Green’s Dictionary of Slang

yen n.1

[Beijing dial. Chinese yen, smoke, poss. reinforced by SE yearn (cf. yearn n.)]

1. (drugs, also yin) a desperate desire for a narcotic, usu. heroin.

[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 127: He had a yen that had crawled into his very soul and thence sent out a wail for the dope.
[US]I.L. Nascher Wretches of Povertyville 177: When a smoker gets a ‘yin’ or craving he lies down on his couch with the little lamp burning by his side.
[US]D. Lowrie My Life in Prison 79: I even saw two or three guys eat chloride o’ lime to stop their yen.
[US]C. Sandburg ‘Snow’ in Smoke and Steel 206: In the old days six bits got us snow [i.e. heroin] and stopped the yen.
[US]Indianapolis Star 28 Sept. 8/4: It has long been the gossip of Broadway that two top-notch songwriters have the ‘yen’ — which means they are opium smokers.
[UK]J. Campbell Babe is Wise 96: The stuff was no longer procurable. He was possessed by the frightful ‘yin’ or ‘yen’, as the Esperanto of the drug-world knows the ghastly plight of the addict deprived of his dose — the head-splitting yawning, the exhausting sneezing attacks, the aching joints.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 244: I had a yen, a terrible yen for hop.
[US]W. Burroughs Naked Lunch (1968) 33: A yen comes on him like a great black wind.
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 204: I felt my throat blend in and out with the yen.
[US]R.D. Pharr Giveadamn Brown (1997) 103: Junkies don’t have a yen crash down on them suddenly, the way Francis had been stricken.

2. (also yen-yen) in non-drug contexts, a craving, an intense desire.

[US]K. McGaffey Sorrows of a Show Girl x: One old frump that must have been tramming a mace in the Roman Hanging Gardens got a yen that was doing imitations.
[US]‘Sing Sing No. 57,700’ My View on Books in N.Y. Times Mag. 30 Apr. 5/3: Wormwood [...] This is a strong yarn of a booze fighter with an absinthe yen-yen.
[US]J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 34: She told me that she ‘had a yen’ for me the first time she saw me.
[US]W.R. Burnett Iron Man 259: He’s got a yen for faro. Crazy man’s game.
[US]H. McCoy They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? in Four Novels (1983) 26: I’ve always had a yen to see Mexico.
[US]S. Kingsley Dead End Act I: Sometimes I git a terrific yen tuh stay put, an’ ... Ah, ta hell wid it!
[US]H. Miller Roofs of Paris (1983) 198: Try to sound bottom on a bitch who really has a yen for fucking!
[US]H.A. Smith Life in a Putty Knife Factory (1948) 176: I’ve never had a real hot yen to see but one stage play.
[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 207: I get a big yen for the pipe and slippers routine.
[US]E. De Roo Big Rumble 86: Most of them had enough experience fighting for the Scratchers every time Big Tony got the yen for a jitterbugging on Friday or Saturday night.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 41: Her name was June and she had a wild yen for me.
[Can]R. Caron Go-Boy! 122: He [i.e. a cat] also had a yen for birds, especially starlings.
[UK]S. Berkoff West in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 96: Then it’s too late / my yen for fish cakes may be gone.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 434: Ever get a yen for a woman and go for his mother?
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 89: Harold couldn’t satisfy his yen for danger punching a clock.
[US]J. Ellroy Widespread Panic 20: ‘Blue-movie actors [...] They peddle it on the side. You see the movies, you get a yen, you make a phone call’.

3. opium.

[UK]J. Colton Shanghai Gesture iii 188: [Servant enters with [...] opium] Here’s the yen! [OED].
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 135/1: Yen in the cheek, gum opium or yen shee placed and sucked in back of lower teeth which produces comfort to the addict (this is frequently used when traveling in public conveyances).
[US]Berrey & Van den Bark Amer. Thes. Sl. §509.2: Opium [...] yen.

In compounds

yen dong (n.)

(US drugs) the lamp used to heat ‘pills’ of opium.

[US]L.J. Beck N.Y.’s Chinatown 147: This layout consists of [...] Yen Hop (a box containing the opium), Yen Dong (opium lamp).
yen hock (n.) (also yen hauck, ...hawk, ...hoc, ...hok, ...hoke, ...nock)

1. (US drugs) the needle used to prepare a pipe of opium.

