Green’s Dictionary of Slang

town n.2

SE in slang uses

London as the home of louche urban pursuits and individuals.

[UK]Belle’s Stratagem 13: Such lads as we that are trainers for the town. — Rough riders, Bet, who wou’d rather break a filly than the head of a Frenchman.

In compounds

town bull (n.) [SE town bull, a bull housed in turn by the cow-keepers of a village]

1. a promiscuous man.

[UK]Shakespeare Henry IV Pt 2 II ii: Even such kin as the parish heifers are to the town bull.
[UK]Jonson Epicene III v: A man of your head, and haire, should ... not mount the marriage-bed, like a towne-bul, or a mountaine-goate.
[UK]Fletcher Custom of the Country I i: A Town Bull is a meer Stoick to this Fellow, a grave Philosopher, And a Spanish Jennet, a most vertuous Gentleman.
J. Shirley Humorous Courtier Act V: I’ld marry with a publicke stallion, A Towne Bull.
[UK]Beaumont & Fletcher Wit Without Money III i: Four husbands, should not I be blest sir [...] what should I doe with them, turne a Malt mill, or tyth them out like town Bulls to my tennants.
[UK]‘Mary Tattle-well’ The womens sharpe revenge 8: But for the man hee takes or assumes to himselfe such a loose liberty or liberty of licentious loosenesse, that though he be (as they call him) a Common Town Bull [...] his disgrace will be quickly worn out.
[UK]Man in the Moon 23-30 Apr. 20: This is but a Town-bull trick, he hath more than these.
[UK]Mercurius Fumigosus 6 5 July 46: Mistris Squirtington, so miserably troubled with the yellows, that she lives in perpetual fear lest her husband should act the Town-Bull of Smithfield, and ride every jade he comes near.
G. Torriano Proverbi Italiani 70: Gallo To be the cock of the parish, viz. to be a great whore-master, to be the town bull.
[Dudley Loftus] ‘The Wish’ in Carpenter Verse in English from Tudor & Stuart Eng. (2003) 434: He’l [sic] be the common Town Bull, must receive / Whatever plagues the angry husbands give.
[UK]J. Ray Proverbs (2nd edn) 66: Then the town-bull is a Batchelour. i.e. as soon as such an one. He speaks Bear-garden.
[UK]A. Radcliffe Ovid Travestie 116: What think you, lady, of your Father Jove? Shew me a town-bull h’as been more in love.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Town-bull, one that rides all the Women he meets.
[UK]N. Ward Hudibras Redivivus II:5 26: Nouns, draw, tho’ you are some Town-Bully, / I’ll make you know, Sir, I’m no Cully.
[UK]J. Dunton ‘The He-Strumpets’ in Athenianism II 93–9: in Norton Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook 🌐 The Town-Bull he does never prove His Mettle in the He-Alcove.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[US]‘Bob Sterling’ Town-Bull 9: By Jove! what an expanse of buttocks! What a magnificent pair of legs! Twe [sic] town-bull was ready to serve.

2. a ‘whoremaster’, i.e. a pimp or procurer.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: A Town-bull, a Whore-master.
[UK]New Canting Dict.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict.
[Ire]K. O’Hara Midas II i: Off! [...] to some Brother-Trull Your beastly markets try There But know, obscene Town-Bull! You’ve, now, the wrong Sow by th’ ear.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Town bull, a common whore master.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[US]Ely’s Hawk & Buzzard (NY) Sept. 8 n.p.: This knight of the brush [...] now has been made town bull.
town clown (n.) (also clown)

(US) a police officer working in a village or small town.

