Green’s Dictionary of Slang

button n.1

[all f. shape and/or size of SE button]

1. fig., as a part of the body.

(a) the penis.

[UK]N. Ward ‘The Poet’s Ramble after Riches’ in Writings (1704) 8: In then he called his pretty Daughter, / Whose Beauty made my Chops to water, / That I shou’d scarce have made a Scruple, / To’ve lent her Buttons to her Loop-hole.
[UK]Bacchanalian Mag. 74: Original and selected Toasts and Sentiments [...] May a good button-hole never want a stout button.

(b) a baby’s penis.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 166/2: C.19–20.

(c) (also bell) the clitoris.

[UK]Loves of Venus 23: Forcing my thighs apart [he] began to kiss me there in such a way, tickling the little button you know of with the tip of his tongue.
[UK]School Life in Paris 85: You had no difficulty in finding the ‘little button’ in your pussie, the fondling of which caused such exquisite pleasure.
[UK]Confessions of Lady Beatrice 4: Edward’s fingertips found my button.
[US]H.N. Cary Sl. of Venery.
[US] in P. Smith Letter from My Father (1978) 135: I rubbed my hot sex against her little button.
[US]Lil Johnson ‘Press My Button, Ring My Bell’ 🎵 Beat it out, boy! Come on and oil my button! Kinda rusty!
[US] in Randolph & Legman Ozark Folksongs and Folklore (1992) II 709: At last the key was fitted within her little nest, / He gently pushed the button, and Nature done the rest.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Weed (1998) 162: She takes off to the doc and lets him clean her button.
[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular.
[UK]J. McDonald Dict. of Obscenity etc. 10: Songs such as Anita Ward’s ‘Ring My Bell’ would almost certainly have been banned by the BBC had the nature of the subject-matter been fully appreciated.
[US]N. Eastwood Gardener Got Her n.p.: She folded back the soft dark fur of her bush and completely uncovered the moist pink button of her clit.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak 23: Bell – the clitoris.
[US]‘Bill E. Goodhead’ Nubile Treat 🌐 He went all around and around the clit, teasing away at it, approaching it, backing off before ever quite touching the button that would explode her to orgasm.
WildSex Internet Site 18 Mar. 🌐 We girls know cunt tastes great – I just love pushing those pink lips apart, drawing in a nose full of that musky tang & driving my tongue in deep. And when its shaved like a teeny mmmmmm....suck on that button !!

(d) the chin; esp. in phr. on the button, a blow square on the chin.

[UK]Hall & Niles One Man’s War (1929) 295: The only thing they understand is a sock on the button.
[US]H.C. Witwer Fighting Blood 347: I hit the canvas on my haunches from a short left hook to the button.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Blood Pressure’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 82: I never see a more accurate puncher [...] he always connects with that old button.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 459: He [...] smacked him in the eye with his right, and then gave him a last one on the button.
[US]D. Fuchs Low Company 44: A left and a right, two jabs over the heart and a finisher on the button.
[US]B. Schulberg Harder They Fall (1971) 167: I’m worried about that button [...] That’s the damnedest glass jaw I ever saw.
[UK]G. Kersh Fowlers End (2001) 200: Ever had a swift punch on the button?
[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 55: He knocked me cold with a hard clip to the button.
[US]E. Thompson Garden of Sand (1981) 426: Lay one on me if it’ll make you feel better. Lay one right on my button.
[US]S. King Christine 90: In a book or a movie, he probably would have socked Repperton right on the old knockout button and put him on the floor for a ten-count.
[Ire]S. McAughtry Touch and Go 7: I sank the whiskey, pretended to punch him on the button, and rose to go.
[US](con. 1954) ‘Jack Tunney’ Tomato Can Comeback [ebook] The uppercut caught him right on the button.

(e) (US) a man’s or woman’s nipple; occas. an animal’s, e.g. a pig.

