Green’s Dictionary of Slang

can n.1

[SE can, a container]

1. as a ‘hollow’ part of the body.

(a) the vagina.

[UK]G. Wilkins Miseries of an Enforced Marriage Act III: In troth, sister, we two to beg in the fields, / And you to betake yourself of the old trade, / Filling of small cans in the suburbs.
‘Peter Aretine’ Strange Newes from Bartholomew-Fair 2: To entice young punys, I lye as open as Noonday, sit down at the dore, set one foot to the right, the other to the left, as far distant as I can spread my imperfect Limbs, and cry Lads: here’s a can of the best liquor in the fair, claping my hand on my market-place.
[UK]G. Stevens ‘The Sentiment Song’ in Songs Comic and Satyrical 125: Here’s the Down Bed of Beauty which upraises Man, And beneath the Thatch’d-House the miraculous Can.
[UK] ‘The Chapter of Smutty Toasts’ in Icky-Wickey Songster 8: Here’s the thatched house, the miraculous can!
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[US] ‘Smokey’ [comic strip] in B. Adelman Tijuana Bibles (1997) 38: Shove that can baby. I going to unload.
[UK]W. Eyster Far from the Customary Skies 39: Oh, fiddle, fiddle, fiddle / While you can, / Before she lurns to sell ’er can.

(b) (US) the buttocks; the anus; also used generically for the whole person (see cite 1952).

[US]H.A. Franck Zone Policeman 88 113: I come near catchin’ the brat up by the feet an’ beatin’ its can off.
[US]Hecht & MacArthur Front Page Act II: I don’t know, getting my can blown off.
[US]Don Redmond ‘Shakin’ the African’ [lyrics] Better than the Black Bottom, boys, it’s really in there! / It started up here, too! / Oh, shakin’ that Afro-can!
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 141: All he has to do is sit around on his can.
[US]J.D. Salinger Catcher in the Rye (1958) 75: I have my hand on your back. If I think there isn’t anything underneath my hand – no can, no legs, no feet, no anything – then the girl’s really a terrific dancer.
C. Brossard Redemption in G. Feldman (ed.) Protest (1960) 118: You’re really in luck, son[...] The lady you stole the stuff from doesn’t want to put your can in jail.
[US]C. Clausen I Love You Honey, But the Season’s Over 143: He’s lookin’ for a business partner, not somebody to sit on her can in Sarasota sewin’ curtains.
‘Troy Conway’ Cunning Linguist (1973) 121: ‘Angry? I could kick your can all over this forest’.
[Aus]R. Aven-Bray Ridgey-Didge Oz Jack Lang 23: Can: (Park The) Sit down, park the carcase.
[US]S. King Dolores Claiborne 10: Nor was he gonna [...] change her diapers and wipe the shit off her fat old can.
[UK]Roger’s Profanisaurus in Viz 87 Dec. n.p.: can US n. Bottom.
[US]Mad mag. July 36: These aren’t the rules of kick the can, Dylan. Never said which can I have to kick.

(c) (US) used as a euph. for ass n. (2) in various senses, e.g. pain in the can, flatter the can off etc.

[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘Landmarks’ Sporting Times 12 Nov. 2/2: I must have been what some folks call a ‘can,’ [...] when I listened to you.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 120: They were flirting their ‘cans’ off.
[US]T. Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities 462: ‘You got any a those things they take the cans off the shelf in the supermarket with?’ ‘Yeah, I got some [...] and I’m gonna take your can off.’.

(d) (Aus./US) the human head.

[US]M.G. Hayden ‘Terms Of Disparagement’ in DN IV:iii 198: can, head. ‘I’ll bust your can, if you don’t look out.’.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘The Faltering Knight’ in Chisholm (1951) 71: It knocks me can in, this ’ere game uv life.
[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 92: I didn’t try to pull any sob-stuff on this dick, if I had he would have torn my can (head) off.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Trouble Is My Business’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 174: I make money without getting my can knocked off.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 311: No mercy. Two [bullets] in the can.

