Green’s Dictionary of Slang

rich adj.

1. surprising, highly unlikely; usu. that’s rich.

[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 322: It was quite a new scene to him [...] but so exceedingly rich, that he would not have missed it for a hunded pounds.
[UK]Thackeray Yellowplush Papers Works III (1898) 366: For a man who beginns in such a humbill toan, it’s rayther rich to see how you end.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. III 9: Well, that’s rich!
[US]F.M. Whitcher Widow Bedott Papers (1883) 47: I thought that was about as rich as any thing o’ hern I’d seen.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn) 200: ‘A rich idea,’ one too absurd or unreasonable to be adopted.
[US]‘Artemus Ward’ Artemus Ward in London in Complete Works (1922) 435: She tho’t it was rich to talk about the crooilty of the Spaniards usin thumbscrews, when we was in a Tower where so many poor pepl’s heads had been cut off.
[US]J. O’Connor Wanderings of a Vagabond 36: Didn’t you tell me the Cap. was cheating us. Ha! ha! ha! ha! That’s rich!
[US]C.F. Lummis letter 10 Jan. in Byrkit Letters from the Southwest (1989) 237: This was a rich mess for a man on such a trip as this.
[UK]Sporting Times 8 Feb. 6/2: Well, s’welp my good garden stuff, that’s rich.
[UK]E. Pugh Street in Suburbia 160: It’s a’ uncommon rich deal of’ your’n – sowelp me never, it is!
[Aus]Clipper (Hobart, Tas.) 8 July 3/5: Now this was a proceeding which / I thought was pretty blooming rich.
[UK]A. Binstead Pitcher in Paradise 120: This was far too rich to be missed.
[UK]Magnet 3 Sept. 8: This is too rich!
[US]G. Bronson-Howard Enemy to Society 286: ‘Rich, this!’ growled George le Fay. ‘Got any idea what it’s all about, Morgy?’.
[US]H.C. Witwer Smile A Minute 51: Here’s one that’s pretty rich.
[US]Dos Passos Three Soldiers 353: ‘Ain’t that rich?’ said Handsome, laughing shrilly again.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Final Count 825: Rich [...] extremely rich. Not to say ripe and fruity.
[US]Z.N. Hurston Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1995) 139: Now listen close. You’re going to hear something rich. These niggers!
[UK]D.L. Sayers Busman’s Honeymoon (1974) 277: That’s rich, that is!
[UK]G. Greene Brighton Rock (1943) 169: He grinned at her. ‘Confession? That’s rich.’.
[UK]A. Christie Body in the Library (1959) 22: I say, that’s pretty rich.
[US]J. Thompson Criminal (1993) 41: That’s pretty rich, that is.
[UK]B. Kops Dream of Peter Mann Act II: peter: I’m fed up with supporting you. alex: That’s rich – I did all the supporting.
[UK]Nova Apr. 99: This is getting too rich.
[UK]M. Amis London Fields 235: Oh, this is rich. Outside – what a pal – Keith has just pulled up in the royal-blue Cavalier.
[UK]Guardian G2 24 June 22: Hugh found Simon and his friends a bit rich in every sense.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 15 Sept. 4: Norris took a pop at London Transport – pretty rich considering his previous form as Transport Minister.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. Culture 7 May 2: That was a tad rich.

2. (US) pornographic.

[UK]Sun. Dispatch (London) 9 Mar. 5/2–3: Don’t you want Something Rich? [the reporter, sitting in ‘a prominent hotel in Broadway,’ sees a young man ask a middle-aged ‘country-looking’ man ‘Don’t you want something rich?’; he takes him to a corner of the room, takes from his pocket] a number of books in pamphlet form, one of which he opened and commenced turning over the leaves. ‘Ain’t that High?’ he said, in a tone of admiration, as he stopped at a flaming picture in order to let his customer get a good look at it. [The customer kicks and beats him indignantly.].
[US]N.Y. Times 17 Jan. 13: On Monday night, however, two detectives attached to Inspector Sweeney’s office were sauntering along West 116th Street when they were accosted by a shabbily dressed man, who asked them if they wanted to see ‘something rich.’ ‘What is it?’ queried one of the sleuths. ‘A ripe motion picture show – something good – hot stuff,’ was the response.

