1. to have sexual intercourse.
|Othello II i: You rise to play and go to bed to work.|
|‘The Tinker’ in Merry Songs and Ballads (1897) I 145: He cast his Budget from his back, / And frankly fell to work.|
|‘Darby o’Gallagher’ Luke Caffrey’s Gost 2: He works the fair maids like a dose of jallip.|
|‘The Reels o’ Bogie’ Merry Muses of Caledonia (1965) 154: When on my back I work like steel, / And bar the door with my left heel.|
|‘Chapter of Maids’ in Rake’s Budget in Spedding & Watt (eds) Bawdy Songbooks (2011) III 78: Your cross old maid may roll her eyes and rail at matrimony, / But she’ll in secret keep a man, who’ll work well for her money.|
|‘My Frisky Old Wife’ Icky-Wickey Songster 47: She works me twelve times every night.|
|Man of Pleasure’s Illus. Pocket-book n.p.: A tidy lot of men-tailors work here on a new principle, as the men work all the eyelet-holes, and do all the punching and pressing.|
|On The Road (1972) 124: Finally he came out with it: he wanted me to work Marylou.|
|Down These Mean Streets (1970) 170: I’d like to get workin’ with her like real fast.|
|Queens’ Vernacular 89: anal intercourse [...] work somebody.|
|Sl. U. 207: work [...] to have vigorous sex with.|
2. to do, to perform, to carry through a plan of action; usu. in combs. such as work the bulls , work the oracle etc.
|View of Society II 55: When you have stood this rig, he begins to work you upon another.|
|Swell’s Night Guide 68: One of her mots brought home a swell well blunted, and they worked the hocus dodge on him; vell, the dose vos too multa, and the swell croaked.|
|Paved with Gold 137: The stud of donkeys then exposed for hire by the ten or eleven proprietors who ‘worked’ Hampstead formed a most various and eccentric collection.|
|(con. 1840s–50s) London Labour and London Poor I 214/2: ‘Working,’ that is to say, in getting rid of what are technically termed ‘cocks.’.|
|Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 68/2: When he saw me [...] enter the apartment set apart for those who had paid, he imagined I only meant ‘working the push’ around the bell.|
|Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 14 Sept. n.p.: One or two of a ‘mob’ ‘working’ New York and Philadelphia have just been ‘copped to rights’.|
|Five Years’ Penal Servitude 254: Well, you worked that little fakement in a blooming quiet way, I’m blowed if you havn’t.|
|Tag, Rag & Co. 26: To work the ‘sours’ successfully, and so as to earn a living at it, a man must have experience.|
|Robbery Under Arms (1922) 79: Jim and me could see how Starlight had been working the thing to rights.|
|Hooligan Nights 34: I said I’d tell you ’ow we worked the biz.|
|Sun. Times (Perth) 4 Aug. 4/8: I’ve rorted in railway camps / [...] / I’ve worked sweet racing ramps.|
|Gentle Grafter (1915) 154: He couldn’t have worked a scheme to beat a little girl out of a penny slate-pencil.‘The Man Higher Up’ in|
|Sun. Times (Perth) 13 Mar. 2nd sect. 9/1: They Say [...] That an aristocratically-named bounder attempted to work the press ticket racket last week.|
|Inimitable Jeeves 220: We worked the Rosie M. Banks wheeze.|
|(con. 1900s) Behind The Green Lights 91: May worked a fast one on me.|
|Wide Boys Never Work (1938) 180: After a time Bill began working the horses.|
|Runyon on Broadway (1954) 460: The chances are Red Henry works a quick change on you.‘Social Error’ in|
|Always Leave ’Em Dying 156: Trammel told me before he died of how he lied about me — about everything. Even how he worked his resurrection.|
|Rage in Harlem (1969) 53: They’re working the lost gold-mine pitch.|
|Adolescent Boys of East London (1969) 147: I work a fiddle if ever I get the chance.|
|Secrets of Harry Bright (1986) 7: The only mansion in town had been built by a pimp who ran thirteen girls into Palm Springs during the height of the season to work the hotels.|
|(con. early 1950s) L.A. Confidential 51: ‘We are indeed’ – Loew working his courtroom voice.|
|Powder 106: Probably worked that together. Probably out there now, snorting all your drugs.|
|Layer Cake 208: They work it so James thought he’d brought off a coup de grâce.|
3. to exploit .