(e) the mouth.

[UK](con. 1912) B. Marshall George Brown’s Schooldays 186: I thought I told you not to open your can about that filthy swot.

2. (US) a bomb; thus can-maker, a bomb-maker.

[US](con. 1914–18) L. Nason Three Lights from a Match 113: Shells clanged. Spike tried to keep on, but after a few of those G.I. cans had burst near enough to throw dirt on him, he gave up and lay in the ditch.
[US]Hostetter & Beesley It’s a Racket! 221: can maker — One who manufactures bombs, especially nitroglycerine, black powder, or stench bombs.
[[US](con. 1860s) B.I. Wiley Life of Johnny Reb 302: Canister consisted of a large group of small balls inclosed in a cylindrical tin cover, or ‘can’ [...] they rained death upon the advancing foe].
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 42: can [...] a bomb [...] can maker A bomb maker.

3. by meton., a barman.

[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 22: Nod to the can — which is the local term for the barman.

4. as a room, place or container.

(a) a small room, e.g. in a hotel.

[US]Daily Trib. (Bismarck, ND) 23 Oct. 4/1: A hotel is a ‘chuck mill’ or ‘hashery’; a small room is a ‘can.’.

(b) (US) a water closet, a lavatory.

[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 26: can, n. Water-closet.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 22: can [...] a lavatory, toilet, urinal.
[US]E.E. Cummings Enormous Room (1928) 48: ‘The can stinks.’ They did not smile and said, ‘Naturally.’.
[US]A.C. Inman 25 Oct. diary in Aaron (1985) 387: Evelyn has been searching all morning for a room for Eddie, one [...] not too many stairs up, near ‘the can’.
[US]H. McCoy They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? in Four Novels (1983) 32: Not even the girls can go to the can when she’s around.
[US]H.A. Smith Life in a Putty Knife Factory (1948) 144: It is, beyond doubt, the biggest and most magnificent can on earth – a veritable Taj Mahal of toilets.
[US]J.D. Salinger Catcher in the Rye (1958) 31: I went down to the can and chewed the rag with him while he was shaving.
[US]M. Braly Shake Him Till He Rattles (1964) 12: They’d turned on in the can before they left The Hoof, going with the last joint they had between them.
[US](con. 1940s) E. Thompson Tattoo (1977) 47: He tried to imagine her going to the can like everyone else.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 58: Stan The Man moved from his perch at the jukebox and walked back to the can.
[US]C. Hiaasen Native Tongue 219: I’m in the can.
[US](con. 1986) G. Pelecanos Sweet Forever 58: He [...] had a few drags off a cigarette, then went and had a seat on the can.

(c) a prison, a police station lock-up; as generic can, imprisonment.

[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 22: can [...] A place of confinement; a prison; a cell.
[US]F. Williams Hop-Heads 25: Whenever I get a ‘jolt’ in the can (county jail) they make me ‘kick out’ my habit in the ‘tanks’.
[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 157: We were then taken down to the city ‘can’ where they searched us thoroughly.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Dream Street Rose’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 48: Coppers are always heaving her into the old can.
[Aus]Sun. Mail (Brisbane) 13 Nov. 20/8: The watch house is the ‘can;’ detectives are ‘demons’ and plain-clothesmen are ‘bulls’.
[US]I. Shulman Cry Tough! 4: Then there were the other boys [...] All in the can.
[Aus]S.J. Baker in Sun. Herald (Sydney) 8 June 9/4: Among American borrowings recorded in Detective Doyle's list are: ‘Blow,’ to depart, go away; ‘boob’ and ‘can,’ gaol; ‘black stuff,’ opium.
[US]M. Richler Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1964) 108: The cops took the kid into the can.
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn (1966) 20: The next thing ya know the lawll be knockin on my door and I’ll be back in the can.
[US]G.V. Higgins Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) 34: So one night the marshals come by and it’s back to the can, parole violation.
[NZ]G. Newbold Big Huey 16: If I was nicked for this [i.e. heroin dealing] I was looking at big heaps of can.
[US]Pileggi & Scorsese Goodfellas [film script] 48: Jeannie’s husband went to the can just to get away from her [...] Nobody goes to jail unless they want to.
[US]L. Stringer Grand Central Winter (1999) 124: Being in the can, it seems, was just the grist Richard needed for his muse.
[US]F.X. Toole Pound for Pound 50: A stern ‘Tex-Mex’ judge [...] promised him some time in el bote, the can.
67 ‘Hookahs’ [lyrics] My nigga got guilty, he's stressing / [...] / my niggas dem locked in the can.
C. Hammer Scrublands [ebook] Lucie wanted to throw him in the can and sweat him.

