Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cold meat n.

[the first use of the term appears to be that of Grose himself, used as its definition: ‘A dead wife is the best cold meat in a man’s house.’ (1796); note WWI milit. cold meat ticket, an identity disc]

1. (also cold clay, ...mutton) a corpse; thus occas. as v., to kill.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: Cold Meat. A Dead Wife is the best Cold Meat in a Man’s house.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd, 3rd edn).
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]‘One of the Fancy’ Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress 25: That left him all’s one as cold meat for the Crowner.
[UK]H. Smith Gale Middleton 1 155: We’ve no time for grubbing and steaming till we’ve got rid of our cold meat yonder.
[UK]Hereford Jrnl 11 Sept. 4/6: ‘I cut, slashed, chopped, as if I was in the slaughter-house. I made “cold meat” of the sergeant’.
[Ohio Organ (OH) 23 Dec. 1/3: Bitter, bitter is the tear that falls upon her cold clay!].
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 1 Apr. 2/7: He had every reason to believe that each defendant had it in contemplation to make ‘cold meat’ of the other.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn).
[UK]Western Times 26 June 2/3: It has been said that old Orton would be put in the box to claim Sir Roger as his long lost son, but in the slang of the district, the venerable butcher had long been ‘a box of cold meat’.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]‘Old Calabar’ Won in a Canter I 239: ‘Mr Thornhill is ahead, straight up the ride, if you don’t want to make cold meat of him, be careful’.
[US]A.C. Gunter Mr Potter of Texas 261: Shut up! [...] or you’re cold clay!
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 24 Nov. 22/1: He was the man who raised his hand, and he assured me that, had he not done so, I’d have been ‘cold meat,’ as the man behind me was just about to strike.
[Aus]Gadfly (Adelaide) 14 Nov. 772/3: There is, for instance, ‘a certain person.’ I want to meet him. I also want to meat him – cold meat him. He is a low-down tattler and a backbiter and a slanderer and a liar.
[UK] press cutting in J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 84/2: The wicked Scorcher says a dead wife is the best bit of cold meat in the house.
[US]L.A. Herald 27 Mar. 45: Along comes a motor car. There is a collision and the egoist is cold clay.
[US]Ersine Und. and Prison Sl.
[UK]‘George Orwell’ Keep The Aspidistra Flying (1962) 14: Dust thou art, to dust returnest [...] You’re cold meat, if ever Scotchman was.
[US]R. Chandler ‘The King in Yellow’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 89: Right this minute you’re practically cold meat—cold, rotten meat.
[US]F. Brown Fabulous Clipjoint (1949) 178: Nobody gets the reward on Dutch; he’s cold meat.
[US](con. 1920s) ‘Harry Grey’ Hoods (1953) 205: One move out of line, and you’re cold meat.
[Aus]S. Gore Holy Smoke 80: Well, what with that Red Sea stunt – and all them Amorite kings they reckon you’ve left cold mutton down by the creek – it pays a girl to be in with the right mob these days.
[US]M. Braun Judas Tree (1983) 78: Unless they get the high sign from me, you’d be cold meat the minute you hit the street.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 91: cold meat. A cadaver, from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries on both sides of the Atlantic.

2. one who has been knocked unconscious.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 30 July 32/4: Had he had a knock-out wallop about him his foe was cold meat at any moment.

In compounds

cold meat box (n.)

1. (also meat box) a coffin.

E. Sue Mysteries of Paris (translation) in DSUE (1984).
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[UK]Cheshire Obs. 29 Sept. 2/1: If i stuick to that regimen I should soin want what some fellows vulgarly call a ‘cold meat box’ — i.e., my coffin.
[UK]Sporting Times 3 Aug. 1, col. 3: [...] I should just come in where you were lying in the cold-meat box, and I should whisper in your ear, etc [F&H].
[UK]Lincs. Echo 21 Jan. 3/2: At a wake [...] an Ameeican meat box was placed in the centre of the floor [...] two of them men lifted the corpse.
[US]A.J. Boyd Shellback 150: Guess he’d have been laid out and ready for the cold meat box by now.
[UK]Lincs. Chron. 13 Sept. 4/3: She [...] struk her with her fist on the face, saying she would have a ‘cold meat box’ for the two of them.
[US]Maines & Grant Wise-crack Dict.
[US]L. Pound ‘American Euphemisms for Dying’ in AS XI:3 201: Cold meat box.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 91: It follows that a cold-meat box is a coffin, a cold-meat cart a hearse, and a cold-meat party a wake.

2. a hearse.

[UK]Morn. Post (London) 28 Oct. 6/2: He had [...] driven a hearse, or as he technically denominates that sable vehicle, ‘a cold meat box’.
cold meat cart (n.)

(US) a hearse.

[UK]‘Peter Corcoran’ ‘King Tims the First’ in Fancy 46: He’s gone – how very muddy some folks die! / He’s for the cold meat cart, and so am I.
[UK]Mirror of Lit. XV 222/2: What if he occasionally even drove the cold-meat cart* [note]*A hearse.
C.H. Knox Harry Mowbray 174: ‘His days are numbered,’ said Sir Thomas, mysteriously. ‘How numbered?’ ‘He’s booked,’ said the other with a nod. ‘What do you mean by booked?’ ‘Inside place, cold meat cart,’ said the knight.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 91: It follows that a cold-meat box is a coffin, a cold-meat cart a hearse, and a cold-meat party a wake.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) Décharné Straight from the Fridge Dad.
cold meat party (n.)

(US black) a funeral, a wake.

[US]J.M. Sullivan Criminal Sl.
[US]El Paso Herald (TX) 1 May 6/2: The police Bulletin explains that the roughneck guys so far forget themselves as to refer to a wake as a ‘cold meat party’.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 401: Cold-meat party. Funeral, wake.
[US]H. Corey Farewell, Mr Gangster! 277: cold meat party – a wake.
[US]J. Evans Halo in Blood (1988) 19: You were at that cold-meat party. I spotted you at the cemetery.
[US]Sacramento Bee (CA) 11 Aug. 26/3: An underworld figure who goes to a cold meat party.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 91: It follows that a cold-meat box is a coffin, a cold-meat cart a hearse, and a cold-meat party a wake.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) Décharné Straight from the Fridge Dad.
cold meat ticket (n.)

a milit. identity disc, worn when alive, attached to the soldier’s corpse when dead.

L. Keene ‘Crumps’ 54: My number is 45555 and my ‘cold meat ticket,’ a tag made of red fiber, is hanging round my neck on a piece of string.
[UK]N&Q 12 Ser. IX 466: Cold-Meat Ticket. A soldier’s identity disc.
[UK]Brophy & Partridge Songs and Sl. of the British Soldier.
H.M. Tomlinson Selections from His Writings 176: Next time you try it have your cold meat ticket handy. Keep down.
cold meat wagon (n.)

a hearse.

L. Cairns Social Mirage 343: The cart which takes the criminal’s body to the grave is graphically described as the ‘cold meat wagon’.
R. Beach Auction Block (2004) 134: You try a cross and — the cold-meat wagon for yours. I’ll have you slabbed at the morgue.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).