1. (US campus) a trick, a hoax, a stratagem.
|College Words (rev. edn) 492: wire [...] a trick; an artifice; a strategem; a dodge.|
2. a telegram [SE in 20C+].
|Derby Day 36: I sent a ‘wire’ to the governor last night [...] telling him to put all his ready and the rest upon the horse.|
|in House Scraps 73: What with ‘Cables’ and with ‘Wires’ / When anything transpires.|
|Bulletin (Sydney) 26 July 12/4: At a recent swell marriage in Paris the Pope’s blessing for the bridal brace was put in the form of a telegram which a priest brought to the officiating Nuncio upon a silver salver. Whereupon the Nuncio read the sacred ‘wire,’ [...] and the bride’s mother went into the vestry and anted up ten thousand francs for the glad tidings.|
|Marvel XV:377 Jan. 10: I’ve had Steggall’s wire.|
|Philosophy of Johnny the Gent 65: ‘The guy wit’ the yeller [will] flash the wise wire on him like he was lettin’ him in wit’ the main secret of his life’.|
|Magnet 3 Sept. 28: The first thing he did was to despatch a wire.|
|Penny Showman 39: I remarked to him that I had had two offers by wire.|
|Cimarron 368: She made a practice of [...] scanning the A.P. wires [DA].|
|Jimmy Brockett 26: I got your wire.|
|Jeeves in the Offing 79: I hadn’t sent that wire to Kipper Herring.|
3. a privately delivered warning or piece of information [note Papua New Guinea Tok Pisin wialis, a gossip, a matchmaker a psychic, f. SE wireless].
|Worker (Brisbane) 4 Sept. 8/3: And when he gets a reprimand, or gentle kind of ‘tip,’ / [...] / The ‘bloke’ gives him a ‘wire’ that ‘the tree’ is coming down.|
|Powers That Prey 22: There were no silly trips to Jersey to inspect ‘the scene of the crime,’ no long interviews with reporters about suggested clues, and no ‘keeping the wires hot.’.|
|N.Y. Times Mag. 30 Apr. 5/2: The Christian [...] Hall Caine. Hall is in the limelight for keeps. Our special wire for today.My View on Books in|
|Let Tomorrow Come 42: That old stiff musta run to the wires.|
|Third Degree (1931) 210: The real thieves get ‘a wire.’.|
|(con. 1920s) Studs Lonigan (1936) 537: What do you know about politics? Are you on an inside wire?Judgement Day in|
|DAUL 237/2: Wire. [...] 3. (P) A signal; any piece of confidential information; a warning.et al.|
|(con. 1920s) Burglar to the Nobility 29: I sent out a wire that I wanted to see him.|
|S.R.O. (1998) 434: ‘I got the wire when you went for the wine and whiskey. J&J told me [...] They said your book is your whore’.|
|Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 69: Maybe my wires got through to her.East in|
|(con. 1998–2000) You Got Nothing Coming 144: A new fish [...] is always an event of great interest, one invariably heralded by a ‘wire’ from the intake clerks or porters to alert the Yard Rats just who is coming out.|
4. (US tramp) articles constructed of stolen telegraph wire and sold in the street.
|Mother of the Hoboes 43: The Rating Of The Tramps. 6. Wires: peddled articles made of stolen telegraph wire.|
5. (US Und., also wire game) a racing swindle (see cit. 1940); also attrib.
|Mr. Jackson 32: I seen Murphy [...] ribbin’ up a live one for the wire game.|
|Sun (NY) 27 July 40/1: It’s the old wire with a new twist. They have a phony poolroom [...] Mr Boob comes alonmg and the booster steers him in.|
|Door of Dread 128: Yuh gotta change your dope, or the wire-gang’ll tap into your circuit and steer yuh for an early fall!|
|(con. 1905–25) Professional Thief (1956) 31: On the wire and the stock market (two types of confidence games), the inside and outside men may change positions.|
|Big Con 16: The wire [...] was a racing swindle in which the con men convinced the victim that with the connivance of a corrupt Western Union official they could delay the race results long enough for him to place a bet after the race had been run, but before the bookmakers received the results.|
|Parole Chief 219: There are three big con games [...] the Payoff, the Rag, the Wire.|
|USA Confidential 99: [He] owned the Rhode Island horse-wire, numbers and Narragansett track.|
|Wiseguy (2001) 100: I took my first pinch for running a wire room.|
6. (US) a telephone.
