Green’s Dictionary of Slang

dead man n.

1. (orig. milit.) an empty bottle.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Dead-men empty-Pots or bottles on a Tarvern-table [sic].
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Swift Polite Conversation 83: lord sm.: Come, John, bring us a fresh Bottle. col.: Ay, my Lord; and pray let him carry off the dead Men (as we say in the Army.) [Meaning the empty bottles].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]C.M. Westmacott Eng. Spy I 151: I could perceive the wine bin, surrounded by a regiment of dead men.
[UK]Chester Chron. 16 Nov. 3/2: They [...] drank [...] till they joined the ‘dead men’ (empty bottles) under the table.
[UK]Preston Chron. 16 Dec. 7/3: The Castle at Richmond, where there are no charges but hotel charges, and the only dead men are empty bottles.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn).
[UK]London Standard 13 Dec. 3/3: Among the words that fast society has borrowed [...] Dead Men, empty wine bottles.
[UK]London Figaro 15 Apr. n.p.: [...] imperials were inconvenient and wasteful; and [...] it was far from easy to dispose of their corpses when they became dead men [F&H].
[UK]Sheffield Indep. 8 Nov. 6/7: Lord Stanhope has gone down bottle in hand and dead men empty bottles are piled around him.
[UK]Star (Guernsey) 25 Nov. 4/4: The ‘dead men’ amounted to twenty-five bottles of port, besides champagne and sherry.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]Eve. Tel. (Dundee) 1 Sept. 3/6: The language of the London East-end pub [...] ‘Dead Man’ — Empty bottle.
[UK]Liverpool Echo 13 Apr. 6/6: There are many ‘dead men’ — empty bottles of this particular beer.
[UK]A. Salkey Late Emancipation of Jerry Stover (1982) 29: Then they dangled the three ‘dead men’.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.
[US]J. Stahl I, Fatty 48: Ten Gallon up and brained the Polack with a dead man of rum.

2. a baker; ‘Properly speaking, it is an extra loaf smuggled into the basket by the man who carries it out, to the loss of the master.’ (Hotten, 1864).

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Dead men, a cant word among journeymen bakers, for loaves falsely charged to their master’s customers.
[UK]‘One of the Fancy’ Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress 16: Follow’d close on my gentleman, kneading his crum / As expertly as any Dead Man about town. [...] Dead Men are Bakers – so called from the loaves falsely charged to their master’s customers.
[UK]Annals of Sporting 1 Mar. 198: Snips, snobs, saulies, sweeps, swells [...] dominies, deadmen, and dissenting ministers.
[UK] ‘The Mill’ Museum of Mirth 45/1: ‘How do you bet your blunt?’ ‘Vy, I’m six to four on the dead man.’ ‘Why, I’m all for doughey myself.’ ‘Vat, de baker?’.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Sl. Dict. 141: Dead man, a baker. Properly speaking, it is an extra loaf smuggled into the basket by the man who carries it out, to the loss of the master. Sometimes the dead man is charged to a customer, though never delivered. Among London thieves and low people generally a ‘dead’un’ is a half-quartern loaf.
[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.

3. a scarecrow, esp. when made in the trad. manner of old clothes stuffed with straw.

[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant.

4. (Irish) a weekly insurance collector, whose policy pays off when one is dead.

[UK](con. 1930s) M. Verdon Shawlies, Echo Boys, the Marsh and the Lanes 206: They’d call the fellow collecting the insurance the ‘dead man’. ‘Did the dead man call to you yet?’.

5. (N.Z.) any large object (a baulk of timber, a steel stanchion, a lump of concrete etc) used as an anchor for hawsers, guy-ropes etc.

[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 35/1: deadman buried anchor adapted to support fenceposts.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].

6. see dead president under dead adj.

In phrases

down among the dead men

very drunk.

[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1982) I 67: How many jolly nights have you and I, Larkyns, passed ‘down among the dead men’.
[UK]Gloucester Citizen 23 Dec. 11/5: ‘Down Among the Dead Men’ The minister’s servant Sandy had been sent to clean the wine cellar. Soon afterwards the minister [...] discovered Sandy draining bottles of their dregs [...] said the minister, ‘they’re all dead men’.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

dead man’s arm (n.)