3. very funny, absurd; esp. used ironically.

[UK]Ford Fancies Act III: The rarest fellow, Spadone, so full of gamballs, a talkes so humorously, does a not, so carelessly? oh rich!
[UK]Dickens Old Curiosity Shop (1999) 372: Ha ha ha! oh very rich, very rich indeed, remarkably so!
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. II 11: Ha! Ha! a demed good joke! Rich, exceedingly!
F.M. Whitcher Widow Bedott Papers (1883) 36: There is something so decidedly rich about Aunt Silly, that I can not for my life help having a little fun at her expense.
[UK]Aberdeen Eve. Exp. 7 Oct. 4/1: Oh, it’s altogether too rich.
[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 174: I heard rather a rich bit the other night.
[US]F. Hutchison Philosophy of Johnny the Gent 36: ‘[A]in’t it rich how many chumps there are around the country that have an idea [...] that somebody's goin’ to hand 'em something fer nothin’?’.
[US]H. Green Maison De Shine 85: ‘We got him goin’’ said Gertie gleefully [...] ‘Ain’t it rich?’.
[US]G. Bronson-Howard Enemy to Society 181: ‘Say, Gus, here’s nerve for you; a couple of newspaper guys sendin’ in their cards to Mr. Janissary! Rich, ain’t it?’.
[US]R. Lardner Treat ’Em Rough 9: They’s about 20 other of the boys writeing letters and I will bet some of the letters is rich because half of the boys can’t talk english to say nothing about writeing letters and etc.
[US]‘Digit’ Confessions of a Twentieth Century Hobo 139: I wouldn’t have missed this for a thousand pounds. It’s too rich for anything.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 66: Jesus, but it was rich!
[US]W.R. Burnett Iron Man 38: ‘The new middleweight contender is a sluggish fighter and has to be stung into action.’ Ain’t that rich?
P. Hamilton Money With Menaces (1939) 31: I must tell you the end of this. It’s rich.
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit 171: Very rich, sir [...] Makes me chuckle, that does.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Peacock Valhalla 116: Ain’t that a rich one?
[UK]J.P. Carstairs Concrete Kimono 247: ‘Oh, it’s rich!’ ‘I thought you’d enjoy the joke.’.
[US](con. 1949) J.G. Dunne True Confessions (1979) 39: ‘Oh, shit, that’s rich,’ Bingo McInerney said.
[Aus]M. Bail Homesickness (1999) 310: The ranger let out a roar of a laugh and shouted over his shoulder: ‘You hear that, Charo? That’s rich.’.
[UK]J. Poller Reach 147: And there was Bernie thinking she was a virgin. Really it’s too rich!
[US](con. 1964–8) J. Ellroy Cold Six Thousand 597: NDK: This is rich. I grab the pay phone this morning and who do I get? RMJD: Jill St. John? NDK: No [...] It’s Jimmy Ray.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

rich face (n.) (also rich nose) [seen as the product of a diet of rich food]

a red and/or heavily acned face or nose.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Rich-face a Red-face.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Rich Face, or nose. A red pimpled, face.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[Ire]Waterford Chron. 1 Aug. 4/4: He was so poor that he had not so much as a rich face, nor the promise of a carbuncle in it.
[Ire]Drogheda Jrnl 30 Jan. 3/2: He who loveth gen’rous wine, / Bears the prima facie sign / Of a rich, jolly Bardolph nose.
Vindicator (Antrim) 30 Nov. 4/3: Tom Brewer [...] having attained to a very rich and rubicund nose, being reproved [...] for his frequent use of strong drink.
rich friend (n.) [euph.]

a prostitute’s keeper; i.e. a wealthy man rather than a pimp.

[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 173: [note] rich friend An universal phrase with the girls of the Town for ‘their Keepers’.

In phrases