Gas Power Age 9 69/1: The editor, the parson, the lawyer and the town clown have each told him that he was too smart for the farm.
Police Jrnl 6-8 22: A county constable is known as a ‘town clown,’ and a uniformed policeman as a ‘harness bull’.
[US]N. Anderson Hobo 17: It is well that the jungles be not too far from a town, though far enough to escape the attention of the natives and officials, the town ‘clowns.’.
[US](con. 1890) G. Milburn ‘A Convention Song’ in Hobo’s Hornbook 26: The night was getting started / When someone heard a clatter, / And the clowns from town came swarming down / And maybe we didn’t scatter.
[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 42: You can never tell what a small town ‘clown’ (country policemen) is liable to think and do.
[UK]J. Curtis They Drive By Night 178: Shorty’s fingers drummed the same old tune. The town clown looked at him savagely.
[US]C.B. Davis Rebellion of Leo McGuire (1953) 54: ‘What’s the town clown?’ I asked. ‘The town constable or marshal or chief of police.’.
[US]J. Thompson Getaway in Four Novels (1983) 36: One of those little inland villages — some wide place in the road where every stranger gets the big-eye and maybe an interview by the town clown.
E. McKinney Exacting Ear 258: I would under no circumstances wish to [...] cause any embarrassment to the local guardian of law and order, otherwise known as the town clown.
D. McElroy Making It Simple 37: Strand, age 58, who waxed / the town clown’s ass, broke / his badge, jaw, and sternum / for messing with his daughter.
H. King Harry King 39: The box was on the balcony and we laid on the floor and watched the town-clown [local policeman] go all over the first floor but he never came near the box.
R. Heinlein Cat Who Walks Through Walls 169: I could see what he was: some sort of town clown; he was wearing a uniform that spelled ‘cop’.
[Can](con. 1920s) O.D. Brooks Legs 17: Sometimes a yard bull or a town clown – that’s a town cop – gets pissed off with one of two hobos he’s collared and locks him up.
M. Temte Wrangler 20: He’s a paramedic, drives the ambulance and substitutes for the school-bus drivers when they’re sick or out of town. He’s also our only cop. Some folks call him the town clown.
R. Robinson Diamond Trump 126: I suppose some town clown or county sheriff just marked down the unsolved cases.
[US]F. Bill ‘Coon Hunter’s Noir’ in Crimes in Southern Indiana [ebook] Marty [...] is Mauckport’s town marshal. Not a town clown or county mountie.
town hall drapes (n.)

(Polari) an uncircumcised penis.

[UK]P. Baker Fabulosa 298/2: town hall drapes an uncircumcised penis.
town pump (n.) (also town punch, town punch board) [pump n. (1f)/punch n.]

a very promiscuous woman.

[US]J. Crumley One to Count Cadence (1987) 305: Abigail had been [...] what is commonly known as a town punch, though she was never as promiscuous as she was thought to be.
[US]R. Price Blood Brothers 21: ‘Hey, Three-Finger Annette said she was going to the Camelot [...] ’ ‘I don’t need no town pump, Butler.’.
D.D. Anderson (ed.) Michigan 297/2: You heard a lot of guys saying she was easy stuff, and she’d got a reputation around school as being the town punch board, and Fleming's number one Prone Joan.
town stallion (n.) [stallion n. (1)]

a womanizer, a lecher.

[UK]N. Ward London Spy I 9: He [...] utters himself with as little Hesitation, and as great Grace as a Town-Stallion when he dissembles with his Generous Benefactress.
town toddler (n.) [toddler n. (1), i.e. one who wanders around open to exploitation]

(UK Und.) a gullible person, prey to confidence tricksters.

[UK]H.T. Potter New Dict. Cant (1795) n.p.: town todlers silly fellows, frequently taken-in by sharpers playing at different games.
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[UK]Flash Dict.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 88: Town Toddlers, foolish or silly persons easily taken in.
town trap (n.) [pun on SE trap, to ensnare / trap n.1 (2)]

a pimp.

[UK]N. Ward London Spy I 9: He is one half Town-Trap and the other half Sweetner.
[UK]N. Ward Compleat and Humorous Account of Remarkable Clubs (1756) 111: A mottl’d Diversity of Rakes, Beaus, grave Hypocrites, and Apprentices; Pimps, Bullies, Stallions, Valets, Butlers, and disguis’d Livery-Men; Thieves, Gamesters, Sweetners, Town Traps and Highwaymen.

In phrases

go all over town with (v.) [the tongue ‘travels’ around the body. Usu. used by a prostitute as part of the ‘menu’ of paid services she can offer; a ‘localized’ var. of around the world n.]

to lick and suck the partner’s body, incl. the genitals and sometimes the anus.

[US]G. Legman ‘Lang. of Homosexuality’ Appendix VII in Henry Sex Variants.
[US]Guild Dict. Homosexual Terms 19: go all over town (with) (v.): A tongue bath; licking the person over the entire body, ending with fellation (or cunnilinctus).
go to town (v.)

to commit oneself wholeheartedly.

