Green’s Dictionary of Slang

tall adj.

1. in senses of speech.

(a) boastful, high-flown.

[UK]‘Placebo’ in May & Bryson Verse Libel 161: Nay. stope the horse then! / And yee play the tall men.
[UK]Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet II iv: The pox of such antick, lisping, affecting fantasticoes, these new tuners of accents! [...] By Jesu, a very good blade! a very tall man.
[UK]J. Eachard Contempt of Clergy in Works (1705) 33: Others [...] whose parts stand not so much towards tall words and lofty notions, but consist in..besprinkling all their sermons with plenty of Greek and Latin .
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. 253: Tall extensive, exaggerated [...] ‘tall talk that,’ i.e., conversation too boastful or high-flown to be true.
[UK]Sl. Dict.

(b) intense, melodramatic.

[US]G.W. Whitman in Civil War Letters 17 Aug. 60: You may be sure the yankees get some tall cussing from the farmers.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 81/1: The tempest of wind and rain that blew in the door prevented him from lighting his match, and with a very tall oath he groped his way to the door.
[US]J.R. Browne Adventures in Apache Country 156: One can readily imagine that he did some tall swearing on this occasion.
[Aus]Riverina Recorder (Moulamein, NSW) 27 Nov. 2/6: A ‘tall’ breach of promise case is pending.

(c) extravagant, untrue; esp. in phr. tall story

implied in tall talk
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[Ind]Kipling ‘His Brother’s Keeper’ in Civil & Military Gaz. 7 Apr. (1909) 126: ‘And, as truly as I’m yarning here, there was a huge brindled beast of a pariah sitting on my bed!’ ‘Tall, sir, tall. But go on. The audience is now awake’.
[US]N.Y. Times 26 Jan. n.p.: A tall yarn about the Jews wanting to buy the Vatican copy of the Hebrew Bible [DA].
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 2 Sept. 2/5: Nobody but an Adelaide newspaper man could swallow such a tall yarn as that.
[US]Flynt & Walton Powers That Prey 205–6: I ain’t done such tall lyin’ in a tenner as I did to that copper; but he never got on to me.
[Aus]Aussie (France) XII Mar. 3/2: They were telling tall yarns about big debits that men of their acquaintance had charged against them.
[US]W. Smitter F.O.B. Detroit 102: Blame it all — I don’t like to tell such tall lies.
[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 170: Maybe there’d be some tall wondering about it.

2. of dress or appearance, flashy; also as adv.

[UK]Story of a Lancashire Thief 10: I made myself thoroughly decent. [,...] I took care not to dress too tall.

3. in senses of quantity, measure.

(a) (UK Und.) well-supplied.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 7/1: Knowing ‘Joe’ to be ‘pretty tall on the muscle,’ none were over anxious to speak first.

(b) (UK Und.) many, numerous.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 64/1: ‘Tall’ periodicals and pipes, snuff-boxes and smutty cigar-cases, etc., etc., were ordered.

(c) (orig. US) large, esp. in quantity, e.g. of money; also in phr. tall order under order n.

in W.L. Mackenzie Van Buren 253: Our brethren in Oneida are all ‘with one accord united’ —l ook out for a tall majority in O [DA].
[US]Whip & Satirist of NY & Brooklyn (NY) 3 Dec. n.p.: Terms $12 per week, tall price, but clerks [...] find it only a trifle.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 21/2: We had a fine chance of making something ‘tall’ in this affair.
[UK]H. Kingsley Hillyars and Burtons (1870) 357: Mrs N had got on a tarnation tall hop – a reg’lar Old Tar River breakdown.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 27 July 3/3: The fees to counsel in the Chetwynd-Durham case are pretty tall.
[Aus]Coburg Leader (Vic.) 23 Mar. 4/3: Look out for tall scoring. The Corkers have had their two bats renovated.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘One of the Lucky Ones’ Sporting Times 20 Oct. 1/4: It brought her in just forty pounds a year; / Not enough for all her ‘exes,’ which at times were rather tall.
[US]Ade ‘The New Fable of the Private Agitator’ in Ade’s Fables 9: Those were the days of tall Hustling: If he saw an Opening six inches wide, he held it with his Foot until he could insert his Elbow, and then he braced his Shoulder.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 323: – Yes, says J. J., and every male that’s born they think it may be their Messiah. And every jew is in a tall state of excitement, I believe, till he knows if he’s a father or a mother.
[US]C. McKay Gingertown 121: ‘George,’ said Nation, ‘ I am worried a tall lot about some’n.’.
W. Winchell ‘On Broadway 5 Aug. [synd. col.] After several good breaks, and a new contract at tall wages, she began paying back the coin.
[US]W. Winchell ‘On Broadway’ 4 Aug. [synd. col.] Your Wall Street odds of a week ago [...] attracted no tall money takers.
[US]L. Block Diet of Treacle (2008) 153: The money is very tall and the customers come to you.
[US]R. Klein Jailhouse Jargon and Street Sl. [unpub. ms.].
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 288: I’ll [...] scare up some fresh hustles, not such a tall proposition in the Maintenance Yard.
Chief Keef ‘No Tomorrow’ 🎵 My money very very tall / And it’s getting taller.