|View of Society II 56: You give him a shilling to buy a comb, for which he gives sixpence, so works you for another sye-buck.|
|(con. 1737–9) Rookwood (1857) 51: As you would work a moneyed client, if you got him into Chancery, Mister Attorney.|
|Young Tom Hall (1926) 200: ‘Now I’ll pin you,’ mused Hall, looking at his wife ith a sparkle in his eye that as good as said, ‘See how I’ll work him’.|
|(con. 1840s–50s) London Labour and London Poor III 198/2: After I’d worked London pretty well, I sometimes would start off a few miles out to the towns and villages.|
|Memoirs of the US Secret Service 73: The new Detectives can’t be ‘worked’ like the old ones – that’s a fact.|
|Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 13 Nov. 7/1: What are known as ‘square games’ are few and far between. The ‘skin racket’ is predominant and the ‘guys are worked for all they are worth’.|
|Bulletin (Sydney) 3 Jan. 14/2: The Yankees are, no doubt, smart in their way, but, judging from the manner they are worked by the ‘sports,’ they must be, in sporting matters, the greatest ‘softies’ under the sun.|
|Child of the Jago (1982) 150: [He] straightway left the crowd. He had ‘worked’ it as much as he judged safe.|
|Shorty McCabe 264: Every panhandler north of Madison Square knows he can work me for a beer check any time he can run me down.|
|Strictly Business (1915) 37: New Yorkers can be worked easier that a blue rose on a tidy.‘Babes in the Jungle’ in|
|Hobo 41: It includes working at odd jobs, peddling small articles, street faking, ‘putting over’ old and new forms of grafts, ‘working’ the folks at home, ‘white collar’ begging, stealing, and ‘jack rolling.’.|
|Portsmouth Eve. News 25 Aug. 4/3: St Albans and district appear to be the chief area to be ‘worked’ [by shoplifters].|
|Down and Out in Complete Works I (1986) 172: He and his mate ‘worked’ the coffee-shops and public-houses round Whitechapel.|
|Harder They Fall (1971) 299: The gamblers working the suckers right up to the opening gong.|
|On the Waterfront (1964) 25: The docks where the livin’ was easy if you just worked one or two little angles.|
|Howard Street 66: They’d been working Howard Street much too regularly.|
|In La-La Land We Trust (1999) 4: Cape had worked the crowd like a snake-oil salesman.|
|Observer 11 July 17: Watching Paul work the beach was both awful and brilliant.|
|Hooky Gear 237: Maybe Arnos workin me so as he really can be free, so as he can die holdin his own dick.|
|Frank Sinatra in a Blender [ebook] She worked that stud like a pro, pushing her plastic tits [...] in his face.|
4. to practise one’s occupation as a criminal, e.g. a thief, confidence trickster or beggar; thus working n.
|Life of Henry Simms/Alias Young Gentleman Harry 23: I determined to Work at my old Trade, and in Broad St. Giles’s [...] I stopt a Coach, which contain’d a single Gentleman, from whom I took about 17s.|
|Life’s Painter 140: We dors’d some time together upon the queer-roost, but now we come to the rum-snooze at once — how do you work now?|
|Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 279: work: To work upon any particular game, is to practise generally, that species of fraud or depredation, as, He works upon the crack, he follows housebreaking, &c. An offender having been detected in the very fact, particularly in cases of coining, colouring base-metal, &c., is emphatically said to have been grab’d at work, meaning to imply, that the proof against him being so plain, he has no ground of defence to set up.|
|Dens of London 46: ‘Harry,’ said the tar, ‘have you not been at work to-day, that you look so devilish blue?’ [...] ‘Work! Aye,’ replied Harry. ‘I went out this morning with Williams. We worked all the way to Piccadilly.’.|
|Poverty, Mendicity and Crime; Report 107: He worked in company with two men.|
|Sinks of London Laid Open 42: Working, by the bye, is the honest word used by these honest people for begging.|
|Wild Tribes of London 83: I’ve worked the streets, man an’ boy, for nigh thirty year. The poor wictims don’t know wot’s a coming, so I shall work this dodge off and on and off through the spring.|
|Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 5/2: It being market day, we concluded to give hull a ‘dressing’ but we had not ‘worked’ it long before the ‘fly-cops’ were out in quest of us.|
|Leinster Indep. 30 Sept. 4/3: ‘I was one night working with a mag’s-man,’ said the light-fingered gentleman.|
|Sydney Sl. Dict. 10/2: We went to the gaff that night and tried to work, but spied a keen-eyed cop marking, and we guyed.|
|Autobiog. of a Gipsey 414: A reg’lar ’igh-flyin’ shickster come up and told me ’s how she’d spotted me workin’ in the Strand.|
|World of Graft 18: They have ‘worked’ so long in Chicago that the city has become notorious as one of their main ‘hang-outs.’.|
|Beef, Iron and Wine 1917 169: He couldn’t work the soft spots in the open where the loot was good.‘Canada Kid’ in|
|Man’s Grim Justice 26: We dove into the subway ‘to work.’.|
|They Drive by Night 220: ‘How’s about us tying up together?’ ‘Whatchew mean? Tallying along? Going case and working the knock-off two-handed?’ ‘Garn. [...] I’m arsting you to marry me and you do no more you turn round and start talking about the crook.’.|
|Phenomena in Crime 75: Ferguson was working the boats on the big lakes in the U.S.|
|In For Life 38: We three split up after each robbery, never associating except when we were ‘working.’.|
|On the Yard (2002) 25: ‘I was with the girl and the man came in an shook me down. Held a knife on me.’ ‘That’s badger [...] Any fool with a broad can work that.’.|
|Queens’ Vernacular 112: Working the fags (robbing the clients through violence or blackmail).|
|Bulletin (Sydney) 26 Apr. 45: The Limp was lucky he wasn’t gathered because those Goulburn jacks are bad bits of furniture and we didn’t have a fix to work the place.|
|in Living Dangerously 177: No one can go to college at my age, if they’ve been ‘working’ (stealing).|
|Florida Roadkill 70: Serge worked behind them, silently stealing two briefcases and a laptop.|
|Crumple Zone 74: See if some nonce’d been up here workin’.|
|Raiders 1: Tony loved to rob and [...] he told me many stories about the things that happened while he was ‘working.’.|
|Eve. Standard 28 June 5/2: The man sat in a MacDonalds to watcn the teenagers as they ‘worked’.|
5. to trade in.
|Morn. Chron. (London) 27 Nov. 5/5: The costermongers [...] do not like dealing either in greens or turnips. They would sooner ‘work’ green peas and new potatoes.|
6. (US) to charm or enthral, esp. an audience.