[US]G.H. Mullin Adventures of a Scholar Tramp 125: I’d [...] choke down rye bread greased with sow-belly. Sow-belly with buttons on too!
[US]T.I. Rubin In the Life 16: Nice big pointed tits, with both buttons on ’em red, real red.
[US](con. 1940s) G. Mandel Wax Boom 148: I am a button on the tit of the world.
[US] in T.I. Rubin Sweet Daddy 68: Big brown buttons [...] the brown like covers half her melons.
[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular.

(f) a pimple.

[UK]D.L. Sayers Have His Carcase 89: If I shave the beard I come out all over buttons.

2. from the circular shape.

(a) a counterfeit shilling.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[UK]Duncombe New and Improved Flash Dict.

(b) a shilling (5p).

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 166/2: ca. 1840–1900.

(c) any coin; thus shiny buttons n., money.

[UK]Vidocq Memoirs (trans. W. McGinn) III 153: ‘Your button again,’ said he to me [...] I showed him another coin.
[US]S.F. Call 26 Mar. n.p.: [He] went to fight the furious tiger, / Went to fight the beast at faro, / And was cleaned out so completely / That he lost his every mopus, / Every single speck of pewter, / Every solitary shiner, / Every brad and every dollar [...] All the brass and all the needful, / All the spondulix and buttons.
[US]A. Baer Two and Three 10 Feb. [synd. col.] He shook [...] his kids’ clay banks down for the buttons.
[US]M.H. Boulware Jive and Sl. n.p.: Shiny Buttons ... Money.

(d) a dollar.

[US]A. Baer Two & Three 4 Jan. [synd. col.] Zowie! Only 13,000,000,000 buttons.

(e) (Aus.) an accelerator.

[Aus]P. Temple Black Tide (2012) [ebook] Tread the button and, with one smooth kick of power, leave the other person behind.

(f) (US Und.) a form of confidence-trick in which a criminal posing as a detective accuses the victim of passing counterfeit money and confiscates it for ‘examination’.

[US]S. Sterling ‘Ten Carats of Lead’ in Black Mask Stories (2010) 230/2: He got to his car, tramped on the button up through Central Park.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 291: The button. [...] 2. A type of short-con swindle in which the mark and the roper are accused by the insideman posing as a detective of passing counterfeit money. The insideman pretends suspicion and takes their money to ‘headquarters’ for examination.

(g) (US Und.) in pl., derisively small amounts, e.g. of money, stolen goods.

[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Murder’s Mouthpiece’ Hollywood Detective Aug. 🌐 ‘You can see what’s left of [the band] right here.’ Her mouth got sour. ‘Playing for buttons’.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 38/1: Buttons. Anything of petty value, especially stolen goods; a paltry sum of money. ‘I ain’t hustling (stealing) for buttons, Rubberlip. If the score (theft) ain’t worth a few G’s (thousands) for my end (share), get someone else to fill (fill in).’.

3. (US street gang) a switchblade knife, which is activated by a button on the handle.

[US](con. 1953–7) L. Yablonsky Violent Gang (1967) 106: I got a button on me now.

4. in drugs uses.

(a) (drugs) a capsule containing heroin or opium.

[US] ‘Sl. of Watts’ in Current Sl. III:2.
[US]E. Little Another Day in Paradise 30: He pauses, wrapping his arm with a necktie, slamming all four buttons at once [...] Cooking my own button of scag. Draw it up, looking for a vein.

(b) peyote.

[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970).
[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972).

(c) (S.Afr. drugs) a Mandrax (methaqualone) tablet; thus button-kop n., a regular Mandrax user (lit. button-head).

