Green’s Dictionary of Slang

rib n.1

[the creation myth of the first woman, Eve, being made from Adam’s rib]

1. a wife.

[UK]Beaumont & Fletcher Knight of the Burning Pestle III ii: Nay, she’s your owne ribbe.
[UK]Beaumont & Fletcher Scornful Lady III i: I am a woman, and a rib.
[UK] in A. Niccholes Discourse of Marriage and Wiving B2: He doth want his Rib that wants his Wife.
[UK]T. Killigrew Parson’s Wedding (1664) IV i: Art thou not my wife, my Rib, bone of my bone?
[UK]D’Urfey Comical Hist. of Don Quixote Pt II IV iii: ’Tis well spouse; mine, ’tis well: but not too much of fondness now, good Crooked Rib.
[UK]N. Ward ‘A Walk to Islington’ Writings (1704) 66: The poor Fool, her Husband, she lugs by the Arm, / Who Proud of his Rib, never thinks any harm.
[UK]S. Centlivre Wonder! V iii: I wish you much joy of your rib.
[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c. 343: He dispatch’d his dear Rib.
[UK]Spy on Mother Midnight II 49: Thomas knew the Voice of his Rib thro’ the Partition.
[UK]Bridges Homer Travestie (1764) II 143: As for his rib, ’tis shame to tell, / She pleads old custom to rebel.
[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 13: My rib at home, upon my life, / As well as man can love a wife.
[Ind]Hicky’s Bengal Gaz. 28 June-4 Aug.n.p.: I went to the Captain’s Quarters to enquire for my Rib.
[UK]Morris et al. ‘The Learned Pig’ Festival of Anacreon (1810) 47: A French Refugee who was jealous of his rib.
‘Rutland’s Gig’ Rutland’s Gig 5: And A--n D--h has promised his rib, / That he for the future wil drive her Gig.
[UK] ‘Britannia’s Sons at Sea’ Jovial Songster 5: At length I did comply, / And made a rib of Sue.
[UK] ‘Jonny Raw and Polly Clark’ Batchelar’s Jovial Fellows Collection of Songs 4: He dreamt his wife had from him fled, / Ri tol de rol / Then full of joy he ’woke, it’s true, / and found his rib had prov’d untrue.
[Ire]Spirit of Irish Wit 167: The Earl [...] complained to his friend the chancellor [...] of the infidelity of his rib.
‘The Thirsty Family’ Medley Song Bk 19: At twenty I took for my rib brandy Nan, / We coupled like birds of a feather.
[UK]‘An Amateur’ Real Life in London I 551: It is impossible to say of him, as of his sirloin of a wife (for she cannot be called a rib, or at all events a spare rib) that there is any thing like cut and come again.
[US]E.C. Wines Two Years and a Half in Navy I 214: The poor fellow made a desperate struggle for a divorce, but the court decided that he must keep his ‘rib,’ hips or no hips.
[US]Ely’s Hawk & Buzzard (NY) Sept. 29 n.p.: They say she is my rib — if so I ween, / She was the crookedest rib that ever was seen.
[US]J.R. Lowell Biglow Papers (1880) 90: An’ now I’m speakin’ about ribs, it kin’ o’ bring to mind / One thet I could n’t never break, — the one I lef’ behind.
[US]Life in Boston & N.Y. (Boston, MA) 7 Sept. n.p.: [He] occasionally goes after strange gods [...] much to the discomfort of his own lawful rib.
[UK] ‘The Cadger’s Ball’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 148: To Mother Swankey’s snoozing-crib; / Each downey cadger was seen taking / His bit of muslin, or his rib.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 24 Apr. 3/5: James Free appeared before the Court, charged by his rib. Margaret Free, with having deserted her.
[UK]J. Poole Ye Comedie of Errors I i: Adam was sleeping in the garden one day, He woke up and found his rib stolen away.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Feb. 22/3: A few days after this, old Mrs. Fussanfether and two other Little Bethel ladies called down to condole with the man who had lost his wife, and if possible tap him for a fiver, or see how he felt about fastening on to a second rib.
[UK]Manchester Courier 24 Dec. 10/5: ‘Owd Rib,’ ses aw, ‘thi plan’s o’ reet’.
[UK]Sporting Times 17 Jan. 3/2: The game it was crib, / And the Ancient One’s Rib / Says, when cards are about, he ne’er sees her.
[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 66: Rib, a scolding wife.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 11 Aug. 4s/7: You mustn’t tell the fluent fib, / Unto your blind, believing rib.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 13 Feb. 2nd sect. 1/1: They Say [...] That art uxorious ass who rapturously kissed his wife's neck, at Zaza is at it again. That during an Amy Castle love song he osculated his rib’s hand.
[NZ]N.Z. Truth 31 Jan. 2/1: Catherine Gibson, the blue-clad and comely lawful rib of W.H.F. Gibson`.

