Green’s Dictionary of Slang

tale n.1

1. any form of words designed to ensnare the listener for commercial purposes, e.g. the story told by a confidence trickster to ensnare the victim.

[US]D. Maurer Big Con 155: The temporary insideman tells the mark the ‘tale.’.
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 50: tale, pitch and rort are used in criminal parlance to refer to the line of talk used by a showman or confidence trickster.

2. a womanizer’s ‘line’.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 Dec. 36/2: Then I’d start doin’ a tale to every girl in the room ’n’ givin’ ’em garden stuff. Well, my little lot ’d stand it for a while, then she’d get sulky an’ refuse to darnce.

3. (UK Und.) a specific con where someone is persuaded to pay the con-man, who is posing as a bookmaker, for a lost bet that he did not ask to be made.

[US]D. Maurer Big Con 309: The tale. A British swindle played at the race track. An Englishman pays the con man for a lost bet, even though he did not instruct the con man to make it. Cannot be played in America owing to the difference in sporting ethics.

In compounds

tale-pitcher (n.) [thus the popular nickname of the racing journalist, raconteur and bon viveur Arthur Binstead (1861–1914), ‘The Pitcher’, best known to the readers of the Sporting Times]

1. one who tells a good story, a romantic.

[UK]Binstead & Wells A Pink ’Un and a Pelican 190: Greenhorns may just as well fall into the landing-net of the racing tale-pitcher or card-sharper as be taken by the gaff of a Hobbs or a Balfour.
[UK]Sporting Times 2 June 2/1: It is during race-time, too, that Araminta, our only ‘general,’ has to interview assorted merchants, inebriates, magicians, and talepitchers.

2. a confidence trickster who ‘tells the tale’.

[UK]O.C. Malvery Soul Market 290: A few of the men — and these were the better dressed — were professional ‘tale-pitchers’ [...] went off every morning to the West End of London in search of plunder, or ‘mug-finding,’ as they called their profession.
tale-teller (n.)

(orig. Aus.) a confidence trickster; a fraudulent racecourse tipster.

[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 17 Oct. 1/2: Does this account for Sydney being over-run with thieves, tale-tellers, welshers and wires?
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 27 Feb. 1/1: The red-raw rascality practised [...] by their tale-tellers, tip-slingers and tugs.
[Aus]Smith’s Wkly (Sydney) 2 Dec. 18/1: Brum, as a tale-teller and urger, stands in a class on his own.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 33: The two ‘professions’ of which he was a past-master — a tale-teller and a jewel tracker.

In phrases

ain’t got no tale (v.)

(US black campus) to feel bad.

[US]M.H. Boulware Jive and Sl. n.p.: Ain’t got no tale ... I don’t feel good.
cop the tale (v.)

to be fooled by a confidence trickster.

[UK]Sporting Times 31 Mar. 2/1: Workers, shirkers, everyone copped the tale, / ‘It’s just as fat as sin; / E’d fall down twice an’ win.’.
on the tale

(Aus.) working as a confidence trickster.

[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 4 Sept. 1/1: Racecourse thieves, who gain their living ‘on the tale’.
pitch a tale (v.)

to tell a story.

[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 72: You’re awright if you pitch your tale wivout ’esitating.
[UK]E. Wallace Four Just Men 166: I could easily pitch a tale that would take you in.
[UK]A. Wright Rung In (1931) 271: I saw one of the reporters and pitched him a tale.
[NZ]Truth (Wellington) 22 May 7: The first damsel with a tale to pitch into S’onor’s lug was Ellen Mackenzie.
[Aus]G.H. Lawson Dict. of Aus. Words And Terms [Internet] PITCH A TALE — Tell an untruth.
[Aus]D. Niland Call Me When the Cross Turns Over (1958) 223: Why believe every biddy that comes pitching tales about a man?
tell the tale (v.) [ext. use of SE]

1. to deceive, to hoax, to cheat through verbal dexterity.

[UK]Derby Mercury 9 Jan. 8/3: So we tells him a tale and he gives Selby seven and a tanner.
[UK]N. Clifford [perf. Vesta Tilley] In the Pale Moonlight [lyrics] And they walked and talked together in the pale moonlight; / Each told the other such a fairy tale.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 3 Sept. 16/1: And I wished my mate had never told the tale! / For they called poor Bill a liar, and a ‘take-down,’ and a ‘skite,’ / And they swore they’d knock his head off without fail!
[UK]A. Binstead Mop Fair 208: No art known to moderns [...] which is netting more money for its artificers than the art of ‘telling the tale.’.
[Aus]Truth (Brisbane) 12 Apr. 9/3: Sum goes on the theevin lay:; / Sum do tell a retched tail / Tries to cadge a bean that way.
[UK]Leamington Spa Courier 20 Sept. 7/1: ‘Warty’ is [...] a past master at the art of ‘telling the tale’.
[UK]E. Jervis 25 Years in Six Prisons 17: Some of the boys are ‘on the whiz’ (pickpockets), or ‘go screwing’ (burglars) or ‘telling the tale’ (confidence trick) or ‘tweedling.’.
[US]W.A. Gape Half a Million Tramps 192: Begging, gagging, telling-the-tale or pitching the fork, it’s all the same.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 4: Permitting the insideman to show him how he can make a large amount of money dishonestly. (Telling him the tale.).
[UK]R.T. Hopkins Banker Tells All 127: The mosker relies on telling the tale and inducing the pawnbroker to believe that the goods he offers are family treasures.

2. to engage in amorous talk.

[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘A Polyglot Policeman’ Sporting Times 1 Apr. 1/4: Although his nibs has tried with all his might / To get round her, he can’t tell the tale to her.
[UK](con. 1916) F. Manning Her Privates We (1986) 113: Me brother Tom [...] used to follow ’em up, and ’ide be’ind a ’edge to ’ear ’em tellin’ the tale.
[UK]J. Curtis They Drive by Night 167: ‘What a lucky guy I am sitting in the back beside you.’ ‘Don’t you tell the tale?’ ‘Don’t worry, my love, we’ll be out of town soon and it won’t matter what the people think and I’ll show you I can do something beside tell the tale.’.

3. to tell any kind of unbelievable or pathetic story.

[UK]‘P.B. Yuill’ Hazell and the Three-card Trick (1977) 164: Think I’d tell you a tale — wiv him breathin’ hard on our backs?
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 84: That’s what these jailhouses are for, tellin them Tales.