Green’s Dictionary of Slang

catch v.1

1. as a mental process.

(a) to grasp the meaning, often in negative, e.g. I didn’t quite catch...

[US]Godey’s Mag. Apr. 406/2: I am a child myself. Do you catch? [DA].
[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Million Buck Snatch!’ Dan Turner - Hollywood Detective Jan. [Internet] ‘I catch!’ he said. ‘Tong-war stuff. I recognize this dead Chink’.
[US]T. Marvin ‘College for Crooks’ in Ten Detective Aces Feb. [Internet] ‘Put that fat book away, Squirt, and go outdoors. I want you healthy, understand?’ ‘I ketch, Pop,’ the kid said.
[US]P. Highsmith Strangers on a Train (1974) 30: We meet on a train, see, and nobody knows we know each other! Perfect alibis! Catch?
[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 99: First of course he has to anaesthetize with novocain. But if he likes your looks it didn’t have to be novocain. Catch?
Online Sl. Dict. [Internet] catch v [...] 2. to hear, understand. (‘Did you catch that?’).

(b) to find out, to discover.

[US]E. Nye Baled Hay (1893) 53: She [...] has been trying to catch the combinations to the safes of several of our business men .
[US]Jerry on the Job [comic strip] I’ll give the matter a short stick of thick thought – Maybe I can catch an answer.
[US](con. 1910s) D. Mackenzie Hell’s Kitchen 160: And doesn’t a scream go up, too, when one of them is ‘catched’ (found out).
[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 16: I caught the rest of it in one of those snob columns in the society section of the paper.

(c) to notice, to appreciate.

[US](con. 1940s) E. Thompson Tattoo (1977) 72: ‘Catch this.’ Glenn jogged Buck with an elbow. ‘The sausage is goin to dance.’.

2. of a person or object, to come into possession of, to take control of.

(a) to ensnare a victim in a confidence trick or crooked gambling game.

[UK]W. Perry London Guide 2: When two sharpers [...] pursuing the same game, meet [...] ‘What are you after,’ demands one. ‘Catching of flats,’ isd the reply.
[UK]Comic Almanack Apr. 86: ‘The fellow’s run away behind an omnibus without giving me change out of my half-crown.’ ‘That’s alvays the vay they does on these here hoccasions: they calls it catching a flat!’.
[UK] ‘Drunkard’s Looking Glass!’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 91: They freely enter into chat / If they can but catch a flat.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May: Her Story in Hamilton (1952) 128: I caught them all [...] University professors, ministers, priests, gamblers.
[US]H. Asbury Sucker’s Progress 58: Oscar Wilde [...] was caught for several thousand dollars by Hungry Joe Lewis, a cadaverous crook.

(b) to obtain, to get, to come into possession of a given item, lit. or fig.

[UK] ‘Frank Fane’ in Pearl 11 May 12: And, crickey! it’s fun, To see Frank Fane catching Three floggings in one.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Mar. 24/2: That Cribb can punch, and punch hard, there’s no doubt; he and cyclist Larry Corbett had a quiet turn-up at Seale’s gymnasium [...] and Larry caught one that left him in doubt for three days as to whether his ribs were broken or not.
[US]R. Lardner ‘Sun Cured’ in Coll. Short Stories (1941) 438: I had three deuces and drew to them and caught a five and nine of clubs.
[US]W.R. Burnett Iron Man 188: Mandl drew to a pair of aces and caught an ace full.
[US]N. Algren Never Come Morning (1988) 115: Was it all a lie about the old man catching a slug then?
[UK]I. Fleming Diamonds Are Forever (1958) 72: The gambling casinos of Saratoga were never square and anyone who caught a hot hand was measured for a trimming.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 75: Your ‘boon coon’ ‘Party’ caught sixty in the county.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Airtight Willie and Me 111: He caught a five-year bit in Joliet for fencing jewelry.
[US](con. 1969–70) D. Bodey F.N.G. (1988) 38: I wanted to get outa that jungle so goddam bad I tried to catch some shrap in my arm.
[US]UGK ‘Pocket Full of Stones’ [lyrics] Started payin off the laws so I wouldn’t catch a case.
[US]Simon & Burns Corner (1998) 116: Her mother [...] caught a drug charge that took her to women’s prison.
[US]G.V. Higgins At End of Day (2001) 34: [He] caught a breadknife in the belly from a husband and wife perfectly happy fighting with each other.
[US]G. Pelecanos Night Gardener 55: He had caught trouble a couple of times every week since he started going there [i.e. a school].

