Green’s Dictionary of Slang

rattle n.

1. in senses of speech.

(a) the tongue, the voice; thus noise.

[UK]Hakewell Apology n.p.: All this ado about the golden age, is but an empty rattle and frivolous conceit [F&H].
[UK]J. Wilson Cheats V v: He has got a rattle as big as a drum.
[UK]Humours of a Coffee-House 2 July 9: Mr Harlem is not here with his Nonsensical Rattle to interrupt us.
[UK]Swift letter lx 24 Feb. in Journal to Stella (1901) 513: I chid the servants, and made a rattle.
[UK]Mme D’Arblay Diary (1891) 1 271: The careless rattle of Captain Bouchier, which paid no regard to the daintiness of Miss Weston, made her [...] laugh.
[UK]Egan Bk of Sports 154: B— st you, if you don’t hold your rattle.
[UK]Thackeray Vanity Fair III 128: The boy’s dashing manners, and off-hand rattle about books.
[UK]L.T.C. Rolt Sleep No More (1994) 92: ‘’Old tha rattle.’ he said, giving the last speaker a queer look.
[UK]A. Sillitoe Birthday 90: I’ll put my boot in your big mouth if you don’t shut your rattle.

(b) a voluble talker.

[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Bashful Man I iii: What a rattle you are, Frank!
[UK]Cythera’s Hymnal 48: When taken down to dinner by some brisk rattle, / Who of music, novels and plays will prattlke.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 June 6/4: There is just as much Jew in the one as there is jewellery about the other, but they are both agreeable [?]attles.
[UK]Bird o’ Freedom 8 Jan. 5/4: She is a rattle, but an undoubtably agreeable rattle, and she had kept her visitor amused, without a check of ennui or a call for a lead, during a fifteen minutes’ burst of small talk.

(c) (UK Und.) chatter from a confidence trickster used to distract a victim.

[US]Cincinnati Enquirer (OH) 24 Dec. 12/2: ‘Give him the “rattle” with your mouth all the time you’re working him’.

(d) (Aus./S. Afr. Und.) a dispute, a quarrel.

[SA]L.F. Freed Crime in S. Afr. 75: They employed an argot which was peculiarly their own [...] ‘a rattle’ meant a fight.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Real Thing 50: Take Les over to the car [...] I’ll sort this rattle out.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Mystery Bay Blues 2: While all this rattle was going on Les had the money he had stolen washed quicker than a cup and saucer.

(e) (US prison) petty grievances.

[US]M. Braly False Starts 195: He was a total prick, who would beef you for an overdue library book, that was fair enough, we knew him by his rattles and behaved accordingly.

(f) (Aus.) publicity.

[Aus]R.G. Barrett White Shoes 10: I’ve got Crystal promoting her new single [...] I’m doing the whole rattle on the Gold Coast.

(g) (Aus.) some form of (energetic) activity.

[Aus]R.G. Barrett Mud Crab Boogie (2013) [ebook] All I have to do now is get the tiler back when this rattle with Nizegy’s all over.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Leaving Bondi (2013) [ebook] While allthis rattle was going on, another scene of organised confusion was being enacted next to the children’s play station.

2. a dicebox.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: Rattle. a Dice Box.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd, 3rd edn).
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.

3. a coach.

[UK] ‘Flash Lang.’ in Confessions of Thomas Mount 19: A coach, a rattle.
[UK]H. Lemoine ‘Education’ in Attic Misc. 117: While in a rattle sit two blowens flash, / Salt tears fast streaming from each bungy eye.
[UK]Jack Randall’s Diary 3: Tom Trot’s bran new Rattle, From Tothill Fields came trotting down.
[UK] ‘Sonnets for the Fancy’ in Egan Boxiana III 622: [as 1791].

4. in pl. uses [abbr. SE death-rattle].

(a) the croup.

[US]J. Hempstead Diary 434: A Child [...] died of the Rattles or Throat Destemper [DA].
[US]W. Pettigrew Letters 26 Nov. [ms] He was then taken very bad with the rattels [DA].

(b) nerves, anxiety, esp. as case of (the) rattles.

[US]W.T. Porter Big Bear of Arkansas (1847) 121: They jist kept Chunkey from dyin’, as he was so dry he had the rattles.
[US]World (N.Y.) 2 Sept. 6/6: The muff and the subsequent ‘case of rattles’ which the young player had, caused the loss for New York.
[US]E.W. Townsend Chimmie Fadden 70: I nearly got de rattles once, and was going t’ make de grand sneak.
[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ You Can Search Me 12: It isn’t a case of the rattles with me.

5. money, cash; thus have a bit of rattle v., to be well-off.

[US]J.R. Lowell Biglow Papers (1880) 80: Ez long’z the people get their rattle, / Wut is there fer ’m to grout about?
[UK](con. 1916) F. Manning Her Privates We (1986) 103: I should say the old girl ’ad quite a bit o’ rattle to ’er.

6. spirit, ebullience.

[UK] ‘’Arry in Parry’ in Punch 15 Nov. 217/2: I put on the rattle to rights in the style that’s so taking shay noo.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Harry’’ in Punch 24 Aug. 93/2: But there’s one thing [...] you carn’t borrer, and that’s my rattle and go.

7. an opportunity, a chance [play on sense 2].

[US]D. Runyon ‘Big Shoulders’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 584: They are the only propositions that give you a dead-square rattle.
[US]D. Runyon Runyon à la Carte 72: I figure that with any kind of a square rattle I will have a better chance of nailing him than he has of nailing me.

8. an act of sexual intercourse [note the double entendre in Burns c.1800: ‘But it’s in among the blankets that I like best, / To get a jolly rattle at the cuckoo’s nest’].

[[UK] ‘The Court of Equity’ in Burns Merry Muses of Caledonia (1965) 212: An’ gied her canister a rattle].
P. O’Hara Red Sailor 12: I trunked her in the doorway [...] Not a bad rattle either, mate.
[US]Trimble 5000 Adult Sex Words and Phrases.
[Ire]P. Howard Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightdress 110: He knows that I gave Jessica an old rattle.

9. (UK drugs) withdrawal from narcotics addiction [the aches and pains that rattle the body].

[UK]Observer 25 Apr. 11/2: Last time I came in [...] I had a straight rattle [cold turkey] and I got really depressed. [...] Coming off heroin is just too hard.

In compounds

rattle-box (n.)

1. a factory.

[Aus]Northern Star 7 Feb. 13/5: The man who rushes, maddened with toil, and addled with noise, from the ‘rattle-box’ to the gin palace.
[Aus]Northern Star 10 Nov. 1/1: It was so in the manufacturing districts, when every ‘rattle-box’ became a charnel house, parishes were depopulated [etc.].

2. (Irish) the male genitals.

[Ire]P. Boyle At Night All Cats Are Grey 69: What’s this? You’re minus your rattley box, my good man.

3. see rattle-head n.

In phrases

what the rattle

(US) used as an emphatic queryl.

[US]R. Tyler Contrast V ii: What the rattle ails you? Is the old one in you?