(d) (US Und.) a still.

[US]Phila. Eve. Bulletin 5 Oct. 40/3: Here are a few more terms and definitions from the ‘Racket’ vocabulary: [...] ‘Can,’ a still.

(e) (US Und.) a safe.

[US]H. Leverage ‘Dict. Und.’ in Flynn’s mag. cited in Partridge DU (1949).
[US]D. Runyon ‘Cemetery Bait’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 519: I start seeking the small can, or safe, that I know is concealed in a clothes closet.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]‘Blackie’ Audett Rap Sheet 81: He worked fast and probably cut his par time for busting into a can by at least two minutes.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[Aus]J. Alard He who Shoots Last 48: Wrecker, whose livelihood depended on his ability to open a can faster than any tin opener.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) Décharné Straight from the Fridge Dad 24: Busting a can Cracking a safe.

(f) (US Und.) a bank.

[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 18/1: Can, [...] a bank.

(g) (US) a shipping container.

[US]Simon & Burns ‘Collateral Damage’ Wire ser. 2 ep. 1 [TV script] What does the Marine Unit have to do with a bunch of dead girls in a can?

5. in the context of drugs.

(a) a 5oz (140g) container of opium.

[US]A. Trumble Heathen Chinee 31: Chinese smoking opium [...] comes in small tin boxes holding about four ounces, and worth from $7.75 to $8.30 a can.
[US] ‘Life in a New York Opium Den’ in T. Byrnes Professional Criminals of America [Internet] It is imported from China in an oblong brass box about five inches long, two and a half wide. The can is only half filled, as in warm weather it puffs up and would overflow the can if allowance was not made for this swelling.
[US]Campbell, Knox & Byrnes Darkness and Daylight in N.Y. 571: The best quality of this sells for eight dollars and twenty-five cents a can.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 196: There’s a lot of sufferin’ [...] with hop goin’ to fifteen bones a can, ’stead of seven.
[US]G. Bronson-Howard God’s Man 175: A can of it [i.e. opium] used to sell for five dollars – five dollars for less than a pound.
[US]Black Mask Aug. III 54: Neatly piled on it was an opium smoking outfit, together with a can of ‘Mud’.
[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972).

(b) a 1oz (28g) container of opium.

[US]Helena (MT) Indep. 19 Nov. 7/4: The consignment [...] was the largest [...] in many years in the west, Mr. Cass said after checking the 57 one-ounce cans of opium.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 18/1: Can broker, opium trafficker.

(c) 1oz (28g) of morphine.

[US]Ersine Und. and Prison Sl.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore.

(d) approx. 1oz (28g) of marijuana.

[US]J. Blake newspaper report 1 Jan. in Joint (1972) 37: Blake confessed ownership of a small can of the narcotic.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 127: I want a sixteenth of ‘girl’ and a can of reefer.
[US](con. 1950s) D. Goines Whoreson 139: Cop me half a can of weed.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 170: Man, in them olden days you could score a match. No more. Don’t even see no more can or lid!
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 115: $1 a joint, three joints for $2, or a can (a Prince Albert can at that) for $10.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 5: Can — Marijuana; 1 ounce.

