Green’s Dictionary of Slang

tickler n.

1. a sword [it ‘tickles the ribs’].

[UK]Dekker & Webster Northward Hoe IV i: Shalls to horse, hears a tickler.

2. a puzzle, something or someone that is hard to deal with or understand [it tickles one’s brain].

[UK]T. Morton Way to Get Married in Inchbold (1808) XXV 61: By this time he’s safe. I think I’ve given him a tickler.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Jorrocks Jaunts (1874) 11: The fox, who has often had a game at romps with his pursuers, being resolved this time to give them a tickler.
[UK]J. Greenwood Little Ragamuffin 102: To an unpractised barker strawberries were decidedly a tickler. [Ibid.] 249: If you was to see how they go creepin’ in the shadders and hidin’ [...] you’d know in a minute what a tickler it was.
[UK]Sl. Dict. 322: Tickle ‘a reg’lar tickler’ is a poser.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 85: Tickle, to puzzle; ‘a regular tickler,’ a poser.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 Jan. 32/1: On each side of me a mountain, / Just how high I wasn’t countin’, / But completely perpendic’lar! / ’Twas a tickler / And a treat!

3. (US) a small measure of spirits (approx. 300ml/½ pint), a hip flask [it tickles the palate].

[US]Horry & Weems Life of General F. Marion (1816) 165: The chat went round very briskly, and dram after dram, the brandy until the tickler was drained to the bottom.
Southern Sketches 33: Then he took out a tickler of whiskey [F&H].
[US]W.C. Hall ‘Mike Hooter’s Bar Story’ Spirit of the Times 26 Jan. (N.Y.) 581: I told my gal Sal to fill my privit tickler full o’ the old ‘raw.’.
[US]C.H. Smith Bill Arp 77: On such occasions they load themselves down with dry goods, and wet goods, [...] and boots and booty, and ticklers, and canteens with contents noticed.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 642: Tickler has, in America, two special meanings: it denotes a small flask for holding liquor [...] In the South the phrase, to ‘take a tickler,’ is often used as an invitation to ‘join in a drink.’.
[US]C.E. Craddock In the Tennessee Mountains 138: There was circulating among Jerry Shaw’s friends a flat bottle, facetiously denominated ‘tickler,’ readily emptied but as readily replenished from a keg.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘A Baffled Orator’ Sporting Times 2 June 1/4: And there seemed no ribald spirit there a rude remark to shed, / Save a damsel with a ‘tickler,’ and with cheeks perhaps too red.

4. (US) a blow; also fig. use.

[[UK]W. Clarke Every Night Book 83: Their [i.e. prize-fighters’] language he would find mighty mysterious [...] To ‘tickle his sneezer,’ is breaking his nose].
[UK]T.E. Wilks John Smith I i: Down went one by a left-handed facer – down went one by a right-handed tickler.
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker III 155: [I] have half a mind to give you a tickler in the ribs.
[UK]Paul Pry 13 Nov. n.p.: We shall drop in next week, and see if there is any alteration: if not, expect a regular tickler.
[UK](con. 1827) Fights for the Championship 105: He [...] was evidently suffering from Crawley’s tickler.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 9 Mar. 3/2: He delivered [...] a tickler on the sneezer which produced a very disagreeable ‘titillation of the olfactory nerves’.
[UK]Wild Boys of London I 250/1: Burglary, eh? that’s a tickler for Joseph Lane and his stuck-up wife.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 2 Oct. 14/2: ‘Vally’ got a tickler In the ribs recently that made him wish he had worn a catcher’s protector.

5. an amusing piece of iinformation.

[UK]Satirist (London) 15 May 46/1: Croker promised Hook a tickler on Lord Brougham, for his penny-trumpet Bull Dog.

6. a knowing individual.

[US]J. Hall Soldier’s Bride 170: ‘Egad that’s a keen smart girl!’ said one gentleman. ‘She’s a tickler, I warrant her!’ said a second. ‘She’s a pirate, by thunder!’ roared Captain Halliard.
[UK]B.M. Carew Life and Adventures.

7. (US) an unstable individual.

[US]Flash (NY) 3 Dec. n.p.: ‘Who is that girl, dressed so gay, just going up to the bar?’ [...] ‘That is the “Boston Tickler” and she is crazy’.

8. (US) a small knife or pistol.

[UK]Dickens Martin Chuzzlewit (1995) 519: A sword-stick, which he called his ‘Tickler.’ and a great knife, which (for he was a man of a pleasant turn of humour) he called ‘Ripper.’.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 642: In one of the sidestreets of New York the following advertisement used to hang over the door of a large and imposing building: ‘Pocket-pistols charged, and ticklers supplied, on Saturday night up to 12 o’clock, for use next day.’.

9. a police truncheon.

[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 16 Mar. 3/3: His baton drew forth that persuasive orator, with which he whispered a word or two of sense into Mick’s unwilling ear. Mick, however, was not convinced [...] but, seizing the tickler, made therewith an eloquent and vigorous appeal to the feelings of his pertinacious foe.

10. a whip or cane.

[UK]Dickens Great Expectations (1992) 7: Tickler was a wax-ended piece of cane, worn smooth by collision with my tickled frame.
[UK]J. Greenwood In Strange Company 163: I don’t recollect whether Mrs. Joe Gargery’s ‘tickler,’ [...] was nothing more formidable than this article.

11. a short poker used to preserve the smarter, ‘best’ one.

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.

12. (Aus. und.) a pimp; a prostitute’s kept lover.

[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 85: Tickler, the favourite fellow or‘fancy man,’ supported by women of no repute.

13. the penis.

[US](con. 1920–57) Randolph & Legman Ozark Folksongs and Folklore II 787: Other common names for the male organ are [...] tickler, tilly-whacker, tool, and ying-yang.

14. the vagina.

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[US]D. St John Memoirs of Madge Buford 130: ‘How’s this for a pretty tickler?’ [and] she stretched one of my legs, showing my fucking facilities.
[US]H. Gold Man Who Was Not With It (1965) 306: Grab her quick, and if she hollers, tickle her tickler.
[US]Randolph & Legman Ozark Folksongs and Folklore I 176: The original title was ‘St. Louis Tickler’ – tickler meaning the clitoris, from the German kitzler.

15. (US) a moustache.

[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 256: Tickler, a moustache.
[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 434: I knew Healy would [...] tell everybody I was wearing glasses and a moustache. I’d have shaved off the tickler if I’d had time.

16. (Aus.) an electric battery.

[Aus]T. Wood Cobbers 42: ‘I get in a good pozzy, and if one of the bastards [bullocks] jibs I touch him up with a tickler.’ ‘What’s that?’ ‘Electric battery. Does no harm, but it makes ’em think, quick and and lively.’.

17. (US) a pianist [abbr. ivory-tickler under ivory n.; ult. tickle the ivories under tickle v.; note Ward, The dancing School (1700): ‘the Ticklers of Cat-Guts’ i.e. violinists].

[US]B. Spicer Blues for the Prince (1989) 126: ‘All these rhythm ticklers is nuts.’ The piano man prodded the table.
[US]Jazz Rev. July 13: He’s the last of the real old-time ticklers.
[US]Down Beat 16 Aug. 26: The gaiety and sly humor that one looks for in a true ‘tickler.’.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 19 Feb. 8: A Hounslow-born drop-out from Twickenham art college and organ-tickler with a brace of blues bands.

18. a cigarette.

[UK](con. WW2) T. Jones Heart of Oak [ebook] Someone offered me a cigarette. ‘Here, a have a tickler’.

19. see French tickler under French adj.

20. see tickle n. (2)