(c) (US prison) to make a good impression on.

[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 253: ‘Did I catch good with Candy?’ Red asked. ‘Sure [...] You fascinated her.’.

(d) to seduce.

[US] ‘Sl. of Watts’ in Current Sl. III:2 14: Catch, v. To attract members of opposite sex.
[US]E. Bunker No Beast So Fierce 79: You might catch a hooker, too. Enough of ’em come here.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines xviii: Le’s [...] dig on the young ladies, try an’ catch.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 241: Looks like you caught the absolutely fabulous Miss Yvonne Renee Dillon of Palm Springs and Hollywood.

(e) (US black) of a pimp, to persuade a woman (whether already a prostitute or not) to start working for him.

[US] ‘Sl. of Watts’ in Current Sl. III:2 14: Catch, v. To find a prostitute who will support you.
[US]Bobby Womack ‘Across 110th Street’ [lyrics] Across a Hundred and Tenth Street, pimps trying to catch a woman that’s weak.
[US]A.K. Shulman On the Stroll 7: He had a pocketful of bills from last week’s three-card monte game: enough to catch a bitch if his luck held out.

(f) (US black) of a prostitute, to attract a client.

[US]D. Goines Street Players 32: Some whores catchin’ all their lives and still can’t get out of a cold-water flat.

(g) (US black) to steal.

[US]L. Stavsky et al. A2Z 18/1: He had to prove he could catch a Polo sweater without getting caught.

(h) (US gang) to harm to kill.

[US](con. 1990s) in J. Miller One of the Guys 167: ‘If somebody catch your cousin, it’s gonna hurt you more than killing you’.

3. to experience; to encounter.

(a) of a show or other type of entertainment, to listen to, to watch; to attend.

[US]J. Lait Broadway Melody 78: We still got it till Zannie catches it.
[US]Metronome Mar. 40: Catch those lyrics in Don Redman’s Auld Lang Syne!
[US]Kerouac letter 18 Sept. in Charters I (1995) 71: I caught Ben Webster at the Three deuces on 52nd: he was wonderful.
[US]J.C. Holmes Horn 221: Kelcy Crane is blowing goofy, goofy things, Baby, [...] Have you caught him yet?
[US]L. Block Diet of Treacle (2008) 138: A whole mob of them [...] caught a late show in Times Square.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Airtight Willie and Me 58: They were catching the Nat ‘King’ Cole Trio’s last show.
[US]C. Stroud Close Pursuit (1988) 153: You were catching the skin flicks along Forty-second Street?
[US]A. Rodriguez Spidertown (1994) 88: We get some pasta up on Fordham, maybe catch a movie if it ain’t too late?
[US]C. Cook Robbers (2001) 346: Eddie shook his head, no, said he didn’t catch many movies.

(b) (orig. US) to have a casual social encounter with.

[US](con. 1940s) E. Thompson Tattoo (1977) 227: Glenn patted his pockets. ‘I’m a little light. OK if I catch you later?’.
[US]T.R. Houser Central Sl. 14: catch To hit on a woman [...] ‘We goin’ to the Hutch tonight to catch.’.
[US]Da Bomb [Internet] 6: Catch: Talk to; see.
[US]C. Cook Robbers (2001) 5: Hey, no problem. I’ll catcha next time.

4. to give.

[UK]E. Waugh Vile Bodies 61: Take it away quick, or I’ll catch you such a smack.

In compounds

catch-bet (n.)

a bet made with the intention of ensnaring a gullible punter.

[UK]Sl. Dict. 111: Catchbet a bet made for the purpose of entrapping the unwary by means of a paltry subterfuge.
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 29 Dec. 3/2: The circumstances led moreover to the now almost forgotten ‘catch’ bet as to a horse having won the Derby [...] when he was a two-year-old.
[UK]Portsmouth Eve. News 28 Oct. 4/4: Brown was induced to wager a sovereign on a catch bet.

