Green’s Dictionary of Slang

fair shake n.

[the image of an honest throw or ‘shake’ of a dice cup]

1. a fair or acceptable situation; thus antonym rough shake, an unfair or difficult situation.

[US]N.Y. Mirror 19 June 399/2: A fellow stepped up to me and asked how I’d trade and says I, for what, and says he for your watch—and says I, any way that will be a fair shake. Upon that, says he, I'll give you my watch and five dollars. Says I, it's done!
[US]D. Crockett Narrative of Life of D.C. (1934) 55: I took no more clothing [...] so that if I got into an Indian battle, I might not be pestered with unnecessary plunder, to prevent my having a fair shake with them.
[US]Baton Rouge Gaz. (LA) 1 Jan. 1/2: Towser’s going to fetch that badger hout, so stand clear, and give the dog a fair shake’.
T. Winthrop Life in Open Air 145: This is a free country [...] Every woter has a right to a fair shake.
[US]S.E. White Blazed Trail 102: ‘That ain’t a fair shake,’ cried the man excitedly.
[US]R.A. Wason Happy Hawkins 6: I mean it ain’t a fair shake.
[US]S. Ford Torchy 111: That wouldn’t been a fair shake for the firm.
[US]A.I. Bezzerides Thieves’ Market 182: You’re not giving me a fair shake.
[US]B. Spicer Blues for the Prince (1989) 103: It’s been a rough shake for you. All round.
[UK](con. WWII) G. Sire Deathmakers 175: I’ll call it a fair shake. You can’t con me.
[US]B. Jackson Killing Time 200: Also I think society doesn’t give a guy a fair shake either. Coming out.
[US]F. Bill Donnybrook [ebook] ‘[S]eems a fair shake’.

2. (also decent shake, full...) equable treatment.

[US]W.T. Thompson Chronicles of Pineville 34: Give Bill Sweeny a fair shake, and he can whoop blue blazes out of ye.
[UK]Elgin Courier 12 Mar. 2/5: ‘That’s what I call a fair shake,’ as the Lincolnshire man said.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 90: In America a fair shake is a fair trade or a good bargain.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. [as cit. 1859].
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 601: Fair shake, a local vulgarism in some parts of New England for a fair trade.
[UK]Manchester Courier 7 Aug. 14/4: The law intends that the public shall have a fair shake at this washing business without favour to anyone.
Scaramentio Dly Record-Union (CA) 8 Aug. 4/3: All he ants is a ‘fair shake’.
[Aus]Taralgon Record (Vic.) 18 Nov. 4/1: Boys [...] you don’t give the Doctor a fair shake.
[UK]Binstead & Wells A Pink ’Un and a Pelican 77: I cannot deny that waiters, of one sort and another, got a full shake in the last chapter.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 175: It is no Fair Shake [...] Why should he spend more for Florida Water every week than I pull down in Stipend?
[UK]Western Morn. News 27 Oct. 3/2: Not A Fair Shake. Mr H. Whitfield thought that if they had not had their fair share of the attractions it was because [etc.].
[US]J. Mitchell McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon (2001) 28: He gave everybody a fair shake, and he didn’t have a thing to hide.
[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 138: When a guy gives them a decent shake they get a loyalty like a hound dog. [Ibid.] 52: This girl is the most faithful [...] woman in the world if you give her a fair shake.
[US]L. Bruce Essential Lenny Bruce 18: How’m I gonna get a fair shake when they’re all black?
[US]G. Wolff Duke of Deception (1990) 15: Dr. Wolff is said to have left the staff of St. Francis because a Jew couldn’t get a fair shake from the Catholics.
M. MacPherson Long Time Passing 571: The direct cause of black veterans not getting a fair shake is the fact that they are black.
[Aus]P. Temple Bad Debts (2012) [ebook] Barry Tregear reckons y’might get me a fair shake.
A.J. Packer How Rude! 199: You’ll be surprised by how many teachers are willing to give you a fair shake.
[US]Billboard 29 Dec. 18/2: We’re not always given a fair shake for being the real deal.
J. Dye Backbone n.p.: It’s human nature to seek a fair shake.