Green’s Dictionary of Slang

clay n.

a clay pipe.

[UK]Reading Mercury 24 Sept. 4/1: Ode on a Pipe of Tobacco [...] Then let me smoke in health and peace / [...] /Then calmly, when the fates shall please, / Lay down my clay.
[UK]‘Peter Pindar’ ‘Ode To the Livery of London’ Works (1801) V 48: Master Pipemaker, don’t be a prig, And let that clay of yours be quite so stiff.
[UK]‘Swished for a Week’ in Rake’s Budget in Spedding & Watt (eds) Bawdy Songbooks (2011) III 72: [I] own’d it was a happy release, / To blow my clay and take a drop.
[UK]W.J. Neale Paul Periwinkle 72: I think a ‘bird’s-eye’ view may be best of such a long clay.
[UK]C.S. Calverley ‘Ode to Tobacco’ Works (1901) 29: Jones – (who, I’m glad to say, / Asked leave of Mrs. J.) – Daily absorbs a clay / After his labours.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 123/2: Eight or ten were there, each with their ‘clay in their duke,’ and two or three flagons before them.
[UK]Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday 10 May14/2: ‘Gi’ ’im a chance,’ said a gentleman from behind a long clay.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 24 Jan. 7/1: The fair typo., however, does not let her terrible genealogy lift her out of her boots, but she roosts in front of her case 12 hours a day, and, when her toil is done, fills herself up to the ears in nectar and sucks at a black clay, after the fashion of the gay caravan to which she now belongs.
[UK]F.W. Carew Autobiog. of a Gipsey 159: Taking with me my whole stock of dirty, well-beloved clays.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 30 Sept. 1/4: And prosy dreams come drooping, / In the smoke from my old clay.
[Aus]G. Seagram Bushman All 202: They both laughed and lit their short clays for a farewell smoke.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

clay-assed (adj.)

(US) stupid, peasant-like.

[US]‘Red’ Rudensky Gonif 50: They had so many damn clay-assed, two-bit chippies in Atlanta, the screws actually seemed to welcome a con with a reputation.
clay-brained (adj.) (also clay-pated)

stupid; thus clay-brains, a fool.

[UK]Shakespeare Henry IV Pt 1 II iv: Why thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool.
[UK]S. Marmion Soddered Citizen II iv: Those earthy, Dull, Clay-pated fellowes.
[US]Boon’s Lick Times (Fayette, MO) 18 Mar. 1/1: You ought to be ashamed of yourself [...] you jealous, addlepated claybrains.
[US]C. Hiaasen Stormy Weather 307: Wild guess says you’re named after that clay-brained Georgia bigot [i.e. Governor Lester Maddox].
[US]Da Bomb [Internet] 7: Clay-brained: Stupid.
clay-eater (n.) [the literal eating of clay by such people in order to supplement their otherwise meagre diet]

(US) a poor white, esp. a native of North or South Carolina or Georgia; thus clay-eating adj.

[US]W.G. Simms Kinsmen 57: He was a little, dried up, withered atomy,—a jaundiced ‘sand-lapper’ or ‘clay-eater’ from the Wassamasaw country .
[US]W.T. Thompson Chronicles of Pineville 41: Then, too, might be seen the torpid clay-eater, his bloated, watery countenance illuminated by the [...] rum.
[US]Ladies’ Repository (N.Y.) VII July 402: The clay is very hard when burnt, and is the same as the ‘clay-eaters’ use.
[US]in Overland Monthly (CA) May 420: Many a lettre de Jerusalem was dispatched by the Tar-heels, the Goobers, the Clay-eaters, from Point Lookout.
[US]in Overland Monthly (CA) July 51: That degenerate and fortunately small class called ‘clay-eaters’.
[US]W. Pittenger Great Locomotive Chase 74: The terms ‘sand-hiller,’ ‘clay-eater,’ or ‘poor white trash,’ conveyed a terrible reproach, for even the negroes looked down on them.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘The Fool-Killer’ in Voice of the City (1915) 167: Why can’t you go back South and kill Congressmen and clay-eaters and let us alone?
[US]A. Baer Two & Three 10 Jan. [synd. col.] Everybody’s stuck in a bid for the Demspey-Carpentier fight except the clay-eaters of Arkansaw.
[US]A.C. Inman 29 Feb. diary in Aaron (1985) 355: We see lazy and indifferent slaves, proud and shiftless clay-eating ‘white trash’.
[US] ‘Citadel Gloss.’ in AS XIV:1 Feb. 26/1: clay-eater, n. A native of the low country of South Carolina or Georgia.
[US]Botkin A Treasury of Amer. Folklore 322: Pineywoods tackies, hill-billies, dirt-eaters, clay-eaters.
[US]A. Green in Journal of Amer. Folklore [Internet] At one time or another Southern local colorists used these analogs for poor white: [...] clayeater.
[US]Maledicta VII 28: The practice of geophagy, seeking some nourishment from eating earth or clay, gave the names sandlapper (rare) and clayeater, to poor whites.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 118: A poor Southern white, a.k.a. clay-eater.
clay-puncher (n.)