(e) (Aus.) a phial of morphine, sufficient for a single injection.

[NZ]G. Newbold Big Huey 13: It’s [i.e. morphine] really good shit, man. [...] You can have it for five bucks a can.

6. a pocket.

[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 159: Why kick with 418 bones left in the can.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 414: Purse, poke, leather, sock, can.

7. as vehicles.

In phrases

give someone the can (v.)

(US) to dismiss from a job or relationship.

Argus-Leader (Sioux falls, SD) 1 Nov. 22/2: ‘Where’s Violet?’ [...] ‘I gave her the can,’ said Charlie.

(a) (US) a dilapidated, run-down, malfunctioning vehicle, incl. a ship.

[[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 24: This is about a friend of mine who sent for a flivver car [...] Well he sent 10 milk cans to the flivver factory and told ’em to send back a car. They sent him a car and a check for $12 saying he had sent too many cans.].
[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 24: Did you see that old can of his outside?
[US]B. Traven Death Ship 4: I was not mate on this can, not even bos’n. I was just a plain sailor.
[US]D. Runyon ‘The Three Wise Guys’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 405: I come to be riding around in an old can.
[US]S. Longstreet Decade 325: I borrowed this can from one of the iron riggers. Some crazy crate, huh?
[US]Bayler & Carnes Last Man Off Wake Island 197: We had the company of another vessel on the voyage to Hawaii, both of us under escort of a ‘can’ — disrespectful term for destroyer.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970) 56: can (1) a car.

(b) a plane.

[US]Heggen & Logan Mister Roberts II v: They’re landing planes at Okinawa and that’s where my can is.

In compounds

can house (n.) [house n.1 (1)]

(US, mainly Chicago) a brothel.

[US]J.T. Farrell ‘A Casual Incident’ in Short Stories (1937) 145: ‘I don’t like can houses,’ the kid said. ‘A young fellow, he got to have girls.’.
[US](con. 1910s) J.T. Farrell Young Lonigan in Studs Lonigan (1936) 57: There’s a can house around on Fifty-seventh Street.
[US]J.T. Farrell ‘Comedy Cop’ in Fellow Countrymen (1937) 421: ‘Me, I’d like to go to a can-house.’ ‘I’m laying off that. I’m a married man, and I love my wife.’.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 22: The Roamer Inn was like a model of all the canhouses I ever saw around Chicago.
[US]S. Longstreet Real Jazz Old and New xi: The whole Storyville era when jazz grew up in the canhouses of New Orleans [W&F].
[US](con. 1910s) Carmichael & Longstreet Sometimes I Wonder 36: Playing can-house music wasn’t too healthy for a young man trying to fnd himself.
[US](con. mid-late 19C) S. Longstreet Wilder Shore 216: As for the can houses, [...] the husbands are staying so close to their wives like they were first maried.
[US]L. Pederson ‘Urban Word Geog.’ AS XLVI:1/2 77: [H]ouse of prostitution [...] can house.
can opener (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

crush the can (v.)

(US prison) to escape from jail.

[US]G. Milburn ‘The Dealer Gets It All’ in Hobo’s Hornbook 152: Then Alton he got busy, and produced a fancy briar, / And we crushed the can at midnight, and decked an eastbound flyer.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
get the can (v.) [sense 1b above]

(US) to be dismissed from a job.

[US]K. McGaffey Sorrows of a Show Girl Ch. x: The girls down at Wilbur’s show decided to give a beefsteak in honor of the prima donna getting the can.
go in the can (v.)

(US) to accept a bribe; to act in a corrupt manner.

[US]D. Jenkins Life Its Ownself (1985) 88: Vegas says somebody went in the can every time there’s an upset. Vegas thinks World War Two was fixed!
hot in the can (adj.)

(US) sexually aroused.

