Green’s Dictionary of Slang

joker n.1

[they make a joke of the situation ]

1. (orig. Aus., also jocker) a man, a person, sometimes with implications of incompetence.

[UK]Sporting Mag. XXXVIII 50: Six jokers on horse-back were standing stock still.
[UK]‘Bill Truck’ Man o’ War’s Man (1843) 252: Such a fine, spirited, clean-heeled sort of a joker.
[UK]Marryat Peter Simple (1911) 10: That’s what you’ll learn to do, my joker, before you have been two cruises to sea.
[US]N.Y. Aurora 7 Sept. n.p.: [I]n the nightly habit of meeting several moral, steady, and pious old jokers.
[UK]Dickens Martin Chuzzlewit (1995) 638: You were another sort of joker in those days, you were.
[UK]T. Hughes Tom Brown at Oxford (1880) 442: I’ll keep the road, and take off this joker behind, who is the only dangerous customer.
[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. 10/1: Where’s all the talent, Betsy? Where’s our jokers? [...] Where’s all the company, Betsy ? Where are our fancy men?
[UK]Sporting Times 8 Nov. 1/4: Q. Where do we get tobacco from? A. Phil Norris, and all those jokers with the awful names Ithat can never remember.
[Aus]‘John Miller’ Workingman’s Paradise 190: First one joker in, then another.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 4 Feb. 3/8: The joker handcuffed to him [...] is to be tried for killing his own wife.
[UK]Mirror of Life 9 June 2/3: We finally had an understanding with the joker who is boss of our shop.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 4 Sept. 2/6: An I suppose a country joker / Loses of his pocket book.
[UK]A. Binstead Pitcher in Paradise 42: These two jokers have got the foreign waiter to put this game up.
[NZ]N.Z. Truth 26 Jan. 6/4: The same jocker got an artilleryman sacked.
[UK]D. Stewart Devil of Dartmoor in Illus. Police News 17 Sept. 12/2: ‘Whistle away, my joker, I’ll stop that pipe presently’.
[Ire]Joyce ‘Ivy Day at the Committee Room’ Dubliners (1956) 122: Do you know what my private and candid opinion is about some of those little jokers? I believe half of them are in the pay of the Castle.
[Aus]Smith’s Wkly (Sydney) 2 Dec. 18/2: ‘Blime,’ says ‘Brum’, ‘if we only had that joker here who ran away from the copper at the station — he’d win this handicap’.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Black Gang 299: If those jokers try that game on with Mr. Latter they won’t catch me a second time.
[US]Fred MacMurray ‘I’m In the Market For You’ 🎵 There won’t be any joker, / With margin I’m all through.
[UK]R. Westerby Wide Boys Never Work (1938) 109: I’ll fix this joker.
[Aus]K. Tennant Foveaux 309: You’re pretty, you can kid some of these old jokers into payin’ the rent.
[NZ]F. Sargeson ‘A Great Day’ in A Man And His Wife (1944) 30: It’s tough work, he said. You can see what a weak joker I am.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 70: Some newspaper joker took a flash-bulb photo of Sophie.
[US]W. Fisher Waiters 209: I know damn good an’ well you didn’t invite them jokers.
[Aus]D. Niland Big Smoke 32: It’s a fact—black or white, they’re all the same to that joker.
[NZ]B. Crump Hang On a Minute, Mate (1963) 19: Proper ratbag of a joker he is, too.
[US]C. Himes Rage in Harlem (1969) 55: These jokers in here are just waiting for man to flash his money.
[NZ]P. Wilson N.Z. Jack 123: Why do you get all gooey about a joker like Koko?
[Aus](con. 1941) R. Beilby Gunner 63: ’Ere, wait on, you jokers! ’Ang on.
[US]R. Price Ladies’ Man (1985) 102: Who’s the joker?
[UK]W. Boyd ‘Not Yet, Jayette’ (in On the Yankee Station 1982) 17: I only tell you this to give you some idea what the city is like. It’s full of jokers.
[Aus]C. Bowles G’DAY 20: DAVO: Oo’s this joker, Les? LES: God Botherer by the looks of it.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skin Tight 136: Neither of these jokers wanted to see his own face on prime-time TV.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 12: A pale joker in his late twenties.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 1 June 2: The fun of digging your knees into the back of the poor joker in front.
thelondonpaper 4 Sept. 32: Our original joker looked as though his parade had been well and truly golden-showered on.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 68: I’ve got some joker on the other line.
[Aus] F. McCarthy ‘Some Protection’ in Crime Factory: Hard Labour [ebook] These too smart-too dumb jokers from ASIO talk the talk.
[US]N. Walker Cherry 51: ‘I have a joker here says he wants to be a ninety-one whiskey, says he’s tryin to go ASAP’.

2. (US) any thing or situation that poses a problem, a hidden catch, a surprise [card imagery].

[US] in Saint Louis (MO) Reveille in Oehlschlaeger (1990) 207: The Major discovered the little joker [i.e. a lost coin] in his pocket.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 23 May 12/1: The Evening News suggests that […] Lord Augustus Loftus should ‘stand at the head of his troops at Moore Park, Sydney, and there hold a real levee – a levee en masse of the people.’ ‘At the head of his troops’ is good, but a ‘levee en masse of the people’ is the ‘joker.’.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 30 Mar. 404: What’s this little joker over here?
[US]Wood & Goddard Dict. Amer. Sl.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 65/1: Joker (nigger in the wood pile), laws, investigations, vice abatements, controversies, political appointments, newspaper articles, speeches or contracts arranged for […] so that the looters in on the in will be financially benefited.
[US]I. Shulman Amboy Dukes 93: So long as Kenny was safe. That was a joker.
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 158: Some geniuses discovered a joker in the statutes.
[US](con. 1916) G. Swarthout Tin Lizzie Troop (1978) 145: And now the joker in the deck, Dinkle.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 286: To find a joker in the deck.
[UK]Indep. Mag. 17 July 34: The 20th century dealt them the joker in the pack – their ‘home’ retirement became another series of nomadic nightmares.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skinny Dip 191: I been shot by a joker once.

3. (Aus.) a prostitute’s kept man, possibly a pimp.

[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. (2 edn) 10: Where’s all the talent, Betsy? Where’s our jokers? I haven’t had a drop of lush since they went out with Tiger Liz, and I must have some white satin. / Where’s all the company, Betsy? Where are our fancy men? I haven’t had a drop of drink since they went out with Tiger Liz, and I must have some gin.

4. a black person.

[US]R. Fisher Walls Of Jericho 297: Synonyms of Negro [...] : jigwalker, joker, kack.

5. (US black) an adulterous lover.

dD. Burley Chicago Defender 28 Dec. 4: She was married [...] Three weeks later I saw her coming out of a State street tavern with a ‘joker’. She tried to dodge [...] The funny thing about it is we all know her and all know the ‘joker’.

6. (US gay) a masculine homosexual.

[US]D.W. Cory Homosexual in America 112: A strong distinction between the active and passive pederast; for former, such words as daddy, joker, and wolf are used.

7. (W.I.) anyone who is given authority but performs their work with irritating incompetence, thus ‘a disgrace to one’s profession’.

[WI]Allsopp Dict. Carib. Eng. Usage.

In phrases