Green’s Dictionary of Slang

spiel n.

also shpiel, speil
[spiel v.1 ]

1. (UK Und.) a gamble, a bet.

[UK]Sporting Times 22 May 3/3: One of four extraordinarily greasy Jews remarking, ‘We’re off — naow fur a shpiel!’.
[UK]B. Hill Boss of Britain’s Underworld 6: All they wanted was to buy a drink at club prices, or have a speil [sic] with an even break.

2. (US) a drinking spree.

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 19: I made a finish of a Chicago spiel no further away than in Dayton, O. I don’t remember getting to Dayton.

3. (US tramp) the commodity that a pedlar is selling.

[US]J. Flynt Tramping with Tramps 397: SPIEL: something to peddle. Hoboes often carry needles, pins, court-plaster, and the like. On meeting one another, they ask: ‘What’s your spiel?’ (‘What are you hawking?’).
[US] in ‘Jargon of the Und.’ in DN V.

4. (US) a dance, as found in New York dance-halls.

[US]A.H. Lewis ‘Mulberry Mary’ in Sandburrs 9: He gets his lamps on Mary at Connorses spiel.
[US]Committee of Fourteen Social Evil in N.Y. City 54: One of the favorite dances in halls of this type is the spiel, which requires much twirling and twisting, and is an objectionable dance.
[US]O.O. McIntyre New York Day by Day 31 May [synd. col.] Chinatown’s annual ball reveals the gloss of the underworld [...] Every fellow must have his ‘podner’ for the ‘spiel.’.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 178: SPIEL.– [...] a fast, boisterous dance.
[US](con. c.1900) I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 67: The dance itself was called the spiel and to do the dance was to spiel, whence the gerund spieling and the agentive form spieler.

5. patter, speech, esp. of a salesman or market stall-holder, fairground stall-holder or confidence trickster; cite 1905 refers to a printed text.

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 119: The whole beauty of this spiel consisted in the fact that it was true.
[US]F. Hutchison Philosophy of Johnny the Gent 14: [R]ight there at the top o’ the page is a spiel, printed in letters that Blind Tom could read [etc].
[US]W. Irwin Confessions of a Con Man 113: This is the strength of my spiel. I have begun as a doubter, and I have come to believe.
[US]M. Glass Potash and Perlmutter 246: Dat’s a pretty said spiel day guy is tearin’ off.
[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 19: He [i.e. a beggar] rips off his spiel in such exact and precise language that he gets your dime.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 595: And, say, was I ready to stand up and give three cheers when that long-nose ended his spiel?
[US]F. Brown Dead Ringer 31: When I got to the freak show, Harry Stultz, the talker, was starting a spiel.
[US]Kerouac On The Road (1972) 166: He had the whole cookpot spiel worked out.
[UK]T. Taylor Baron’s Court All Change (2011) 68: He gave me a long spiel with instructions all about the noble art of making a girl.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 29 Jan. in Proud Highway (1997) 483: Her eyes light up, and she rambles into the spiel; her job is saved, she can sell.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 97: I got noble, and didn’t put down no spiel.
[UK]F. Norman Too Many Crooks Spoil the Caper 111: I lowered my voice and went into a style of sales shpiel favoured by used-car dealers.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 17: Rather than stand around watching dreary retakes of Cal’s spiel.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 17: Joe sliced off his spiel in midbreath.
[US]P. Beatty White Boy Shuffle 89: The salesman, smelling commission, closed the deal with a spiel about French cowhide hand-sewn [...] by French seamsters.
[Scot]I. Welsh Filth 252: I’m regretting [...] my stupid spiel even before I’ve blown my muck inside her.
[US]T. Udo Vatican Bloodbath 45: HRH gave them the usual spiel...blah blah blah...working together as equals (hah!)...fraternity of nations...all democratic now...Christ alone knew why they kept up this charade!
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Rosa Marie’s Baby (2013) [ebook] Les gave her the same spiel about his family.
[Scot]L. McIlvanney All the Colours 114: [He] gave me his spiel, the potted briefing he’d prepared.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 302: She’d worked out an entire spiel for politely saying hello to an ex-con and moving on.
[Aus]T. Peacock More You Bet 32: A typical bookmaker’s [...] spiel might have gone something like the following [...] ‘Come on punters, who knows ’em? Come on punters, push in!’.
[US]J. Stahl OG Dad 156: By the time the pediatrician finished her spiel [...] I feel like I may be raising a tree stump.
[US]T. Pluck Boy from County Hell 29: [A] salesman spun his spiel about its timing and accuracy.
[Ire]L. McInerney Rules of Revelation 370: ‘It’s not a spiel. Just what was going through my head when I was writing the lyrics’.

6. a verbose, ‘wordy’ explanation.