In phrases

catch... (v.)

see also under relevant n. or adj.

catch a body (v.)

(US black) to kill.

[US]L. Stavsky et al. A2Z 18/1: He say he be catchin’ bodies, but that sucka never pulled a trigga.
[US]De La Soul ‘Stakes Is High’ [lyrics] I hear you caught a body / Seem like every man and woman share the life of John Gotti.
[US]S. White Married to Da Streets 112: He knew if he even thought Tiffany was fucking around on him he was going to catch a body.
Stormzy ‘Shut Up’ [lyrics] I set trends, dem man copy / They catch feelings, I catch bodies.
catch a case (v.)

(US Und./prison) to be arrested, to be charged with a crime.

[US]Detroit Free Press 15 Nov. 100/1: I’d rather catch an a—whippin’ than catch a case’ in court .
[US]Detroit Free Press 2 Sept. 3/7: She then said he warned her not to inform on him: ‘He is telling me don’t say anything [...] or he can catch a case’.
[US]UGK ‘Feds in Town’ [lyrics] Cause Lil Bun might not see Big Bun up in his face / If I catch a fuckin case.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 12: Caught a case is prisonese for getting in trouble with the law.
[US]‘Dutch’ ? (Pronounced Que) [ebook] One of these faggot muhfuckas gonna make me catch a case.
www.sportingnews.com [Internet] Let’s hope Julian Edelman doesn’t catch a case over past due Blockbuster video.
catch (a) cold (v.)

1. to get into trouble, poss. through impetuousness.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: Cold. You will catch Cold, a kind of threat or advice to desist.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd, 3rd edn) n.p.: Cold. You will catch cold at that; a vulgar threat or advice to desist from an attempt.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.

2. to lose out financially, poss. after purchasing a supposed ‘bargain’, which proves to be otherwise.

[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 202: ‘Catch cold (to) at a thing’ — to have the worst of betting, of a bargain, or contest — ruination sometimes.
[UK]N&Q 12 Ser. IX 424: Catch a Cold (To). To get ‘wind up’.
[UK]J. Curtis You’re in the Racket, Too 35: It wouldn’t be worth the risk of carrying them through the streets for the two or three nicker you were going to pick up. Yes, a screwsman sure would catch a cold here.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.

3. (US prison) to be killed.

[US]Southern Illinoisan (Carbondale, IL) 7 Apr. 4/1: Prison Slang [...] Catch cold: Get killed.
catch action

see separate entries.

catch a pay (v.)

(US black) to commit a robbery.

[US]L. Stavsky et al. A2Z 18/2: I’ma have to catch a pay if I can’t find work by the weekend.
catch it (v.) [euph. for catch hell under hell n.]

1. (also catch it hot, …warm) to be severely reprimanded, punished or beaten.