[Whidden Graham] Crimson Hairs 89: She took me over her lap and put some vaseline on her finger and gave me a long massage [in the anus]. By the way, she always liked to do that before she sent one of her girls into a room with a man. She claimed that it gets them hot in the can and makes them work good .
out on one’s can

(orig. US) ejected unceremoniously, thrown out.

[US]W. Smith Bessie Cotter 6: She’d throw Violet right out on her can if she found out.

In exclamations

my can!

a general excl. of disdain, dismissal, arrogant contempt.

[US]B. Cormack Racket Act II: Guts, my can!
shut your can!

(US) shut up! be quiet!

[US]Blackhawk Howitzer 50: Shut your – can! [HDAS].

SE in slang uses

In compounds

can racket (n.) [racket n.2 (1)]

(US) a party devoted to drinking beer.

[US]J.A. Riis How the Other Half Lives 38: A man lies dead in the hospital who was cut to pieces in a ‘can racket’ in the alley on Sunday. [Ibid.] 226: Once pitched upon, its occupation by the gang, with its ear-mark of nightly symposiums, ‘can rackets’ in the slang of the street, is the signal for the rapid deterioration of the tenement, if that is possible.

In phrases

carry the can (for) (v.) (also carry the shit-can, hold the can, take the can back)

(orig. naut.) to take the blame that should be another’s, to do the ‘dirty work’; esp. as left carrying the can.

[UK]F.C. Bowen Sea Sl.
[UK]F.D. Sharpe Sharpe of the Flying Squad 333: ‘taking the can back’: Being left to do the dirty work.
[UK]J. Worby Spiv’s Progress 173: I do all the work and you sit back and take the profit. I take the can back .
[UK]D. Bolster Roll On My Twelve 72: Something did go wrong, and little Roddy’ll carry the can.
[Ire](con. 1940s) B. Behan Borstal Boy 55: He couldn’t take the can back if it happened again.
[UK]A. Sinclair Breaking of Bumbo (1961) 65: It is impossible to get hold of the Commanding Officer [...] Bumbo decides to carry the can himself.
[UK]C. Wood ‘Prisoner and Escort’ in Cockade (1965) I iii: You dropped old Smiler in it. He carried the can.
[UK]B.S. Johnson All Bull 112: He was concerned with the here and now, for which he, poor man, carried the can.
[Aus]D. Maitland Breaking Out 340: I don’t fancy a nice well-meaning bloke like you having to carry the shit-can for all this.
[UK]F. Taylor Auf Wiedersehen Pet Two 249: Neville’s turn to carry the can ...
[UK]Observer Business 22 Aug. 24: Carry the can. Most [...] lose out here, being prepared to sacrifice their staff rather than their own necks.
Indian Express 22 May [Internet] They establish a portal; get an insane valuation, go public, and get money out. The people who will be left holding the can will be investors.
[UK]A. Sillitoe Birthday 85: Only me to carry the can, except I jacked work in when the firm went bust.
chase the can (v.)

to fetch beer from a bar.

[US]St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) 3 Dec. 17/7: ‘Chasing the can,’ ‘rolling the rock’ and ‘working the growler’ al mean sending the tin can down to the corner bar-room for beer.
[US]T.B. Sayre Two Summers Girls and I 72: I’d go after it, Roy, only it’s too early for any self-respecting youth to chase the can.
[US]H. Oyen Joey the Dreamer 132: You’ll have a bunch o’ coin, and you won’t chase the can or hit th’ bottle — ’r beat up yer wife.
[US]in Postal Record 83: My main duties in this joint were to help the half stewed editor look for his specs [...] and to chase the can for the foreman.
get a can on (v.) [? SE can, a container for beer when taken home from a bar or public house]

(US) to go on a drinking spree.

[US]D. Parker ‘Big Blonde’ in Penguin Dorothy Parker (1982) 200: ‘Once I had a gal,’ he said, ‘used to try and throw herself out of the window every time she got a can on. Jee-zuss’.
hit the can (v.)

