Green’s Dictionary of Slang

stiffen v.1

[ext. stiff v.3 (1)]

1. (Aus., also stiffen out) to die.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Aug. 14/3: He has reminiscences of No. so-and-so, who had ‘stiffened out’ as he called it.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 29 Aug. 5/3: The white men had an incorporated junk of yellow agony suspended by the neck from a she-oak, and were seated around on stumps betting drinks on how many kicks the son of Confucius would give before stiffening.

2. (Aus.) in fig. use, to punish.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 12 July 7/4: A Sydney girl, aged fifteen, charged with stealing money, umbrellas, bags, &c., from little girls on their way to school, accounted for the possession of some money and property by saying it was given her by another girl to go ‘stiff’ in a race for a gold medal at a skating rink. She was further ‘stiffened’ by a sentence of seven days’ imprisonment and three years in Shaftsbury Reformatory.

3. to kill, to murder; lit. or fig.

[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Colonial Reformer II 56: ‘Stiffen those blank dingoes!’ roared Gregor.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 19 Jul. 26/3: Among the remarks which the writer heard from the sex that boasts a gentle spirit and a murdered fowl in its hat were, ‘Lay them out!’ ‘Stiffen the brute!’ ‘Sling him, Ruddy; sling him!’.
[Aus]L. Stone Jonah 54: Serve the cow right [...] ’Ope it stiffens ’im! [Ibid.] 104: ‘Gawd, ’e’s stiffened ’im!’ ‘I ’eard ’is neck crack!’.
[Aus]Townsville Daily Bull. (Qld) 3 June 12/4: I started to rip the floorin’ up in that hut so that I could stiffen that snake.
[US]J. O’Connor Come Day – Go Day (1984) 110: ‘Don’t answer me back, or I’ll stiffen you,’ Kitty shouted. ‘You good-for-nothing looking craythur!’.
[Aus]S. Gore Holy Smoke 12: I stiffen the bear with one flamin’ punch.

4. (Aus., also stiffen out) to knock someone unconscious, thus stiffener, that which knocks one out (lit. or fig.).

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Jan. 6/3: [The yacht] was prominently brought under the notice of the British public [...] resultant upon her pugnacious commander having, on one fine morning, ‘flattened out,’ and ‘stiffened,’ and ‘shifted the ears,’ of a number of the crew and certain other people who had behaved in what Juba was pleased to consider an objectionable manner.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 10 Mar. 5/5: Dibbs got a regular stiffener over his resolution.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 13 Oct. 14/2: ‘That’s all blanky fine, [...] but look at my load! why didn’t you take a spreader and lay her out?’ ‘For God’s sake, don’t talk like that,’ said the husband, excited for the first time, ‘or she’ll stiffen the whole blanky lot of us!’.
Ohin-e-muri Gaz. (NZ) 27 Jan. 3/1: This person has on several occasions stated that he will willingly do three years in gaol to stiffen me out.
[Aus]L. Stone Jonah 127: They said yous ’ud stiffen me if I cum in.
[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Grappling Trilby’ in Popular Sports June 🌐 So I’m to stiffen your tramp again, am I?
[Aus]R. Park Poor Man’s Orange 272: The right bloke had better get her, or I’ll stiffen him out, as God’s my judge.
[US]E. Grogan Ringolevio 47: Solly [...] stiffened him with the sanded-down sock.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper From The Inside 50: [It] slowed him down enough for the ex-champ to stiffen him with a very nice right uppercut.

5. (Aus.) in fig. use, to ruin, to undermine, to ‘put paid to’; to interfere with a racehorse’s performance; thus n. stiffener, one who pursues such activties.