[US]Current Sl. III–IV (Cumulation Issue).
[US]R. Sabbag Snowblind (1978) 94: He could hit you with lids, caps, keys, tabs, nickel bags, blotters, buttons, spoons and everything from milligrams to boatloads.
[SA]Cape Times 19 Apr. in Branford Dict. S. Afr. Eng. (1991) 57/1: When a ‘button-kop’ (Mandrax user) like me puts out his hand he needs immediate help.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. 12 Oct. 13: Many users taking six or seven buttons a day. [...] On the streets of the South African townships mandrax tablets are known as ‘buttons’.
[SA]H.P. Lewis Also God’s Children 136: He was drugging so much the boys were already calling him a button kop.
[SA]A. Lovejoy Acid Alex 250: I was trying to kill the pain of being rejected by God by smoking buttons.
[SA]A. Lovejoy ‘The Smell of Tears’ at 🌐 2: He doesn’t want a skal of filthy white wine – Hond wants a button pipe.

In compounds

button finger (n.) [sense 1c above + SE finger; pun on butterfingers under butter n.1 ]

the finger used by a woman to masturbate herself or her partner.

‘Top Ten “Top Ten” Lists’ York Little Theatre Pit 25 Jul. 🌐 1. Things Carols can do with her ‘Button Finger!’.
buttonhole (n.)

see separate entry.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

button B (adj.) [the old payphones, where one could push button B in the hope of redeeming some other caller’s forgotten change]


[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 166/2: since c. 1938.
button boy (n.) [his button-adorned uniform]

a (hotel) page.

[Aus]Sydney Morn. Herald 3 Apr. 3/1: A Buttons or button boy is the same creature that by some termed a page; a small child, dressed in a dark coloured livery, the jacket of which is decorated [with] bright buttons .
[US]Akron Beacon Jrnl (OH) 5 Dec. 7/6: [She] disappeared into the kitchen, escorted by a reverent and remote train, maid, button boy, and the porter .
[US]Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly LI 561: There would be the office boy, the messenger boy, the door or button boy, the newsboy, the common street boy and several other varieties.
K.D. Wiggin Penelope’s Irish Experiences (2008) 189: She calls our page ‘the Button Boy,’ and makes his life a burden to him.
button-down (adj.)

see separate entry.

button jock (n.) [jock n.2 (5)]

anyone who operates a console.

Judge Dredd Nov. 5: I’m just a harmless button jock [HDAS].
button lurk (n.) [lurk n. (3)]

(Aus.) a trick played on a naïve woman by a man, bent on intercourse, who removes a button from his coat and promises that it will serve adequately as a contraceptive pessary.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 167/1: since ca. 1915.
button mob (n.) [the buttons on a uniform]

(UK Und.) the police.

[UK](con. 1920s) J. Sparks Burglar to the Nobility 29: It was a few years before the Button Mob had started putting my description at all the race meetings. [Ibid.] 35: So many of the Button Mob were in court with their week-end’s haul of drunks and street-walkers.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 176: Button Mob. uniformed police officers, especially in large numbers, at a political demonstration for example.
button music (n.) [it is played on machines, with buttons, rather than live instruments]

house music.

[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 13: You’d go to collect money, and they’d be dancing round the gaff, arms in the air, button music blasting out at maximum volume.
button park (n.) [a fig. country house; sense 2c + park v. (1)]

a state of solvency or profit.

[UK]New Sporting Mag. Nov. 39/2: I recommend Mr Wilson to translate him [i.e. a horse named Argent] into plain English Silver, for horses of this genius are always best in Button Park.
C. Waterton Home, Habits & Handiwork 205: Come into the public-house, and I will treat you with a pint of heavy wet out of your own half-crown, as I have fifteen pence in button-park yet.
[UK]Sporting Times 14 Mar. 1/2: Although he had a good run at one time, when he came into breakfast he was only £400 in Button Park.

In phrases

button short, a (adj.) (also a button loose, …missing, a few buttons missing, half a button short) [var. on not all there adj.]

eccentric, one of many phrs. implying the subject is ‘not all there’.

