Green’s Dictionary of Slang

flak n.

also flack
[SE flak, anti-aircraft fire, ult. the initials of the elements of Ger. fliegerabwehrkanone ‘pilot-defence-gun’]
(orig. US)

1. (also flak-artist, flak merchant) a publicity man/woman, a press agent [parallel ety. suggests Gene Flack, a 1930s US film publicist].

[UK]Oakland Trib. 25 Feb. 13/4: Whereupon Paramount elected to cash in on the publicity and the flack as Variety calls press agents, leaped to his typing machine.
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 23 Jan. [synd. col.] Variety which is trying to coin ‘flack’ as a synonym for press agent (without much luck) might like to know it was born in the Chicago offices of Gene Flack, a film publicist.
[US]H. Ellison ‘Have Coolth’ in Gentleman Junkie 133: ‘Hey, flak-artist,’ Eddie Brioni stood up.
[US]H. Ellison Rockabilly (1963) 51: As a small-time DJ [...] he had experienced the dynamiting done by flak-merchants.
[US](con. 1940s) M. Dibner Admiral (1968) 349: He’s the smartest flack on the Strip.
[US]M. McAlary Crack War (1991) 101: The police commissioner’s flacks were now telling reporters that Benjamin had probably loaned his car to someone.
[US]C. Hiaasen Native Tongue 27: Being a newspaper reporter had left Joe Winder no time [...] Being a flak left him all the time in the world.
[Aus]S. Maloney Big Ask 110: Time was, even a minor political flack could see himself as part of a larger project, something from which he could draw pride.

2. interference, annoyance, problems.

[US]J. Blake letter 26 March in Joint (1972) 79: I’ve encountered a certain amount of flak and static from Sandy’s cell partner.
[US]R. Price Blood Brothers 21: Jump back! Don’t give him no flak!
[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 22: They gave me a lot of flak and wouldn’t let me leave town.
[US]O. Hawkins Chili 58: Her role was sufficiently sophisticated enough to allow to have a boyfriend [...] without any flack from the immediate community.
[UK]Scotland on Sun. mag. 7 Nov. 18: The women take the flak from both the law and the punters.
[US]Source Aug. 147: There was really nobody to give me flack.
[Aus]T. Spicer Good Girl Stripped Bare 138: ‘We won’t go through Jack,’ I say, fearing flack from the motorcycle enthusiasts.

3. cheek, negative criticism, verbal attacks.

[US]‘Hy Lit’ Hy Lit’s Unbelievable Dict. of Hip Words 15: flack session – Big argument; plenty of lip service and heated tempers.
[US]New Yorker 10 May 60: The city is taking a lot of flak because its own incinerators won’t be upgraded in time.
[US]L. Rosten Dear ‘Herm’ 181: The flack is killing me!
[US]B. Gutcheon New Girls (1982) 306: She’d get to feeling good, even, to [...] getting up as early as she liked without having to take any flak from Rowley.
[Aus]J. Morrison Share House Blues 44: ‘Curtains not the right size, bed won’t fit into the room, china wrong pattern. Who gets all the flak? The delivery man’.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Fall.
[US]K. Scott Monster (1994) 99: Should we get some flack for that later on, we could always claim ‘association.’.
[UK]Guardian G2 30 Jul. 13: A comedy reviewer who can’t take the flak he’s used to dishing out when he does his dismal turn.
[UK]J. Hoskison Inside 39: Manolitto must have hoped that [...] I would take some of the flack.
[UK]Observer Screen 20 Feb. 9: The show drew predictable flak for crossing the taste barrier.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 175: Jenna, Miguel’s sister [...] is taking flak.

4. publicity material.

[US]L. Bruce How to Talk Dirty 84: All this degenerate flack he was throwing at my ears.

In compounds

flak catcher (n.)

a civil servant or similar figure in private industry whose task is to intercept complaints, queries etc. from the public, before such problems reach their superiors.

[US]T. Wolfe Radical Chic 110: This man is the flak catcher. His job is to catch the flak for the No. 1 man.
[US]Weekly World News 14 July 12: A public relations flak-catcher...said, ‘Dr. Ruth doesn’t give reactions to these kinds of things.’ [HDAS].
[UK]Guardian 16 Apr. [Internet] This leads one to wonder whether that might not be their real purpose – to serve as frontline flak-catchers; turning complaints into smiles rather than solicitors’ letters.
[Aus]S. Maloney Sucked In 38: I nodded, sharing the old flak-catcher’s appreciation of life’s little quirks.

In phrases

catch flak (v.) (also catch flack, get flack/flak)

(US) to receive criticism, to face verbal attacks.

see flak catcher
[US]P. Munro Sl. U.
[US]Rebennack & Rummel Under A Hoodoo Moon 119: One thing that surprised me right off was the flak I caught from cats from home in New Orleans, guys I thought were my friends.
Oxygen 22 July [Internet] Moms can catch a lot of flack for any of the above – but, come on, when you think about it, don’t moms catch flack for most of their decisions? In many parenting choices, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 40: Nick found himself catching a lot more flack than he’d ever caught before.