[US]Harper’s Weekly 24 Sept. 646: The smoker settles himself comfortably upon his side, takes up a little of the treacle-like opium which is brought to him in a small clam shell, upon a long steel needle, or yen hauck.
[US] ‘Life in a New York Opium Den’ in T. Byrnes Professional Criminals of America 🌐 This is termed cooking and takes months to become proficient in. To do this the needle or yen hock is grasped between the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand. The point is dipped into the opium, and on removing it a small portion, the size of a bead, adheres to the yen hock.
[US]W. Norr Stories of Chinatown 46: ‘You haven’t forgotten how to handle the yen-hok, Jim,’ said Frank the Kid, as he watched the cook deftly ‘chy’ the pill above the tiny flame of the opium lamp.
[US]Campbell, Knox & Byrnes Darkness and Daylight in N.Y. 565: A needle four or five inches long and flattened at one end was the yen hoc, for holding the opium in the flame.
[US]S. Crane in Sun (N.Y.) 20 Oct. in Stallman (1966) 146: The yen-nock is a sort of sharpened darning needle. With it the cook takes the opium from the box.
[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 138: I pinched myself to find out whether I’d been fooling with a yen-hok.
[US]C.R. Wooldridge Hands Up! 215: A ‘layout’ can be purchased for any amount up to $5. It consists of [...] the ‘yen hock,’ or needle, on which the opium is cooked and rolled into pills over the flame from the little peanut oil lamp [...].
[US]Goodwin’s Wkly (Salt Lake City, UT) 1 Nov. 5/2: A member [...] took his little yen-hook, stretched himself out ona divan, rolled a litle pill, lit the pipe and smoked.
[US]I.L. Nascher Wretches of Povertyville 176: The needle or yen hok is merely a short knitting needle, sometimes with a handle.
[US]G. Bronson-Howard Enemy to Society 77: The Englishman, lifting the bamboo stem and scraping at the bowl viciously with the yen-hok.
[US]Amer. Mag. 77 June 31–5: When I became a regular smoker I bought a ‘layout’ — pipe, bowls, lamp, tray, yen hocks, everything — and indulged my habit in the ‘joint’ of a white smoker where I was a favored patron.
[US]F. Williams Hop-Heads 116: The yen hok is the long needle [...] which is used to cook and roll your pill.
[US]J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 29: The paraphernalia – the hop, pipe, yen hawk (the little instrument with which the opium is rolled on the bowl of the pipe and cooked) and the lamp.
[US]G. Milburn ‘The Girl in the Blue Velvet Band’ in Hobo’s Hornbook 163: The lamp was a masterpiece of ornament, / While the yen-hoke was made of pure gold.
[US]‘Boxcar Bertha’ Sister of the Road (1975) 116: With the yen hok, a piece the size of a small pea was taken and held over the flame of the lamp, where it changed to a beautiful golden brown color and increased four times in size.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 98: In [his] right hand was the yen hok, a wire about as long and thin as a hatpin, with a finer wire wound around the handle. He would dip the point of the yen hok into a jar of dark-brown gooey stuff that looked like tar, then hold a drop over the flame until it began to swell up like a tiny balloon, adding more to it now and then.
[US](con. 1920s) G. Fowler Schnozzola 88: Eddie borrowed a hairpin, straightened it, and used it as a ‘yen-hock’, the needle upon which the supposed dream beads were toasted.
[US]Anslinger & Tompkins Traffic In Narcotics 316: yen-hok. A long steel needle upon which an opium pill is cooked.
[US] ‘Sl. of Watts’ in Current Sl. III:2 52: Yen hok, n. A slender needle used in preparing opium for smoking.
[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972) 202: yen hook [sic] n. Instrument (pipe) used in opium smoking.
[US](con. 1920s) Courtwright & Des Jarlais Addicts Who Survived 82: The yen-hock makes the pill, it’s like a knitting needle.
[US] (ref. to 1918) J. Breslin Damon Runyon (1992) 177: When Jackson took small balls of wax and said he was making ‘toys’ everybody laughed. Jackon borrowed a hairpin from a chorus girl, put the wax ball on it and announced ‘Yen-hock.’.

2. attrib. use of sense 1, pertaining to opium and/or its smoking.

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 390: The Dog had started in my flat one of the most prosperous yen-hok layouts this side of San Francisco.

3. attrib. use of sense 1, pertaining to a thin object or person.

[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 89: yen hock [...] Used also as a metaphorical adjective to describe any slender object, as lean person. Example: ‘Ask the yen hock guinea to stake you to a glim.’.
yen hop (n.)

(US drugs) the box that contains opium paraphernalia; Wooldridge (1901) is presumably mistaken.

[US]C.W. Gardner Doctor and the Devil 39: The Doctor was very anxious to be the possessor of a complete ‘lay-out’ for smoking the drug – lamp, ‘yen-hop,’ and ‘hop toy.’ .
[US]L.J. Beck N.Y.’s Chinatown 147: This layout consists of [...] The Yen Tsiang (opium pipe), Ow (opium bowl), Yen hock (a thin wire used for dipping out the opium and holding it over the light while cooking), Yen Hop (a box containing opium).
[US]C.R. Wooldridge Hands Up! 215: A ‘layout’ can be purchased for any amount up to $5. It consists of the ‘yen hop,’ or pipe, usually made of a section and a half of heavy bamboo, about an inch and a half in diameter.
yen pok (n.) (also yen pock)

(US drugs) a pill of opium.

