Green’s Dictionary of Slang

collar n.

[plays on SE collar]

1. visual resemblance.

(a) [early 16C–mid-17C] the hangman’s noose.

(b) [20C+] the foam on a glass of beer.

(c) [1950s+] (drugs) in a makeshift syringe, the strip of paper wrapped around a dropper to ensure a tight fit with the needle.

2. [mid-19C–1900s; 1960s+] legitimate work; i.e. that in which one wears a SE collar (the original image may have referred to working horses).

3. (US) from collar v.

(a) [late 19C] in fig. use of sense 3b, any kind of restraint, e.g. marriage.

(b) [late 19C+] an arrest; thus give the collar, get thecollar v.

(c) [late 19C+] a police officer.

(d) [1970s+] the person who has been arrested.

In compounds

collar day (n.) [play on SE collar day, on which the monarch and senior members of the royal court wore collars of linked S’s]

[late 18C–early 19C] the day of execution.

In phrases

get one’s collar felt (v.) (also have one’s collar felt)

[1940s+] (UK Und./police) to be arrested.

in collar

[mid-19C–1900s] employed.

out of collar

1. [mid-19C–1910s] unemployed.

2. [1900s] (Aus.) disinherited.

put the collar on (v.) (also put a collar on)

[mid-19C] (US) to arrest.

soft collar (n.)

[1900s–20s] (Aus.) an easy job.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

collar and elbow (adj.) (also collar and shoulder) [orig. hobo jargon collar and shoulder style, a meal where the food is placed on the table and everyone, sitting shoulder to shoulder, grabs what he or she can from the platters. The idea of struggling for one’s share may link the phr. to collar and elbow, a style of wrestling practised in Devon and Cornwall]

[1920s–30s] (US) family style, informal, esp. of a restaurant or café.

collar and hames (n.)

[1910s] (US prison) a collar and tie.

collar and tie (n.) [her adoption of men’s clothing]

[1940s+] a masculine lesbian; also attrib.

collar work (n.) [the image of a horse pulling against its collar, usu. in context of hauling a stage-coach]

[late 19C] hard, strenuous work.

In phrases

fill one’s collar (v.)

[late 19C] (US) to perform adequately, to come up to expectations.

get in the collar (v.)

[20C+] (US) to start working, to work hard.

have a collar on (v.) [working-people rarely wore collars on an everyday basis]

[late 19C–1900s] to put on airs.

keep up to the collar (v.)

1. [mid–late 19C] to stay hard at work, or to make someone else stay hard at work.

2. [1910s–20s] to be overwhelmed by one’s work.

put to the pin of one’s collar (v.) [saddlery imagery]

[late 19C+] (Irish) to put in very great difficulties, to be stretched to the limit.