Green’s Dictionary of Slang

people n.

1. one’s relatives, one’s family; usu. qualified as my people, her people etc.

[Aus]Northern Star 6 May 13/3: I am satisfied now, that ‘my people’ will all see my opinion on the subject.
[US]T. Carlyle Sterling (1872) 139: Mrs. Sterling and the family had lived in Knightsbridge with his Father’s people through winter .
[US]Coconino Sun (Flagstaff, AZ) 15 July 15/1: In 1857 I wrote a letter home [...] and several years ago my people returned me my letter.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 2 Feb. 276: My people say they’ve had twopence to pay on two of mine.
[UK]‘Ian Hay’ Lighter Side of School Life 177: A schoolboy with his ‘people’ in tow neither expects nor desires the society of his friends.
[UK]‘Bartimeus’ ‘Chops and Chips’ in Seaways 108: Are you sure your people would like you to stay?
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 738: ‘Hello, peoples,’ Fran said.
[US]W. Motley Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960) 352: ‘Us niggahs are getting to look more and more like them white folks every day. You take Walter White,’ the Negro said. ‘You passing for white when you ain’t with your people?’.
[US]C. Shafer ‘Catheads [...] and Cho-Cho Sticks’ in Abernethy Bounty of Texas (1990) 211: people, n. – parents.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 39: People The family or close friends of an inmate.
[US]P. Beatty Tuff 105: Winston’s ‘peoples’ sat around an oak table.

2. (US) one’s group, e.g. fellow players in a company of actors.

[UK]Walford Havoc of Smile 11: Youths whose ‘people’ are so sure to be met with in Piccadilly [OED].
[US]Day Book (Chicago) 27 Apr. 14/1: I am playing to millions of my people [...] the phlegmatic chinese, the stolid Ditch, the conservative English.
[US]H.L. Wilson Professor How Could You! 264: Listen, people, I found it out this afternoon.
[US]M. Puzo Godfather 87: Freddie would have gotten it today with his old man but my people had strict orders not to gun him.
[US](con. 1969) C.R. Anderson Grunts 95: Bring your people back as fast as you can – battalion says we gotta move.
[UK]G. Iles Turning Angel 383: He’s more likely to talk if we give an out with Cyrus’s people.

3. (orig. US) an admirable person, a trustworthy individual; equally applicable, in context, to criminals as to the law-abiding.

[US]Ade Artie (1963) 91: I guess Mame’s mother is the only people on the North Side that ain’t monkeyin’ with a wheel.
[US]Ersine Und. and Prison Sl. 56: people, n. A person who is reliable and trustworthy.
[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 33: All right you people.
[US](con. c.1970) G. Hasford Phantom Blooper 29: The skipper was one hell of a decent man. He was people, you son of a bitch. Captain Greenjeans was people!
[US]W.T. Vollmann Royal Family 273: She’s people; she’s real cool; she’s got spunk.

4. a type of person.

[US]J. Maitland Amer. Sl. Dict. 201: ‘He is great people’ is used in a commendatory sense of anyone.
[US]W. Mahoney ‘The Ruse in Cocaine Alley’ in Und. Detective Mar. [Internet] Mink is hard people. He wouldn’t talk.
[US]J. Thompson Swell-Looking Babe 73: I felt like you were my kind of people.
[US]I. Freeman Out of the Burning (1961) 201: Take care of Chico; he’s a cute little people.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 201: Yeah, they’ll call you boss people, but they won’t do a damn thing for you.
[US]E. Torres After Hours 209: She was my kind of people.
[US]R.P. McNamara Times Square Hustler 59: He’s alright, he’s cool people.

5. (US black/drugs) in drug uses.

(a) narcotics agents; police.

[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 158: The People . . . Narcotics agent. Another New Orleans expression.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970) 205: people [used mainly in New Orleans] The police.
[US]G. Swarthout Skeletons 172: Tell your people to go home and get some sleep. It’s all over now. Justice is done.
[US]C. Major Juba to Jive.

(b) as the people, high-level drug dealers.

[US]Smith & Gay Heroin in Perspective (1972) 105: These men are major distributors, referred to as kilo connections and, generally, as the people.
in Preble & Casey ‘Taking Care of Business’ in International Journal of the Addictions 4.
[US]D.E. Miller Bk of Jargon 343: the people: Distributors of heroin at the higher levels.
[WI]M. Montague Dread Culture 177: ‘Yuh know how di business go. Mi people waan dem papers now.’ ‘Yuh haffi give mi more time, man. Mi have some of di money, but mi still short.’.

In phrases

good people (n.)

1. (also fine people, nice...) an admirable individual; a member of one’s peer group; less common is the antithetical bad people.