[US]Amer. Mag. 77 June 31–5: ‘Say, Lee,’ I demanded, when I realized the delightful exhilaration that was stealing over me, ‘cook me up a couple of yen poks’ [pills]. ‘I’m going to smoke a few.’.
[US]D. Maurer ‘Argot of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 1 in AS XI:2 127/2: yen-pok. The pill of opium after it is prepared for smoking.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US](con. 1948) G. Mandel Flee the Angry Strangers 236: Once I hit some Yompok, [sic] but never again. Opium.
[US]Anslinger & Tompkins Traffic In Narcotics 316: yen pock. A ration of opium prepared for smoking.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970).
[US](con. 1930s) Courtwright & Des Jarlais Addicts Who Survived 87: When I wasn’t smoking, I kept some yen-poks around the house. You get up, you take your coffee, throw your yen-pok in there.
yen pox (n.)

(drugs) pills of opium; Burroughs Junkie (1953) prefers opium ashes/residue (which can still be recycled when desperate).

[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 249: We’d [...] pack along some yen pox (opium pills that you eat), and go out there to the baseball game.
[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 160: Yen Pox . . . Ash of opium after the opium has been smoked. Yen Pox contains about the same morphine content as opium before smoking. It can be eaten with hot coffee, or dissolved in water and injected intravenously.
[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 72: Plenny, you find plenny. Much mari-ha-ha, maybe a little yen pox — and a flied egg sandwich.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) H. Huncke ‘Sea Voyage’ in Eve. Sun Turned Crimson (1998) 142: While in Aruba we had picked up yen-pox and stayed knocked out the whole time we were there.
yen-shee (n.)

see separate entry.

yen sleep (n.)

(drugs) a restless, drowsy sleep that accompanies opiate withdrawal; ONDCP (2001) is presumably incorrect.

[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972).
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 23: Yen sleep — Restless, drowsy state after LSD use.
yen suey (n.)

a sponge used as part of an opium smoking ‘layout’.

[US]World (N.Y.) 10 Feb. 20/5–6: [The layout includes] a sponge called . . . a ‘yen-suey;’ a long tapering needle [etc.].
yen tsiang (n.) (also yen chiang) [Chinese yen tsiang, ‘opium pistol’]

(US drugs) an opium pipe.

[US]Galaxy (N.Y.) 4:1 May 26: If the pipe be employed, then, when the recipient has taken an easy, semi-recumbent posture, the smoking-pellet is inserted into a slit in the yen-tsia’ng, or smoking-pistol, and is lighted with a lamp, and the smoke drawn in at a breath.
[US]Harper’s Weekly 24 Sept. 646: The opium pipe is called by the Chinese the yen tsiang, or opium pistol.
[US]L.J. Beck N.Y.’s Chinatown 147: The Yen Tsiang (opium pipe).
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 256: yen chiang An opium pipe.
yen yen (n.) [the term uses both the orig. Chinese and the derived SE term; however, note Cantonese yinyan, craving for opium]

(US drugs) a craving for opium.

[US]Campbell, Knox & Byrnes Darkness and Daylight in N.Y. 569: ‘I’ve got the yen-yen (opium habit) the worst way,’ said one woman, ‘and must have my pipe every night. I want two or three pipes before I can get to sleep, and sometimes I want half a dozen.’.
[US]S. Crane in Sun (N.Y.) 20 Oct. in Stallman (1966) 145: A yen-yen, let it be known, is the hunger, the craving. It comes to a fiend when he separates himself from his pipe.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl.
[US]F. Williams Hop-Heads 114: To a man or a woman with a habit, with a yen yen or ‘habit on,’ they sharpen the inner craving for the stuff. [Ibid.] 117: If you don’t believe us, ‘smoke’ and see how soon that yen yen leaves you.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 261: Yen-Yen — hop habit.
[US]J. Lait Gangster Girl 7: Every day at about four o’clock he got the yenyen.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 243/2: Yen-yen. The recurring desire for additional doses of a drug.
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore.

In phrases

get one’s yen off (v.)

(US drugs) to satisfy one’s need for narcotics when suffering withdrawal symptoms.

[US]D. Maurer ‘Lang. of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 2 in Lang. Und. (1981) 103/1: To get one’s yen off. To allay withdrawal distress with narcotics. It should be noted that yen applies strictly to withdrawal distress and would hardly be used to indicate the desire (largely psychological) which an addict might feel for narcotics after he had been away from the habit for some time.