|Daily Trib. (Bismarck, ND) 3 Nov. 1/5: You say I can go and I’ll work him for the money.|
|More Fables in Sl. (1960) 144: Although he was being Worked like Creamy Butter, he never Suspected.|
|‘All That Glitters’ in Polished Ebony 36: ‘Vishtar Goins wukked me for that di’min’ an’ then double-crossed me!’.|
|Tropic of Capricorn (1964) 73: She’s hot stuff and the two of us are working on her at once.|
|Underground Dict. (1972) 199: work (someone) v. Manipulate, take advantage of.|
|Source Nov. 161: I spot Bizzy Bone shaking hands and working the set . . . like a casting call.|
|(con. 1964–8) Cold Six Thousand 525: You bit fast. I thought I’d have to work you.|
7. to get or to get rid of, esp. by artifice.
|Tom Sawyer, Detective 4: You lemme alone; I reckon I know how to work her.|
|This Gutter Life 285: Bobby did a rare big business changing stolen notes. He’d give spot cash and work ’em off slow on the course.|
|Gilt Kid 45: You haven’t got the good sense to provide your own supper, let alone working me one [Ibid.] 107: I’ll even try to get him to give me more money so that I can work some to you.|
|(con. 1940s) Borstal Boy 197: He’s an IRA man [...] and he worked me some snout.|
8. of an object, to be in active use, e.g. here’s a dollar that’s not working.
|Fables in Sl. (1902) 44: He went out to the Alley and found a Tomato Can that was not working, and he waited.|
|Silk Hat Harry’s Divorce Suit 2 Dec. [synd. cartoon strip] Have you got an old bone around [...] that isn’t working. I’m starved.|
9. (US und.) to blackmail.
|Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 5 June 1/6: Ravensward was rich; he could be worked. It was plain [...] that any public connection with this murder would mean [...] public ruin.|
10. to work as a street prostitute.
|‘Hotel Sl.’ in AS XIV:3 Oct. 240/2: to work the joint To try to make a pick-up (said of a prostitute).|
|An Indiscreet Guide to Soho 65: The professional tarts [...] ‘work’ the many drinking clubs of the district.|
|Tales of the City (1984) 140: Won’t it get a little chilly, working the corner of Powell and Geary?|
|An Eng. Madam 72: They was working the streets in those days.|
|Breakfast on Pluto 76: Swinging her hips while working Piccadilly, to the tune of ‘Sugar Me!’.|
|Mr Blue 80: A friend of mine’s got a girl who wants to work.|
11. (orig. US black) to exchange sexual favours for money; thus to work as a call-girl, ‘escort’ or prostitute; thus working n.
|implied in work a door|
|High Concept 91: She’d ask if they were interested in working.|
12. (US) to place under pressure; to interrogate; to cause strong feelings.
|Campus Sl. Mar. 9: work – intentionally aggravate [...] ‘She works her grandparents by talking about her live-in boyfriends.’.|
|Campus Sl. Mar. 10: work – annoy, exhaust, or cause stress.|
|(con. 1964–8) Cold Six Thousand 28: Cops and Feds worked him all night. He named no names. [Ibid.] 80: They worked him. Two pros: Buddy Fritsch and Captain Bob Gilstrap.|
13. to deal with in some way.
|Burn, Killer, Burn! 132: Let me work this stoolin’ hop head.|
|Down These Mean Streets (1970) 5: ‘Man, you got that stuff?’ ‘Yeah. Jesus, I’m burning up like with a puta’s fever.’ ‘So work, man. Here, take the tapita.’.|
|Rat on Fire (1982) 76: He’s got the ins down there, though, which is why he’s working them.|
14. (US campus) to beat up.
15. to stimulate sexually.
|Filth 227: Have you ever eaten the worm-ridden faeces of a non-uniformed police officer while he’s working you with a vibrator?|
16. to work as a street seller.
|Corner (1998) 285: Walking away from middle school to work his uncle’s package on Lemmon Street.|
|Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.|
|Anecdota Americana I 19: There was a fire in a whore house and one of the firemen managed to bring out a bed. ‘Thank God, they saved the workbench,’ said the madam.|
|Gay Detective (2003) 103: Kate ushered Tiger into a fairly large room, whose only discernible furniture was a great, low bed. [...] the ‘Madame’ said, ‘It’s a gorgeous workbench, isn’t it? Like something out of DeMille!’.|
|CUSS 224: Work bench A bed.et al.|
see separate entry.
to steal a handkerchief.
|‘The Dog and Duck Rig’ inI (1975) 80: For fear that some gallows old scout / If you at the spell ken can hustle, / [...] Shou’d fix you in working a clout.|
1. of a pickpocket, to make one’s way through a crowd, robbing opportunistically.
|Professional Criminals of America [Internet ] When a mob of pickpockets start out to ‘work a crowd’ on a train they break into twos.|
2. to ply one’s trade to an audience, begging, preaching, entertaining etc.
|Iron Man 34: Speed, Jeff, and Mcbeil worked the crowd without appearing to do so.|
|(con. early 1950s) L.A. Confidential 39: Jack arrived on time and worked the crowd.|
|Powder 339: He’d started off as the perfect English eccentric host, working the room, always moving, smiling, introducing, enabling, laughing, and crookedly charming the room.|
to perform an action, with undertones of cunning, duplicity.
|New Sprees of London 4: ‘But how am I to gain admittance to the places you speak of?’ ‘Leave that to me, I’ll work that dodge’.|
see door n. (1)
to pursue a (usu. criminal) scheme or plan.
|‘I Was a Pickpocket’ in Men of the Und. 78: I used to work a game which well showed the natural grafting propensities of women.|
(Aus.) to carry off some form of swindle.
|Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.].|
see under point n.
