Green’s Dictionary of Slang

tumble v.2

[fig. uses of SE tumble on, chance on]

1. to realize, to notice, to recognize; thus tumble to

implied in tumble to
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 112: tumble to comprehend or understand.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 14 Sept. n.p.: On being ‘tumbled’ a rough [...] called out, ‘Come on, boys, let’s fight them’.
[UK]J. Greenwood Wilds of London (1881) 161: Bristles placed his hand beneath his belt, and heaved a deep sigh. ‘Don’t you tumble?’ he asked.
[UK]Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday 31 May 32: [caption] He goes down. D’ye tumble.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Feb. 20/1: ‘Baggage be slammed,’ roared the other; ‘no. The place to have a bath – to wash in.’ ‘Oh, now I tumbles,’ replied the host; ‘yer wants a sloosh, I see.’.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 13 May. 1/5: Why the missus don’t tumble [...] is wat hi can’t make hout.
[US]E. Townsend Chimmie Fadden Explains 65: I didn’t tumble dat de Duchess was up t’ no game.
[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 9: I tumbled [he] was a stranger soon as I ketch sight of ’is dial.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 21 Oct. 4/7: I tumbled in arf of a jiffy.
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 133: He didn’t have any time to put me next and I never tumbled until he’d sprung the trick.
[Aus]Truth (Perth) 1 Oct. 4/7: When they talk about ‘the old / Pot-an’-pan,’ / You will tumble that they mean / The ‘old man’ .
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper XL:2 79: ‘You jolly soon tumbled when the water came on the scene,’ I chuckled.
[UK]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 5 Feb, 8/2: I barged into Jimmy London, looking dashed queer and white about the gills [...] He had tumbled to the game that Ralston [...] had been planning.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 64: I tumbled right away, but did not let on.
[US](con. 1905–25) E.H. Sutherland Professional Thief (1956) 46: Whenever a hook is tumbled (suspected), he makes every effort to get rid of the pocketbook.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 109: He suddenly tumbled that he had been played for the pay-off.
[US](con. 1870s) F. Weitenkampf Manhattan Kaleidoscope 84: ‘He wouldn’t tumble if a house fell down’ was applied to unobservant people.
[Ire](con. 1940s) B. Behan Borstal Boy 19: That old bastard of a grass-’opper won’t tumble it.
[US]M. Braly Shake Him Till He Rattles (1964) 125: I tumbled the other night when some lame hit on me to go in back.
[US]J. Wambaugh Choirboys (1976) 95: Then how’d you tumble? [...] It was my orange hat, wasn’t it?
[UK](con. 1950s–60s) in G. Tremlett Little Legs 51: We tumbled that there was a way of getting round this.
[UK]Guardian Guide 6–12 Nov. 6: Before too long he tumbles that the department is not strictly legit.
[US]‘Randy Everhard’ Tattoo of a Naked Lady 20: The mooch tumbled his hot date [...] was a rip-off.

2. to agree (to), to take a liking (to).

[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 129/1: I sell a hare or two, and, if rabbits is too dear, I tumble on to fish.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 125: The warder, nothing loth to make money, ‘tumbled,’ i.e., entered into an arrangement with him to write to certain friends of the prisoner’s.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Wheels’ in Punch 7 May 217/2: Ah! and some on ’em tumble, I tell yer, although they may look a mite shy.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 26 May 8/3: But I do [forget him] now that I have heard James Bain’s parody on the ditty and seen his Hop-like caricature of the singer. How the house ‘tumbles to it’ when Bain takes a fall out of ‘Pie, pie, pie!’.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘A Ditty of Dislike’ Sporting Times 24 Apr. 1/2: To love one’s enemies as much as some have urged of late / Was a creed to which she didn’t tumble quite.
[US]‘Ed Lacy’ Men from the Boys (1967) 70: It was a clumsy lie and he didn’t tumble.
[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 174: Didn’t think they’d tumble f’r each other.

3. (UK Und.) to understand.

[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 46/1: If he or she – or whatever else it may be don’t come away from the door with ‘kidding,’ then haul the rascal away by force so as to allow me to get out and away. Do you ‘tumble,’ eh?
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK] ‘’Arry [...] at the Grosvenor Gallery’ in Punch 10 Jan. 24/1: ‘Lady Dudley, born White’ I don’t tumble to — error somewhere I think.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘Licensed by the L.C.C.’ Sporting Times 1 Mar. 1/2: He could tumble by her hymn-book that the lady had the bliss / To be licensed by the County Council.
[UK]Sporting Times 27 June 1/4: Whether the noble lady dropped the subject because she didn’t tumble what a standpipe was, or whether she refrained from asking because she considered she had been ‘had’ already — alas, the world will never, never know.
[Aus]E.G. Murphy ‘Dossin’ Outer Doors’ Dryblower’s Verses 5: I ain’t a scientific bloke, but spare me dinkum days, / If I tumble to this josser and his noo fandangled ways.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]E. Weiner Big Boat to Bye-Bye 174: ‘I have no idea what you just said, friend.’ ‘Think hard; you’ll tumble’.