[UK]Birmingham Dly Gaz. 11 Nov. 6/7: ‘He ain’t got all his buttons. No, he be a button short, he be’.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 8 Feb. 6/3: The professor is a local celebrity with rats in his garret, or, in other words, with some ‘buttons’ missing,.
[UK]Gloucester Citizen 5 Nov. 3/2: A man, and even a woman, may be a button short, in otheer words, a ‘wee bit daftie’ [...] To be half-a-button short even, is a loss serious to contemplate.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues I (rev. edn) 456/2: To have lost a button (or be a button short) [...] to be slightly crazy.
[US]Everybody’s Mag. 21 44: He's either dumb or got a button loose somewhere. Won't talk.
[UK](con. WWI) Fraser & Gibbons Soldier and Sailor Words 41: Button Loose, A: Silly. Soft headed.
Milwaukee Road Mag. 44-6 5: You’ve got a button loose, man . . . you aren’t normal!
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS 82/1: button(s) missing, have a (few) : To be crazy; to be eccentric.
[US]W. Flexner Adolescence 57: Her classmates did not like to have her around, and did tell one another tha she ‘had a few buttons missing’.
get off the button (v.)

(US) to experience orgasm, to relieve sexual tension.

[US]V.F. Nelson Prison Days and Nights 38: Naturally a guy has got to get off the button now and then. But when I get that way, I’m going out and dig me up a broad for the night.
have all one’s buttons (on) (v.) (also have all one’s buttons done up, know one’s buttons, know the buttons on one’s coat)

to be ‘sharp’, to know what is going on, to be impervious to hoaxers.

Lafayette Advertiser 2 Feb. 1/4: The home spun proverb about not having all one’s buttons.
W. Harcourt speech in Daily News 21 May 6/3: He is 83 years of age, but as we say hereabouts, has all his buttons on.
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 5/1: All his buttons on (C.L., 1880 on) Sharp, alive, active, not to be deceived.
[US]L.A. Herald 13 Oct. 13/5: Hanshire knows everything about this marvellous little car, as he knows the buttons on his coat.
[US]N.Y. Times Book Rev. 25 Sept. 14: Whether you have all your buttons [W&F].
[UK]Times 16 Jan. 4/5: But East Midlands, too, had all their buttons on .
[US](con. 1949) J.G. Dunne True Confessions (1979) 52: His Eminence knew his buttons when he made you chancellor.
[UK]J. Cameron It Was An Accident 59: ‘So this Slip,’ went Jimmy, ‘he got all his buttons done up?’.
hit the button (v.)

to be pertinent or relevant or precisely what is required.

[UK]Guardian 1 Dec. 🌐 Consumers [...] were deluged with information that failed to ‘hit the button’ when it came to telling them what they actually needed to know.
loose a button (v.) [fly buttons]

(Irish) to urinate.

[Ire]P. Kavanagh Tarry Flynn (1965) 162: ‘I have to go out to loose a button,’ said Joe.
lose a button (v.)

to be eccentric, crazy.

[UK]S. Wales Echo 23 Apr. 3/4: Prisoner (an elderly man) pointed to his dress and said smilingly that he was a button short. Mr Wansborough (severely): I should say you had lost all your buttons., It is a scandalous thing [etc].
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues I (rev. edn) 456/2: To have lost a button (or be a button short) [...] to be slightly crazy.
[US]W. Brown Teen-Age Mafia 22: Whitey must be losing his buttons to pick a john this big.
not have all one’s buttons (v.) (also be missing a few buttons)

to lack intelligence, to be slightly eccentric or odd.