(Aus.) to concoct a swindle or fraud.
|Bulletin (Sydney) 16 July 36/3: However, they don’t mind ‘working a ready’ to the detriment of their brethren in other States themselves.|
|Popular Dict. Aus. Sl.|
|Jimmy Brockett 42: Jack Harper and I had worked a ready with photographs in the bush.|
see work a crowd
(US black) to sell drugs or sex from a specific location.
|‘The Significance? In Texas capital punishment is only to be applied in cases of clear premeditation!’ on Lifeway Church [Internet] Then one weekend in 1981 when I was in Midland working a ‘spot,’ (a place you work for a week or two as a call girl) Shawn met Jerry Lynn Dean.|
of a pimp, to run his professional life by the recognized ‘rules and regulations’ of the pimping life, supposedly enshrined in an authoritative Book [Book, the n. (1)].
|Pound for Pound 235: Bark be workin by the book, man [...] the pimp book.|
to conduct business through an address book, so eliminating many of the problems (esp. police interference) that are met in street prostitution [book n. (2b)].
|Black Players 38: Working from a book means that the ho has a supply of tricks’ names, addresses, and telephone numbers written in a book, and therefore does not walk the streets in search of business. These books are gradually built up by women and come to be of value in themselves. If a girl is leaving town, for example, the pimp might sell her book to one of his colleagues for several thousand dollars.|
1. to rob in broad daylight.
|Und. and Prison Sl.|
2. to work out of one’s criminal class.
|Und. and Prison Sl.|
(Aus. prison) to do something illegal.
|Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. [Internet] Work hot. To be involved in illicit activity.|
to arrange, often by underhand or duplicitous methods.
|Clockmaker (1843) I 270: Well, as soon as he can work it, he marries the richest gal in all his flock, and then his bread is buttered on both sides.|
|Bell’s Life in Sydney 26 Feb. 1/4: Suppose before she can work it the traps should grab you.|
|(con. 1840s–50s) London Labour and London Poor I 34/2: Boys have made from 6d. to 1s. 6d. ‘bunts.’ Many of them will [...] beg old boots or shoes, if they meet with better sort of people, and so ‘work it to rights,’ as they call it among themselves.|
|Robbery Under Arms (1922) 180: The next thing was to settle how to work it when we got to the diggings.|
|‘’Arry in ’Arrygate’ (Second Letter) in Punch 15 Oct. 169/1: I’ve worked it, my pippin, I’ve worked it.|
|Tales of Mean Streets (1983) 54: He had made his lodging and breakfast and eightpence: this had determined him to stay at Hitchin, and work it for, at least, a day.|
|Psmith in the City (1993) 46: He thinks, if he has [a hobby] he might work it to keep in with him.|
|Adventures of Jimmie Dale (1918) I iv: What’s the lay? How’d you work it?|
|Debits and Credits (1926) 174: The only thing ’e stuck to was to get back to ’is old crowd. Gawd knows ’ow ’e worked it, but ’e did.‘The Janeites’ in|
|You’re in the Racket, Too 60: Work it so as he won’t be back here until the old girl’s safe and sound in kip.|
|(con. 1944) Naked and Dead 356: Just let me get in [i.e. to a hospital], and I’ll work it.|
|One Lonely Night 66: He worked it so that he’d give his blessing as long as the guy enlisted.|
|Felony Tank (1962) 47: They work it pretty good.|
|Thief 19: To hear Jimmy tell it he’d really kept his cool and worked it like a pro.|
|London Fields 455: You’re going to be gone from nine to twelve, right? I can’t imagine how you’re going to work it.|
|Campus Sl. Dec. 7: work it – present a good, well put together appearance: ‘Jill was working it in her red dress at the dance.’.|
|Layer Cake 208: They work it so James thought he’d brought off a coup de grâce.|
(US Und.) to take on a less prestigious criminal job than usual.
|Und. and Prison Sl.|
1. to hang; to execute.
|Barnaby Rudge (2003) 525: The gentleman, he said, had avowed in so many words that he was ready for working off; such being the case, he considered it their duty [...] to work him off.|
|Bulletin (Sydney) 30 May 7/1: Several times he came before the Bench to complain that his life was in danger – in danger from gentlemen whose relatives he had ‘worked off’ in the course of his duties.|
|Bulletin (Sydney) 16 Aug. 20/3: No, no, there are a dozen ways / Of passing in the checks: [...] / In time some scientific plan / Humanity will bless, / For working-off our fellow-man / With wonderful success.|
|Truth (Sydney) 7 Jan. 5/3: The Melbourne hangman [...] positively objected to hang a woman, and rather than ‘work off’ Frances Knorr he cut his own throat.|
2. (UK Und.) to pass a forged bank note or other counterfeit object into general circulation; thus worker-off n.
|Professional Thieves and Detectives 34: I frequently ‘work off’ the stuff in paying my men Saturday nights, when travelling through the country.|
|Tales of the Old Regime 8: Josephs and his friend and ‘worker-off.’ [Ibid.] 13: Mr. Pounce lowered his voice two tones, ‘Flash ’uns. You print, I’ll work off.’.|
|Alliance Herald (NE) 19 Aug. 4/3: The first gold brick ever sold was by a gang of Sidney pirates, who worked it off on a Hastings, Neb. banker.|
(US prison) to beat up.