(d) serious, substantial; usu. in comb. with a v., such as tall drinking or tall weeping.

[US]G. Seaworthy Bertie 76: Wal, I consider that pretty tall farmin’.
[US]Knickerbocker (N.Y.) xlii (July) 58: We hear the beginning of some tall swearing behind me.
[Ire]P. Burnett Recollections 37: If I indulged at all, I would be very apt to do some very tall drinking.
[UK]Music Hall & Theatre Rev. 11 Jan. 7/1: Many people expected to hear some tall swearing.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 10 Dec. 24/1: I’m told there was some very tall betting last night; and there’s a dangerous-looking outsider, with only 6st. 7lb. up, that may cut in just when he can hurt most.
[US]M. Glass Potash and Perlmutter 41: You’re doing some pretty tall hustling for a sick man.
[US]C. Coe Me – Gangster 156: I laid in the berth and did some tall thinking for myself.
[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Falling Star’ in Spicy Detective Sept. 🌐 I can see the slug didn’t come from this gun. [...] But you’ve got some tall explaining to do.
[US]B. Jackson Thief’s Primer 37: If you want a best reputation when you come to this penitentiary [...] is if you’ve done time in Alcatraz. That there is the tall one, the medal of honor.
[US]S. King Cujo (1982) 95: You’ve got some pretty tall explaining to do.

4. (orig. US) excellent in quality; thus tallest, the best.

[US]N.-Y. Trib. n.p.: A pretty tall excitement came off at Coney Island on Saturday [B].
[UK]T.H. Gladstone Englishman in Kansas 120: Tall times these, gentlemen.
[US]J.G. Holland Miss Gilbert’s Career (1870) 262: I like it first-rate. It’s a tall thing – it’s a trump.
[US]C.G. Leland ‘Breitmann in Politics’ in Hans Breitmann About Town 32: Dey vere pesser ash goot und almosdt nice / A tarnal tall concern.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 21 May. 9/3: One of the tallest presents made at the recent royal wedding in Berlin, was that of a complete table service made of solid silver, and weighing just one ton.
[UK]Bowyer & Baker [perf. Jennie Hill] Thereby Hangs a Tale 🎵 Hullo! what-cher Ginger! don't I do it tall? / Bone side of a haddick, nicked it off a stall.
[US]Ade Artie (1963) 77: I’d jump in, grow some side-whiskers and put up as tall a con game as that old stiff.
[NZ]Truth (London) 18 June 1678/3: Slang terms: [...] tall, the thing, thundering, toff, topper, upper-crust, upper-ten, weather-eye, wrinkle [etc] .
[US]A.H. Lewis Confessions of a Detective 22: I owned in my muggy foggy East Side fashion certain tall ideals.
[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972).
[UK]Indep. on Sun. Culture 19 Mar. 14: Everybody [...] who considers the acme of their existence to be eating tall tucker in slick schmutter.

5. in senses of intoxication [play on high adj.1 (1)].

(a) (orig. UK Und.) drunk [20C+ use of is US black].