4. (UK Und.) to alert, to make someone suspicious.

[UK]‘Ducange Anglicus’ Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 68/1: We had nothing to dread, even should we ‘tumble a moll’ and she ‘nose’ to the people or to attendants of the institution.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: Tumble, to attract attention.
[UK]J. Phelan Letters from the Big House 117: If only they got it fused without being ‘tumbled.’.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 228/1: Tumble, v. To give or take a tumble.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 26 Apr. 45: Would you believe, as soon as the Limp lobs he’s tumbled the goose and we blew the whole bit.

5. (US Und.) to be arrested.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 20 Aug. x./1: To have recorded against you a single ‘sixer’ after preying on society almost continuously for at least six years is unusual, and a source of forgivable pride. / ‘Those who tumble in,’ remarked Spike, ‘call that sort of thing luck. I call it good management.’.
[US]A.J. Barr Let Tomorrow Come 39: Tell us how you tumbled, Red, will you? We all tumbled, too.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.

6. to listen.

‘Bailey Morgan’ ‘Dig that Crazy Corpse’ in Pursuit Mar. (2008) 156: The doll nixed me since i sang about body-snatching, but i anticipated you’d want to tumble.

7. to unmask, to recognize as fake.

[UK]F. Norman Stand on Me 23: The dealer [...] reckoned [...] no one in the world would be able to tumble it [i.e. a fake picture] in a million years.

In phrases

tumble to (v.)

1. to involve oneself energetically or enthusiastically.

[UK] ‘’Arry on Crutches’ in Punch 3 May 201/1: If the Toffs took a fancy for chewing a stror or a twig, / [...] or tumbled to carryin’ a bludgeon [...].
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]Falkirk Herald 28 Dec. 7/6: Now, my lads, tumble to [...] Don’t be half-hearted; the most energetic shall have the most apples.

2. (US) to discover, to become aware of.

[UK]New Sprees of London 3: Nanty palary the rumcull of the Casey is [...] quisby in the nut, not fly, not up to the moves, not down to the dodges, not awake, can't tumble to the slums, not wido to the slangs.
[UK]Kendal Mercury 14 Feb. 3/3: However heavily they ‘throw the hatchet,’* (note *Telling a monstrous lie) every ‘Sam tumbles to the dodge’ (every clown perceives the imposture.
[US]Calif. Police Gazette 23 Jan. 2/3: The ‘stool’ did his work well, but the ‘cop’ so clumsily that the ‘Doc’ and the rest ‘tumbled’ to the stool.
[UK]T. Taylor Ticket-Of-Leave Man IV ii: I had no idea that he tumbled to their game.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 5/1: One of the ‘guns’ [...] not noticing his ‘judy,’ [...] took a ‘granny’ at one of the private ‘lush’ boxes, where he ‘piped’ her and a noted ‘gun,’ ‘lushing’ like blazes in their hurry to have it over before they were ‘tumbled’ to by any of the squad.
[US]Memphis Dly Appeal (TN) 12 Mar. 3/3: The phrase ‘tumble to’ signifies to understand.
[US]G.P. Burnham Memoirs of the US Secret Service 319: Hardgrave, being an old bird, and very wary, ‘smelt a mice,’ and suddenly ‘tumbled to the job.’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Mar. 13/2: If it’s only our luck to be tuk prisoners by the Mahdi, our fortunes is made. He’d never tumble to the match-box, bless you!
[UK]Sporting Times 8 Mar. 2/1: Then we tumbled to the fact that a grabber on the other side of the table had twigged the croupier’s mistake, too, and was going for that stake.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 10 Oct. 1/1: It strikes me handicapping is not half a bad game once you tumble to the full strength of it.
[UK]Marvel 12 May 446: He’s tumbled to it. He knows I ain’t ’Aviland.
[UK]Dundee Courier 11 June 5/5: A full service man could go from a battleship to a torpedo boat [...] and ‘tumble to’ his work right.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 20 Mar. 2nd sect. 10/5: They are just beginning to tumble to the ex-pieman in Yankeeland.
[US]!T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 58: He’s been getting away with murder he has — it’s a wonder they don’t tumble to that fathead.
[US]J. Lait ‘Canada Kid’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 159: I takes one look an’ I tumbles to the lay.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 118: He began to tumble to the Fact that Life among the Well-to-Do had perked up.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Spanish Blood’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 47: Then I tumbled to it. He didn’t die right away.
[UK]A. Christie Body in the Library (1959) 83: We were mugs not to have tumbled to her game sooner.
[UK]I, Mobster 77: It was the kind of idea that is a natural – so simple you wonder why nobody ever tumbled to it before.
[UK]J. Gosling Ghost Squad 55: It didn’t take the crooks long to tumble to that one. Everyone was doing it.
[US]D. Hammett ‘A Man Named Thin’ in Nightmare Town (2001) 340: I might of known you’d tumble to that.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 122: Ain’t a chance for their husbands to tumble to what’s going on.
[US]P. Califia Macho Sluts 38: I would never tumble to the fact that we are female queers.