Green’s Dictionary of Slang

speak v.

also speak to, speak with
[ironic euph.]

1. (UK Und.) to hold up; to rob; to steal.

[UK]New Canting Dict. n.p.: I will never Speak with any thing but Wedge or Cloy; I’ll never steal, or have to do with any thing but Plate, or Money, &c.
[UK]J. Gay Beggar’s Opera II ii: I drink a Dram now and then with the Stage-Coachmen [...] I know that about this Time there will be Passengers upon the Western Road, who are worth speaking with.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. n.p.: To speak with, to steal.
[UK](con. 1710–25) Tyburn Chronicle II in Groom (1999) xxviii: To speak To steal.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: speak with to rob; (cant) I spoke with the cull on the cherry coloured prancer, I robbed the man on the black horse.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 267: speak to to speak to a person or place is to rob them, and to speak to any article, is to steal it ; as, I spoke to the cove for his montra; I robb’d the gentleman of his watch. I spoke to that crib for all the wedge; I robb’d that house of all the plate. I spoke to a chest of slop; I stole a chest of tea. A thief will say to his pall who has been attempting any robbery, ‘Well, did you speak? or, have you spoke?’ meaning, did you get any thing?
[UK] ‘The Song of the Young Prig’ in C. Hindley James Catnach (1878) 171: Speak to the tattler, bag the swag.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open 125: Spoke with, to rob.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 83: speak To steal; to take away. ‘Bob spoke with the toney on the chestnut prancer,’ Bob robbed the fool on the chestnut horse. ‘To speak with,’ to steal from.

2. (UK Und.) to pass sentence of death.

[UK]Kendal Mercury 17 Apr. 6/1: The judge spoke10 to Tom, who sat like a lord mayor. [note 10] Passed sentence of death.

3. (Aus.) to select one’s drink.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Aug. 13/113/1: They never say in Cooktown, or in any place near that latitude, ‘Are you going to shout?’ They mildly observe, ‘Did you speak?’.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 11 Feb. 7/1: Now, Landlord, I will stand it, just you ask these men to speak.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

on speaks (also playing speaks)

(UK society) on speaking terms.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 Oct. 12/3: Some of the Suffragists and the ‘Antis’ are not playing speaks.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Dec. 18/3: Big Bessie, the barmaid, is not playing speaks / With her ‘boy’ – he is sixty, the sinner!
[Aus]Sport (Adelaide) 16 Aug. 9/2: They Say [...] That T J is not playing speaks with Jock R.
[UK]Contemp. Rev. 185: Russia wooden-headedly refused to be ‘on speaks’ with Christian civilised Spain.
W. Saunders Quarry ’80–’82 152: On speaks? Of course, why shouldn’t we be?
speak bandog and Bedlam (v.)

see under bandog n.

speak holiday (v.) [SE holiday; thus the image of one’s ‘best’ language]

to speak elegant, formal English.

[UK]Shakespeare Merry Wives of Windsor III ii: He writes verses, hee speakes holliday, he smels April and May.
speak on the big white telephone (v.)

see under telephone n.

speak pound notes (v.) [the assumed correspondence of wealth and ‘good’ English]

(Irish) to speak Standard English.

[Ire]E. Mac Thomáis Janey Mack, Me Shirt is Black 132: The words ‘Gawney Mack’ is the swanky way of saying ‘Janey Mack’. You see [...] the word ‘Janey’ would sound downright vulgar when used by people who speak pound notes.
speak pretty (v.)

(mainly Aus.) to speak in an affectionate, friendly manner.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 21 July 44/1: If you’d on’y ha’ spoke pretty to ’im.
speak proper (v.) [abbr. speak proper English or, thus ironically, misusing proper in place of properly]

to talk in Standard English, rather than in colloq., dial. or sl., often as an imper.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 1201/1: [...] C.20.
speak white (v.)

(Can.) used by English speakers, to speak English (as opposed to French, which is the first language of many Canadians, esp. the Québecois).

M. Pei Story of Lang. 261: One of the most intolerant linguistic insults on record is the admonition ‘Speak white!’ occasionally used by Canadian English speakers to their French-speaking fellow nationals.
[US]Maledicta II:1+2 (Summer/Winter) 170: Speak White! A command uttered by Anglophone Canadians to Francophones, implying that French ancestry is not racially ‘pure.’.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 414: white, to speak. To speak like a white man.