[UK]‘Bill Truck’ Man o’ War’s Man (1843) 3: ‘Stand clear the next time, otherwise you’ll catch it.’ ‘Catch what?’ [...] ‘A broomstick, you scoundrel!’.
[US]J.C. Neal Charcoal Sketches (1865) 45: If he comes here too often a crossing me, he’ll ketch it.
[UK] ‘“Taking Off” of Prince Albert’s Inexpressibles’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 36: My old woman heard me, and didn’t I cotch it nicely.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 20 Mar. 3/1: You remember when that yaller-faced varment of an overseer jacketed me for smugging [...] Strike me lucky if I shouldn’nt a cotch’d it if you Jemmy hand’t a sprung the plant.
[US]Dly Eve. Star (DC) 14 Jan. 1/3: How I cut up monkey shines / Every time his back was turned / How I sometimes used to catch it, / When I’d not my lesson learned.
[UK]T. Hughes Tom Brown’s School-Days (1896) 20: For which she would be sure to catch it from Missus’s maid.
[US]C.H. Smith Bill Arp 145: Poor Tennessee! I golly, didn’t she catch it!
[UK]J. Greenwood Little Ragamuffin 252: He’d ha ketched it pretty hot, and serve him right, too.
[UK]J. Greenwood Dick Temple II 109: I shall catch it, of course. I’m supposed to be your guardian angel.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 11 Apr. 17/4: A few seconds only had, however elapsed, during which the Wellington man caught it once or twice on the ear.
[UK]Kipling ‘Moral Reformers’ in Complete Stalky & Co. (1987) 122: Talking about bullying, [...] you all caught it pretty hot when you were fags, didn’t you?
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 11 Nov. 6/3: You know I nearly caught it hot, / It cost me pots, you know.
[UK]J. Conrad Typhoon 148: ‘We’re going to catch it this time,’ he said. ‘The barometer is tumbling down like anything, Harry.’.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth)17 July 2nd sect. 10/3: The Premier of Victoria, Mr. Murray, is catching it hot from some of the papers.
[UK]Boys’ Best 20 Oct. 43: Catch it hot from your Head?
[Aus]F. Garrett diary 8 May [Internet] Signallers are catching it warm they say & visual signalling is impossible.
[Aus]L.D. Richards diary 14 Mar. [Internet] The Maxim went off about 8, lasted about 10 minutes. Someone or something caught it.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 201: I hope Edmund is going to catch it.
[UK]S. Scott Human Side of Crook and Convict Life 20: Eh, but ye’ll catch it hot this time, me lad!
[UK]D. Footman Pig and Pepper (1990) 44: He’ll catch it!
[Aus]K. Tennant Battlers 151: That young Tolly’ll catch it when his old man gets here.
[US]C. Hamilton Men of the Und. 136: The Pinkertons were really catching it.
[UK]A. Buckeridge According to Jennings (1991) 125: If you aren’t in bed in two seconds from now, Jennings, you’ll catch it hot.
[UK]A. Buckeridge Trust Jennings (1989) 45: Not so hot as you’ll catch it when Pinky Parkinson finds out.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 4: We caught it from everybody.
[UK](con. 1940s) J.G. Farrell Singapore Grip 151: Run the bleedin’ hose out without a twist in it or ye’ll catch it hot, I’m tellin’ ye...
[UK]A. Higgins Donkey’s Years 60: Yule cotch it hot when yure Doddy hurs of duss.

2. to be killed.

‘Sapper’ ‘The Company Idiot’ in Men, Women & Guns [ebook] It was the signal officer who tripped over it first—that huddled quiet body[...] ‘Somebody caught it here, poor devil’.

3. to be shot.

[UK]J.N. Hall Kitchener’s Mob 184: ‘W’ere you caught it, mate?’ ‘In me bloomin’ shoulder.’.
[US]M. Spillane Long Wait (1954) 74: He was sitting there and bang, just like that he caught it.
[UK]R.L. Pike Mute Witness (1997) 71: He was up on one of the floors fixing a faucet or something around the time Rossi caught it.
catch one’s lunch (v.)

(US) to be killed or to be defeated so comprehensively as to feel physically sick.

J. Hackett ‘Scholar’s Lunch’ in AS XLV:3/4 (1970) 301: This is the expression, currently fashionable in Chicago, [...] ‘he caught his lunch,’ translation, ‘he lost so badly he became nauseated’.
[US](con. 1969) C.R. Anderson Grunts xiv: The grunts’ greatest fear [...] was of being killed, the most common terms for which were dinged, zapped, greased, blown away, caught his lunch, and bought the ranch.
[US]T. Lorenz Guys Like Us 141: The sticks were...catching their lunch from the Amalgamonsters.
catch (the) vapors (v.)

1. (US campus) to act obsequiously; to become jealous.

[US]Ice-T ‘Personal’ [lyrics] See me on T.V. and in the papers / See me at a jam, and catch vapors!
[US]Biz Markie ‘Vapors’ [lyrics] She’d be beggin’ please, dyin’ for the day to get skeezed, she caught the vapors.
Brand Nubian ‘Feels So Good’ [lyrics] I’m gettin papes, but stunts gets the vapes.
[US]Run-DMC ‘Big Willie’ [lyrics] I’m makin papers, brothers catchin vapors.
[US]Da Bomb [Internet] 6: Catch vapors: To get jealous.
Heavy D ‘Can You Handle It’ [lyrics] Just cause you caught the vapes and tryin to hang like drapes.
Deadly Venoms ‘Don’t Give Up’ [lyrics] Try to walk in my footsteps, follow my traces, you caught the vapors.
[US]Vibe July 93: But even as his fans catch vapors, T-Pain can't help but consider the irony of all this appreciation.
[US]50 Cent ‘I Just Wanna’ [lyrics] They all catch them vapors like, “Yayo, you remember me?”.

