouchements. The phrase is a coarse allusion to farm-yard animals in a similar condition.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Sporting Times 1 Apr. 3/2: sal.: ‘The vicar have called with a subscription list’ gub.: ‘What for? A new organ, or is the sexton’s young wife in the straw again?’.
[UK](con. 1900s) J.B. Booth Sporting Times 251: His poor little missis about to be in the straw again.

2. having sexual intercourse.

[US]Spoonie G ‘Spoonin Rap’ [lyrics] And then I got in the straw, we start to do it to the beat.
wear a straw in one’s ear (v.) [? the custom of standing with a straw in one’s mouth, which indicates one’s desire to find a new job; + ? dial. draw a straw across, to beguile]

of a woman, to seek a new husband.

[UK]J. Manchon Le Slang.
whopstraw (n.) (also Johnny Whopstraw, Johnny Wopstraw, Whipstraw) [his SE whopping or threshing straw]

a countryman, a peasant.

J. Clare Village Minstrel I 36: The bumptious serjeant struts before his men, / And ‘clear the road, young whopstraws!’ will he say.
Court Jrnl 21 Mar. 188/2: The Haverford-Westrians have discovered a new source of amusement for the whopstraws.
[UK]Morn. Chron. (London) 25 Nov. 3/5: One of the farmers took off his top-boots, which were hoisted on a pole and paraded in triumph, whilst they allowed the ‘Johnny Whop-straw’ [...] to walk in his stockings.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Hillingdon Hall I 74: Wopstraw was a big, broad-shouldered, broad-faced, sensible, respectable man; but slow in his judgment, and cautious in his utterance.
[UK]London Eve. Standard 2 June 6/5: A volunteer (I mean a sailor, not a Johnny Wapstraw) leaves his monkey-jacket out of the bag, which the [...] mate [...] puts in the ‘scran-bag’.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn).
[UK]Salisbury & Winchester Jrnl 9 May 7/1: On the backs of the rich was the fleece that came from the farm of Johnny Whoptrsaw [Laughter].
[UK]J. Greenwood Low-Life Deeps 309: They [card sharpers] may hang about the outside of the fair and try to catch a Johnny Wopstraw or two, but they never try it on the lads of our school.
[UK]N. Devon Jrnl 7 June 2/3: Johnny Whopstraw was inclined to be neighbourly with Charity, seeing that he lived next door.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]G.F. Northall Warwickshire Word-Book 259: Whopstraw. A country clown. Often [...] as ‘Johnny Whopstraw.’ ‘Whipstraw’ is another term.