[US]D. Burley N.Y. Amsterdam News 15 Oct. 21: Fats Savage and John Strickler ‘went to town’ on that landlady’s gumbo [...] the other peeyem.
[UK]A. Perrott-White French Legionnaire 206: I really went to town buying socks, shirts, underwear, and other such luxuries.
[NZ]I. Hamilton Till Human Voices Wake Us 11: I didn’t take this [information] at all well. In fact I went to town about it.
[US]E. Shepard Doom Pussy 55: When I get the writing bug I go to town.
[Aus]F. Huelin ‘Keep Moving’ 45: ‘By cripes! She went to town properly, an’ the bloody dog’s growlin’ all the time’.
[US]‘Randy Everhard’ Tattoo of a Naked Lady 8: She’s a sight for sore eyes, ain’t she? And if you think I’m giving you lip, you oughta see her go to town on a dick.
lawless as a town bull (adj.)

of a man, extremely promiscuous.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 669/1: ca. 1670–1800.
on the town (also upon the town) [18C SE on the town, in the swing of fashionable life; 19C use implies that those so occupied are not fashionable, merely dedicated to urban pleasures, smart or not]

1. working as a prostitute; thus take to the town, to work as a prostitute.

[UK]J. Gay Beggar’s Opera II iv: I hope, Madam, I ha’n’t been so long upon the Town, but I have met with some good Fortunes as well as my Neighbours.
[UK]Nocturnal Revels I 32: Charlotte Hayes, Lucy Cooper, and Nancy Jones, started upon the Town at the same time.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd edn) n.p.: To be on the town; to live by prostitution.
[UK]Harris’s List of Covent-Garden Ladies 61: Young, and not more than three months on the town, or in the town, fine hazel love-swimming eyes and dark brown hair.
[UK]Sporting Mag. July II 235/1: Lookup [...] was acquainted with most of the fine women who flirted upon the town, and to whom a few guineas would procure a certain passport.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 187: Upon the town — street-walkers, persons who live about at this place and that, and every where, whether men or women (the latter, particularly) with loose habits — sexually or otherwise.
[UK]Pierce Egan’s Life in London 26 Sept. 7/2: Mrs Bertram, alias Mother Bang, well known on the town.
[UK] ‘The Blowing In Quod’ in Swell!!! or, Slap-Up Chaunter 39: When I was but green on the town, / At fifteen or sixteen years old, / Oh, then I had plenty of culls.
[US]Whip & Satirist of NY & Brooklyn (NY) 9 Apr. n.p.: Lady Jane Grey [...] perhaps the most noble looking woman on the town.
[UK]Sam Sly 5 May 2/2: The green milkman, of St. Pancras-street [...] to feed his children, and not let a daughter go on the town for want of food.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ G’hals of N.Y. 20: Yer’d better make yer minds up, like me, to turn out, at once, and make an easy, splendid livin’, on the town.
[UK]Man of Pleasure’s Illus. Pocket-book n.p.: She has been upon the town about fifteen months [...] never accepting less than two guineas for her present.
[UK]Sportsman 14 Mar. 2/1: Notes on News [...] Mrs Helen Pope [...] simpering out that she did not conic to Paris to steal — oh! dear, no—but only to go upon the town.
[US]G. Ellington Women of N.Y. 298: They differ from other classes in being what is called ‘street-walkers,’ or ‘cruisers.’ They are ‘on the town.’.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 8 Oct. 2/3: [headline] betrothed and betrayed A Young Girl Seduced by Her Lover and Left on the Town.
[UK]‘Walter’ My Secret Life (1966) II 245: You [...] may do with Louise what you like, I shan’t be here, you will throw her on the town.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Dec. 34/1: Half a lifetime passed in hotels convinces me that an intending barmaid might as well, as a rule, take to the ‘town’ at once. Let a woman be ever so virtuous physically, the degrading influence of a bar sullies the purest minds [...] A girl who spends her youth and beauty in such a service is, in 10 years, either on the town or taking in washing.
[Aus]Truth (Melbourne) 14 Feb. 7/2: ‘Go on the town and bring some home,’ was the reply given by a bill-poster [...] to his three weeks’ bride when she asked him for some money.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 29 July 3/2: I will show you tons of cases / Where there’s gells upon the town.
[US]G. Bronson-Howard God’s Man 144: More young fellows going in for being yeggs and grafters, more girls going on the town – all good business.
[US]H.M. Anderson Strip Tease 30: ‘A girl doesn’t have to make a living the hard way if she’s gonna be on the town’.
[UK]J. Worby Spiv’s Progress 42: ‘Well, you’ve got me beat, if you’re not on the town,’ I said to Gladys .
[US]J.M. Cain Mildred Pierce (1985) 351: ‘I’m on the town.’ ‘Well – you don’t mean he actually left the money on the bureau, do you?’.
[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 241: She was flat broke and on the town when Harry Phillips found a job for her to do.
[Ire](con. 1920s) L. Redmond Emerald Square 13: She’s on the town, hangs round McDaids, she does.
[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 77: A woman on the town meant a prostitute in New York since at least the 1860s.
[Ire](con. 1930s) K.C. Kearns Dublin Tenement Life 86: Oh, the country girls got a hell of a time of it, that’s why all the girls was ‘on the town!’.

