1. (orig. US) a routine, a way of behaving, a performance.
|Daily Trib. (Bismarck, ND) 23 Oct. 4/1: Any kind of a deed is an ‘act,’ whether connected with the stage or not. [...] ‘Cleveland’s sprung the veto act on them again;’ ‘Langtry’s been doing the citizenship act.’.|
|Tales of the Ex-Tanks 49: It was a sober act for the rest of my stay.|
|A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 121: He’ll give his wife the rush act and tear out of the joint on a dead run.|
|Red Wind (1946) 87: What does your little act mean?‘Blackmailers Don’t Shoot’ in|
|Power-House 19: I don’t get this brother act.|
|Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 42: This weep act, ole man, is out of this world.|
|Third Ear n.p.: A-C-T. (spelled out) n. activities of greatest interest and immediacy; one’s thing.|
|Dead Butler Caper 109: I’m out of a watch and I reckoned you wouldn’t mind letting me have one down to the old pals act.|
|Everybody Smokes in Hell 23: I go in, take what I want, we’re gone. That simple, so save the punk act.|
|Guardian Guide 29 July–4 Aug. 13: I play Kirk Stans – a Casino lounge act who drinks too much.|
2. (US Und.) cross-examination of a prisoner.
|Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).|
(orig. US) orig. lit. use aimed at supposedly ‘indecent' performances; to modify or improve one’s behaviour.
|Dear Abby 19 Oct. [synd. col.] If you have told this person that his language offends you and he makes no effort to clean up his act, you have the right to absent tourself from his company.|
|[||St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) Parade 30 Sept. 2: ‘I’ve had friends come up to me, well-intentioned folks. “Elvis,” they say, “you’ve got to clean up your act. You’ve got to stop squirmin’ like a tadpole”’].|
|West WI Statues Annotated 99: Defendant’s statement to his wife that ‘if you don't clean up your act, you may wind up with your throat slit,’ which was made a little over a year before wife's murder.|
|New Yorker 59 101: And try to clean up your act by next Sunday.|
|Current Sl. VI 3: Clean up your act! v. To stop swearing, dress nicely, and act like a lady/gentleman. (imperative).|
|(con. 1966) Lords of Discipline 26: You don’t deserve anything nice until you learn to clean up your act.|
|Brown’s Requiem 153: When she hit the busy Ensenada streets she cleaned up her act, slowing down and driving with restraint.|
|Homeboy 49: I threw in that junkie’s hand, Loot. Cleaned up my act.|
|Get Your Cock Out 92: Now that he had Dandelion he was trying to clean up his act.|
see separate entry.
to perform in a given manner; usu. combined with a specific n. or proper name, which defines the ‘act’ in question.
|Psmith Journalist (1993) 201: It is unusual for the substitute-editor of a weekly paper to do a Captain Kidd act.|
|Professor How Could You! 237: You doing a Rube act?|
|Don’t Get Me Wrong (1956) 55: I start doin’ a big Sherlock Holmes act. I start a big reconstruction scene which is what the ace detective in the book always does when somethin’ happens. [Ibid.] 89: If somebody wasn’t doin’ a big shadow act on me I’d feel nervous.|
(N.Z.) to act in a shy manner; to sulk.
|Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 21/2: brown in phr. do a brown act shy or sulky or ashamed; eg ‘What’s wrong with Jill?’ ‘Nothin’, Miss. She does a brown for no reason, eh.’.|
|Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].|
(US) to pretend to a particular (by context) style of behaviour, to assume (often deceitfully) specific characteristics; in comb. with n., adj. or proper name.
|Louisiana Democrat 14 Feb. 1/6: I did the brat act again and gently murmured ‘Good evening’.|
|Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 31 May 6/3: A fly-miss [...] is a miss who stand stands in the grandstand and flirts with the players. Sometimes she is seen on the street and does the handkerchief act.|
|Dead Bird (Sydney) 17 May 2/1: Seeing a young and beautiful maiden doing the wallflower act, our homeless one approached.|
|Overland Monthly (CA) July 34: Doing what cavalry men call the ‘doughboy act’.|
|Checkers 39: I had money, a wife and friends, and was doing the Vanderbilt act.|
|Powers That Prey 183: Any one ’ud think that that copper had hit you with a baseball bat the way you play the baby act.|
|Out for the Coin 56: Here was my chance to confess all and do the retreat from Moscow act.|
|Psmith in the City (1993) 100: In life it was beautiful, but now it has done the Tom Bowling act. It has gone aloft.|
|Truth (Wellington) 22 May 7: She started to do the rat act, and go out when it was dark.|
|White Moll 305: I had to do the rough act with that gent friend of yours to stop him from crawlin’ after you.|
|Sudden 234: They’re doin’ the Br’er Rabbit act an’ layin’ low.|
(orig. US black) to calm down, to plan sensibly, to state a goal and aim for it.