[US]J. London ‘And ’Frisco Kid Came Back’ in High School Aegis X (4 Nov.) 2–4: W’y didn’t I hol’ it down? Wor are you givin’ us? Wait till I give yer me spiel.
[US]Ade Artie 100: There was a long spiel by the high guy in the pulpit.
[US]Pittsburgh Courier (PA) 30 July 11/1: I am really brought to my deuce of benders that so many brights have cut [illeg.] since I laste mitted you a scribe, but i am hep that you will kick me a pardon when you dig this spiel.
[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Murder’s Mouthpiece’ Hollywood Detective Aug. 🌐 ‘Do something—get me to the hospital for a transfusion!’ ‘Not until I finish my spiel, bub’.
[US]M. Spillane Long Wait (1954) 43: The doctors went into a big speil about it.
[Can]J. Mandelkau Buttons 45: They really laid it on thick with spiels about me fighting them before stopping me.
[UK]P. Barker Blow Your House Down 74: She’d just go on, doing her spiel.
[US]M. McAlary Crack War (1991) 98: Then he went into a long-winded spiel about the responsibility of the Federal government.
[Aus]P. Doyle (con. late 1950s) Amaze Your Friends (2019) 80: I launched into a ‘nothing of the sort’ spiel.
[Aus]L. Redhead Thrill City [ebook] I did my spiel: the grovelling apology followed by approximately five minutes of half truths.

7. a conversation, a chat.

[US]Ade Artie (1963) 13: Then him and Kennedy had a long spiel to themselves.
[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 79: This fellow’s spiel got the horse bug to buzzing beneath the hat again.
[US]F.S. Fitzgerald ‘Pat Hobby’s College Days’ in Pat Hobby Stories (1967) 163: What I thought was maybe I could have a spiel with you.
[UK]A. Sinclair Breaking of Bumbo (1961) 72: Jock’s spiel babbled on to Babylon, a house near The Vale.
[UK]‘P.B. Yuill’ Hazell and the Three-card Trick (1977) 188: Was I givin’ you two a lot of fantasy spiel by any chance?

8. an idea, a plan.

[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ You Should Worry cap. 1: ‘We’ll take about two lessons from a good instructor [and] make the hit of our lives teaching them all to Tango.’ [...] ‘It sounds like a good spiel’.

9. (US campus) an eloquent passage in an essay or oration.

[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 62: spiel, n. An eloquent speech or passage in an oration or essay.

10. a situation.

[US]J. Flynt World of Graft 169: I’ve been shut up a number of years, it’s true, but I didn’t mind them as much as you would; I took them as part of the spiel.
[UK]C. MacInnes Absolute Beginners 111: ‘Weird spiel, isn’t it?’ ‘Weird! Child, I’m telling you — it’s eerie!’.
[UK]S. Berkoff West in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 105: So here’s the spiel.

11. (US campus) a failure at recitation.

[US]Boston Globe Sun. Mag. 21 Dec. 7–8: A ‘spiel’ or a ‘drule’ is a flat failure in this line [i.e. recitation], and a fellow who has not been successful is a ‘cheese.’.

12. lies, deceit.

[US]C.L. Edholm ‘Gorilla Girl’ in Gun Molls Oct. 🌐 ‘The sap fell for your spiel, Skeeters.’ [...] ‘Like they always do.’.

13. (orig. Aus.) formal advice, a set of instructions.

[US]V.F. Nelson Prison Days and Nights 21: [The judge] gives this farmhand a spiel about how this kind of stuff has got to be stopped.
[US]B. Schulberg Harder They Fall (1971) 277: Toro fixed his eyes on his opponent’s feet, nodding sullenly as the referee went through his spiel.
[UK]T. Parker Frying-Pan 46: They give you all the spiel about ‘You can say what you like on a meeting’.
[US]L. Stringer Grand Central Winter (1999) 74: Like every new arrival, I got the standard orientation spiel.

14. a letter.

[UK]K. Amis letter 12 Jan. in Leader (2000) 156: Sling me a spiel when you can get around to it – I’m in the same stable (55) until I get hitched.

15. (US) the entirety.

L. Schecter Jocks 64: Sporting people have surrounded themselves with all the accouterments of importance—flacks, off-the-record press conferences, the whole spiel.

16. a drinking club.

[UK]K. Sampson Powder 459: We should go to the spiel, down Lisle Street.

In phrases

lay a spiel on (v.)

to speak persuasively, e.g. aiming at seduction.

[US]‘Digg Mee’ ‘Observation Post’ in N.Y. Age 9 Nov. 10/4: As soon as Truck Mitchell leaves he lays a fine spiel on Dot Coleman.
lay one’s spiel (v.)

(US black) to offer one’s opinion.

[US]‘Digg Mee’ ‘Observation Post’ in N.Y. Age 2 Nov. 10/5: No, my friends, I ain’t no eel...but I’m a guy that lays his spiel.
put down a spiel (v.)

(US) to speak in an orotund, ‘lawyerly’ manner.

[US]E. Torres After Hours 11: I musta been a lawyer in the other life, because I can’t resist puttin’ down a spiel in the courthouse.