(Aus.) a miner.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 5 Nov. 9/2: So on a Sabbath afternoon Brother Burnett, accompanied by a number of local preachers and followed by a crowd of curious clay-punchers, sailed for the aborigines’ camp.
clay-punching (n.)

(Aus.) working as a miner.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 16 Jun. 24/4: Dunky was never a working miner, he was much too cute for clay-punching.

In phrases

moisten the clay (v.) (also damp the clay, soak one’s..., wet the...) [SE clay, the human flesh]

to take a drink, to quench one’s thirst.

[US]J. Addison Spectator 23 May (1857) 86/2: To moisten their clay, and grow immortal by drinking .
[UK]Fielding Letter Writers II ii: A Soph, he is Immortal, And never can decay; For how should he return to Dust Who daily wets his Clay.
[UK]C. Coffey Boarding-School 29: Let Bacchus now see, / We’re immortal as he, / Whilst drinking to moisten the Clay.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: An old soaker; a drunkard, one that moistens his clay to make it stick together.
[UK] ‘The Irish Schoolmaster’ Banquet of Thalia 7: For day and night ’twas his delight [...] to wet his clay.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Oct. VII 54/2: He moisten’d many a time his clay. But from him death the cup now dashes.
[UK]‘A Pembrochian’ Gradus ad Cantabrigiam 129: Moisten your clay with a bumper of wine.
[UK]T.L. Peacock Headlong Hall (1816) 75: Let us moisten the clay, since ’t is thirsty and porous: / No thinking! no shrinking! all drinking in chorus!
[UK] ‘The Galley Slave’s Complaint’ in Vidocq Memoirs (trans. W. McGinn) I 129: And the produce of our hands, my boys, / Will moisten well our clay.
[UK] ‘Darby the Swift’ Bentley’s Misc. July 71: We went to wet our clay together at the ‘Three Jolly Pigeons’.
[Ire]Drogheda Argus 4 Feb. 1/2: [He] would return home quite gay, / And with some fine old claret soak his good old clay.
[UK]‘Alfred Crowquill’ Seymour’s Humourous Sketches (1866) 44: [He went] straight home — as he could, leaving his spouse (like many a deserted wife) soaking her clay, because he refused to support her !
[UK](con. 1703) W.H. Ainsworth Jack Sheppard (1917) 33: And drink a full measure to moisten his clay!
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 6 Feb. 2/6: Mr Ikin [was] standing at the bar, peacably ‘moistening his clay’.
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville Digby Grand (1890) 156: A few steady old sexagenarians whose clay [...] requires a deal of moistening.
[UK] ‘Dear Tome This Brown Jug’ in Henderson Victorian Street Ballads (1937) 88: And with honest old stingo was soaking his clay.
[UK]Kentish Gaz. 9 Sept. 4/5: We have about 160 public houses [...] One house in every sixteen or seventeen supplies intoicating liquors to moisten the clay of the occupants of the rest.
[Aus]Mercury (Hobart) 23 Apr. 2/5: [from the Stranraer Free Press] [...] ‘wet yer whistle,’ [...] soak your clay.
[UK]J. Greenwood Low-Life Deeps 187: It was like throwing water on a sand heap the gin they swallowed, and there appeared not the least indication of their ‘clay’ being a bit moister at the conclusion.
[UK]Huddersfield Chron. 30 Jan. 4/5: Moderation in all things. Moisten yer clay a little by all means, but don’t make a bog of it.
[UK]Huddersfield Chron. 18 Apr. 4/5: I sit and soak my clay in fiery liquor.
[Aus]Brisbane Courier 16 Mar. 7/1: We were on a wide cool veranda. our clay was duly moistened and the smoke wreaths hung overhead.
[UK]Binstead & Wells Pink ’Un and Pelican 172: Some five years ago I was engaged in damping earth’s clay in the old bar at Romano’s.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Sept. 31/1: We’ll wet our ‘clay’ what-time the day / Break o’er the Land of Wonder; / And we’ll converse o’ bards and verse, / And ships and seas Out Yonder.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 14 Feb. 11/3: To judge by the way / That I moisten my clay / I’ve a large and perpetual ‘drouth’.
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit 103: After moistening her clay she had relapsed into a sort of frozen coma.