Green’s Dictionary of Slang

call v.

[fig. uses of SE]

1. to beg.

[UK]B.M. Carew Life n.p.: I called a whole street.
[UK]Dundee Courier (Scot.) 8 Sept. 7/3: There were several ‘travellers’ in the lodging house, and all [...] assured me that the town was not ‘gammy,’ and that I could ‘call’ it without fear from one end to the other.
[UK]Dundee Courier 18 Aug. 7/4: The travellers had departed, some to ‘call’ in the town, and others on their usual day’s tramp from town to town.
[UK]W.H. Davies Beggars 103: Wandering beggars say ‘call.’ For instance, ‘it is a good road to call,’ or ‘there is plenty of calling’.
[UK]W.H. Davies Adventures of Johnny Walker 190: The word ‘mouch’ is not often heard outside towns, for wandering beggars say ‘call.’.
[US]W.A. Gape Half a Million Tramps 231: Another tramp was ‘calling’ a house.

2. to blame.

[US]H.G. van Campen ‘Our Theatrical Boarding House’ in L.A. Herald 10 Dec. 10/4: ‘Ain’t you the gent who called me for keepin’ all the pictures in the theater trunk, an’ when I put ’em out you snap at me’.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 175/1: late C.19–20.

3. (US) to challenge [+ poker imagery].

[US]W.J. Kountz Billy Baxter’s Letters 49: If some guy cuts in on your steady [...] you are going to call her fine and plenty, aren’t you? And unless she promises to bump the other fellow, you are going to leave her in a rage.
[US]P.A. Rollins Cowboy 80: Poker gave also, among other terms, [...] ‘call’.
[US](con. 1868) E. Cunningham Triggernometry (1957) 37: He had the name of a dangerous man to cross [...] Nobody ‘called’ him.
[US]J.M. Cain Mildred Pierce (1985) 329: You’re not calling me. I’m calling you. You go to her this afternoon, and that’s the last you’ve seen of this house.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Rock 104: This Slick passes at Ella. I got to call him on it and I do.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 793: call – To force an issue.
[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972).
[US]F.X. Toole Rope Burns 134: Con was glad the ref hadn’t called him on the gun, because he’d been selling wolf tickets on the nine-millimeter from the git.
[US](con. 1964–8) J. Ellroy Cold Six Thousand 57: He said ‘Arden.’ Ward schizzed. He called Ward on Ruby. Ward played it oblique.

4. (Aus.) to vomit [abbr. of the various phrs. below].

[Aus]B. Humphries Traveller’s Tool 59: If the stain on closer examination appears to have been adulterated with other substances and fluids, then it’s possible you may have ‘called’ during the night.

Meaning to vomit

In phrases

call Charles (v.) (also call dinosaurs, call seals)(Aus./US)
[Aus]B. Humphries Barry McKenzie [comic strip] in Complete Barry McKenzie (1988) 118: Any night he came home blind and couldn’t make the big white telephone he’d call charles in the flamin’ wardrobe.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Nov. 2: call dinosaurs – vomit because of excessive alcohol: He’s over in the bushes calling some dinosaurs [...] Also call seals.
call for Herb (v.) (Aus.)
[Aus]F.J. Hardy in Great Aus. Lover Stories 63: ‘Well, that bloke in there is calling for Herb.’ [...] ‘Calling for Herb?’ ‘Well you’ve heard a bloke having a good chunder, saying ‘Herb. ... Heeerb ... Heeerb!’.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 175/2: 1960s.
call (for) Ralph (v.)

see under Ralph n.

General uses

call over the coals (v.)

to scold, to tell off.

[UK]Mthly Rev. June 209: Let not, then, that clergyman complain who is called over the coals for wearing coloured stockings and dirty boots.
[UK]Scott Peveril of the Peak (1827) 118: Partly out of fear lest I be called over the coals for last night's matter;.
Mirror of Parlt. July 17 3998/1: It is most unjust that the Noble Lord should be called over the coals in this manner.
[UK]Carlisle Jrnl 22 Feb. 2/8: He has again been called over the coals.
[UK]Era (London) 8 Sept. 3/2: Some two or three Licensed Victuallers who were ‘called over the coals’ on the last occasion, have continued to permit Betting Lists in their houses.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 345/1: If I’m seen to gallop, and anybody tells our people, I’m called over the coals.
[UK]Dundee Courier 14 Nov. 2/2: Mr James Grant [...] was called over the coals [...] by Mr Disraeli’s solicitors.
[UK]Edinburgh Eve. News 25 Feb. 2/7: Mr Gladstone had felt it his serious duty to subject his indiscreet lieutenant to the unpleasant process known as being ‘called over the coals’.
[UK]J. Greenwood Behind A Bus 140: I got called over the coals for that.
[UK]E. Pugh Spoilers 235: I shall have to call you over the coals for your share in this little business.
[UK]Marvel 3 Mar. 3: We haven’t been called over the coals yet.
[UK]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 31 May 5/1: [headline] Mr F.B. Varley, M.P., Called Over the Coals.
[UK]Yorks. Eve. Post 29 May 8/3: [cartoon caption] Being Called Over the Coals.
call someone out of their name (v.)