|Cincinnati Enquirer (OH) 7 Dec. 7/1: You think we’ve got a generation gap now, just wait until this guy gets his act together.|
|Ottawa Citizen (Ont.) 3 June 3/4: Ottawa’s youthful promoters of ‘Get Your Act Together [...] are getting the financial resources needed to keep their LIP projectas going.|
|Skiing Nov. 192: If you’re a racer, at the first race of the season, there’s a calm while everyone tries to get his act together.|
|Serial 15: I can’t get my act together.|
|Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In 199: It’s conversations like that that allow the ugly people of America to face up to their problems and get their acts together.|
|Scholar 202: I’m sayin’ we should get our act together, an’ start runnin’ t’ings in dis estate.|
|Miseducation of Ross O’Carroll-Kelly (2004) 43: I finally get my act together and get out of the sack.|
|Running the Books 113: He was finally going to get his act together.|
|Artefacts of the Dead [ebook] He pointed towards her as he spoke. ‘You need to get your act together [...] You need to start paying attention to your punters’.|
(orig. US black) to be in full control of a situation, whether emotional, social, sexual, financial etc.
|Blood Brothers 132: They been at it a long time an’ they pretty much had their act together.|
|Serial 23: Don’t you think Carlos Castenada really has his act together.|
|Straight Outta Compton 73: You should have had your act together.|
to pretend to behave in a specific way, to perform a certain routine.
|Hobo’s Hornbook 224: Not everyone can pull / The ancient, wet-eye mooch act / On a big and husky bull.‘The Moocher’ in|
|Big Sleep 122: He pulls the dumb act because he thinks we wouldn’t expect him to pull the dumb play.|
|Man with the Golden Arm 175: Now he’s gettin’ set to pull one of his corny movie acts on me.|
|Townsville Daily Bull. (Qld) 5 Mar. 4/6: He tried to pull the jimmy Clabber act on me.|
|Alcoholics (1993) 58: She could have heard him coming and pulled the sick act.|
|Inside Daisy Clover (1966) 39: If she pulls this act once more, I’ll get snippy.|
|Down These Mean Streets (1970) 242: The questions came real fast and I pulled a weak act.|
to put on a show with the intention of deceiving or defrauding someone.
|Dames Don’t Care (1960) 183: He has been pullin’ an act on Henrietta that if he don’t marry her he can make things plenty hot for her.|
to show off, to talk for display, to behave insincerely.
|Appointment in Samarra (1935) 235: You put on some kind of an act with Caroline, and [...] she fell for it.|
|Happy Prisoner 158: This girl’s not naturally like that. She’s putting on an act [OED].|
|Long Wait (1954) 63: I’m glad I don’t know because if I did you’re just the kind of a guy who could put on an act I’d go for and make me put myself in a jam.|
|(con. 1944) Rats in New Guinea 21: The closest he ever got to acting was putting on an act about how wonderful he is.|
|(con. 1930s) Emerald Square 126: On Tuesday morning when I put on the act, Mam swallowed it.|
(US) to interfere, to spoil someone’s plans.
|Putnam’s Mag. 7 435: You can bet I don’t let on I ’m enjoying it any; that would queer my act.|
|‘Rose And Murray’ Turns and Moves 2: He fears that she will someday queer his act; / Feeling her anger. He will quit her soon.|
|Vignettes of Manhattan 248: Why, the last time I was on the road she tried to queer my act.|
|Proud Highway (1997) 641: Pursue him [...] and queer his act for all time.letter 2 Oct. in|
|Go By Go [Internet] Ch. i: Ammett bought me a beer and in so many words he let me know that he wouldn’t queer my act if I didn’t queer his.|
SE in slang uses
working as an actor.
|Bulletin (Sydney) 30 May 6/1: Madame Ristori is still ‘on the act’ – Frisco this time is the scene of her triumphs. Her prolonged career on the stage is probably due to a passion long since developed by the Marquis del Grillo for ‘heading them’.|