2. to desire sexually.

[US]L. Stavsky et al. A2Z.
catch wreck (v.) (US black)

1. to get into trouble, to be beaten up.

[US]L. Stavsky et al. A2Z 18/2: They’re gonna catch wreck wearin’ colors in that hood.
www.netweed.com 12 Mar. [Internet] Wanna see a brotha catch wreck in a fight?
[US]N. Folkes Circle of Sins [ebook] Your welcome Manny but I don't want to catch wreck behind this. So you have to go.

2. to gain respect by one’s activity, spec. to rap freestyle.

[US]L. Stavsky et al. A2Z 18/2: catch wreck [...] to gain respect by one’s activity: The shorties caught wreck at the jam last night.
[US]Jurassic 5 ‘In the Flesh’ [lyrics] 5 MC’s in the flesh / Bound to catch wreck.
N. George Hip Hop America [ebook] The WuTang Clan, whose posse [...] is packed with skilled rhyme animals who stalk thestage ready to ‘catch wreck’.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

catch-colt (n.) [dial. catch colt, a colt that was bred unintentionally]

(US) an illegitimate child.

[US]Monroe & Northup ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:iii 137: catch-colt, n. An illegitimate child.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]R. Wilder You All Spoken Here 98: Come-by-chance child: Illegitimate; woods colt; bush colt; catch colt; old field colt; outsider; volunteer; yard child; bantlin’.
catch-fart (n.) [var. on fart-catcher under fart n.]

a footman.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew.
[UK]New Canting Dict.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict.
[UK]London Mag. Jan. 47/2: Shall a catch-fart (good Lord!) or a man in your station / Thus familiarly boast of a frank invitation.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
A. Huxley Ape & Essence n.p.: Reason comes running, eager to ratify; / Comes, a catch-fart, with Philosophy, truckling to tyrants.

In phrases

catch... (v.)

see also under relevant n.

catch a fox (v.) [fox v.1 (2)]

to be very drunk; thus caught a fox, drunk.

[UK]J. Taylor ‘A Brood of Cormorants’ Works (1869) III 5: For though he be as drunke as any Rat, / He hath but catcht a Foxe, or whipt the Cat.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: He has caught a Fox, he is very Drunk.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
catch a horse (v.) [euph.]

(Aus.) to urinate.

[Aus]Baker Aus. Lang. 89: To go and catch a horse, or kill a snake, to see a man about a dog.
catch and kill one’s own (v.) [the image of the self-sufficient dweller in the outback]

(Aus.) to look after oneself, to sort out one’s own problems without outside aid.

K. Clift Saga of a Sig 128: Some zest was added to the frolic because the troops concerned were required to run after the ‘sort’ they fancied along the sandy beach. A ‘catch and kill your own’ sort of romance if ever there was one!
[Aus]R. Aven-Bray Ridgey-Didge Oz Jack Lang 23: Catch and kill your own Do the best one can for oneself.
[Aus]Sydney Morning Herald 3 Dec. 5: She tendered her resignation [...] At a later Caucus meeting to elect her successor, there was a unanimous motion paying tribute to her work over the years. In the ALP, they catch and kill their own [GAW4].
A. Shand Big Shots 271: Then she reminded me that the tradition of ‘catch and kill your own’ was perhaps alive and well.
catch ’em-alive (n.)

see separate entry.

catch ’em (all) alive-o (n.)

see separate entry.

catch on (v.)

see separate entry.

catch out (v.) [i.e. to catch a railroad out of town]

1. (US tramp) to leave by train; to ‘ride the rails’.

Arizona Quarterly 158: I got off a TP freight train [and] hurried toward the jungle where mainline hoboes waited to catch out west.
T. Conover Rolling Nowhere 243: [It was a] good place to catch out. [...] ‘You sound like you’ve hopped a freight yourself.’.
F. Steen Bluesman 31: Some of the men [...] knew exactly [...] what freight to catch out of the IC Yards of North Jackson.
[US]W.T. Vollmann Royal Family 716: How long you been catching out, son?
(con. 1930s) E.L. Uys Riding the Rails 62: Hearts pounding as they waited to ‘catch out’ and board their first train.
T. de Haven It’s Superman 183: In the afternoon they catch out on a freight headed west.