[UK]Hotten Dict. Sl. (2nd edn) 109: Not to have all one’s buttons, to be deficient in intellect.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[Aus]N.H. Kennard Diogenes’ Sandals 176: They said in the village that he had not ‘got all his buttons’, meaning that he was not ‘all there’.
[US]H. Asbury Sucker’s Progress 206: Ashby impersonated the young man’s fiddle-playing old Pappy who didn’t have all his buttons.
[US]M.E. Counselman ‘The Green Window’ in Goodstone Pulps (1970) 185/1: Aunt Lucy Dickerson [...] She never did have all her buttons.
[US]‘Ed Lacy’ Room to Swing 95: Old Ma hasn’t all her buttons.
[US]The Amusive Network 🌐 ‘Unsubscribing from the Joke A Day List’: You’re nuts. You’re insane. [...] You’re missing a few buttons on your remote control.
not worth a button (adj.)

worthless, useless.

[UK]J. Taylor ‘Taylors Travels’ in Works (1869) III 84: Quirks, quiddits, demurs, habeas corpuses, sursararaes, precedendoes, or any such dilatory law-tricks are abolished, and not worth a button.
[UK]Witts Recreations ‘Fancies and Fantasticks’ No. 107: And once but tast on the Welsh Mutton; / Your Englis seeps [sic] not worth a button.
[UK]M. Stevenson Wits Paraphras’d 133: Who tho they offer Sheep and Mutton / To thee, I value not a button.
[UK]R. Nares Gloss. (1888) I 123: button. A button seems from an early period to have been a common symbol for something of very small value, which was said to be not worth a button.
[UK] ‘Love in the City’ in Bentley’s Misc. Aug. 130: You life’s not worth a button.
[UK] ‘My Wife She Often Pulls My Horns’ in Gentleman Steeple-Chaser 43: She often tells me to my face / That I’m not worth a button.
[UK]T. Hughes Tom Brown’s School-Days (1896) 196: He’ll never be worth a button, if you go on keeping him under your skirts.
[US] ‘O Andy J’ Grant Songster 29: We know just how to take your speeches / And they are not worth a button.
[UK]G.R. Sims ‘The Button’ Dagonet Ditties 107: Their shares won’t be worth a button.
one’s arse makes buttons (v.) (also one’s breech makes buttons, one’s buttocks..., one’s tail…, one makes buttons) [SE buttons, dung (usu. of animals); the image is of one’s involuntarily soiling one’s trousers through fear/arse n. (1)/tail n. (1)]

one is terrified, or jittery.

[UK]Jacke Juggler Biii: His arse makith buttens now, and who lustith to feale Shall find his hart creeping pit at his heele.
[UK]U. Fulwell Like Will to Like 12: I was so afraid, I was like to bestench the place! My buttocks made buttons of the new fashion.
[UK]Appius and Virginia in Farmer (1908) 14: I must be gone, there is no remedy, / For fear, my tail makes buttons, by mine honesty!
[UK]‘I.T.’ Grim The Collier of Croydon III i: Alas my Breech makes Buttons.
[UK] ‘Thursday’ Rump Poems and Songs (1662) I 184: This Day a great Fart in the House they did hear, / Which made all the Members make Buttons for fear.
[UK]Mercurius Fumigosus 35 24–31 Jan. 275: His Breech ever since makes Buttons.
[UK]‘R.M.’ Scarronides 38: He whin’d as though his arse made buttons.
[Ire]Purgatorium Hibernicum 15: The Monaghans began to quake / Stinking for fear did buttons make.
[UK]J. Phillips Maronides (1678) V 120: Some in the next Woods refuge take, / For all their Arses buttons make.
[UK]M. Stevenson Wits Paraphras’d 95: When Nestor’s Brat by Hector masterd, / My Ars made Buttons for the Bastard.
[Ire]Irish Hudibras in Bliss Irish Writings from the Age of Swift (1979) 126: The Dear Joys strait began to quake, / Stinking for fear, did Buttons make .
[UK]D. Gunston (ed.) Jemmy Twitcher’s Jests 6: While one great personage spends his time in making buttons, another [...] thinks nothing else but stitching button holes.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: His A—e makes Buttons; he is cursedly afraid.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd, 3rd edn) n.p.: His a-se makes buttons; he is ready to bewray himself through fear.
[UK]‘A. Burton’ Adventures of Johnny Newcome IV 245: John [...] O’er his left shoulder rueful eyed The Boatswain near where he was tied—While he made buttons.
[UK]W.H. Smyth Sailor’s Word-Bk (1991) 149: Buttons, to Make. A common time-honoured, but strange expression for sudden apprehension or misgiving.
[UK]Flame : a Life on the Game 107: I was in an indecisive frame of mind, unable to settle. My arse, as they say, was making buttons.
[UK]D. O’Donnell Locked Ward (2013) 53: ‘I know where you live,’ she said [...] My arse making buttons, I stalked off.
on the button