[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 3 Mar. 1/3: Favourites are ‘stiffened,’ ‘welchers’ won’t pay their debts, jockeys cheat their masters.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 2 June 3/4: Sometimes the witnesses are ‘stiffened’ before the come before the Commission.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 10 Jan. 3/7: But smart stiffener as he was, he never succeeded in inducing Old Ben [...] to put one in his ‘kick’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 8 Sept. 28/1: The English ’tecs, however, are going to ‘stiffen’ that game by simply taking their prisoner back ‘west-about,’ via Australia.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 4 Sept. 4/7: So I tell the old Joe Rail / [...] / And I bluff ’em off and scale / When I’ve tipped a stiffened ’orse.
[Aus]Morwell Advertiser (Vic.) 21 Dec. 2s/1: McCarthy, O’Connor, / And Jockey McDonagh, Arranged with the ‘bookies’ to ‘stiffen’ the nag.

SE in slang uses

In exclamations

stiffen the lizards! (also stiffen me! ...the bees! ...the cow ...the crows! ...the rooks! ...the snakes! ...the wombats!)

(orig. Aus.) an excl. of surprise, shock etc.

[Aus]E. Dyson Spats’ Fact’ry (1922) 66: ‘Stiffen me,’ said the bright young packer from the bag flat, ‘but how’s Donnie doin’ it?’.
[Aus]Register (Adelaide) 16 Mar. 4/7: ‘Gawd stiffen the bees!’ croaked ‘Old Booze’.
[Aus]Advocate (Burnie, Tas.) 2 July 2/4: [headline] Stiffen the Crows!
[Aus]Townsville Daily Bull. (Qld) 10 Aug. 16/2: Stiffen the cow, he only knows Hennessy’s three star, an’ never does a bit of thinkin’ [...] when he’s sober.
[Aus]Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW) 21 Nov. 3/2: Defendent: Stiffen the Crows! Conviction upheld? Judge: Yes.
World’s News (Sydney) 27 Apr. 28/2: ‘Any luck?’ the Professor asked. ‘He was seen at Diget this mornin’.’ ‘Diget!’ the Sheik exclaimed. ‘Stiffen the wombats! He’s travelling’ .
[UK] in T. Harrisson Mass-Observation War Factory: Report 11: ‘Cor stiffen the crows!’ he exclaims. ‘Look at the fire!’.
[UK]R. Llewellyn None But the Lonely Heart 125: And as to them bleeding parsons. God stiffen the bloody rooks.
[Aus]Baker Aus. Lang. 91: Here are some well-established variations on the theme to show that we have not been idle even in simple matters: speed the wombats! stiffen the lizards! stiffen the snakes! and stiffen the wombats!
[Aus]Northern Times (Carnarvon, WA) 9 Jan. 12/4: ‘Stiffen the lizards and strike me handsome!’ he exclaimed aloud.
[Aus]T.A.G. Hungerford Ridge and River (1966) 24: ‘Stiffen the crows!’ White whispered to Pinkie Evans.
[NZ]I. Hamilton Till Human Voices Wake Us 35: God stiffen the crows, I thought.
[Aus]Argus (Melbourne) 2 July 41/2: ‘Stiffen the pigs’ and ‘Stone the crows’.
[Aus]Argus (Melbourne) 22 Mar. 4/5: Stiffen the wombats.
[Aus](con. 1940s) E. Lambert Glory Thrown In (1961) 14: Gawd stiffen the wombats!
[Aus]R.S. Close With Hooves of Brass 77: ‘Well...! Stiffen the crows! he cried. ‘What do yer know about that?’.
[Aus]B. Wannan Fair Go, Spinner 1631: ‘Stiffen the lizards!’ shouted the cocky. [Ibid.] 190: Stiffen the wombats, Harry! [...] you’ve woke the wrong bloody man!
[Aus]G.W. Turner Eng. Lang. in Aus. and N.Z. 100: Such forms as [...] stiffen the lizards.
[Aus]Age (Melbourne) 18 Apr. 26/7: Biggles relaxed. ‘Well, stiffen the crows,’ he breathed. And lit a cigarette.
[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 107/2: stiffen the crows! exclamation of surprise and/or shock.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].