(US black) to insult through name-calling.

C.M. Martin ‘Powdersmoke Showdown’ in Real Western Nov. [Internet] Johnny Straight had called him out of his name; had asked for a settlement.
[US]T. Berger Reinhart in Love (1963) 131: Ah dint come here to be called out of my name.
[US]C. Major Juba to Jive 78: Call [one] out of [one’s] name v. (1900s–1940s) most popular in the thirties, this expression refers to the business of insult through name-calling.
call someone’s card (v.) [poker imagery]

(US) to call someone’s bluff.

[UK]Penthouse Mar. 159: Pimps seem awful tough [...] until we call their card [HDAS].
call someone’s game (v.) [poker imagery]

(US) to call someone’s bluff, to challenge.

‘Yplante’ ‘One step forward, three back...’ posting 28 Nov. on ‘Training Horses’ at Yahoo! Groups [Internet] When he acts like this I feel it’s a no win situation, but should I be calling his game more when he’s acting inappropriately?
call someone’s hand (v.) [poker imagery]

(US) to issue a challenge, to call someone’s bluff.

[US]S.F. Call 25 Mar. 1/1: Finally, after floating through a mist of metaphors, his good nature gets the better of him; and he concludes to ‘call our hand’ [DA].
[US]New North-West (Deer Lodge, MT) 12 Nov. 3/4: R.B. Campbell [...] is swinging the hammer of Vulcan. See his card, and call his hand on blacksmithing.
[US]Dly Morn. Astorian (OR) 31 Jan. 3/3: Villard threatened a disclosure [...] and rather than ‘call his hand’ he was given control of the corporation.
[US]T.N. Page Red Rock 493: Called your hand, rather, didn’t he? [DA].
[US]N-Y Tribune 26 Sept. 31/2: Put it to him straight. Call his hand.
[US]Wash. Times (DC) 26 Mar. 24/3: If all the generation-old cohort should call his hand he would never stem the tide.
[US]Daily Ardmoreite 4 Apr. 1/1: Some time, and very soon, something to call the Russian hand will have to be done [DA].

SE in slang uses

Pertaining to sex

In compounds

call-boy (n.)

a male prostitute who can be hired on the phone.

[US]A. Reiss in Cressey & Ward Delinquency, Crime, and Social Process (1969) 987: The call-boy who does not solicit in public.
[UK]R. Lloyd Playland 36: Professional call-boys at a hundred bucks a throw aren’t my bag.
[US]Maledicta VI:1+2 (Summer/Winter) 139: [A] gay prostitute (young volunteer, call-boy, cottage or tea-room cruiser or troller, club and pub pro).
[SA]K. Cage Gayle.
call flat (n.) (also call apartment) [var. on call house n. (1)]

(US) a brothel.

[US]Inter Ocean (Chicago) 27 Jan. 10/4: "Do you know about any disorderly houses [...] in your district’ [...] ‘There was a “call flat” at 3517 Indiana avenue, but we drove that out’.
[US]Day Book (Chicago) 17 Mar. 32/2: Mrs Yorke was arrested and fined for conducting a ‘call flat’ in a fashionable apartment building at 447 Fullerton Parkway.
Cttee of 14 Annual Report q. in Mackey Pursuing Johns (2005) 49: Most of these call flat madames [...] had long lists of girls on call.
[US]S. Ornitz Haunch Paunch and Jowl 254: Now she’s old she keeps a nice, respectable call-flat.
[US]Salem News (OH) 20 June 3/2: J.B. picked Margaret up in a — well, a call-flat on Fourteenth st.
[US]S. Longstreet Decade 317: The John Laws are knocking over cathouses, clip-joints, [...] call apartments.
Chicago Sun. Trib. Grafic Mag. 23 Apr. 16/1: Next time the man phones [...] he is asked for his code number. When this is checked he is directed to a call flat, wither that of the girl he first met or another if he prefers.
(ref. to 1920s) E.A. Clement Love for Sale lxxxvii: The most common institution of prostitution in the 1920s was the ‘call flat,’ a variation on the old brothel of the nineteenth century. The name derived from madams' reliance on telephones to organize their business.
call-girl (n.)

see separate entry.

call house (n.)

see separate entry.