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 7/2: Joe Elms staid below later than any of those who slept in the same room did, and of course felt pretty tall by the time he reached the sleeping room.
[US]C. Himes ‘The Way of Flesh’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 230: Guess Ahm lil tall at dat.
[US]J. Latimer Red Gardenias 108: ‘I’m high, wide and handsome,’ she said. ‘I’m tall.’ ‘Tall?’ ‘High. Tight. Crocked. Drunk. [...] Champagne always makes me tall.’.

(b) (US drugs) intoxicated by marijuana.

Stuff Smith ‘Here Comes the Man with the Jive’ 🎵 Whenever you’re feeling small / Don’t care for this life at all / Light up and get really tall / Here comes the man with the jive.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 218: Knock me some of that righteous bush [...] so we can get tall and have a ball.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970) 239: tall [...] In a drug-induced state of euphoria; high.

In compounds

tall money (n.)

(US) a large amount of money, substantial wealth.

[US]Crane Chron. (MO) 2 Dec. 3/3: During the past five years men have made [...] a great deal of money, ‘tall money’ in the language of the street.
Philadelphia Enquirer (PA) 1 June 85/2: When it comes to plumbing and heating [...] you run into tall money before you knows it.
Richie Rich ‘Use Ta Sell’ 🎵 on Game [album] You slip 10, but don’t let that small money / Be the reason you never see tall money.
tall story (n.) (also tall tale)

an extravagant, boastful story, a lie.

Dollar Newspaper 27 May 4/6: This is a ‘tall story,’ it is true; but we have no special reasons [...] for calling in question its credibility [DA].
[US]M.H.E. Hayne Pioneers of the Klondyke 165: There was a very ‘tall’ story going about last spring. I give it for what it is worth, but will not vouch for its accuracy.
[US]S.V. Benét John Brown’s Body (1928) 72: Lincoln, six feet one in his stocking feet, [...] Whose wit was a coonskin sack of dry, tall tales.
[US](con. WWI) H. Odum Wings on My Feet 17: I can tell tall tales an’ joree jaw.
[US](con. early 1930s) C. McKay Harlem Glory (1990) 17: Harlem was hectic with [...] tall tales of its kings and queens.
Durant Daily Democrat 4 July 21/1: The writer was accused last week of telling a tall story about the fly fisherman catching catfish with a fly-rod [DA].
National Hist. June 267/1: Looking at the magnificent spectacle, we had to admit that the men who told the tallest tales had been most nearly correct in their descriptions [DA].
[US]Randolph & Wilson Down in the Holler 299: wind-jammer: n. A teller of tall tales, a windy-spinner, a blanket-stretcher.
[UK]B. Kops Dream of Peter Mann Act I: Spin him a yarn, a tall story.
[Aus]‘Nino Culotta’ Gone Fishin’ 189: I listened to the harsh voice of the Old Man, telling tall tales to Joe and Dennis.
[NZ](con. 1930s) H. Anderson Men of the Milford Road 80: That’s a tall one, Jack.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. 17 Oct. 23: Many of them are telling some pretty tall tales.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 50: It’s him who’s the mad one, tellin tall stories.
tall talk (n.) (also tall talking)

(orig. US) boasting, bragging, the telling of far-fetched stories and anecdotes; thus as v. talk tall, tall talk.

[US]Knickerbocker (N.Y.) XIX 221: One of the striking peculiarities of our people is the disposition to talk tall [DA].
[US]T. Haliburton Sam Slick in England II 161: But don’t put a drag-chain on to me, when I am doin’ tall talkin’.
[UK]G.A. Sala My Diary in America II 311: They [...] smack their lips over the ‘tall talk.’ [Ibid.] 329: These poor men [...] found consolation in patriotism – in the old windy verbiage, in the old ‘tall talk.’.
[UK]Sportsman 19 Oct. 2/1: Notes on News [...] Why does the tendency to ‘tall talk’ increase in adverse ratio in the social scale?
[UK]W.E. Henley ‘Villon’s Good-Night’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 174: You judes that clobber for the stramm, / You ponces good at talking tall.
[Aus]H. Nisbet Bushranger’s Sweetheart 180: These literary cadets [...] sauntered in, with their tall talk and consequential airs.
[US]Ade Fables in Sl. (1902) 70: They had paid their Money for Tall Talk and were prepared to solve any and all Styles of Delivery.
[UK]Sporting Times 25 Feb. 1/2: In all of our elections it starts tall talk, lies, and scolding.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘Great Expectations’ Sporting Times 1 Oct. 1/3: All his boasts of wealth should prove to be tall talk and ‘swank.’.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 314: As much as his bloody life is worth to go down and address his tall talk to the assembled multitude in Shanagolden where he daren’t show his nose with the Molly Maguires looking for him to let daylight through him for grabbing the hold of an evicted tenant.
[US]Mencken Amer. Lang. (4th edn) 568: This ‘tall talk,’ despite the horror of the delicate, was a great success in the East, and its salient practitioners – for example, David Crockett – were popular heroes.
[US]W. Blair Tall Tale America 40: You rile a man with your tall talk.
[US]D. Goines Whoreson [context 1950s] 133: Some black-ass nigger had done some tall talking to the police.
[Aus]Tracks (Aus.) Nov. 21: Blokes turning each other on with tall talk about screwing women in a really derogatory way [Moore 1993].
tall talker (n.)