2. living as a professional criminal.

[UK]Byron Don Juan canto XI line 133: Poor Tom was once a kiddy upon the town, A thorough varmint, and a real swell, Full flash, all fancy.
[UK]Lytton Paul Clifford III 244: Harry spoke up for you, and said as ’ow though you had just gone on the town, you was already prime up to gammon.
[UK]Egan ‘Jack Flashman’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 141: Jack long was on the town, a teazer; / A spicy blade for wedge or sneezer; / Could turn his fives to anything / Nap a reader, or filch a ring.

3. living as a sophisticate, a man of the world.

[UK]P. Egan Key to the Picture of the Fancy going to a Fight 24: [F]ellows who have been on the town all their lies and flattered themselves that they have been ‘up’ and ‘down’ to every thing in the shape of a ‘do!’.
[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 101: [note] ‘On the Town’ A man of the World. A person supposed to have a general knowledge of men and manners. In short, UP to everything!
[UK] ‘The Brave Old Jock’ Rambler’s Flash Songster 13: A song to the jock, the brave old jock, / Who has stood so stiff and strong, / Here’s health and renown, to his crimson crown, / And his stump so stout and long. / He’s out on the town, when the sun goes down, / In every corner dark.
[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 66: The phrase on the town, for men at least, since the early eighteenth century meant seeking a good time at various fashionable places around town.
out of town [i.e. lit. or fig. absent]

1. in prison for debt, cite 1832 refs the Marshalsea on the south side of the Thames.

[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc.
[UK]Satirist (London) 2 Sept. 286/3: But over the water, and o’er to the Bench, / When poor, he must start in a hurry: / When the bribe he can't pay, we must take him to stay / ‘Out of town for the season’—in Surrey.

2. hard up, penniless.

[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: A man ‘in town,’ is in cash ? ‘out of town,’ without blunt.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.

3. unexcited, unstimulated.

[UK] ‘The Rare Old Root’ in Cuckold’s Nest 9: It’s out of town when its head hangs down, / And its nuts wibble-wabble about.

4. (US Und.) in prison.

[US]Rocky Mountain News (Denver) 13 Nov. in AS III:3 255/1: In hock, in hospital, out of town, away — In prison.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]‘Hy Lit’ Hy Lit’s Unbelievable Dict. of Hip Words 52: out of town – Away to summer camp or college, (Jail).

5. (US) crazy.

[US]Berrey & Van den Bark Amer. Thes. Sl.

6. (US black) unacceptable, unfashionable.

[US]Current Sl. III:3.
take to town (v.)

(US) to punish (severely).

[US](con. 1972) Jurgenson & Cea Circle of Six 244: I knew he wanted to take the NYPD to town, not only for what they’d done to me and Phil, but also to him.

In exclamations

fire down town!

(W.I.) a call for speedy and generous service, esp. on arriving at a bar and calling for a quick round of drinks.

[WI]cited in Cassidy & LePage Dict. Jam. Eng. (1980).
get out of town!

(orig. US black/campus) a general excl. of disbelief, dismissal.

[US]Eble Campus Sl. Sept.
[US]Eble Sl. and Sociability 56: Many phrases formed around get are fixed expressions that show disbelief (get outta here, get out of town).