1. right on target, usu. of a blow.

[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 23: As Placke turned to see who it was he got one on the button that put him out for four hours.
[US]O.O. McIntyre New York Day by Day 25 July [synd. col.] Adair landed ‘flush on the button’ – a straight swing to the jaw.
[US]‘Max Brand’ ‘Fixed’ Coll. Stories (1994) 249: What a beauty ... on the button! He can’t get up.
[US]N. Algren Never Come Morning (1988) 92: In the ninth Bicek caught him with a long straight right flush on the button.
[US]E. Hunter Blackboard Jungle 260: And here’s to eagle-eye Stanley, whose observations were right on the button.
[US]‘Troy Conway’ Cunning Linguist (1973) 16: ‘On the button, Damon. You’re quick this morning’.
[Ire]J. Morrow Confessions of Proinsias O’Toole 111: The poor chap outside caught the first round dead on the button.
[US]D. Jenkins Life Its Ownself (1985) 318: ‘On the button?’ ‘Wilco.’.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. Culture 24 Oct. 13: His wit is sharp, and his plotting is right on the button.

2. up to the minute, fully aware.

[US]N.Y. Times Book Rev. 25 Sept. 14: [title of article] Right on the Button [W&F].
[UK]F. Pollini Glover 10: You’re not shittin, man, that’s right on the button.
[Ire](con. 1945) S. McAughtry Touch and Go 80: You’re on the button there, all right.
[Aus]P. Temple Truth 242: Long ago, my old man said, inner city, never mind price. Always on the button, my dad.
[UK]J. Meades Empty Wigs (t/s) 636: ‘And two hundred years steady growth has been ended in less than two hours.’ Hardy was always on the button.

3. exactly on time, as required.

[US](con. 1920s) ‘Harry Grey’ Hoods (1953) 315: I shot down West Street on the button.
[UK]R.L. Pike Mute Witness (1997) 80: With a pleased glance at his expensive wrist-watch. ‘Not bad. One-fifteen on the button.’.
[US]G. Cuomo Among Thieves 391: Okay – the men start eating right on the button.
[UK]New Musical Express 17 Nov. n.p.: I [...] gave them all the jingoism and all the paraphernalia of Modism, boxing boots and fashionable things, right on the button, timing just right.
[UK]T. Blacker Fixx 167: I delivered on the button.
[Ire]P Howard Braywatch 24: [W]e’re all expected to wait around outside until nine o’clock on the actual button.
press someone’s button(s) (v.) (also push someone’s button(s), press/push (all) the right buttons)

1. to make someone feel special, turned on, loved etc.

[US]T.I. Rubin In the Life 1: Big shot like you—push your button and your whore for the hour is delivered.
[US] in T.I. Rubin Sweet Daddy 42: They caught me feeling up a girl [...] I was pushing her buttons a little and she loved it.
[US]L. Kramer Faggots 78: He is the first person to come along in many moons to press my buttons.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. Rev. 1 Aug. 45: Presses all the right action-adventure buttons.
[US]Week (US) 4 May 25: She’s intrigued by her power to ‘push his vunerable on and off buttons’.
rtw132 Maureen’s Lusty Confessions 🌐 Push my love button like a game show contestant bound and determined to ring in first in a contest of love.