|Third Degree (1931) 3: ‘Shellacking,’ ‘massaging,’ ‘breaking the news,’ ‘working on the ---,’ ‘giving him the works’ and numerous other phrases are employed by the police, throughout America and the world.|
|Monkey On My Back (1954) 78: There’s a war between the two mobs. The other gang comes around here looking for a Hornet to work on.|
|On the Yard (2002) 250: I want him to know he’s been worked on. You don’t have to kill him.|
to scheme, to plot, to use one’s brains to avoid work.
|Aussie (France) VIII Oct. 14/1: Why, if a pot worked his nut properly he could beat the Jacks at their own game, and take time off from the front line whenever he felt that another birthday had come round.|
|Aussie (France) XII Mar. 5/2: He went over to Blighty on leave, and when it was finished he was able to work his nut at Headquarters and get his name included in a draft for Aussie.|
(US) to get on with something, to do or perform.
|Amboy Dukes 47: How about [...] giving me a chance to work my points.|
|DAUL 239/2: Work one’s points. To calculate one’s moves well; to establish a position of confidence with the intention of betraying it ultimately; to swindle.et al.|
(US Und.) to work as a pickpocket by oneself.
|Hop-Heads 76: ‘What’s Penny doing now?’ he asked. ‘Working on “shorts”,’ I replied. ‘Working on shorts’ is pickpocket slang for picking pockets alone.|
(UK Und.) to run the ‘three-card trick’.
|Soul Market 290: Cheating at cards, as is done with the three card trick, is to ‘work the boards.’.|
|Hazell and the Three-card Trick (1977) 182: That’s how he cottoned on to me, wunnit? Saw me workin’ the boards in Oxford Street.|
(Aus./UK Und.) to pass counterfeit crown coins.
|Dict. of the Flash or Cant Lang. 168: Schofel pitchers work the bulls and gypsies make and plant the gammy-lowr swags.|
|Vulgar Tongue 39: [as cit. 1839].|
|glossary in Occurence Book of York River Lockup in (1999) 37: I last week worked the bull. I have lost my joiner. Mum now.|
|Sydney Sl. Dict. 9/1: Schofel pitchers are working the bulls now. Coiners are passing off bad crown pieces now.|
(US Und.) to rob drunks who have passed out in the subway.
|DAUL 239/2: Work the hole. To pick pockets in the subways.et al.|
|Junkie (1966) 41: [He] worked the hole (rolling drunks on subways and in cars).|
|(con. 1940s–60s) Eve. Sun Turned Crimson (1998) 152: They informed me they were making the hole together as partners.‘Bill Burroughs’ in|
(UK Und.) to tour houses, ostensibly to buy or sell goods, but spec. to trick or bully people into selling heirlooms, antiques etc. for minimal prices.
|(con. 1950s–60s) in Little Legs 10: Working the knocker, totting, or doing the tweedle and the twirl.|
(UK tramp) to beg as an impoverished clergyman or upperclass person.
|Secrets of Tramp Life Revealed 6: This man wore a clerical suit, with black hat [...] Taking off his boots and standing in his stocking feet, he wrote on one of the boots, ‘Out of work,’ and on the other, ‘Hard up’ [...] I accosted him thus – ‘I suppose that is what you call working the “Noble”?’ ‘Aye,’ he said.|
1. to raise money by fraud or deceit.
|Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 131: Oracle ― (working the) Men who understand how to over-reach others, or to manage money concerns marvellously, are said to ‘work the oracle well.’.|
|Yokel’s Preceptor 23: Female Hell, Seamore-place [...] We now have a female pandemonium as well regulated in all details of finesse and trick as could be designed by the most expert tactitians of the other sex. Two ladies, we believe, of the name of the Miss Blackwells, contrive to work the oracle with admirable adroitness and skill.|
|All the Year Round 10 Oct. 168: He has a double, who [...] worked the oracle for him [F&H].|
|Sharping London 35: Oracle, Working the Oracle, obtaining by artifice.|
2. to raise money.
|Real Life in London II 397–8: I am at a loss to know by what means he is now working the oracle for a subsistence.|
|Bulletin (Sydney) 28 Mar. 14/1: The Melbournians appear to work the oracle properly, and bring off their weekly glove fight without fuss or bother.|
|(?)‘An Oversight of Steelman’s’ in Roderick (1972) 220: I’ll manage to work the oracle before this night is out.|
3. (US Und.) to plan a robbery.
|Vulgar Tongue 24: ‘Working the oracle’; to plan a robbery, or any kind of deceit.|
4. to plan, to manoeuvre, to succeed through cunning.
|Sixteen-String Jack 175: He mistakes me for the heir apparent. What a jackass! quiet! — see me work the oracle.|
|Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 117: Work the Oracle to succeed by manœuvring, to concert a wily plan, to victimize.|
|(con. 1840s–50s) London Labour and London Poor I 418/1: I worked the oracle – they were not up to it.|
|Five Years’ Penal Servitude 120: The ‘pals’ or friends of a man in trouble soon [...] set about ‘working the oracle’ with some warder to ‘sling him some bacca.’.|
|N.Z. Observer (Auckland) 25 Sept. 14/2: Louise Pomeroy [...] is an American actress of no particular repute. She will probably be as big a ‘frost’ as jane Coombes unless Alf. Hayman finds some way of working the oracle.|
|Leaves from a Prison Diary I 33: The ‘long firm’ [...] is so well known to the reading public that any minute description of how the ‘oracle is worked’ is unneccessary.|
|Robbery Under Arms (1922) 82: They’ve fetched a rattling price, through Starlight’s working the oracle with those swells.|
|Truth (Sydney) 15 Apr. 4/8: Suppose we get a thumping fine £50,000 court-house [...] erected here, and you worked the oracle so that a partticular contractor got the job for a ‘large consideration’.|
|Such is Life 218: Working the oracle?|
|Songs of a Sentimental Bloke 21: O’ course we worked the oricle; you bet!‘The Intro’ in|
|Capricornia (1939) 365: Yeah Norm — I think I can work the horrickle for you all right.|
|Hazell and the Three-card Trick (1977) 146: ‘What you want from me’ [...] ‘A confession. How you worked the oracle with Jennifer Carmichael.’.|
5. to perform a robbery.