2. to go to work.

[US]C. Shafer ‘Catheads [...] and Cho-Cho Sticks’ in Abernethy Bounty of Texas (1990) 200: catch out, v. – to go to work.

3. (US prison) to leave, to go out.

[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July [Internet] Catch out: Move around, leave an area rapidly. (TX).
catch someone with their pants down (v.) (also ...breeches down, …drawers, ...knickers down, ...trousers down, catch someone pants down)

(orig. US) to find someone in a state of embarrassing unpreparedness, to catch someone ‘red-handed’; often used ‘literally’ of sexual infidelities.

Alton (IL) Tel. and Democratic Rev. 7 Feb. 1/1: That their appearance in our journal [...] should have caught the principal actors with their breeches down, was to be expected.
[US]White Cloud Kansas Chief (KS) 3 Apr. 2/4: The rebels hoped, in the sublime language of Gen. Scott, to ‘catch the Union troops with their breeches down’.
[US]Dly Nat. Republican (DC) 14 July 2/4: The glorious fourth, if it came one day late for Gettysburg, was just in season to catch Franklin Pierce with his trousers down at Concord.
[US]Petroleum Centre Dly Record (PA) 30 Nov. 2/3: I will catch lots of these chaps with their breeches down when they go to hauling their wheat to market.
[[US]A. Garcia Tough Trip Through Paradise (1977) 101: So he started with his pants down, but his comeback would come when he got hold of Betsy Ann, and then he would perforate me with lead].
[SA]Pickens Sentinel (SC) 9 Sept. 3/1: We will [...] not let the other fellow catch us with our breeches down.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 97: Must be careful about women. Catch them once with their pants down. Never forgive you after that.
[[US](con. 1918) J.W. Thomason Red Pants 42: ‘They may give us a shot ... no such luck, though.’ ‘Aw, they might – at ten to one, if they thought we had our pants down’].
[US]J.T. Farrell Gas-House McGinty 36: He got canned. Was caught on duty with his pants down.
[US]H. Miller Tropic of Capricorn (1964) 96: Everybody is caught with his pants down, including the strip teasers who wear no pants.
[US]S. Lewis Kingsblood Royal (2001) 224: Now they caught you with your pants down and you are nothing but a nigger.
[US]S.J. Perelman ‘Hell In the Gaberdines’ in Keep It Crisp 7: Well, I guess you caught me with my pants down.
[US]J.H. Burns Lucifer with a Book 274: But they were caught with their pants down.
[US]M. Spillane Long Wait (1954) 33: The town blossomed out in some of the fanciest gambling houses ever seen and the good citizens were caught with their pants down.
[US]M. Braly Felony Tank (1962) 12: We caught him with his pants down. Right in the place.
[US](con. 1916) G. Swarthout Tin Lizzie Troop (1978) 144: They caught your men with their pants down, evidently, and ran off with their horses.
[US]V.E. Smith Jones Men 202: You don’t get caught with your draws [sic] down.
[UK]C. Dexter Last Seen Wearing in Second Inspector Morse Omnibus ) (1994) 511: Somebody caught him with one of the girls with his trousers down.
[US](con. 1969) M. Herr Dispatches 12: We aim to make good and goddammit sure that if those guys try anything cute they won’t catch us with our pants down.
[UK]J. McClure Spike Island (1981) 176: I would sooner catch him with his trousers down – in every possible sense of the word! – and grab ’im and that’s it.
[US]C. Heath A-Team 2 (1984) 108: Caught most of the bastards with their pants down.
[UK]S. Berkoff West in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 104: By being unprepared we was caught with our knickers well and truly down.
[US](con. 1968) D.A. Dye Citadel (1989) 157: Got caught with my ratty-assed trousers down around my jungle boots.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 99: County ground where the city D.A. would be just another john caught with his pants down.
[US]Tarantino & Avery Pulp Fiction [film script] 5: Restaurants [...] you catch with their pants down.
R. Swinney Daily Mississippian 5 Feb. [Internet] As for Bill Clinton, he should act his age by not getting caught with his breeches down for the next two years.
[UK]Guardian Editor 18 Feb. 14: Sara Lee has caught Courtaulds with its knickers down.
The Quill ‘Fandango’ on Poetic Village [Internet] Washington’s trap laid / so very well / William [i.e. Bill Clinton] caught with / his breeches down.
[US]K. Huff A Steady Rain I i: We caught them pants down with all this pharmaceutical grade H and coke.
catch the chain (v.) [the chain that links the prisoners together during their journey]