2. a husband.

[UK]Pierce Egan’s Life in London 23 Oct. 309/1: Mrs Martin [...] was employed to get a warrant to prevent her busband from entering the ring [...] Her rib, of course was grabbed.

3. in pl., a fat person. [ironic use of SE; ‘the ribs’ are unlikely to be visible].

[US]O. Johnson Varmint 226: Oh, you ribs!

4. (US black) a woman.

[UK]E. Pugh Cockney At Home 134: They’s stuck me down aside one o’ the nicest bits o’ frock I’ve ever played the goat with in my nat. Reg’lar fancy rib!
[US]Wood & Goddard Dict. Amer. Sl.
[US](con. 1920s) Dos Passos Big Money in USA (1966) 796: She was certainly a stylish looking rib and in bed she was swell.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US] ‘Sl. of Watts’ in Current Sl. III:2.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

ribby (adj.)

1. short of money [one is ‘on one’s ribs’].

[UK]J. Curtis You’re in the Racket, Too 15: ‘How’s things?’ ‘Right ribby.’.
[UK]J. Worby Other Half 223: He asked me if I was ribby [...] and he stood me a tea and a pie and a packet of fags.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 199: Ribby (a) Short of cash.

2. second-rate, poor quality, dirty, run-down [lit. or fig. the ‘ribs are showing’].

[US]S.F. Call 15 Dec. 19/1: [of a dog] Poor ribby little cuss!
[UK]J. Curtis Gilt Kid 33: Hallo, he recollected, here’s Isabella’s. Ribby kind of a gaff, but I might as well go in.
[UK]K. Williams Diaries 15 May 113: Rehearsed the Hancock Show at the Camden. It’s a bit ribby this week, primarily because I have very little to do.
[UK]B. Naughton Alfie III i: She looked real ribby, so to brighten her up a bit I went a roundabout way to the river, then [...] asked her if she’d like some tea.
[UK] (ref. to 1930s) R. Barnes Coronation Cups and Jam Jars 81: Can only give you 1/6d this week [...] it’s looking a bit ribby.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 199: Ribby [...] substandard.

In compounds

rib baste (v.)

to thrash, to beat up.

[UK]Florio Worlde of Wordes n.p.: Stringare, to beate, to bang or ribbaste one.
[UK]Florio Queen Anna’s New World of Words n.p.: Rifrustare, to beat, to bang, to swadle, or rib-baste with rod or cudgell.
G. Torriano Dict. n.p.: Rifrústo, a swadling or rib-basting with a rod or cudgel.
rib bender (n.) (also rib-winder) [boxing jargon]

1. a blow to the ribs.

[UK]Era (London) 21 July 12/2: Murray, determined not to lose time, [...] sent in a rib-bender with his right.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 128: rib-bender. A forcible hit in the ribs.
[UK]H.D. Miles Tom Sayers 23: Martin, whose head was much swollen, again planted a rib-bender, closed, and after a short struggle both were down.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 2 Mar. 5/2: He delivered a rib-bender but received a one-two for his pains.
[US]N.Y. Herald 5 Sept. n.p.: Roche put in some stunners [...] Foley placed in a rough rib-bender.
[UK]C. Hindley Life and Adventures of a Cheap Jack 284: It was some time before he recovered from the ‘rib-bender’ he got from the fat show-woman.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 2 May 14/3: It was not till this point Farnan made any show, and, as Jackson commenced to tire, he accepted the left-handers which were losing their steam, and responded with terrific right-handed rib-winders which soon finished the darkie.
[US]Sun (NY) 16 Feb. 3/4: Reilly let go with the left [...] on Shiny’s mouth. In return he received a rib-bender.
Licensed Victuallers’ Gazette 9 Feb. n.p.: Repaid the compliment with another rib-bender [F&H].
[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 66: Rib Bender, a severe blow on the side.
[US]Spokane Press (WA) 14 Dec. 2/3: But what a punmch he has! [...] Hoe will remember those rib benders for a very long time.
[UK]Nottingham Eve. Post 17 July 3/4: He came in for one or two rib benders from the American’s right.
[UK]Yorks. Post 31 May 17/7: ‘Rib-Benders’ The coloured man scored with some lefts to the body [...] on the side of the ribs.

2. an uproarious joke.

[UK]Liverpool Echo 20 Dec. 3/7: Rollicking Randolph: ‘We’ve got some regular rib-benders on tap’.
rib joint (n.)

(US) in commercial sexual contexts [joint n. (3b)].