General uses

In compounds

call-dog (n.) [one calls the dog to eat it]

(W.I.) a fish too small for human consumption.

[WI]cited in Cassidy & LePage Dict. Jam. Eng. (1980).
calldown (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

call a go (v.)

1. of a street-seller, to move on.

[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 16: Call-a-Go in street ‘patter,’ is to remove to another spot, or address the public in another vein.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 236/1: ‘When a thing’s humped [...] you can only “call a go.”’ To ‘call a go’ signifies to remove to another spot, or adopt some other patter, or, in short, resort to some change.

2. to give up.

[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. 144: Call-a-Go [...] to give in, yield, at any game or business. Probably from the ‘GO’ call in cribbage.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
call a spade a (bloody) shovel (v.)

see under spade n.

call down (v.)

see separate entry.

call hogs (v.) [the noise]

(US) to snore.

[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 219: I know I’m gonna call some hogs soon as I hit my roost.
[US](con. 1940s) Deuce Ofay Productions ‘The Jive Bible’ at JiveOn.com [Internet] Calling hogs: v Creating harsh, snorting noises during sleep; To snore.
call in someone’s chips (v.) [poker imagery]

(US) to challenge, to call someone’s bluff.

[US]Ingraham Buffalo Bill from Boyhood 98: ‘We’ll go up and call in their chips, Billy,’ was the universal decision [HDAS].
call it a day (v.) (also call it a night) [? cribbage jargon call a go, to change one’s tactics, to give in]

to stop, to go no further, to express satisfaction with progress or acceptance that one cannot improve a position.

[US]D. Crockett Exploits and Adventures (1934) 168: Poor Thimblerig was obliged to break off conjuring for want of customers, and call it half a day.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Feb. 12/2: Young Wiggins: ‘See here, pop, I be too little to lick you, and you be too big to lick me. Let’s call it a day.’.
[US]A.H. Lewis Wolfville 140: We takes a drink on the house, quits, an’ calls it a day.
[US]H.C. Witwer Smile A Minute 49: I’m positive that all the French I’ll ever learn will never show on me nowheres, and I’m ready to call it a day right now.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Zigzags of Treachery’ in Nightmare Town (2001) 108: Midnight came, and no John Boyd, and I called it a day, and went home.
[Aus]I.L. Idriess Flynn of the Inland 85: He always reads the paper before calling it ‘a day’.
[US]O. Strange Sudden Takes the Trail 81: If we could scare up a good excuse to clear out that gang at Dirty Dick’s, I’d call it a day an’ bounce the pair o’ you.
[US]C. Himes Crazy Kill 118: It’s four o’clock [...] Nothing for it now but to call it a day.
[UK]E. Bond Saved Scene vi: fred: Call it a day. len: In a minute.
[US]E. Thompson Caldo Largo (1980) 206: We had two bottles of pretty good champagne. I was ready to call it a night.
[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 30: I’m going to wind it up. Call it a day.
[US]W. Murray Tip on a Dead Crab 41: Get him cooled out now and we’ll call it a day.
[US]D. Woodrell Muscle for the Wing 75: They dumped the body at the hospital and called it a night.
[UK]Indep. 10 Aug. 8: The Oasis guitarist [...] announced yesterday he had decided to ‘call it a day’ and leave the band.
[UK]N. Barlay Hooky Gear 265: No more crazy ideas J . . . thats it . . . call it a day for the love of money.
call it george (v.) (also call it wally) [joc. generic use of proper names]

(W.I.) to agree that a matter is concluded, to bring to an end, e.g. a day’s work.

[WI]Allsopp Dict. Carib. Eng. Usage.
call off all bets (v.) [poker imagery]

(US black) to die.

[US] ‘Jiver’s Bible’ in D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive.
[US]R.S. Gold ‘Vernacular of the Jazz World’ in AS XXXII:4 279: call off all bets. To die.
call on the carpet (v.) [on the carpet under carpet n.1 ]

1. (US) to reprimand, to scold.

[US]H.S. Thompson letter 28 April in Proud Highway (1997) 378: I will [...] be called on the carpet and lectured like a criminal for issuing bogus cheques.
J.M. Lang On Course 256: Take whatever measures seem appropriate to you: locking the door at the start of class, [...] calling tardy students on the carpet as they walk in the door,.

2. (US prison) to challenge another speaker to justify his remarks, whether hostile, gossiping or whatever.