a braggart, a boaster.

Oregon State Jrnl 25 May 4/1: But the tallest talker and the one that had more cheek than any of us was a certain Jonah Squires [DA].
[UK] ‘’Arry at a Political Pic-Nic’ in Punch 11 Oct. 180/1: ‘To show his true love for the People!’ sezs one vote-of-thanking tall-talker.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

tall boy (n.)

1. (also tallen) a large wine glass.

[UK] ‘The Courtier’s Health’ in Ebsworth Roxburghe Ballads (1885) V:1 90: Fill Pottles and gallons, and bring the Hogshead in, / We’ll begin with a Tallen — a brimmer to the king.
[UK]Motteux (trans.) Rabelais V xliii 195: Cups, Goblets, and Talboys of Gold, Silver, and Cristal.

2. a 3-litre (2-quart) pot filled with wine.

[UK]D’Urfey Madam Fickle II i: bella: Where shall we meet at night? maul: At Lambs with the Fidles and a Talboy.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Tall-boy, a Pottle or two Quart-pot full of Wine.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.

3. (US) a tall glass or can of beer.

[US]H. Crews Feast of Snakes 25: You can git me a tallboy and a glass of that shine.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 302: Cooling his brow by rolling a cold tallboy of beer across it.
Google 21 Aug. 🌐 I stood up and began to sing lustily, fuelled by not only seven tall boys of Labatts Blue, but also two shots of rye whiskey, a rum and coke, three fingers of clear alcohol someone had made in the garage.
[US]N.Y. Rev. of Books 14 Feb. 33/1: At the end of my adventures I was drinking a case of 16-ounce tallboys a night.
Jax Beer Guy 18 Jan. 🌐 Other servlets are ‘tinny’ (375 mL aluminum can), the 750 mL bottle known variously as ‘Long Necks’, ‘Tall boys’ or ‘King Browns’ .
Twitter 9 Jan. 🌐 [G]rab a can, bottle, stubby, longie, squealer, tinny, pounder, picnic, tall boy etc. ;).
[US]S.A. Crosby Razorblade Tears 85: He plucked two tallboys from the rack.
tall poppy (n.)

one who stands out from the mass; 20C use usu. mainly Aus./N.Z. and refers to a conspicuously high earner or other VIP; thus tall poppy syndrome, the desire of the less successful to bring an outstanding individual back ‘down to earth’.