(N.Z.) steamed (currant) roll pudding.

[NZ]N.Z. Times 3 Feb. 5: You [bush-felling] contractors in black singlets and bowyangs, fuelled on spuds and mutton and pumpkin and rice and spotted dog or deadman’s arm and black billy tea [...] come into our art galleries, on to our stamps [DNZE].
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 60: deadman’s arm A leg of lamb or a long, steamed currant roll pudding.
dead man’s ears (n.)

(N.Z.) stewed dried apricots.

[NZ]P. Grace Cousins 139: Have you heard of having frog’s eggs and dead man’s ears for pudding? [DNZE].
[NZ] McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl.
dead man’s hand (n.) [the lawman Wild Bill Hickok (1837–76) was allegedly holding a hand of aces and eights when he was gunned down]

1. a poker hand of mixed aces and eights or jacks and (red) sevens or eights.

[US]Atchison (KS) Daily Globe 13 Apr. 1/6: ‘I held “aces and eights,” a dead man’s hand,’ was a note left by a Leavenworth suicide the other day.
[US]Atlanta Constitution 28 July 23(?)/ 3: Finally Cherokee said: ‘I ain’t aimin’ to invest Wolfville in no superstitious fears, but I jest chronicles as a current event how I was settin’ into a little porker [sic] last night an’ three times straight I picks up “the hand the dead man held” -- jacks up on eights, an’ it win every time.’.
[US]National Police Gazette 3 Jan. 6: [headline] DEATH IN A POKER GAME WHERE ONE PLAYER HELD A ‘DEAD MAN’S HAND’ A Jack Full on Red Sevens Seems to be an Unusually Fatal Combination of the Pasteboards.
Daily Nevada State Journal 3 Dec. 12/4: The man who held a pair of jacks and a pair of eights in a recent poker game at Pittsburg would doubtless give assent to the accuracy of the superstition that calls such a combination ‘the dead man’s hand,’ only that he is unfortunately in the usual position of the dead man -- unable to speak.
[US]Seattle Star (WA) 16 Dec. 2/4: The cards were black jacks and eights — the ‘dead man’s hand’ of poker.
[US]F.J. Wilstach Wild Bill Hickok 284: Bill’s hand read ‘aces and eights’ – two pair, and since that day aces and eights have been known as ‘the dead man’s hand’ in the Western country.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: Kings and eights, dead man’s hand (poker).
[US]R.F. Adams Western Words (1968) 49: Throughout the West the combination of aces and eights is known as the deadman’s hand. This superstition was handed down from the time Jack McCall killed Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood, South Dakota, while he sat in a poker game holding this hand.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]W. Blevins Dict. of the Amer. West n.p.: dead man’s hand In poker, a hand with a pair of aces and a pair of eights [...] Some sources also say the hand has two jacks, not aces, and two eights.

2. bad luck.

[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
dead man’s head (n.)

(N.Z.) a round, steamed plum pudding, eaten hot or cold.

J. Lasenby Dead Mans Head 156: ‘Uncle Ted eats Dead Mans Head!’ ‘Oh, yes,’ said Polly, ‘Does he swallow the eyes.’.
[NZ] McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl.
dead man’s leg (n.)

1. (Aus.) meat-loaf.

[[UK]G.A. Sala Gaslight and Daylight 346: There was a dreadful pie for dinner every Monday, a meat pie with [...] horrible lumps of gristle inside, and such lumps of sinew (alternated by lumps of flabby fat) [...] we called it kitten pie – resurrection pie – rag pie – dead man’s pie].
[Aus]N. Keesing Lily on the Dustbin 123: ‘Dead man’s leg’, a sort of meat-loaf; ‘Hitler’s toe’, fried-up Devon sausage.

2. jam roly-poly.

P. Della Torre Viva Britannia 19: The true Englishman can not do without his toad-in-the-hole, fly pie, spotted dick or dead man's leg.
S. Brett Corporate Bodies [ebook] Charles spread the congealing duvet of custard over his Dead Man’s Leg.