[US]St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) 3 Dec. 17/7: ‘Good people’ is a universal expression applied alike to an individual and a company. It means a good fellow or a crowd of good fellows.
[US]H. Blossom Checkers 117: Just to show the girl that he was ‘good people,’ and teach her to have a proper respect for him.
[US]A.H. Lewis Wolfville 28: Her face makes you feel she’s good people though, with her big soft eyes.
[US]Eve. Star (Wash., DC) 11 Sept. 20/1: It’s a film that shows a swell slug that’s lost his wad and gets down to carrying the banner or something — if he’s good people.
[US]J. Sullivan ‘Criminal Sl.’ in Amer. Law Rev. LII (1918) 891: A ‘good fellow’ is a thief, man or woman, who pays his bills.
[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 93: This party [...] is one of the Johnson family. [...] He’s good people and I want to get him fixed up for a cell with the right folks.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Trouble Is My Business’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 183: ‘I’m nice people,’ he said. ‘But I gotta protect the guests.’.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 84/1: Good people. (Sing. & pl.) 1. Any loyal member of the underworld; a ‘respectable’ criminal. 2. A person, not of the underworld, who is friendly to or who does business with the underworld.
[US]W. Fisher Waiters 183: He’s jus’ nice people.
[US]Billie Holiday Lady Sings the Blues (1975) 92: He’s a [...] talented cat. But more than that, he’s fine people.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 8 Feb. in Proud Highway (1997) 604: She was good people in every sense of the word.
[US]H. Feldman et al. Angel Dust 77: The young teenager must at least drink beer and/or smoke marijuana as a minimal gesture to gain acceptance as ‘good people’.
[US]W. Burroughs Foreword in Black You Can’t Win (2000) 9: A Johnson pays his debts and keeps his word [...] He is what they call in show business ‘good people’.
[US]Simon & Burns Corner (1998) 326: The nurses are all darlings. The other patients are good peoples.
[US]Simon & Price ‘All Due Respect’ Wire ser. 3 ep. 2 [TV script] Tommy’s a good kid usually, an ass-pain when he wants something but mostly good people.

2. (US Und.) a leading criminal, irrespective of speciality.

[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 63: It must have ben [sic] fixed. Y-e-s-why I got it from good people.
[US]P. & T. Casey Gay-cat 60: The ‘good people’ are the pick of the pickpockets, of the second-story men, of the safe crackers [...] By good is meant that they make crime pay. They are brainy, clever, daring and dangerous criminals.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Gentlemen, the King!’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 171: He is mobbed up with some very good people in his day.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 104: good people talent Clever crooks.
[US]J. Thompson Texas by the Tail (1994) 53: Red and I are good people. Why treat us like dirt?
[US]P. Maas Serpico 170: The guy he works for is good people.
[US]E. Little Another Day in Paradise 181: He’s good people, kill a motherfucker in a minute.
my people (n.)

1. (US) one’s close friends.

[UK]D. Bolster Roll On My Twelve 107: My people wouldn’t ask where I was.
[US](con. 1948) G. Mandel Flee the Angry Strangers 106: And it’s my people [...] I’d feel I’d be doin them a real hurt.
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 128: I still have my people there.
[US]H.E. Roberts Third Ear n.p.: my people n. 1. one’s relatives. 2. one with whom the speaker has close ties.
[US]J.L. Gwaltney Drylongso 51: I have sugar. Many of my people had it and some have it now.
[US]Da Bomb [Internet] 19: My peoples: Family; friends.
[US]Teen Lingo: The Source for Youth Ministry [Internet] peoples n. friends, companions or acquaintances. ‘I got all my peoples out on 100th and Crenshaw!’.

2. (US black) one’s fellow gang members.

[UK]S. Selvon Housing Lark 153: It’s better to have one of Our People collecting that ten per cent commission than any fuggup Nordic.
[US]H.E. Roberts Third Ear n.p.: my people n. […] 3. gang or group from the same neighborhood.

3. any fellow members of a group or minority, usu. used ironically.

[US]K. Brasselle Cannibals 244: I have to goose my people.
[US]D. Claerbaut Black Jargon in White America 73: my people n. […]. 2. black people; Afro-Americans.

4. see sense 1 sense 1.

real people (n.)

(US ) one’s peers; trustworthy people; equally applicable to criminals as to the law-abiding; also as adj.

[US]Van Loan ‘His Own Stuff’ in Score by Innings (2004) 386: She said that she had side-stepped a date with a Pittsburgh millionaire because we were real people.
[US]J. Tully Bruiser 39: Thanks, Buck – you’re real people.
[US]Z.N. Hurston ‘Story in Harlem Sl.’ in Novels and Stories (1995) 1006: I know youse somebody swell to know. Youse real people.
[US]J. Mills Panic in Needle Park (1971) 66–7: I turned around to Helen and I told her, ‘Helen, I like you. You’re real people.’.
[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 169: real people generic for agreeable, easy-to-like/live-with persons.

SE in slang uses

In exclamations

some people!

a derisory or critical comment by the speaker on the opinions or more likely the activities of others; the details are unspoken but will be a condemnation of what some people are doing.

[UK]J. Sullivan ‘May the Force be with You’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] Yeah, some people!