[UK]Wilts. & Gloucs. Standard 30 Dec. 1/7: Come S. Cherrier [and] Toussaint Peltier were yesterday sent to jail on a charge of a high treason [...] It was men of such stamp, [...] the tall poppies, that stood in need of decapaitation.
[UK]Bristol Times & Mirror 17 June 3/2: The dumb show of cutrting off the tall poppy heads has its significance for good as well as evil.
[Scot]Glasgow Herald 12 Sept. 6/1: It is a kind of public proclamation that you are a tall poppy; and that, as in in these days your head cannot be struck off, it is worthwhile to buy you.
[Aus]Advocate (Melbourne) 3 July 3/1: [T]he Tarquin of British power sought to decapitate the tallest poppies which nourished in the national garden.
[Aus]Ballarat Star (Vic.) 15 June 3/1: [T]he Chief Secretary had [...] taken all the tall poppies into his camp. If he found anybody likely to take a lead in the House—any one gathering a following about him —he took him in.
[Aus]Bendigo Advertiser (Vic.) 4 May 2/3: [T]he retrenchment committee appear to have made it their glory to strike at the heads of the tallest poppies. So the town clerk and the receiver of revenue are the first that have to succumb to the lopping process.
[Aus]Protestant Standard (Sydney) 29 Nov. 8/4: The attack upon the Protestant landlords is a mere matter of outposts. It is the old expedient of cutting down first the tall poppies.
[UK]Exeter & Plymouth Gaz. 23 June 5/5: In the course of his speech there were some oblique references to the tall poppy speech.
[Aus]Aus. Town & Country Jrnl 10 Feb. 20/3: The wind had been; however, taken out of the sails of the Conference by the action of the Victorian Premier in cutting off the head of his tallest opposition poppy — by the appointment of Mr Deakin.
Sugden & Eggleston G. Swinburne 84: The opponents of the Bill claimed that retrenchment should begin at the top. There should be a bottom limit; the tall poppies might be cut, but the lowest ranks should be exempt.
[UK]Belfast News-Letter 23 Dec. 9/5: The talent in Ulster boys and girls was above the average. They had tro fight amongst themselves to get into the position of the tall poppy among the other poppies.
[UK]Listener 13 Nov. 660/1: They booed this great man, and he had to take it. It was part of the thing — no tall poppies. You’ve got to do well, but there’s supposed not to be any sense of excellence making any difference to human equality.
[Aus]Sydney Morning Herald 8 Apr. 6: Labor is obsessed with the ‘tall poppies’, and seems determined to pull them down .
[Aus]Canberra Times (ACT) 13 Sept. 45/2: Which [i.e. supporting an underdog sports team] is a reversal of the role in recent years and probably reflects something of the tall-poppy syndrome, among other factors.
[Aus]R. Beckett Dinkum Aussie Dict. 51: Tall poppy: Any Australian who reads more than the sporting results and knows how to use snail tongs. Someone who aspires to intellectual excellence and cannot tell the difference between one make of car and another. The species is much hated in Australia and is always being cut down to size.
Sun. Indep. 2 May 22/5: He delighted me with [Aus. novelist] Peter Carey’s description of Irish begrudgery as the tall poppy syndrome.
[Ire]Irish. Indep. 30 June 24/5: Australians have a term for begrudgers who cut down to size anyone who’s seen as standing too tall: ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’.
[US]Hartford Courant (CT) sect. D 5 Sept. 27/4: G’Day from Down Under [...] Tall poppy — someone successful in a particular field.
[SA]Sun. Indep. (Dublin) 2 May 14/2: Tall poppy syndrome. They just want to cut people like you and Denis down.
[Aus]W. Dodson Sharp End 47: To some extent Woodham has been a victim of the tall poppy syndrome, having his fair share of admirers as well as plenty of detractors among the prison officers he has commanded.
[Aus]Warnambool Standard (Aus.)12 Nov. 🌐 [headline] District tall poppies receive honors. The life of former Koroit and Warrnambool student Sir John Eccles will be recognised tonight at the first Warrnambool Eccles Tall Poppy awards presentation.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 207: tall poppy Outstanding person who has aroused the envy of lesser achievers. The phrase was popularised in 1931 by New South Wales premier J.T Lang to describe those on government salaries above 10 pounds a week. The tall poppy syndrome is used of a high-flier attacked by those below a conspicuously high earner or other VIP.
[UK]Guardian 17 June 16/2: Before she fell victim of tall poppy syndrome [...] Wilson was a star on the rise.
tall timber (n.)

see separate entry.

tall water (n.)

bourbon and water.

[US]Jrnl News (White Plains, NY) 17 Aug. E2/1: One of [Booker Noe’s] favourite ways to use [bourbon] is in a drink he calls ‘Tall Water’ [...] ‘It’s like a glass of iced tea [...] only with bourbon’.
B. Noe in Pittsburgh Post-Gaz. 20 Apr. 🌐 Maybe the most authentic way to enjoy [bourbon] is by mixing ‘tall water’ in honor of bourbon luminary Booker Noe: one part Booker's to four parts water. As Booker used to tell everyone, it's just ‘Kentucky tea’.