|Broadway Melody 109: ‘I never did a thing like this before —’ ‘Like what? Talk to a man on the wire?’.|
|Foundry 77: The house phone jangled, the desperate foreman was on the wire again.|
|High Window 87: ‘Hold the wire a minute,’ I said. I put the phone down.|
|Fowlers End (2001) 240: They’d be on the wire in half a second.|
|Q&A 177: We got a bug on Bobby Tex’s wire.|
|In La-La Land We Trust (1999) 35: Nobody could say that Burchard didn’t know the wires or wasn’t a good man with a phone.|
|College Sl. Research Project (Cal. State Poly. Uni., Pomona) 🌐 On da wires (phrase) 1. Speaking on the phone to a person.|
|Donnybrook [ebook] ‘Sorry, son, didn’t know you’s on the wire’.|
7. (US prison) a guard who does favours for the inmates.
|AS IX:1 28: wire. One who does favors for a prisoner.‘Prison Parlance’|
|Argot: Dict. of Und. Sl. 55: wire – a jail trusty who smuggles dope to other inmates.|
8. (Aus.) a scolding, a reprimand.
|Aus. Lang. 63: A chip or wire, a reprimand.|
9. (US black) the gossip circuit, the ‘grapevine’; usu. in phr. on the wire
|DAUL 238/1: Wire, the. 1. (Erroneously termed ‘the grapevine’) The prison and underworld channels by which rumors and gossip are disseminated.et al.|
|‘Return of Honky-Tonk Bud’ in Life (1976) 70: I got a wire he got caught in a fire.et al.|
|Bodega Dreams 85: The neighborhood became a tomb. Mute as an Egyptian. Every member of the street wire from the pimp to the junkie to the hooker talked like an Italian: ‘I ain’t see not’en’’.|
|Them (2008) 36: According to the wires, a dude called Henny Penn was nudging the establishment into drugs and prostitution.|
10. any form of electronic eavesdropping device [abbr. SE wire-tapping].
|Crust on its Uppers 37: The law had been on the wire that morning tapping us.|
|Q&A 152: And don’t bring no wires on you.|
|Fort Apache, The Bronx 315: We’re gonna put this wire on you, Mr Mendoza [...] This has an extrememly sensitive transmitter.|
|Golden Orange (1991) 360: If you’re wearin a wire by any chance, it ain’t worth shit. Whatever a man says under duress with a gun in his face ain’t worth shit in a court of law.|
|Mad mag. Nov. 24: Every time you get to second base with a girl you discover she’s wearing a wire.|
|Rough Riders 174: And it’d all be useless without a wire on his phones and so on.|
11. the penis; usu. as pull one’s wire
|5000 Adult Sex Words and Phrases.|
|Everyday Eng. and Sl. 🌐 Wire (n): mickey, penis.|
12. (US) the Internet, connected by a modem.
|College Sl. Research Project (Cal. State Poly. Uni., Pomona) 🌐 On da wires (phrase) [...] 2. Signed onto the internet by means of a modem.|
13. (drugs, also wiring) a vein used for the injection of drugs.
|Acid House 34: She taps a wire, jabs home and convulses appreciatively.‘Stoke Newington Blues’ in|
|(con. 1980s) Skagboys 156: Ah wrap my leather tie roond her thin white arm and tap her vein up. Nice wiring she’s got n aw.|
14. (US prison) a message, a phonecall.
|Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July 🌐 Wire: A message, or info that comes over the phone, as in ‘I got a wire today about...’.|
Pertaining to information
see separate entry.
see wire-puller n.1
(US) to receive or give a warning or message, to inform or be informed.