(US Und.) to move from a local jail to a proper prison.

[US]C. Shafer ‘Catheads [...] and Cho-Cho Sticks’ in Abernethy Bounty of Texas (1990) 200: catch the chain, v. – to leave on the bus.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 9: Waiting to Catch the Chain Inmates waiting to be transferred from jail to a prison. (Archaic: ship, ride).
[US]J. Stahl OG Dad 60: In my case, insteasd of heading off to Quentin, I am catching the chain to Old Dad Supermax.
catch the owl (v.)

to play a trick on an innocent countryman, who is decoyed into a barn under the pretext of catching an owl; when he enters, a bucket of water is poured upon his head.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: owl to catch the owl, a trick practised upon ignorant country boobies, who are decoyed into a barn under pretence of catching an owl, where after divers preliminaries, the joke ends in their having a pail of water poured upon their heads.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
catch these hands (v.)

(US campus) phr. used as a challenge to fight .

[US]C. Eble UNC-CH Campus Sl. Spring 2016 2: CATCH THESE HANDS — I am willing to fight: ‘I was so mad I said ‘you’d better catch these hands’.
catch up

see separate entries.

catch you later (also catch you)

(orig. US black) goodbye.

T.C. Pakenham Rearguard 78: I’ll catch you later, Fellie.
[US]L. Brown Iron City 75: Catch you later.
[US]M. Braly Shake Him Till He Rattles (1964) 55: I’ll catch you later, Lee-Boy.
[US]O. Hawkins Ghetto Sketches 121: I’ll catch y’all later.
[UK]A. Payne ‘Minder on the Orient Express’ Minder [TV script] 84: Catch you later.
[UK]I. Welsh Trainspotting 23: Anyway, catch yis later folks.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 501: ‘Cool,’ said Knopf, turning on his heel. ‘Catch ya.’.
[UK]Observer Mag. 19 Mar. 67: I’m off now, catch you later.
catch you on the flip-flop [SE flip-flop, a reversal, lit. a somersault]

(US campus) goodbye.

[US]L. Dills CB Slanguage 21: Catch: talk to; e.g. ‘Catch you on the flip-flop’.
[US]C.W. McCall ‘Convoy’ [lyrics] Well, mercy sakes, good buddy, we gonna back on outta here, so keep the bugs off your glass and the bears off your tail. We’ll catch you on the flip-flop. This here’s the Rubber Duck on the side. We gone. ’bye, ’bye.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Apr.
[US]Eble Sl. and Sociability 100: The parting remarks of college students follow the same patterns, as in the long-standing check you later, an elliptical statement that refers to a future meeting. Variations are catch you later, check you on the flip side, catch you on the flip flop.

In exclamations

catch ’em alive oh!

see separate entry.

catch me! (also catch me at it!)

a defiant excl. implying that one will never be caught.

[UK]H. Cowley Belle’s Stratagem III ii: May I be a bottle, and an empty bottle, if you catch me at that!
[UK]J. Galt Lawrie Todd II Pt V 143: ‘Catch me,’ said I, when we settled the business, ‘Catch me again at such costly daffin.’.
[UK]Dickens Dombey and Son (1970) 240: ‘You have a committee to-day at three, you know.’ ‘And one at three, three-quarters,’ added Mr. Dombey, ‘Catch you at forgetting anything!’ exclaimed Carker.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 3 Nov. 13/3: Fairy ‘Hoo! Catch me! Don’t that bloke love ’isself!’ / Woster ‘Well, I reckon he does; that’s the coot wot give our old man three years.’.