|Dundee Courier 13 Nov. 5/6: The fancy warehouse [...] also came in for a share of the cracksmen’s attention, but there they could not work the oracle to their satisfaction, and the crib was drawn blank.|
6. (Aus.) to perform a given action.
|Dead Bird (Sydney) 12 Apr. 4/1: He undertook to teach the sisters how to work the oracle with their feet [i.e. to roller-skate].|
7. (Aus.) to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
|Aussie (France) 4 Apr. 10/1: ’Corse one shrap. shell on it’s lonesum won’t do much damage any more’n one tuppence-a’pny shrap. will make an Aussie merry on French beer. Yer must ’ave duzzens an’ duzzens of ’m to work the orricle.|
1. (Aus. Und.) to hang around railway stations looking for a chance to pick pockets or work a confidence trick.
|Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] 131: ‘Working the rattler’ – hanging about railway stations, baggage-snatching, pocket picking or looking for victims on whom to work a confidence game.|
|Outlook 86 28/1: The detectives assigned to a locality permit the local pickpockets, for instance, to operate, or ‘work the rattlers,’ with impunity [...] and then " shake them down " for a percentage .|
2. (US Und.) to rob freight trains or the passengers on subway trains.
|Seventeen Years in the Und. 69: Looking about for easy graft, we decided ‘working the rattlers’ looked promising. ‘Working the rattler’ is a term [...] to denote the robbing of freight trains.|
|(con. 1900s) Man’s Grim Justice 25: We’ll work the subway rattlers [...] and we’ll make all kinds of dough.|
(US tramp) to beg on the streets; also stemwinder n., a tramp who goes begging.
|Adventures of a Scholar Tramp 68: I’m workin’ the stem myself.|
|Bound for Glory (1969) 316: We ain’t panhandlers, ner stem-winders.|
1. (also ride the tubs) to commit crimes, usu. card-sharping, on board transatlantic liners; thus tub worker n., a confidence trickster who focusses on the passengers of such boats [tub n.1 (1)].
|Girl from Rector’s 68: In this case, ‘tub worker’ did not mean bending over the week’s wash in the back of a Chinese laundry. This group of tourists worked the tubs. The tubs were ocean liners.|
|It’s a Racket! 236: ride the tubs — Travel on ocean liners to fleece passengers by gambling, especially at cards.|
|Smith’s Wkly (Sydney) 11 Nov. 15/1: To fellow confidence men and the police he is known as ‘the Mark Foy,’ rhyming slang for ‘the boy’; because when he first began to ‘work the tubs’ (card-sharp on passenger liners) he was remark ably youthful in appearance.|
|Limbo Tower 271: I used to work the tubs, Abdullah. I've played my way around the world. Poker can be beautiful.|
|DAUL 227/2: Tub-worker. A card-sharper who operates on trans-oceanic liners.et al.|
2. to pickpocket on buses or at bus-stops [tub n.1 (9)].
|Triumphs of Detection iv 52: Snatches of their conversation...told that they were on their way to ‘work the tubs’ — in other words, to pick pockets at omnibus stopping-places .|
|Sharpe of the Flying Squad 245: Old ‘X,’ another pickpocket, was working the ‘tubs’ outside the Strand Corner House.|
(US) to engage in political chicanery.
|Lantern (N.O.) 6 Oct. 4: In working wires and fixing things / I thought that I was great, / I used to know just what to do, / To straighten out a candidate.|
to act as an informant.
|(con. 1900–30) East End Und. 285: ‘Working with the bogies’ – Grassing.in Samuel|
(Aus.) a general excl. of dismissal or contempt.
|Bulletin (Sydney) 12 Dec. 27: Slum Repartee. / Ginger: ‘Why don’t youse cum and see us sumtimes?’ / Splinter: ‘Garn! Chase yerselves! Git work! Why, if we lives as close to youse as youse do ter us, wee’d corl twice a day.’.|
|Jimmy Brockett 98: ‘Get worked!’ I yelled after him.|
SE in slang uses
(Aus.) a phr. said of someone who is totally lazy.
|Outcasts of Foolgarah (1975) 85: The affluent society [has] the principle of he that cannot work neither shall he eat (except Silver Tails who wouldn’t work in an iron lung).|
|Real Thing 54: Fraud, uttering, conspiracy [...] That’d be Fred all right. Wouldn’t work in an iron lung.|
|Sun-Herald (Sydney) 5 May [Internet] He supports a Royal Family that wouldn’t work in an iron lung [...] [The Queen Mother] lived for more than a century without ever cooking a meal, or making a cup of tea, or drawing a curtain, or cleaning up after herself.|
see also under relevant n.