|N&Q 12 Ser. IX 384: To give a secret warning, or ‘to give the wire.’.|
|Runyon on Broadway (1954) 36: Good Time Charley Bernstein just gets the wire and tells me.‘Romance in the Roaring Forties’ in|
|Billy Bennett’s Third Budget 27: Jim’s friendly with all the kid-nappers. / When they’re short of kids he gets the wire.‘A Tale of the Rockies’ in|
|Fowlers End (2001) 236–7: How did the police get the wire on Costas? Who gave them the word?|
|Scene (1996) 147: I only got the wire from Bleeker last night.|
|Holy Smoke 82: Thanks for giving me the wire.|
|(con. 1950s) Whoreson 138: If Big Mama got the wire [...] she wouldn’t hesitate to lock Boots up.|
|Hazell Plays Solomon (1976) 116: You set it up an’ give me the wire and I’ll git a few of the chaps an’ we’ll rubbish the lot of ’em.|
|(con. 1960s) Black Gangster (1991) 59: Everybody will get the wire that there’s going to be a hit made.|
|Auf Wiedersehen Pet Two 240: If there’s anything we can help you with, just give us the wire.|
(US) to keep under surveillance.
|(con. 1940s) Autobiog. (1968) 194: They had their wire on me from uptown, all right.|
(US prison) information.
|Boss 373: You might get the collar on a hot wire from headquarters, and be taken off the train.|
|Classics in Sl. 85: In the mean’s while, Antonio has sent a hot wire to his buddie.|
|AS VI:6 439: hot wire, n. Good news; late information. ‘You can bet that he told everyone about the hot wire he had received.’.‘Convicts’ Jargon’ in|
|DAUL 103/2: Hot wire. A reliable and up-to-the-minute report; direct inside information.et al.|
1. generally known, going the rounds of gossip and rumour.
|Gangster Girl 161: See what you can do on the wire.|
|(con. 1940s) Autobiog. (1968) 215: A Negro held up some Italian racketeers in a floating crap game. I heard about it on the wire.|
|Awatea (1978) 47: Nothing on the wire: not a whisper.|
|Monster (1994) 132: I was a bit uncertain about L.A. County after hearing so much over the wire.|
|Lucky You 120: I expect Tom to be in the newsroom next week when it moves on the wires.|
2. (US und.) using some form of electronic surveillance.
|D.A.’s Man 97: The wire is installed and two men ‘sit on the wire,’ sometimes for months -- in a coal bin, a darkened and damp cellar, or in a woodshed.|
to exert influence, esp. behind the scenes; thus wire-pulling/wire-working n.
|Annals 12th Congress 2 Sess. 562: When those who pulled the wires saw fit, they passed away [DA].|
|Congressional Globe 26 Jan. 262/3: Neither by demonstrations here, nor by figuring and wire-pulling at home, am I engaged to the support of this bill [DA].|
|Hans Breitmann About Town 40: Boot de ding dat jam de hardest / On de men dat bull de vires, / Und showed dat Captain Breitmann / Shtood pedween dwo heafy vires.‘Breitmann in Politics’ in|
|Americanisms 261: Wire-pulling is not an American custom exclusively, as the figure of speech is as old as the Marionettes of Italy and France [...] but wire-working, as it is also called, has probably reached a higher degree of perfection here than abroad.|
|Sheffield Dly Teleg. 13 Nov. 2/2: What hasty embassies and nervous wire-pullings there were to get votes.|
|Hist. of Bourbon County, Kansas 180: Political meetings and conventions caucused and pulled wires [DA].|
|Sun. Times (Perth) 4 June 1/1: The wild wire-pulling for the State pub sinecure tops anything within memory.|
|Bucky O’Connor (1910) 244: Neil has got to stand the gaff for what he’s done, but I’ll pull wires to get his punishment made light.|
|Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Oct. 11/3: Leading citizens of great tonnage pulled all sorts of wires in the interests of their pals.|
|Human Side of Crook and Convict Life 21: Don’t plead guilty today [...] You’ll come up again to-morrow, and meanwhile we may be able to pull the wires.|
|Limey 176: He and the gang were pulling wires day and night.|
|Best of Myles (1968) 64: The brother is very strict about wire-pullin and favours.|
|N.Y. Mosaic (1999) 38: Bridget seemed to know people in every corner of the globe waiting to pull wires, open doors for her.‘Do I Wake or Sleep’ in|
|Across the Board 42: Levey had gone to Frank Costello about pulling a wire in his case.|
|(con. 1917–18) Make the Kaiser Dance 228: ‘Young man,’ he said, ‘we can pull a few wires here; you’ll be all right.’.|
|Double Bang 79: Mariano [...] easily countered all Vinnie’s wire-pulling.|
(US black) to circulate gossip or other information.