2. to manipulate someone emotionally, usu. to annoy, to irritate.

[US]C. Odets Golden Boy II iii: You push the buttons, the right buttons. I wanna see Bonaparte with the crown.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Farm (1968) 22: You just keep pressin my button. You been itchin to bring this subject up for months.
[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972) 153: press someone’s buttons [...] Verbally make another angry or disturbed; antagonize.
TAC ‘Anti-Semitism’ on Koach List on 🌐 I personally would give him an earful he’d never forget, but I have a thing for Christians who spout trash like this. It presses my button big time.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 22 Apr. 7: You can admit to someone [...] ‘I’m just winding you up’, whereas you would never acknowledge ‘I’m pushing your buttons’.
[UK]Observer Mag. 21 May 3: Watching Gladiator, [...] manage to push all the right buttons.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 65: Santorra had been pushing his buttons since they first met and tonight he’d pushed one too many.
[Aus]G. Disher Consolation 144: ‘Given the flick by Mrs Ayliffe so he takes it out on the daughter, which pushes Leon Ayliffe’s button’.
[US]I. Fitzgerald Dirtbag, Massachusetts 103: ‘He loved to piss people off [...] He loved pushing people’s buttons’.
press the button (v.)

1. to set an event or a chain of circumstances in motion.

[UK]E. Grey in Europ. Crisis, Corr. (Parlt. Papers CI) 46: Mediation was ready to come into operation by any method that Germany thought possible, if only Germany would ‘press the button’ in the interests of peace .

2. to shoot.

[US]Black Mask Dec. XXII 87: Listen, lady. I have had to press the button on a few guys, yes. In self-defense.
press the panic button (v.) (also push the panic button)

(orig. US) to panic.

[US]Popular Science Dec. 110/1: The student there picks up a whole new jargon [...] if he gets in a tight spot and doesn’t know what to do, he ‘pushes the panic button for two minutes of disorganized confusion’ .
[US]L.P. Boone ‘Gator Sl.’ AS XXXIV:2 156: When a student is so unfortunate as to push the panic button on a test, he chokes up and cannot do his best.
[US]New York Mag. 27 June 13: ‘I’m not pressing the panic button,’ LaMorte insisted. ‘We’ll simply be going through an unpleasant interlude in a major economic expansion.’.
ABA Journal 1 Oct. 105: There are ways to handle the specter of malpractice. You can ignore it and hope it will go away. It won’t. You can push the panic button. But that means you have already panicked.
[UK]Guardian 26 Nov. 🌐 We do not believe that there are ‘no grounds for pushing the panic button’, as the Local Government Association states. One in 10 social services departments are failing in their duties to provide services for some of the most vulnerable people in our society and this needs to be urgently addressed.
Indian Express 2 Apr. 🌐 [headline] Pakistan must not press the panic button.
push the button on (v.)

(US) to murder.

[US]S. Sterling ‘The Kiss and Tell Murders’ Popular Detective May 🌐 So after he uses a babe for a little while, he pushes the button on her.
P. Blauner Casino Moon 125: ‘What was his last words?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Whaddya mean, you don’t know? You pushed the button on him, didn’t you?’.

In exclamations

bless my buttons! (also blow my buttons! drat my buttons!)

a mild excl. of amusement.

J.B. Buckstone A Husband At Sight I i: Bless my buttons.
[UK]‘Pot’ & ‘Swears’ Scarlet City 52: Drat my buttons but I depended on you.
[UK](con. 1835–40) P. Herring Bold Bendigo 136: Well, blow my buttons!
[US]E. Knight Lassie Come-Home 79: ‘Well, drat my buttons,’ he breathed. ‘Drat my buttons.’.
Yorkshire Eve. Post 2 Jan. 5/3: Run a cargo, bless your buttons [...] Me, a respectable horse dealer...