1. to ally oneself to both sides in a dispute or division, to behave in an opportunistic manner.
|Rock Is. Argus (IL) 16 Jan. 6/3: ‘Is it not ridiculous for protectionists to attempt to work both sides of the street at the same time?’.|
|Arizona Silver belt (Globe City, AZ) 14 May 1/7: Republicans hope to work both sides of the street in the coming campaign.|
|Philistine (Aurora, NY) XXXVII–VIII 15: You can’t work both ends against the middle and win out.|
|Labor Advocate (Cincinnati, OH) 4 Nov. 4/1: ‘You’ll find it hard to work both sides of the street, Mr Hughes’.|
|Lake Co. Times (Hammond, IN) 4 Aug. 4/2: Governor Cox is a foxy gentleman [...] much given to the habit of trying to work both sides of the political street.|
|Nightmare Town (2001) 48: With these lads who play both sides of the game, it’s always a question of which side they’re playing when you think they’re playing yours.‘House Dick’ in|
|Plunder (2005) 241: We’ll work both sides of the street.|
|(con. 1919) Schnozzola 39: You can’t play both ends in the middle.|
|Big Gold Dream 149: All right, just don’t try to play both sides of the street.|
|(con. 1946) Big Blowdown (1999) 70: A D.C. beat cop, workin’ the biggest gambling joint in the country. A little dangerous, playing both sides of the street like that.|
|New Land, New Lives 48: She was the boss and she knew how to work both ends against the middle.|
|Big Ask 4: Works both sides of the street. A head-kicker for the union who does freelance favours for Bob Stuhl.|
2. (also play both sides (of the fence), shop both sides of the street, walk both sides of the street) to be a bisexual.
|Lavender Lex. n.p.: ac-dc:– Ambisexual; One who engages in sexual relations with the same or the opposite sex. (Also Switch-hitter; Walks both sides of the street; Confused).|
|Guild Dict. Homosexual Terms 36: play both sides (v.): To participate in sexual relationships with both sexes, perhaps have a family and give the appearance of a completely heterosexual life while on the side enjoying homosexual experiences.|
|Queens’ Vernacular 32: to be bisexual [...] play both sides of the fence.|
|Wizard of La-La Land (1999) 209: ‘He liked men?’ Gambler shrugged. ‘He was like me.’ ‘Worked both sides of the street?’.|
|deviantart.com 5 Aug. [Internet] It’s true that it’s almost fashionable for younger people to be gay/lesbian/bisexual, and [...] ‘if you shop on both sides of the street you are more likely to find a bargain’ .|
|faceparty.com [Internet] i havnt decided which side im batting for yet, but i reckon if you shop on both sides of the street you get the best bargains!|
3. (US) to work exceptionally hard.
|Pimp’s Rap 58: I was slamming on both sides of the street.|
(Aus.) to be unemployed and walking the streets in search of a job.
|Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] STREET, WALKER AND CO.: A man out of work says he is working for ‘Street, W, and Co.’ when he is walking about looking for a job.|
|Popular Dict. Aus. Sl.|
|I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 240/1: street, walker & co. – a person who is hunting a job is working for Street, Walker & Co.|
see work oneself off
(S.Afr.) to work very hard.
|End of the Road 19: Eight hours at a stretch in the horrible noise, working like a Kaffir all the time.|
|Three Men Die 23: ‘I have to work like a Kaffir.’ ‘You know I don’t want you to. I keep on telling you to get a servant.’.|
|Universe 4 29: Unless I work like a kaffir he harangues me. It’s simply not comfortable.|
|Stone Flower 92: I worked like a kaffir — a black man. I went round the diggings with a sack on my back selling things. [Ibid.] 120: He recalled Mr. Levinson’s phrase in the coach: working like a kaffir.|
(orig. US) to work very hard.
|DA].Recollections of a Southern Matron (1838) 189: I have toiled night and day, I’ve worked like a nigger, and more than a nigger [|
|Little Ragamuffin 335: Working like a nigger for eighteenpence a week.|
|First Fam’lies in the Sierras 145: He worked like a Chinaman.|
|Dagonet Ballads 77: I’m pretty well off, Mister, I am; but I’ve worked like a black all my days.|
|Robbery Under Arms (1922) 203: Then they got a wages-man to help them, and all four used to work like niggers.|
|‘’Arry on the Elections’ in Punch 27 July 39/1: I’ve worked like a nig, and no error.|
|Checkers 127: I ’ve worked like a nigger airnin’ ’em money fer cloes.|
|Lighter Side of School Life 63: They will be so bored that they will work like niggers merely to pass the time.|
|Poor Fool 176: She’s [a machinegun] working like a nigger full of turpentine tonight.|
|Man Called Jones (1949) 77: We both worked like niggers, and we showed a profit right from the start.|
|letter 29 Oct. in Leader (2000) 546: Am actually working like what used to be called a nigger.|
|Thief 312: We work like five niggers getting that damn safe out of the basement.|
|in Norman (1921) 126: It’s we who are working ‘like a nigger’ and that lazy monkey is doing bugger all.|
to work extremely hard.