|(con. 1940s) Autobiog. (1968) 218: Some young hustlers rose in stature [...] when they somehow hoodwinked older hustlers, then put it on the wire for everyone to hear.|
|(con. 1998–2000) You Got Nothing Coming 137: I already put it on the wire that you’re hitting the yard so my dawgs can watch your back.|
(Aus./N.Z.) the honest truth; also used as an excl. to emphasize the truth of an assertion.
|Workingman’s Paradise 104: If he came any of his law-de-dah squatter funny business on me I’d give him the straight wire.|
|Bulletin (Sydney) 29 Nov. 31/1: ‘A nice put-up job.’ / ‘’Struth, no! Didn’t you see Mick the Mule?’ / ‘Dicken!’ / ‘Straight wire! He’s just out of quod, and he tried a Joe Rail on me for some beans.’.|
|Sons O’ Men 235: Walt, yer are a smeller, straight wire.|
|Sporting Times 27 June 1/4: All they [three Sydney larrikins] could say was ‘Ryebuck!’ (when they wor pleased), ‘Straight wire?’ (when they wor doubtful), and ‘Blimy!’ (when they wor disgusted).|
|Sport (Adelaide) 24 Dec. 5/3: ‘I’ll drive them, straight wire’.|
|(con. 1830s–60s) All That Swagger 328: ‘Will you?’ said Humphrey [...] ‘Straight wire. I will.’.|
|I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 139: I’m giving you the straight wire, honest to dinkum I am.|
|Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 108/2: straight wire, the truth, genuine news.|
|Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].|
Pertaining to masturbation
see separate entry.
|Good Ship Venus in(1979) 99: For when on shore he kept a whore, / On board he pulled his wire.|
|in Ozark Folksongs and Folklore (1992) I 216: ‘Tommy says we done pretty good, / It sure is better than pulling your --- / Poody-woody, down on the farm, / What you don’t know won’t do you any harm’. [...] She heard it in Jasper County about 1910.|
|song in Banglestien’s Bar n.p.: Train on trestle, bridge afire / Engineeer a-pullin’ wire.|
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|The Park and Other Stories (1983) 23: Ya, man. I gotta lotta wire but I doan pull my wire like you.|
|Maledicta IV:2 (Winter) 192: We also come across specialized terms in the male masturbation phrases such as […] pull one’s wire.|
|Born in the RSA (1997) 57: This ou opens his fly and starts pulling his wire so ou Bles tunes him, fokoff man.‘Outers’|
|Bend for Home 101: The boys were pulling their wire guiltily on the Fair Green, and comparing sizes.|
|Acid Alex 49: I would often wake up [...] to the sound of him pulling his wire, only he called it wanking.|
(Irish) to provoke, to fool someone.
|Big One, Black One, Fat One 159: He stared at me silently for a full minute and then said: ‘Are you pulling my wire?’.|
|Salesman 102: Are you serious now, or messin’ with me? [...] Because I don’t like people pullin’ me wire about this kind of thing.|
|Gun Law 129: I smiled at him and told him to stop pulling my wire.|
|Barry McKenzie [comic strip] in Complete Barry McKenzie (1988) 57: Arch just reckoned he didn’t twang the wire.|
|Indep. Mag. 19 June 35: That was in the days before twanging the wire meant masturbation.|
SE in slang uses
see chair, the n.