(a) (US) a restaurant featuring spare ribs [SE (spare) rib + joint n. (3b)].

E. Condon We Called It Music 187: There were also an all-night barbershop, a rib joint, and, above Connie’s Inn, a barrel-house café.
[US]A. Young Snakes (1971) 49: We moved past the shrimp shacks, rib joints, record shops.
[US]C. Hiaasen Lucky You 139: They met at a rib joint on Highway One in South Miami.

(a) a brothel.

[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 177/1: Rib-joint. A brothel.
[US]Trimble 5000 Adult Sex Words and Phrases.
[US]Maledicta IX 148: The compilers ought to have looked farther afield and found: […] rib joint.

(b) any form of sex show which permits the customers to watch, but definitely not to touch.

[US]Maledicta IX 150: The original argot of prostitution includes some words and phrases which have gained wider currency and some which have not […] rib joint (strictly for show, no touching by customers).
rib roast

see separate entries.

rib sticker (n.) [the image of both senses suggests something that warms and fills up the consumer]

1. a warming alcohol-based drink.

[UK]Crim.-Con. Gaz. 9 Mar. 81/3: I had a rib sticker of mahogany [...] gin and treacle, I mean.

2. (US Und.) in pl. beans.

[US]Abbeville Press (SC) 27 Feb. 1/5: Baked beans and bean soup are ribstickers and very healthy for old and young.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
rib tickler (n.)

1. in prize-fighting, a blow to the ribs.

[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 21 May 2/5: Abe delivered a ‘rib tickler.

2. a kick in the ribs.

[Aus]Truth (Melbourne) 31 Jan. 8/8: He waded into something with a boot — evidently putting in a rib tickler. The ‘something’ turned out to be a man.

In phrases

get into one’s ribs (v.) [one’s wallet is carried in a pocket near the ribs]

1. to lay a bet on credit.

[UK]A. Binstead Pitcher in Paradise 259: Louie [...] got into old Steve’s ribs for fifteen pounds to five before he was properly aware of it.

2. to borrow money.

[UK]Wodehouse Right Ho, Jeeves 54: You think the chances of getting into Uncle — my uncle by marriage’s ribs are slight?
on the ribs (adj.) [poverty has emptied one’s stomach + one’s skin thus rests on the ribs]

short of money.

[UK]J. Worby Other Half 244: I’m fed up with being always on the ribs and living on my wits.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 255: On the ribs. Without money.
[UK](con. 1920s) J. Sparks Burglar to the Nobility 38: Old lags who are on the ribs touch you for a fifty.
ribbed-up (adj.) [one’s full wallet, sitting next to one’s ribs]

(financially) secure.

[UK]Sporting Times 9 Jan. 3/4: [of a racehorse subject to heavy betting] ‘Garry’ Moore is also said to be well ‘ribbed up’.
[US]W.J. Kountz Billy Baxter’s Letters 55: Then when she had you all ribbed up and done to a turn, she said, ‘I love Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Hawkins loves me. Good by, Jim; take care of yourself.’.
[US]Ade Girl Proposition 27: Philo always had his Plan of Campaign ribbed up. He knew what he was going to say when she came breezing into the Front Room.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 7 Feb. 5/3: [He] had been told by the popular mentor to open the purse and pop a decent poultice on to Ptolemy [...] those ribbed up should bet like ‘The Watsons’.
tickle someone’s ribs (v.)

1. to hit, to punch; to beat heavily.

[UK]‘One of the Fancy’ Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress 30: And my OWN improv’d method of tickling a rib.
[UK]Bell’s Life in London 12 Jan. 6/1: One of their party [...] attempted to tickle his ribs.
[UK]Hants. Advertiser 11 Mar. 7/5: he at once proceeded to tickle the bailiff’s ribs, while Mrs Trott attacked [...] with a rolling pin.
[UK]Grays & Tilbury Gaz. 18 Apr. 3/5: Personally I have no desire to hit the reverend gentleman below the belt, but I must certainly tickle his ribs.
[UK]Lincs. Echo 18 Apr. 2/6: The odds were six to one, but he fought like a tiger [...] ‘Go on, boys, tickle his ribs for him,’ roared a voice.
[Scot]Dundee Eve. Teleg. 25 Apr. 2/2: He refused to speak. You could smack him, tickle his ribs [...] but not a sound would he make.

2. (US) to stab.

[UK] ‘Death of Jabez Dollar’ in Martin & Aytoun Bon Gaultier Ballads 74: ‘Look to your ribs, for here is that will tickle them without laughing!’ His knife he raised – with fury crazed.
[US]New Bloomfield Times (PA) 21 Sept. 1/5: This stunned the bear, and enabled the vaqueros to tickle his ribs with a pocket knife until he died.