|Sel. Letters (1981) 132: I’ve been working my ass off.letter 9 Nov. in Baker|
|Low Company 161: I been working my pants off behind the counter all day.|
|[||Fellow Countrymen (1937) 430: Well, my can was worked too. Out every night].‘A Sunday in April’ in|
|(con. 1944) Naked and Dead 201: You work your ass off, you want something for it.|
|Lonesome Monsters (1963) 133: If we were on a heavy job [...] I’d be working my ass off.‘Day of the Alligator’ in Algren|
|Rage in Harlem (1969) 18: If I had met that man, he would still be here, chained to the floor, working his ass off every day.|
|Jones Men 93: She was at home working her ass off.|
|Outside In I ii: Made more in a night than you fucken chicks could workin’ your arses off in a week.|
|Tourist Season (1987) 252: Out in the game room working her fanny off.|
|Alice in La-La Land (1999) 119: You work your ass off to make it good for your wife and kids — what else did a man work his ass off for?|
|Keepers of Truth 222: Yes, the man works his ass off.|
|Turning (2005) 11: For five years I worked my arse off.‘Big World’ in|
|Life 175: More than your dad makes in a year, schlepping and working his fucking arse off.|
|Frank Sinatra in a Blender [ebook] I asked him if he missed it. ‘What? Workin’ my ass off for no money?’.|
|Good Girl Stripped Bare 146: Women work their arses off for employers who sideline or sack them when they get too old/fat/tired.|
to work extremely hard.
|Tropic of Capricorn (1964) 65: Working my balls off and not even a clean shirt to wear.|
|Goodbye to The Hill (1966) 74: Even the band, who were working their nuts off, looked happy.|
|CUSS 224: Work your tits off Work (study) hard and concentratedly.et al.|
|Among Thieves 101: He’d spent four weeks trying, working his balls off [...] and he was sick of it.|
|Come Monday Morning 243: Christ he’d worked his balls off here in these fields.|
|Spike Island (1981) 496: One hundred and twenty-four jobs down the drain, and I’ve worked me bollocks off! For what?|
|Gallows View (2002) 207: Mark my word, mate, they’ll be working their balls off.|
|Birthday 180: He worked his bollocks off all his life.|
|Urban Grimshaw 202: They work their balls off to make their bosses rich.|
(orig. US) to work very hard; also used with other verbs.
|Down These Mean Streets (1970) 126: Down South, if one ain’t real careful, he can grow up smilin’ his ass off and showin’ pearly whites till his gums catch pneumonia or workin’ his behind off fo’ nothin’.|
|Life at the Bottom 193: You worked your butt off.|
|Christine 2: He had to battle his butt off to get that. [Ibid.] 268: I’m working my buns off down in the torture chamber.|
|Clueless [film script] Look, we’ve been working our butts off on this case!|
|Observer Mag. 5 Dec. 17: I’m acting my butt off creating a convincing grandpop.|
|Guardian G2 18 Jan. 6: They work their butts off!|
|Life 53: We worked our butts off.|
|5000 Adult Sex Words and Phrases.|
|Queens’ Vernacular 115: to masturbate [...] work it off (late ’50s).|
(orig. US) to work very hard; also used with other verbs.
|Iron Man 101: Get down to the training camp and work your tail off.|
|(con. 1920s) Studs Lonigan (1936) 533: This idea of sweating your tail off with work [...] is the undiluted crap. [Ibid.] 538: I’d think of you boys, sweating your tails off in offices.Judgement Day in|
|Bound for Glory (1969) 249: Worked my tail off ’round this here town.|
|Cannibals 388: I’ve been working my tail off.|
|Of Minnie the Moocher and Me 143: We played our tails off that night.|
|Dolores Claiborne 15: I worked my tail off that summer.|
see separate entries.
(US) to freelance; to work independently of a specific organization.
|Sweet La-La Land (1999) 5: They were a loving couple, L.A. and he, she working out of her purse, he working out of his hat.|
see separate entry.
to make another person work hard.
|Battle Cry (1964) 292: We’re going to work your ass till it drags.|
|World of Jimmy Breslin (1968) 136: The troops are college students who came over for the summer. I worked their asses off.|
|San Diego Sailor 10: They worked the balls off us.|
|Of Minnie the Moocher and Me 58: They worked my ass off.|
|Friday’s Feast 91: I was on watch most of the night, and they worked my ass off yesterday.|
|Las Vegas Illusion 138: They worked my ass off. Took it home with them, too.|
|From Playing Field to Battlefield 119: They worked my ass off, but it was great training and I really loved it.|
1. to annoy, to irritate.
|Campus Sl. Apr. 9: work one’s nerves – annoy.|
|Diary 4 July at Medschooldiary.com [Internet] My family has been getting on my nerves lately because they have been asking me about the details of the move; when I’ll be gone/back, etc. That itself doesn’t work my nerves, it’s the fact that when I tell them, it’s a problem with their schedules, and then they’re upset with me for not being more considerate to their timetables.|
|‘Working My Nerves’ (poem) on Jazz in the Middle Poetry Café on SFJazz.org [Internet] There are two women who work my nerves / There are two annoying women who work my nerves / When I get in trouble they say it’s something I deserve.|
2. to exert emotional pressure upon someone.
to burst, prob. insincerely, into tears.
|[||‘Bound ’Prentice to a Waterman’ in Laughing Songster 122: What sets my eye pumps a-going].|
|Sl. and Its Analogues VII 90/2: To work the tear-pump [...] To weep.|
(US) of a detective, to follow a suspect.
|Great Metropolis: a Mirror of N.Y. (1975) 57–8: Their regular pay varies from three to eight dollars a day for ‘piping,’ ‘shadowing,’ ‘working-up,’ etc.|
|N.Y. Times 13 May 2/3–4: These men [honest detectives] are never ‘let in’ [by the corrupt detectives] when there is a prospect of a good ‘rake.’ They are, however, assigned to ‘work up’ the most trivial cases.|