[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 92: Call Him on the Carpet Challenge someone to be accountable for his remarks or actions.
call (out) (v.) [early 19C SE call out, to challenge to a duel]

1. to challenge to a fight.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Jan. 6/2: The marriage was a civil one, and a journalist of religious proclivities having hinted at their living in a state of concubinage, he was promptly ‘called out’ by M. Hughes and sent to – let us hope – a happier sphere.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Telling Mrs Baker’ in Roderick (1972) 417: Need went to the public-house where the barmaid was and called the landlord out.
[US]H. Green Maison De Shine 52: Why don’t you be game? I’d like to see some feller call me, an’ me not get back to him!
[UK]Luton Times 24 Apr. 6/7: She told the defendant to leave the shop [...] he replied that he could ‘callee’ (fight), and would not leave for fifty d— policemen.
[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 181: ‘Hey, Gasolino,’ someone said in the crowd, ‘you’re called out, man.’.
[UK](con. 1971) W. Sherman Times Square 58: They’ve got to call each other out before they play.
[US]G.V. Higgins At End of Day (2001) 162: Fights over women and fights over money and somebody called someone out from a barroom.
F. Stuart ‘Dispatches from the Rap Wars’ in chicagomag.com [Internet] Sometimes the guys will record a video but wait to release it until a rival gang member—preferably one they’ve called out—is shot, so that it seems like CBE is taking credit.

2. (US Und.) to use a stolen cheque.

[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 260: Call Out — to use a stolen check to get baggage, etc.

3. (US campus) to embarrass.

[US]Eble Campus Sl. Apr. 2: call out – point out someone else’s fault.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Apr. 2: call someone out – embarrass: When the teacher corrected the student’s pronunciation, the student complained that the teacher had called her out.
call the coin (v.)

(US) to call ‘heads or tails’ when a coin is tossed.

Kidsports.org [Internet] ‘Tiebreaker Plan’: At the coin toss, the visiting team captain shall be given the privilege of calling the coin while it is in the air.
call the game in (v.) [lit. to bring a game, e.g. of rugby, to an end]

(Aus./N.Z.) to abandon one’s efforts, to admit defeat.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 175/1: since ca. 1912.
in Baker N.Z Sl.
[NZ]B.J. Cameron Collection (TS July) n.p.: call the game in (v) To cry quits, admit defeat [DNZE].
[Aus]N. Pulliam I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 231/2: call the game in – give up.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 42: call the game in Quit, eg, Time to call the game in, fellas, the fish ain’t biting.’ ANZ c1912.
call the shots (v.) (also call one’s shot(s)) [sporting imagery]

to dictate a course of action, to say what should happen.

[US]E. Anderson Thieves Like Us (1999) 49: ‘Call your shot, Bowie,’ Chicamaw said.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 96: You call your shots all the way in viperland.
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 90: Jimmy [...] is close to the Governor and calls the shots.
[US]H.S. Thompson Hell’s Angels (1967) 51: Others had quit and many of his best specimens had gone north to Oakland [...] where Sonny Barger called the shots.
[US]C. McFadden Serial 55: Good old Sam had really called the shots.
[Ire](con. 1930s) L. Redmond Emerald Square 326: I started another row over his presumption that he was calling the shots.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 10 Nov. 6: All are more or less in thrall to the ‘wise guys’, the syndicate wheels who call the shots.
[UK]Guardian G2 11 May 9: It is the women who calls the shots in her line of work.
[UK]T. Black Artefacts of the Dead [ebook] Leave her to me [...] I’m the one calling the shots.
call the turn (v.) [gambling use: calling the next turn of the wheel in the game of faro; ? see Asbury Sucker’s Progress (1938) 15: ‘An extraordinary number of the terms, technical and otherwise, which were employed by Faro players in the palmy days of the game have passed into the language [...] and are commonly used by millions who never heard of Faro. Here are some of them: [...] Calling the turn — To guess correctly the order in which the last three cards in the box would appear’]

(US) to predict accurately.

[US]Lantern (N.O.) 9 Jul. 5: Calling the turn for McEvery means a big box-stuffing.
[US]J. Flynt World of Graft 18: They are professional grafters, every one of them, and I can call the turn on nearly fifty myself.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘The Clarion Call’ in Voice of the City (1915) 191: You’ve called the turn.
[US]Van Loan ‘By a Hair’ in Old Man Curry 69: Your friend Solomon called the turn on the get-rich-quick stuff.
[UK]C.M. Russell Trails Plowed Under 6: ‘Neighbor, you’re a long way from your range.’ ‘You call the turn,’ says I, ‘but how did you read my iron?’ ‘I didn’t see a burn on you,’ says he, ‘an’ from looks, you’ll go as a slick-ear.’.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 46: Call the Turn. – To identify a criminal or solve a problem.
[US]D. Runyon Runyon à la Carte 138: I judge Greebins calls the turn in figuring her to come back to him when she discovers the true situation about the money.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 12: The boys in the background call the turn and pull the strings.