(US) to drink or purchase drinks.

Guilelmensian (Williams Coll.) 289: Harold’s room-mate was a Sophomore who puffed a T.D. and went to Ad. for the purpose of Hitting the Can.
[US]Pensacola Jrnl (FL) 6 Oct. 6/3: He’s been hittin’ the can — chasin’ the duck.
knock someone’s can in (v.)

(Aus.) to amaze, to astound.

[Aus]Mail (Adelaide) 17 Mar. 1s/5: An’ it knocked the Darriwella crowd’s can right in when they read [...] th’ Govnor and his offsider had [...] the most enjoyable time.
rattle the can (v.)

(US) to beg in the street.

[US]R.O. Boyer Dark Ship 199: Other seamen were sent to Times Square to ‘rattle the can’ as they solicited contributions from the public.
rush the can (v.) (also rush the pitcher)

(US) to buy beer from a tavern and bring it home for drinking there (cf. rush the growler under growler n.3 ).

[US]N.Y. World 5 June 9: He was an adept at coaxing money out of a turnip – could stand up a ‘drunk’ on a dark night with the best of them – and when it came to ‘rushing the can’ there was no man on ‘de Hook’ who could rush it oftener or drink deeper or fight harder than he.
[US]Ade Fables in Sl. (1902) 58: He learned to Chew Tobacco and Spit through his Teeth, shoot Craps and Rush the Can.
[US]‘Billy Burgundy’ Toothsome Tales Told in Sl. 105: During the exercises the can was rushed at intervals [...] at the expense of the philanthropic Estelle.
[US]C. Panzram Journal of Murder in Gaddis & Long (2002) 28: A bunch of town loafers were sitting around rushing the can and hitting the bottle.
[US]Milwaukee (WI) Daily Journal 18 July 2/3: You rushed the growler, the can or the pitcher [DA].
tie a can to (v.) [a child’s tying of a can to an animal’s tail]

1. (US) to play an unpleasant trick on.

[US]Sun (NY) 24 Feb. 8/3: The game’s been tying a can to me since Dave Gideon was a $2 plunger.

2. (also hang a can to, tie a can on, tie the can to) to reject or dismiss (a person).

[US]Ade Girl Proposition 36: [She] wanted to know why, if Man was such a Bunch of Trouble, they were not willing to tie a Can to him.
[US]Van Loan ‘The Low Brow’ in Big League (2004) 23: I gotta good notion to tie a can on you for the rest of the season.
[US]Van Loan ‘The Phantom League’ in Ten-Thousand-Dollar Arm 172: Why did they tie the can to Homer Kennedy? [Ibid.] 200: I hope they tie the can to you so tight you’ll never be able to get it off.
[US]J.T. Farrell Gas-House McGinty 195: Boy, if I had a wife like Porky’s got [...] I’d tie the can to her.
[US]T. Thursday ‘Home Runyon’ in Sports Winners Feb. [Internet] Listen, boss [...] if you don’t tie the can to that dope’s tail I’m through!
[US]H. Robbins Dream Merchants 69: The rumor’s all over town that Ronsen’s tying a can to you.
[US]E. Gilbert Vice Trap 36: Well, there it was. I had the old can tied to me. [Ibid.] 42: I just took the day off [...] He hung the can to me for it.
D. Gil Magic of Blood 103: If he didn’t like our work he’d have to tie a can to the both of us, because if you go, I go.

3. to stop (an activity).

Wodehouse Money in the Bank 163: Tie a can to the funny stuff, see? If I want to laugh, I’ll read the comic strip.
tie the can to (v.)

to condemn, to reprimand.

[US]S. Ford Torchy 163: He don’t dare tie the can to you without reportin’ higher up.
touch the can (v.)

(Aus.) to pay for a round of drinks.

[Aus] in G. Simes DAUS (1993).