Green’s Dictionary of Slang

john n.1

also johndarm, john darme
[abbr./mispron. of Fr. gendarme]

1. a police officer, usu. male.

[UK]Bell's Life in London 3 Oct. 3/1: Gemmen, we are met here [...] for the glorious purpose of pitching a little chaff to the Mounseers what sent the ‘John Darmies’ as they calls them in French. [...] On the subject of our own ‘John Darmies’ or ‘raw lobsters’ [etc.].
[US]‘Philip Paxton’ Piney Woods Tavern 63: He larnt that time to let the John Darmes hunt their own varmint.
[UK]W.S. Walker In the Blood 21: If anyone else says a word to yer [...] The ’ole push ’ll go fer ’im, even if it was a big ‘John’ — policeman.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 27 Sept. 29/2: Fur there’s whips er shine women, / An’ liquor an’ spons, / When yer lurk / Is ter work / Fur the demons an’ johns.
[Aus]E. Dyson Fact’ry ’Ands 89: He came out on ther John’s arm, ’igh kickin’, ’n’ singin’ fit t’ split.
[Aus]L. Stone Jonah 17: These Johns run a man in, an’ swear his life away ter git a stripe on their sleeve.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘A Spring Song’ in Songs of a Sentimental Bloke 15: Me, that ’as done me stretch fer stoushin’ Johns, / An’ spen’s me leisure gittin’ on the shick.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘The Cultured Constable’ Backblock Ballads 93: ‘Nay, gentle John,’ said I, ‘attend. / A thief my goods and gold / Seeks to purloin. Go, seize the man.’.
[Aus]E. Dyson Missing Link [Internet] Ch. ii: What price his nibs in the noble belltopper mentionin’ it t’ th’ Johns, an’ gettin’ you seven days fer disgustin’ behaviour?
[Aus]J. Doone Timely Tips For New Australians 19: JOHN. — A slang term for policeman.
[UK]C.G. Gordon Crooks of the Und. 70: Don’t the Johns (C.I.D.) get around there?
[Aus]N. Lindsay Age Of Consent 26: Fair cow, that john.
[US]R. Chandler ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ Red Wind (1946) 132: The Johns come for him.
[NZ]F. Sargeson ‘That Summer’ Coll. Stories (1965) 159: My idea of johns is that a man wants to keep well away from them.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 254: Bogies, Busies, Gendarmes, Johns, Dicks. Detectives. Plain clothes men are called P. men.
[US]R. Chandler High Window 185: ‘Of course. We were wondering what my motive was. You figured it out yet?’ ‘You can work that out with the johns,’ he snapped.
[US]J.B. McMillan ‘New American Lexical Evidence’ in AS XX:1 112: John Darmes, n. Gendarmes.
[US]J. Evans Halo in Blood (1988) 131: Don’t talk that way to me! [...] John or no John, I don’t take that kind of stuff.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 8: I don’t like no copper john to pertend that way.
[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 94: The bloke the copper was nabbing was a bit slow on his feet and the johndarm gave him a kick on the shins.
[Aus]D. Niland Shiralee 69: It never paid to cross a john.
[NZ]B. Crump Hang On a Minute, Mate (1963) 19: Good thing those johns didn’t get a decent look at this bomb of yours.
[Aus]S. Gore Holy Smoke 80: A couple of Johns from the city watch-house.
[Aus](con. 1930s) F. Huelin ‘Keep Moving’ 3: Yous’ll haveta get off her [...] The johns are hostile on us carryin’ swaggies.
[Aus]B. Humphries Barry McKenzie [comic strip] in Complete Barry McKenzie (1988) 113: Better buy another paper. See if the johns are still chasin’ me.
[US]E. Torres Q&A 19: He will tire-iron the first john that turns the corner.
[NZ]J. Charles Black Billy Tea 92: I’ve just had a ring from the local ‘john’.
[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. [Internet] John. 1. A policeman. Possibly rhyming slang for John Hop, ie cop.
[US]E. Weiner Drop Dead, My Lovely (2005) 207: I could sing to the johns but I’d be a happier American if you and I did a deal.

2. in attrib. use of sense 1.

[NZ]Truth (Wellington) 22 May 7: Sydney had been enveloped in fog and the ‘John’ Department could not ‘fossick’ him.

In compounds

john elbow (n.) [he grabs one by it]

a police officer.

[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 259: Bulls, Dicks, Harness-Bulls, John Elbows, or John Laws — police officers, depending on the kind.
John Law (n.) (also johnnie law) [John n. (1) + SE law]

(orig. Und. US) a policeman, esp. a senior one.

[US]J. London ‘Local Color’ Complete Short Stories (1993) I 693: ‘I am a free downtrodden American citizen, and no man shall say my time is his.’ ‘Save John Law,’ he chuckled.
[US]‘A-No. 1’ From Coast to Coast with Jack London 20: We found ourselves ‘pinched’ by a John Law.
[US]G.H. Mullin Adventures of a Scholar Tramp 259: No ’baccy in yer pocket, and no jack for to spend, / And old John Law a-waitin’ at the next division end.
[US]C. Gould ‘Dick Tracy’ [comic strip] Do you suppose I want the johnnie laws to surround the place at night.
[US]J.E. O’Donnell ‘Overcoat Bennie’ in Mss. from the Federal Writers’ Project [Internet] A bloody tale? Yes, but what a moral it packs! You can’t beat old John Law!
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 20: I was [...] told to stick around out front with my eyes peeled for any signs of John Law.
[US]Mad mag. Dec.–Jan. 28: John Law! You flatfoots won’t put me in jail!
[US](con. 1940) C. Chessman Cell 2455 176: We saw, dimly, a shape coming towards us. A uniformed shape! John Law again!
[US]‘Hy Lit’ Hy Lit’s Unbelievable Dict. of Hip Words 5: Hip little kiddies never carry a blade; it’s a bad scene if you meet up with [...] John Law.
[UK]S. Berkoff East in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 51: When John Law did come and mum to visit us we pleaded we were set upon.
[US]N. Heard House of Slammers 8: Men virtually born to prison [...] who had come up against Miss Justice and John Law.
[US]E. Miller ‘Practicing’ in Brooklyn Noir 107: He turned round, looking behind himself. ‘Checking for John Law. Coast’s clear.’.
john palace (n.) (also john house) [SE palace]

(Aus.) a police station.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 30 July 14/2: ‘Lars Satterdee night,’ he continued, ‘th’ skirt got doin’ the dizzy down George-street, ’n’ a John sightin’ th’ petticoat w’irl, crewly pounced ’n ’er, ’n’ slid ’er orf t’ th’ blanky John palace.’ [...] ‘Enny’ow,’ continued Ponto, ‘Shinner King’s lug gittin’ t’ ’ear ’iv th’ razzle, done a mook t’ th’ John ’ouse, ’n’ ’ooked me tart inter th’ starlight.’.

In phrases