(UK Und.) a trick that ensnares a victim; thus wire-drawn, tricked in this way; wiredrawer, a trickster.
|Euphues (1916) 91: If Lucilla read this trifle she will straight proclaim Euphues for a traitor, and seeing me turn my tippet, will either shut me out for a wrangler or cast me off for a wiredrawer.|
|Euphues and his England (1916) 309: If he love not, thou stretchest out like a wire-drawer.|
|Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Wire-draw, a Fetch or Trick to wheedle in Bubbles; also to screw, over-reach, or deal hard with. Wire-drawn, c. so serv’d, or treated.|
|New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].|
|, , ,||Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].|
see sense 5 above.
(Aus.) a boundary rider.
|Shearer (Sydney) 4 Feb. 4/2: What do you know of [...] ‘tick jammers’, or of ‘lizards’ and ‘wire inspectors’? [AND].|
|Bulletin (Sydney) 19 Apr. 15/1: Lately, one of two ‘wire-inspectors’, camped at an outstation in C.Q, killed and brought home to show his mate, a beautifully-marked whip-snake.|
|Collar and Cuffs 57: The emu [...] is only of use – to give the boundary riders and wire inspectors something to do [AND].|
|Bulletin (Sydney) 29 Jan. 20/4: I have heard boundary-riders referred to by many names. Blue-tongues, lizards, hatters, boundary jerkers, wire inspectors [etc.].|
(US Und.) an execution chamber, using the electric chair.
|Adventures of Jimmie Dale (1918) I x: If one of you dicks get him, he gets bumped off just the same, only regular, up in the wire parlour at Sing Sing.|
(US) a confidence trickster who claims that he can intercept the wire bringing racecourse results and thus cheat the bookmakers; thus wire-tapping, the swindle itelf; also attrib.
|Columbus Dispatch 5 Jan. n.p.: The wire tappers escaped [DA].|
|Hands Up! 99: A gang of confidence men operating the swindle known as the ‘wire tapping’ or ‘race track’ game [...] The ‘wire tappers’ usually fit up an office in some out-of-the-way office building or rooming house with telegraph instruments which make a circuit on themselves.|
|Gentle Grafter (1915) 110: It’s you supposedly respectable citizens [...] that support the lotteries and wild-cat mines and stock exchanges and wire tappers of this country.‘Shearing the Wolf’ in|
|Wretches of Povertyville 218: In the wire tapping game the victim is told that the telegraph wire leading to a pool room has been secretly tapped, and information from the race track is received in time to lay wagers in the pool room after a race has been run.|
|Strictly Business 36: Who wears the diamonds in this town? Why, Winnie, the Wiretapper’s wife, and Bella, the Buncosteerer’s bride [DA].|
|Shorty McCabe on the Job 4: What is it this trip, a wire-tappin’ scheme, or just plain green goods?|
|Chicago May (1929) 37: All the wire tappers operated around 6th Avenue place, and it was a hang-out for all sorts of crooks, adventurers, and men-about-town.|
|DAUL 238/1: Wire-tapper. A swindler who pretends to intercept secret inside information on crooked horse races, stock deals, etc., to mulct victims.et al.|
approaching the crux, the climax; to the very limit.
|Down the Line 93: Swift often told himself he could give Marshall P. Wilder six sure-fires and beat him down to the wire.|
|On the Waterfront (1964) 175: ‘I’ll stand up with you.’ ‘Right down to the wire?’.|
|Carlito’s Way 154: We’re down to the wire and we’re neck and neck.|
|Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl.|
|ThugLit July [ebook] [S]he was going to play it right down to the wire.|
|Straight Dope [ebook] [W]e were down to the wire and we had just one bullet left.|
(US black) to obtain something, e.g. money.
|N.Y. Amsterdam News 15 Jan. 10A: The cats and the bats [...] played like mad in the backbeat 12, skiffling and skuffling, trying to get under the wire.|
(US) to lose control.
|Another Day in Paradise 180: Homeboy went all the way off the wire.|
at the very last minute.
|I Can Get It For You Wholesale 54: It looked like I’d just come in under the wire.|
|Harder They Fall (1971) 172: Your bum comes in right under the wire.|
|Whiplash River [ebook] Shake made it back to the hotel just under the wire, barely an hour before Devane was due to arrive.|